Concert to Celebrate Composers from IWU’s Past

Jan. 9, 2015

Works penned by several former faculty and friends of Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Music (SOM) will be featured at a “Composers from IWU’s Past” concert Jan. 22 at Evelyn Chapel. A School of Music Sesquicentennial event, the concert will celebrate those who have contributed to the musical culture of IWU through performances by current faculty and students on piano, violin, cello, organ and vocals. The free concert begins at 8 p.m. and is open to the public.

Performers include University Choir and University Choir Women, both under the direction of Visiting Instructor in Music Andrew Dahan, and several faculty members including Associate Professor of Music Nina Gordon (violoncello); Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Robert Mangialardi (baritone); Fern Rosetta Sherff Professor of Composition and Theory David Vayo (piano); University Organist and Adjunct Assistant Professor Susan Klotzbach; Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Jamie-Rose Guarrine ’00 (soprano); and Professor of Music R. Kent Cook (piano).

Robert Delvin, Fine Arts Librarian, compiled historical notes on the following former faculty whose works will be featured on Jan. 22:

  • R. Dwight Drexler (IWU 1934-1978). A professor of piano and one of IWU’s longest-serving professors, Drexler also served as acting director of the SOM three times. For five decades, Drexler, a 1934 IWU graduate, also served as organist at the First Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church in Bloomington.
  • Abram Plum (IWU 1965-1994), a prolific composer of a wide range of music. Plum established a studio for the study and composition of electronic music in 1971, and was one of the first SOM faculty members to express an interest in non-Western music. His papers and compositions are housed in the The Ames Library’s Tate Archives & Special Collections.
  • Frank Jordan (IWU 1929-1941) and Alice Yost Jordan. Frank Jordan taught organ and piano, later became director of graduate studies and served as dean of the SOM until the early 1940s. The Casavant pipe organ in Evelyn Chapel is named after Alice and Frank B. Jordan, the instrument’s principal benefactors.
  • David Gehrenbeck (IWU 1971-1996). During his time at Illinois Wesleyan, Gehrenbeck promoted the annual Church Music Festival as a leading conference of its type in the Midwest. He also served the First United Methodist Church (Normal) as organist and choir director for many years. He continues to perform, consult and write from his home in Minnesota.
  • Frank R. Bohnhorst (IWU 1952-56). A 1944 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan, Bohnhorst also studied sacred music at the Union Theological Seminary. He served as organist and choir director at various churches and taught at multiple colleges before returning to Illinois Wesleyan in 1952 as a composer in residence. Through a bequest from family members, Bohnhorst’s musical manuscripts will soon reside at The Ames Library's Tate Archives & Special Collections.
  • Wilbur Ogdon (IWU 1956-1964). In 1965 Ogdon was hired to establish the music department at the University of California, San Diego, where he remained until retirement in 1991. Three Trifles: for Cello and Piano was composed as a teaching piece for the students of Ruth Krieger, professor of violoncello at IWU from 1956-1977. It will be performed at the Jan. 22 concert by cellist Nathaniel Wilkins ’17 and pianist Nancy Pounds, adjunct faculty.
  • R. Bedford Watkins (IWU 1956-1988). He served as chair of the SOM's keyboard department for 10 years. Watkins, who also served as organist at First Baptist Church in Bloomington, was a published poet and composer for a wide array of instrumental combinations, keyboard, voice and choir.
  • Lloyd Pfautsch (IWU 1948-1958). A professor of voice and choral music, Pfautsch instituted the Collegiate Choir Choral Commission Series, the oldest active commission series of its kind in the U.S. He left IWU to assume a similar position at Southern Methodist University, where he remained until his retirement in 1992.

The Jan. 22 program is presented as part of the IWU New Music Series.

 By Tia Patsavas ’16