We have just celebrated the performing arts at our Homecoming Weekend. Along with class reunions, the alumni banquet and Partner luncheon, we enjoyed concerts, guest performances, The Fragrant and Velvety Air radio show and the introduction of a new Hesston College song, Start Here, written and introduced by Jerry Derstine Martin ’68. As music instructor Matthew Schloneger ’92 noted in his chapel address, a capella music has been a part of Hesston College since its beginning, while other performing arts, such as instrumental music and theatre, became accepted in later years.
Today, Hesston College has two touring choral groups, plus an international travel choir in alternate years, as well as a Concert Band. Our students place well at the National Association of Teachers of Music competition every year, and the Bel Canto Singers were featured at the Kansas Music Educators Association annual meeting in the spring of 2012. The theatre program continues to grow, with two mainstage productions each year as well as other smaller shows and student-directed performances. We estimate that more than 125 performing arts students use the Northlawn building every day. All of this growth and activity is due to the fine work and dedication of our performing arts faculty.
Performing well requires a deep understanding of oneself and the technical requirements of the piece, strong, sustained self-discipline and empathy for the writer and situation. These values and disciplines are useful beyond a given performance to whatever vocation our students may choose.
In addition to the personal disciplines gained, a music ensemble or theatre experience is close to the ultimate opportunity for learning about group process and collaboration. The shared experiences of a choir tour or drama production are treasures that will be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Beyond these important values, the performing arts help students become aware of ideas and issues beyond themselves. I remember well how I was moved by Bel Canto’s performance of Bogoroditse djevo by Arvo Part, a Latin piece written in response to the 2011 tsunami in Japan. In 2010, our students lived with issues surrounding murder and the death penalty in their performance of Dead Man Walking. In the performing arts, students learn of the experiences of other cultures and the struggles common to all people by actually performing their music and words.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our alumni for your interest in the well-being of the college and the education of our students. Please continue to pray for us, to support us financially as you are able and to be our representatives in your communities.