Conservatory Considers Candidates to Replace Hoke as Director
By Gauri Mangala, Assistant News Editor
Earlier this fall, Dr. Kay Hoke, Director of the Sunderman Conservatory, announced her plan to retire at the end of the academic year, and, accordingly, Gettysburg College has set out to find a new director to continue developing the relatively young program.
Director for a decade, Hoke took over the position in 2008 from Dr. John “Buzz” Jones, who retired last year after 28 years at the college, beginning when the cCnservatory was only two years old.
Dr. Russell McCutcheon, Associate Director of the Sunderman Conservatory remarked, “Dr. Hoke, in the Gettysburg sense, has truly done great work, over the last ten years and has taken the Conservatory from a fledgling organization to where we are now.”
The decision to hire Hoke was not made in haste. An educational consultant and national workshop leader for Music! Words! Opera! who has served on the board of the College Music Society, on the Status of Women committee, and as the director of a CMS Institute on Women, Music & Gender held at Indiana University, along with many other credentials, it was clear to Gettysburg College that Hoke could help the Conservatory take the next step in its development.
Now, the search committee has identified four finalists who come from a variety of academic backgrounds.
Dr. Stan Pelkey, Associate Dean of Engagement and Entrepreneurship in the College of Music at Florida State University, is an organist, pianist, and composer. Pelkey’s research involves American and British film and television music, English keyboard music, Handel reception history, and the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams. He has also learned to play the North Indian tabla and the Native American flute.
Dr. Douglas Bomberger, Professor of Musicology at Elizabethtown College, is a member of the Society for American Music, the American Musicological Society, and the College Music Society. His musical interests include nineteenth-century music, piano literature, Transatlantic musical connections. His current research involves the music of the year of 1917, marking America’s entrance into World War I and the American jazz era.
Dr. James M. Day is Assistant Dean for the School of the Arts and Communication at The College of New Jersey, has worked with Goethe Universität in Frankfurt, Germany as a guest professor and with the Center for Cultural Partnerships, University of Melbourne, Australia as an Endeavor Award fellow.
Dr. Julia Mortyakova, Department Chair of Music and Associate Professor of Music at Mississippi University for Women, is a pianist who has performed as a soloist and a featured performer in various musical festivals across the globe including Assisi Performing Arts, Musica Nueva Malaga, Zhytomyr’s Musical Spring, and Natchez Festival of Music. Her research includes the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre in relationship to piano teaching, and the work of Cécile Chaminade.
For the past week, the four candidates have been holding open forums and teaching demonstrations for the entire campus, along with question and answer sessions for only Conservatory students. These events give students and faculty an opportunity to be privy to the possibilities that each candidate offers.
Like many Conservatory students, Bridget Haines ‘21, a Music Education major, has made it a point to go to as many of these presentations and meetings as her schedule allows.
“Each of the candidates I’ve seen so far have all done some pretty neat projects that [have] been very innovative in their own communities, which excites me because I’m all for innovation and change,” Haines said. “All of them also seem very passionate. What has set some [apart from] others is that some seem to have a plan coming into the Conservatory about what they’d like to do and how they plan to do it, whereas others have seemed like they’re just here to continue what’s happening.”
Haines is not alone in that observation. Rose Martus ‘19, a double major in music and mathematics, voiced concern over being prepared for graduate school auditions and focusing on building a community structured in performance and supporting each other through performance.
“I definitely want there to be an emphasis on performance and even just the small things like Now Hear This! because one problem that everyone sees in the Conservatory is Now Hear This attendance where barely any students ever show up and we don’t know how to fix that and how to get more people to come.”
Martus believes that this is something that a new director can help with, but is a bit hesitant about the candidates’ game plans.
“A couple of the applicants … didn’t seem to have much direction that they wanted to go in, at least from what I saw, and, when we would say ‘Okay, where would you want to take us?’, they gave us very wishy-washy answers. Only one of them said ‘Okay, I have an idea, here is my idea, this is something we can potentially do.’ And I really like that attitude.”
McCutcheon emphasized that the committee, led by the Provost Christopher Zappe, is taking student opinions into account: “We really value our students our opinions, we really value everyone’s opinions.
So one of the things we are doing is we have a little form that we ask everyone to complete. It’s anonymous and certainly it’s their choice whether or not they want to complete it or not, but that form is how we collect those opinions. We do read them and we take them very seriously.”
Regardless of which candidate is chosen, they will be an outsider to the Gettysburg approach. Students and faculty alike seem optimistic about that. Haines especially sees the benefits: “I feel that it is always good to get outside perspectives because everyone lives a different life and so it might be beneficial for someone who is not familiar with our day-to day way of living and question things we would never think twice about. While having an ‘outsider’ who wants to change things in our little community we have at the Conservatory might make some few defensive, I think it is important to embrace and listen to whoever the new director is and really work with them to a create a student, and community, centered action plan for the future of the Conservatory.”