Luther College Chips

Elitism and choirs at Luther: the exclusion of average

Fran Stevenson, Features Editor

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When I came to Luther in the fall of 2014 I was pretty gung-ho about joining Aurora. I hadn’t been overly involved in choir in high school but I was excited to be a part of the Luther choir community. My first-year roommate was very much a choir person and quickly told me about the Luther choirs. I decided not to audition. I was scared to be rejected by the choir department and snubbed by its conductors.

My fall semester senior year I finally joined a choir and joined the Luther community in the experience of Christmas at Luther. I found a community in Cantorei and a wonderful group of women who love to sing and include anyone who feels the same.

I joined a choir institution that, as a whole, looks down on Cantorei for being an inclusive community. For letting anyone join whether it be because they weren’t placed in a different choir, because they don’t have the time to commit to another choir, or just because they don’t feel all that serious about choir in general. Why you would dissuade anyone from doing something you yourself love to do is confusing to me. Can’t everyone enjoy the music?

I saw how Cantorei always got the short end of the stick and the way it was looked at by other choirs and even their conductors. But if you bring it up other choirs will tell you you are imagining it because they have never experienced it, and why would they have? They are part of the problem. The Luther choral department has created a community of competitiveness on par with the  Luther varsity football team, which excludes those not good enough or popular enough.  They get to march through the hall in their uniforms, or in this case, blue robes. This is why we can spend the money to hire a new choir conductor and fund three guest conductors and then cut five whole liberal arts academic departments.

Choir is supposed to include people, the point of a choir is for a group of people to sing together as a community. It’s a group sport. Instead at Luther we have an exclusive choir department built on a hierarchy. Can you reach the top choir? Those who fall short, either by choice or because they don’t get placed in a more exclusive choir, are looked down on both by conductors and students in the music department.

This keeps students who might really enjoy choir from joining one. As someone outside of the music department for most of my time at Luther, it is seen as pretentious and exclusionary. Even a student in a different academic department than the music department that participates in choir and voice lessons can see how the vocal students are made out to be kings and queens, constantly praised for their vocal talent until their egos explode. This is the result of other vocal students and the professors and conductors within the music department favoring these students and reminding them of it of every day of their lives. Luther’s music program cranks out egos like that of D1 football universities, pumping money into a department because it brings them prestige but poorly preparing students for life outside of a place that treats them like royalty. Just like a career in football, a career in vocal performance is unlikely at best, particularly in a societal climate moving away from liberal arts as a whole. It’s unfair to both these students who are unprepared for a life where they won’t be told how wonderful they are every day and for the students overlooked who just wanted to sing in a choir or continue learning about music alongside their education in a different subject. Is that not the point of a liberal arts education?

On my way out of Luther I am reflecting on my three years at this school, the things I wish I had done, and the things I wished for from my college.  Luther is known for its music program, it is one of the first things you learn about when considering applying. But Luther also has a lot of other majors and departments. The school shouldn’t and can’t revolve around the music department and its students and professors or it will find itself with less and less students and money in the next few years. Vocal performance students are not the ones donating the majority of money to Luther and less and less students are looking for good vocal performance programs in a college, yet, when you walk by Jenson-Noble you might get the impression that the universe revolves around it.

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