In Response: “Elitism and choirs at Luther: the exclusion of average”

Meredith Diebold (‘18)

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When I came to Luther in the fall of 2014 I was pretty gung-ho about joining Aurora. I had been heavily involved in choir in high school and I was really excited to be a part of the Luther choir community. My first-year roommate was very much an instrumental music person and quickly told me about the Luther music department. I decided to audition. I was excited to take on the challenge of creating music with such a competitive and high-caliber group of musicians and conductors.

My fall semester sophomore year I finally faced my biggest fear — and dream — and was accepted into the Nordic Choir and the Luther College choral community. I found a community in Nordic, a wonderful group of musicians who love to sing and include anyone who feels the same.

I joined a choir institution that, as a whole, looks up to Nordic for being one of the best choirs in the nation.  An institution that encourages musicians of Luther College to work hard to achieve placement in the [nordic] choir, and into the legacy that Weston Noble himself molded with his delicate hands. An institution that is committed to rehearsing five hours a week and sometimes on weekends. An institution that is so serious about choir that they make it their lives. Why you would dissuade anyone from doing something they love to work hard at and love to do is confusing to me.

I saw how Nordic was looked up to early on in high school, hearing from my directors that had attended Luther and gotten the privilege to sing in the Nordic Choir. The experiences they described gave me goosebumps and I began to work harder during the rest of my time in high school. I was constantly striving to find those musical moments described by those who had worn the robes before me. The Luther choral department has created a community of competitiveness that challenges the vastly talented musicians at our school to grow every day and to strive for musical moments that they can pass on within those robes. They get the honor and the privilege to walk on stage in the blue, wearing tradition on their shoulders. This tradition, this legacy, and this love for music that Luther fosters is why we can spend the money to hire a new choir conductor and fund three guest conductors.

Choir is the opportunity for a group of people to sing together as a community. It is also a group sport, which in its nature creates a hierarchy. The audition process separates those who are both willing and able to commit the time and energy to the ensemble, but also those who are willing and able to create the caliber of music that the top ensemble is expected to produce. This keeps students who really enjoy choir excited and energetic to work in order to join.

[According to the article titled, “Elitism and choirs at Luther: the exclusion of average” by Fran Stevenson printed in the March 16, 2017 issue of Chips] “The vocal students on this campus are praised for their vocal talent,” when it is a result of their hard work. The vocal students on this campus are entering into one of the toughest fields to ‘make it’ in in the world. If their professors supported their egos until they explode, they would flop once they graduate. For this reason, Luther hires ‘real life’ performers and musicians to teach the real future of musicians.

The instrumental students on this campus are praised for their instrumental talent, when it is a result of their hard work. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, which sets instrumentalists apart from all musicians. Their professors do not go easy on them. They do not give praise when praise is not due. They encourage, but primarily challenge.

This hardworking attitude that is instilled in the Luther music department is why Luther’s music students are in such high demand in the musical community post-graduation, be that in education, performance, graduate and doctoral programs, or in positions bringing them back to the department that taught them so much during their time as students at Luther.

In response to the statement that [according to Stevenson] “Luther’s music program is like that of a D1 football university,” it is able to pump money into the department because the investment always makes a return on itself. I can’t speak for those within the department who treat themselves like royalty, but their professors and department heads do not promote this behavior.

What is unfair is allowing a student to voice their entitled prejudices in a small college newspaper, insulting their peers for being proud of succeeding in what they love to do; therefore giving their opinions a false sense of validation, while in reality they are the ones unprepared for a life where they won’t be told how wonderful they are every day for being average. That is not the purpose of a liberal arts education.

Luther is known for its music program. It is one of the first things you learn about when considering applying to the institution. The school cannot, and does not, revolve around the music department. For this reason, year after year, faculty and staff like Dr. Andrew Last and Weston Noble himself have worked hard to recruit and encourage future students to embark on the challenging yet rewarding journey through a music program with such a high caliber as that of Luther’s; a department far from average.


Meredith Diebold (‘18)

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