By Santoro Giuggio
On Feb. 7, the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music announced new initiatives aiming to generate more opportunities for the performance, study and creation of musical works both on campus and in the wider community.
At a ceremony in Pierce Chapel, President Philip Ryken announced the creation of a Certificate of Worship Arts and an Associate Chaplain of Worship Arts faculty position. The certificate intends to equip students for a career in worship ministry by providing them with a program of study that will teach the theological and musical elements of worship arts. The Associate Chaplain of Worship Arts will be responsible for training students for service in the field of worship ministry and for improving campus worship initiatives.
Sophomore conservatory student Ben Moser was especially happy about the creation of the certificate in worship arts because of his interest in entering the ministry field after he graduates. He said the certificate would be useful since “worship ministry is something that many, many current and prospective students are interested in.”
Ryken also discussed the creation of a Center for Sacred Music. The center will commission the creation of new sacred musical pieces — that is, religious pieces that are based on biblical texts — and support sacred musical events and education. It will be led by the future Chair of Sacred Music.
Conservatory Director of Academic Studies Edward Zimmerman expressed his excitement for the potential global impact of the Center for Sacred Music, which he hopes will “[fund] new musical compositions around the world.” Dean of the Conservatory Michael Wilder is also hopeful about the future work of the center. He expressed gratitude “for the endowed funds that allow the establishment of [the center].” Due to the nature of the endowments, he believes that “until the return of Christ, these projects [will] still [be] in place with the resources necessary to fuel them.”
The initiatives also include new musical spaces created for conservatory students. The completion of Armerding Hall will add a six hundred and forty-eight seat concert hall, a choral rehearsal room and a new lobby to the building. Wilder is hopeful that the additions “make much more possible and accessible the musical flourishing of every person who would enter it.” He also looks forward to the ways in which the new spaces coming to Armerding will “fuel activities that aren’t necessarily musical … the concert hall, for example, will be a really important multi-use space for the college.”
Sophomore music major Jacqueline Boutcher thinks the new concert hall is “a much-needed addition to the conservatory as a mid-size performance space for our ensembles.” She said that it would be especially helpful for “our vocal ensembles [which] currently perform in College Church.”
In addition to announcing the new initiatives, the ceremony included the performance of several musical pieces. The event began with a piano performance of Rachmaninoff’s Étude-Tableaux Op. 33 Nos. 8 and 7 by junior conservatory student Garret Bone. It concluded with a performance of “To God be the Glory” by the Men’s Glee Club.
Moser said his favorite part of the ceremony was “when they revealed [that] the first named chair for the recital hall was dedicated in honor of Dean Wilder.” “If there is anyone who deserves to have their name on something in this building, it’s him,” Moser said.
Later this year an endow-a-seat fundraising event will allow more of the concert hall seats to be dedicated in honor of other individuals. Donors will be able to give to the conservatory and select a person of their choice to have their name memorialized on one of the chairs in the new hall.
Members of the conservatory believe that through each of these new developments God is at work. Zimmerman remarked that “so many blessings are poured out in all these initiatives that they are impossible to assign solely to man’s feeble efforts, essential though they are. Indeed, it is, in fact, all for Christ and His Kingdom.” Wilder echoed a belief in the Kingdom-focused purpose of the initiatives. “I think what [they are] all about is God stirring us to continue and better prepare artistic leaders for the Church and society,” he said.