Encore, EMU’s music alumni group, brings together faculty, students and alumni for fundraising recital

The Chamber Singers are among the groups performing at the Encore! concert Saturday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. in Martin Chapel. Encore! is the music department alumni group and the concert features several musical collaborations between faculty, students and alumni. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

Encore, an alumni group dedicated to supporting the work of Eastern Mennonite University’s music department, will host a recital Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in Martin Chapel, located in the Seminary building. Performers include faculty, students and alumni. The concert is dedicated to President Loren Swartzendruber, who is retiring June 30. The concert is free, but donations are encouraged. A light reception will follow.

“Because this is President Loren’s last year at EMU and he has been a great supporter of the music department, we wanted to honor him,” says Maria Zehr ‘11, an Encore board member who is organizing the event. Zehr says the Encore board worked hard to design a highly collaborative recital with a mix of both vocal and instrumental pieces.

Maria Zehr Feature-8813

Maria Zehr ’11, a member of Encore’s board, is helping to organize the Feb. 27 concert. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

Funds raised by the recital and other Encore events subsidize private music lessons for students and assist the department with special projects and supply needs beyond the normal budget. This past fall, for example, Encore paid for additional percussion mallets, needed for a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at the annual Gala.

“As an alumna of EMU’s music department, I want to stay connected with what is happening in the department and on campus,” says Zehr, an elementary school teacher who double- majored in education and music. “The music department was an integral part of my time at EMU and shaped my college experience. It is where I found a place of connection and belonging. I was able to build relationships with the professors and music students that continue even now, years after my graduation.”

Zehr says she benefited from the support of Encore while a student, so she wants to pass on the support to current students. Music department chair Joan Griffing is grateful for that ongoing support.

“The music faculty members are indebted to the loyalty and generous time and effort of our alumni who volunteer for Encore,” Griffing says. “They assist our department in a variety of ways. We are thrilled to be performing this benefit concert alongside current students and alumni.”

Griffing is among those on the recital program, leading a violin quartet of alumni and students. Others on the program include Sam Kauffman ’12, who will lead an alumni men’s quintet performing some of Kauffman’s original compositions; Jonathan Keener ’07, who will play a four-hands piano piece with Professor Anne Waltner; the Chamber Singers, under the direction of Professor Ken Nafziger; and vocal ensemble Emulate, which will sing several pieces under the direction of Professor Ryan Keebaugh.

“This recital will be a celebration of quite a few years’ worth of music majors at EMU,” Waltner says. “We’re looking forward to reconnecting with former students and hearing them perform and performing with them. It will be an evening of a very wide variety of great music.”

Published February 2016.