Initiation rites
Fort Lewis College Music Department welcomes new faces

SideStory: A fall serenade: Faculty Collage mixes classic, contemporary

New Fort Lewis College music faculty member Douglas Owens warms up on bassoon before the fall faculty recital at the school on Sunday while the other performers wait backstage. Owens (woodwinds) and fellow musicians Andrew Homburg (voice) and Jonathan Latta (percussion) joined the faculty this year, replacing Christopher Hendley, Rochelle Mann and John Pennington./Photo David Halterman

by Judith Reynolds

Question: What does it take to join the Fort Lewis College Music Department?

Answer: A doctorate, musicianship and a departmental picnic interrupted by a bear.

“We left the hot dog buns out, and a bear showed up.” Tim Farrell, chair of the FLC Music Department, still laughs about a welcoming picnic he organized for new faculty members at Haviland Lake this summer.

“We were there for a picnic supper, all of us, about 18 with spouses and kids. Then a smaller group, four faculty members, my two kids, and one dog camped out overnight. About 4 a.m., the dog started barking, and Mark Walters shouted, ‘It’s a bear.’”

Farrell said he saw the bear, piled his children into his car and took them home. When he returned, everyone else was still awake. The new faculty members, Andrew Homburg and Doug Owens, asked Farrell if he had staged the whole thing, as a little initiation for new faculty.

The story is now part of orientation lore on campus. “Of course, it was my doing in a way,” Farrell said. “I left the buns out.” But scare the new professors? Not exactly his plan.

Every FLC department has its own initiation stories to tell. But few departments have as major a changing-of-the-guard this year as the music department. Three new full-time professors have joined the ranks: Homburg – voice, Owens – woodwinds, and Jonathan Latta – percussion. He missed the bear event, unfortunately.

These three professors have replaced Christopher Hendley, Rochelle Mann and John Pennington. Hendley had been here only one year, but Mann and Pennington have been popular fixtures at FLC. Together with Professors Linda Mack (voice and choral music) and Mark Walters (woodwinds and band), they have formed the backbone of the department and provided continuity over the years.

In the last decade, other key people have joined the music faculty: Farrell (trumpet and jazz studies), Katherine Jetter (cello), Lisa Campi (piano), and most recently Kasia Sokol (violin). Along with a raft of adjuncts who teach everything from classical guitar to low brass, the FLC music faculty presents a formidable phalanx of talent and dedication.

Last spring, when Mann decided to retire, Pennington accepted a position at Augustana College in South Dakota, and Hendley left academia for good, the department underwent a seismic shift.

“You can never replace a person,” Farrell said. Mann and Pennington spent decades at the college and each developed a loyal following among students and fans in the community. Both remain close friends with Farrell.

“John is my son’s godfather. And Shelly? The joke around here is that it will take three people to replace her. We’ll miss her passion and dedication. We’ll miss John’s connection to the students and commitment to new music – every day. At least Shelly will continue with the Durango Children’s Chorale and maybe teach a few master classes.”

The three new guys are in the process of completing doctoral degrees, Farrell said, adding that it was the same for most of the now-senior faculty when they first arrived. This week Homburg (voice, music education, music history) flies back to Kansas City, Mo., to defend his thesis for a Doctor of Musical Arts degree.

“Andrew (Homburg) is off to a great start,” Farrell said. “He’s willing to take on any project. He’s singing the lead in Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ Nov. 6 and 7. He’ll work with the theater department on ‘Chicago’ for February, and the students tell me he makes music history exciting. That’s an accomplishment.”

Latta (percussion, music education) has four years experience in the Air Force and played in the concert band. “Jonathan is another very positive guy, a straight shooter,” said Farrell. “He’s already played timpani with the San Juan Symphony in the youth and family concerts.

Farrell goes on to describe Owens (woodwinds, theory) as a musician skilled in several areas who also possesses a good sense of humor. “He’s proficient on bassoon, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, flute and bass clarinet. He’s so good, you can’t tell which is his first instrument.”

Balance is what it’s really all about, Farrell said. “Everyone in our department is a musician and a professor. And everyone knows how important flexibility is, when to be professorial and when to have fun.”

That fun, that joy in performing music will be apparent at any number of recitals and concerts on the FLC Music Department schedule. Last Sunday the faculty presented its annual collage recital (see sidebar). Ten concerts are on deck for October, a dozen in November, and at least six in December before the semester comes to an end. The ensembles are up and running. Junior and senior recitals have been scheduled for the year, and weekly mini recitals are held every Thursday at 12:20 p.m. where selected students perform in Roshong Recital Hall. Check the college calendar for the schedule. It’s never too late to be initiated. •



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