Iowa Wesleyan University is celebrating 100 years of music with a Centennial Celebration Concert on Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the chapel. Any alumni, community members and current students are invited to join choir or band rehearsals earlier in the day to perform at the evening concert, which commemorates the official founding of the Music Department in 1918.
The Centennial Celebration Concert is more than a concert, said Blair Buffington, director of choral activities at Iowa Wesleyan University (IW). It’s a time for graduates to rekindle friendships, connect with current students and meet new people. In between the music, participants will be interviewed on stage about their experience with the IW Music Department and beyond.
“Performance is just a portion of the concert,” Buffington said. “It’s about fostering connections with people. Bringing people who are graduates back in connection with current students and participants in our music program.”
Rehearsals for the concert will begin Saturday afternoon. The band will be rehearsing at 1 p.m. in the chapel auditorium. The choir will begin rehearsing at 2 p.m. in Old Main room 300. Anyone is welcome to participate in the band or choir.
“It marks yet another huge milestone for Iowa Wesleyan University,” Buffington said. “Music departments tend to be the glue that unites and brings together students from all walks of life and all major areas of study. We have people involved in our department from almost every major on campus, not just music majors and music education majors. We have people who will be lawyers and nurses and biologists and business people and police officers. We have just about everybody and it’s something we can all find common ground.
“It’s an exciting milestone,” Buffington continued. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for our stakeholders and constituents to be able to reflect and share their experiences with one another and to simply get together and make music for fun and give us a chance to talk about those experiences and that history.”
The history of the IW Music Department begins before it was even formed. Choirs, bands, glee clubs and orchestras thrived at IW since it was founded in 1842 adjacent to Alexander Rommell’s Conservatory of Music. IW students at the time often dual-enrolled in the conservatory and IW.
When the conservatory closed, IW purchased their music equipment and pianos and folded it into their curriculum, Buffington said.
Michael Knight, associate professor of music at IW, said that the concert is going to be a “fantastic experience.”
“Any time you get a group of musicians together, the joy of making music, especially since everyone on stage will have a connection to Iowa Wesleyan, is really special,” Knight said.
Knight said that Mt. Pleasant’s “robust” community music scene will make it easy for musicians who have played together in other ensembles throughout the years to play a concert together on Saturday.
“(Music) is a part of almost everything that goes on here. It’s included in all the ceremonies, visible at athletic events, commencement and various performances our students give throughout the year. It’s been a part of Wesleyan since its very beginning.”
Knight said that it is clear the history of 100 years of music at IW has “permeated” the region. When he meets people who were involved in IW’s music program, he feels an instant bond with them.
“Many will be current music teachers, some will be retired music teachers, some will have pursued careers outside of music and are still active performers and then for others it will be the first time they’ve picked up an instrument in years. It will be a broad range of experiences,” Knight continued.”
Mike Heaton, vice president for university advancement, said that the impact IW’s music program has had on the region and the community is clear. Alumni like Marlene and Jim DePriest, music teachers at Mt. Pleasant community High School, Adam Creager, Mt. Pleasant Middle School band director and community band director, and Josh Morey, musical director for Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre’s production of “Guys and Dolls” in February, are just a few who continue to have a strong impact in Mt. Pleasant.
“That kind of value is what attracts businesses to Mt. Pleasant and young adults who are looking at quality of life as they choose where they want to live,” Heaton said. “Having a university-level music program in the community really helps add to the culture of our region.”
The concert is free and anyone is welcome to attend. To sign up to perform with the band or choir visit iw.edu/concert or call 319-385-6246 or show up to rehearsal.