Though some Westminster College alumni struggle to stay engaged with the school after graduation, that isn’t the case for those involved in the Westminster Community Choir, who say it provides them an easy way to connect with their alma mater.
The community choir has been around for over 10 years, but it hasn’t always provided that space for graduates.
“The No. 1 comment I always got from alums is, ‘I wish I was stilling singing and there is no opportunity,’” said Christopher Quinn, a professor and director of music for the Florence J. Gilmour School of Music. “So three years ago, the community choir was going by a different name. We were down to about 18 singers, so I started directing it again with the main purpose of inviting alums to join, and I changed the name to the Westminster Community Choir because I really want to invite the community.”
Once a week, students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the Sugar House community come together as a choir to sing and rehearse.
Hilary Koolhoven, the choir’s assistant conductor and a 2014 alumna, helps with voice lessons before rehearsals. She said she always hoped to be involved with Westminster after she graduated and noted the choir is a great way for anyone who loves music to stay engaged.
“It’s great that there are so many alumni who come back,” Koolhoven said. “Westminster has such a great community feeling, and it gives that opportunity for alumni to be involved. […] To enjoy music and perform even though they are not in school anymore.”
Throughout the years, Quinn said he has seen many alumni return to the choir because they miss singing and the campus community.
“If there is one thing the ensembles are, all the performing ensembles, is they are a community of learning,” he said. “We do this together. We love it. We succeed or fail together, and I stress that a lot. It’s something we do together, and frankly we can create harmony — and harmony is worth it on multiple levels.”
Edward Lopez, a 2015 alum and a member of the choir, also noted the importance of community.
“Before I came back to the community choir, I had my really close friends who I would see after we graduated. But this is allowing me to be back on campus and see other people who I didn’t keep up with as much.”
–Edward Lopez, a 2015 alum and a member of the choir
To be part of the choir, current students can take the class for credit or noncredit. Community members must audition to join the choir.
Asha Himmighoefer, a 2007 alumna, said being back at Westminster has provided a positive growing experience.
“Just being on campus, it’s also fun to see what’s going on and still feel like because I am here and I see things going on I’m a part of it,” she said. “Doing the concerts with the community choir keeps me involved.”