Cutline: Ralston Hall provides a beautiful setting for recitals and concerts,

Pullquote: “You can learn any standard instrument, any instrument you find in an orchestra, as well as things like guitar and organ.” Birgette Moyer, music department chair

The music department at College of Notre Dame is a center of activity that spreads throughout the Peninsula. The activity starts with student/faculty interaction, adds student, then faculty and resident performances and, finally, brings in professional musicians until the whole is a concerted program of training and performances running year round.

Birgette Moyer orchestrates it all. “The music program at CND has about 30 majors whose average age ranges from high 30s to a low of about 20,” said Moyer. The last couple of years enrollment has been steady, but before that, the music department grew by about 30 percent,” said Moyer.

“We have more piano majors than anything else, both under­graduate and graduate, partly because we have a magnet teacher in that area who draws people. Also, that is the only applied music area where we have a full­time faculty member.”

The magnet teacher, Thomas LaRatta, has been on campus even longer than Moyer’s 22 years. So have the other three full-time faculty members.

“People usually drop their jaw when I tell them I’ve never hired a full-time faculty member in 22 years. That’s not very typical,” The department offers bachelor degrees in arts in music and music in performance, and master’s in piano performance, voice performance, piano pedagogy and voice pedagogy.

The goals of graduates are across the spectrum. “Many have combined performance with some other area. They’re performers and teachers; there are people who are composing and actually making good money at it; there are people who are conductors,” Moyer said.

One of CND’s graduates is conductor and music director of the Peninsula Symphony. In 1972 Mitchell Klein was in transition. He came to College of Notre Dame “at a time when I was changing directions. I had just graduated from college and had couple of years teaching and needed to put together essentially a bachelor’s degree in music in a great hurry.

“They were amazingly flexible and generous to me in putting together a unique program designed to facilitate my particular needs. They put together a mixture of classes that already existed, plus independent studies to fill in all of the blanks that I needed to complete a degree,” he said.

“The quality of the instruction was superb because a lot of it was one-on-one, and sort of done on a tutorial basis. I got a chance to fill in some of the blank spaces in my formal music education and was able to go on to do graduate work immediately,” Klein said.

He went on with his education at California State University, Hayward, but stayed on at CND conducting the chamber or­chestra and teaching classes until 1980. Klein spent two-and- a-half years as associate conductor of the Kansas City Philharmonic, before returning to California.

The flexibility that helped Klein gives the department an extensive range of disciplines.

“You can learn any standard instrument, any instrument you find in an orchestra, as well as things like guitar and organ,” said Moyer.

“I would say we felt fortunate to have a contra-bassoon player a couple years ago. Bassoons are hard to find and at that particular time we had three bassoonists in the department, which is really strange,” Moyer said.

Students can major in any of the standard instruments and get a bachelor’s of art or bachelor’s of music degree in performance.

Classes at the college are open to non-majors, so community members interested in taking classes can do so without pursuing a degree.

The college is also one of the Peninsula’s cultural centers in terms of musical performances. The music department is well connected to the community through the many public concerts and performances and the audiences that come through.

“We include the community in a number of things we do. The chorus is called the Campus Community Chorus and it includes community members in addition to students, faculty and staff.” Of the 50 to 60 members, at least half are residents from nearby communities. What we are probably best known for in the community is all the concerts we have, said Moyer

The Ralston Concert Series is professional chamber music, and there are approximately 30 to 35 additional concerts each year performed by students, chorus, orchestra and opera workshop participants, she said.

“Between all the events, we figure that we have 8, 000 to 10,000 people come through our door each year.

“The Ralston Series is pretty well selling out every time now. We have over 6,000 names on the music mailing list.

“Many of the people who have come to the concerts for years say they think of music as the outward image of the college. I don’t know where that came from, but so many people are saying it,” said Moyer.

Each year the music and drama departments collaborate, alternating between an opera workshop and a musical theater production.

“We tend to do things that are not the warhorses. Things a little out of the ordinary like three

short one acts.” The longest was an opera called Doctor Miracle, by Bizet, who wrote Carmen.

None of the operas had sword fights, but one did have a fist­fight and nobody was dead at the end, said Moyer. This year’s production, the musical, Oliver, is under way and opens April 17 for three week­ends.

This article was written by William Cracraft/Freelance News Service and first published in 1998 in the 75th Anniversary Edition tabloid published by Alameda News Paper Group. Any accompanying photos were also taken by William Cracraft. It is reproduced here as a portfolio piece.


Comments are closed.