Love of music common among diverse community choir
Years after falling in love with choral music, and each other, Mike and Susan Gammage have found a way to rekindle the days when their college romance began.
“My wife and I met in a college choir in north Texas, and we developed a love for choral music,” said Mike Gammage, a Baldwin City resident.
Both Mike and his wife joined the Baker University Community Choir last spring when the group of area residents and students first combined vocal talent. The couple views the choir group as an opportunity to continue with one of their mutual loves.
Susan Gammage’s life has always revolved around the notes and sounds of music. From performing her first solo at the age of 8 to majoring in college in music education, she loves a musical challenge.
“I like the music we sing because it is challenging, but it’s fun and we learn a lot,” Susan Gammage said. “It is challenging music that I have not sung since college and it is fun to sing it again.”
Not a stranger to Baker’s music department, Baldwin City resident Walt Bailey shares with Susan Gammage the struggle to revisit music sung back in the days of college.
“When Matthew (Potterton) came and decided to try and form a community choir, I struggled because I hadn’t done it for so long,” Bailey said. “But he was very encouraging, so I have stepped in and have enjoyed it very much.”
Directing a choir filled with varying talent and ages has been a learning experience for Potterton, Baker University director of choral activities. With an email list of group members reaching 113, the choir has begun to draw in singers from outside Baldwin City.
Opening up a choir aimed toward people who just want to attend because it is something they enjoy makes for a different conducting experience for Potterton.
“This has nothing to do with a degree,” Potterton said. “The (Baker) students are not necessarily here because of a degree, there are a couple majors in there, but most are a part of the group because they want to. The community, they are there because they sang in high school or college when they were younger, and they want to do it again.”
Not presented with many opportunities to sing with adults, Bishop Seabury (Lawrence) freshman Alexandra Rader took a chance last year by joining the choir. Even as the youngest member of the group, she is not intimidated. Instead she looks at this as more of a learning opportunity.
“It is a different experience than a school choir or younger kid’s choir where the director has to treat you as children because some people may not know as much as you,” Rader said. “Here I get to be more of an adult.”
Breaking the traditional mold of aspiring to either rock or pop star fame, Rader prefers the more natural feel of classical music. Still, making music into a future career remains a mystery.
“I still do not know what I want to do,” Rader said. “I might want to sing or I might want to play the flute. I might want to grow up and be a business woman, but I do know music will always be my hobby.”
By having the weekly experience to work beside others like Rader, Mike Gammage’s drive for continuous learning and application has gone beyond musical notes and compositions.
“Multigenerational organizations are great,” Mike Gammage said. “We just need to get over ourselves and realize that these kids, and us, have more in common then we think.”
As the choir’s May 1 7:30 p.m. concert at the Baldwin First United Methodist Church continues to draw closer, Baldwin City resident Fred McCreary is ready for the group to show off what a room full of people who share a common passion can produce.
“You feel the emotion, and in a performance you get to bring this emotion across to people,” McCreary said. “When these folks come to this concert, they are going to be in awe. There is a variety of music (Potterton) is doing and then you add Baker chorus, piano, orchestra. It is going to be great.”
— Megan Perry is a student at Baker University and a staff member of The Baker Orange.