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ISSUE 118 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/15/2005

Aspaas succeeds retiring director Scholz

By Jean Mullins
News Editor

Friday, April 15, 2005

After 37 years of teaching at St. Olaf, Robert "Dr. Bob" Scholz ‘61, professor of music, voice, and Viking Chorus and Chapel Choir conductor, is retiring at the end of this school year. His successor, Chris Aspaas ’95, will join the music faculty next school year.

Scholz grew up in Chicago playing piano and organ and was inspired to pursue choral directing by his choral director, Gerhard Schroth. When he came to St. Olaf in 1957, he tried out for the choirs, but did not make it his first semester. However, second semester, he tried again and became part of the St. Olaf choral tradition, of which he has been a part of for more than 40 years.

He received his masters of music in musicology and doctorate of musical arts in choral conducting from the University of Illinois in 1967 and 1969, respectively. He joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1968.

Scholz recalls the first time the St. Olaf music ensembles collaborated to do Britten’s “War Requiem” in 1970, a piece Scholz is currently working on again with the St. Olaf Orchestra, the St. Olaf Choir and Chapel Choir. The first time Scholz directed the piece the United States was in the middle of the Vietnam War and many St. Olaf students were involved in protests. Scholz recalls that the chapel was "jam packed" with students and community members. The piece, at the time, had only been performed in Minnesota once before and this was the first time St. Olaf had ever attempted the difficult piece. As the piece built up to a particularly moving point, "I remember feeling like I was conjuring Hell," Scholz said. After the piece ended, the audience was utterly silent "for at least forty-five seconds," Scholz said. Other memorable pieces for Scholz include the Brahms “German Requiem” and Bach’s “Passion According to St. Matthew.”

Scholz praised the atmosphere of collaboration in the music department.

"It makes our music department work," he said. "It makes a healthy program for music majors and non-music majors."

He noted that in many colleges and universities, there is not a spirit of cooperation but rather individuals looking out for themselves.

Scholz was also involved in the Northfield community, conducting the Northfield Chorale, composed of amateurs who love to sing. "We were not always singing with polish, but we were singing with passion," Scholz said.

After retiring, Scholz and his wife Cora ‘61, also a retired St. Olaf music professor, plan to travel and to read. Scholz may also do some guest conducting and lecturing, as well as give voice lessons.

His successor, Aspaas, shares in the tradition of St. Olaf choral music. Aspaas graduated from St. Olaf in 1995 with a bachelor of arts in voice performance. He earned his doctorate in choral music education from Florida State University and is currently serving as the interim director of choral studies at Central Washington University.

While at St. Olaf, Aspaas sang in Viking Chorus under Scholz, calling it "an amazing year."

He then sang in the St. Olaf Choir, and feels that it shaped his decision to pursue choral music. "I realized by my sophomore year [at St. Olaf], ‘I love this singing thing,’" Aspaas said.

Aspaas had many words of praise for Scholz.

"He has such a legacy there," Aspaas said of succeeding Scholz. "The tradition he has established, [makes succeeding him] a bit overwhelming. St. Olaf is going to miss him."

Scholz said Aspaas is the right person for the job, saying that he knows how to train young voices in Viking Chorus and that he is ‘a good tenor’.

"He’s going to do a fine job," Scholz said. "He is a high energy person, but also kind."

The War Requiem will be performed in Boe Chapel April 24.

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