With Robert Spence, associate professor and director of instrumental studies, on leave for the year, the music department has invited two Elizabethtown College alumni back to help teach and direct during the 2019-2020 academic year.
Kimberly Hirschmann will be directing the Symphonic Band, as well as teaching one upper-level music education class, and Micah Albrycht will be directing the College-Community Orchestra. The Symphonic Band and College-Community Orchestra are both popular ensembles for Etown students of all academic majors to participate in. Albrycht graduated from Etown in spring 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in music education, and Hirschmann graduated in spring 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in music education with honors.
“I am excited, honored and energized to be back at my Alma Mater,” Albrycht wrote in an email interview. “It is a wonderful opportunity to pass on knowledge to students who are sitting in the same seats I did 10 years ago.”
Hirschmann is also excited. “I am thrilled to be directing the band at Etown this fall. So much of who I am as a musician, educator, and leader is a result of my experiences at Elizabethtown College. Being on the podium and making music is my favorite activity, and I love the positive and collaborative culture in the band program here,” she wrote in an email interview.
Hirschmann is the curriculum specialist for secondary visual and performing arts in Frederick County, Maryland, and Albrycht is a director of orchestra at Exeter Township Junior and Senior High Schools in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
“Both have graduate degrees and lots of professional success,” Jim Haines, music department chair, said. “It’s all those things that encouraged us to want to bring them back.”
Both have also stayed in touch with the music department at Etown through the summer music camp. The summer music camp is a yearly residential event hosted by the College in which young musicians entering grades 7-12 come to take a wide variety of music classes and to perform. The camp lasts a week and culminates in the participants performing in a concert that features a symphony orchestra, symphonic band, concert choir and chamber ensembles.
“It is amazing what a week of focused learning is able to do for musical development and encouragement,” Albrycht said about the progress students make during the summer camp.
At the summer music camp, Hirschmann is an associate director of the camp, and also conducted the symphonic band in the absence of Spence. Albrycht is one of the string faculty members, holding daily violin and viola masterclasses, running sectionals and coaching chamber music groups. Their participation in the summer music camp was another reason why they were asked to come back to Etown.
“It’s such a comprehensive and rounded experience open to all musicians,” Hirschmann said. “For me personally it is a great way to stay connected to faculty that have been and continue to be mentors to me in my career.”
Spence, who was awarded the Kreider Prize for Teaching in 2017, will certainly be missed on campus this year, but his leave is temporary, and he said he intends to return in the 2020 Fall semester. “Let’s not think of this as a good-bye. It’s just a little break until we meet again,” Spence wrote in an emailed letter to his students announcing his leave of absence.
“[Albrycht] seems really nice and fun, too,” junior Kennedy Gilbert, who plays the violin in the College- Community Orchestra, said. “I think we’ll probably have a good year.”
Both the orchestra and the symphonic band have a variety of music lined up for the coming semester.
“I always program ‘for the head, the heart, and the feet,’” Hirschmann wrote. “There will be songs that will challenge the audience’s ear, pull on their heart strings, and make them want to move in their seats.”
The College-Community Orchestra will have a concert Sunday, Nov. 10, at 3 p.m. in Leffler Chapel. The Symphonic Band concert will be one week later, Sunday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m., also in Leffler Chapel.