Promoting community with Central Kansas Master Chorale
Dr. Joel Garber is passionate about making choral music accessible to the community – both for performers and audience members – to inspire the culture and bond music creates. That’s why the Hesston native started Central Kansas Master Chorale when he returned to the area after being away for more than a decade pursuing advanced degrees and teaching choral music at higher education institutions.
“I have always been inspired by Robert Shaw’s ‘Creed of Collegiate Chorale,’ and that’s what got me started in thinking about what I wanted a community choir like this to be,” said Garber.
One of those statements says: “In these days of political, personal and economic disintegration, music is not a luxury, it’s a necessity; not simply because it is therapeutic, nor because it is the universal language, but because it is the persistent focus of our intelligence, aspiration and goodwill.”
Central Kansas Master Chorale began in 2021 as a way for Garber to share his love of all choral music with the community. The choir is a mixed chamber ensemble with more than 40 voices. Choir members join through personal invitation or audition. The choir is an official non-profit organization, and they strive to distinguish themselves from other community choirs in several ways.
“Our singers don’t pay anything to be a part of it,” said Garber. “We are providing entertainment and a source of culture for the community; the singers shouldn’t have to pay to do that. It also means that we try not to rely on ticket sales to operate. Our concerts have free admission. Anyone can come enjoy some culture without having to pay for it. All of the funding required to run the organization comes from concert donations and outside funding.”
The choir performs three or four concerts every year, so instead of meeting weekly for rehearsals, they do what Garber calls “marathon” sessions. Singers receive their music six weeks prior to a concert, as well as score notes, pronunciation guidance and more. They are expected to spend time learning the music before the marathon rehearsals begin. Then they have six intense rehearsals beginning 10 days prior to the concerts.
“With a schedule as intense as this, it’s important that information can be explained ahead of time,” said Garber.
Having both highly experienced singers and conductor, the quality of the product offered by Central Kansas Master Chorale is outstanding and represents the traditional performance canon for choral music. Garber holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma (Norman), a Master of Music degree in choral conducting from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Bethel College (North Newton, Kan.) and an associate of arts degree from Hesston (Kan.) College. He also taught music courses and conducted choirs at Oklahoma Panhandle State University (Goodwell), the University of Oklahoma and Denison University (Granville, Ohio), and has served as director of music in several church congregations and denominations.
“There are so many benefits of music participation for both performers and audience members,” said Garber. “It helps build community by being with others, and improves music appreciation for all kinds of music.”