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Asso­ciate Chairman of Music Timothy McDonnell (left) and Pro­fessor and Music Department Chairman James A. Holleman (right) con­ducting musi­cians
Julian Blancherd | Collegian

Pro­fessor and Music Department Chairman James A. Holleman is stepping down from his position as director of the college choir and chapel choir to be suc­ceeded by Timothy McDonnell.

McDonnell will fill the posi­tions of asso­ciate chairman of music and director of sacred music, both of which have been added this year.

“I have every con­fi­dence in the world that Dr. McDonnell will con­tinue to grow the program,” Holleman said.

Holleman will con­tinue to serve as the chairman of the music department, direct the chamber choir and college orchestra, conduct con­certs, and act as the head of the pro­fes­sional artist series. He said he chose to divide the workload of the con­stantly growing choirs after almost 25 years of his col­leagues telling him to slow down. 

“It’s not in my nature to take on less,” Holleman said. “I’m back to what most people would call an overload, as opposed to an insane load.”

The growth of the choir, Holleman said, began when he came to the college in 1997. When he took on the choir in the spring of 1997, it was com­posed of a small handful of stu­dents and faculty. He said he told the school to expect an overnight change in the choir.

Holleman said his favorite part of con­ducting is building rela­tion­ships with his stu­dents. The per­sonal quality of vocal music and the enthu­siasm and passion of the choir members makes con­ducting and directing a delight, he said. 

The chamber choir also travels for per­for­mances often, he said, which means “breaking bread together” and further strength­ening cama­raderie. The more focused chamber choir, he said, is capable of han­dling a more complex reper­toire, which allows for greater cre­ativity and range of song choice.

The chamber choir and orchestra are as strong as ever, according to Holleman. On Dec. 4, Holleman will col­lab­orate with McDonnell to put on a Christmas per­for­mance com­bining the chamber choir, college choir, and orchestra. 

McDonnell said he respects Holleman.

“The level of engagement Dr. Holleman has cul­ti­vated is admirable, along with the energy with which the stu­dents come to choir,” McDonnell said. “He’s a good col­league, and we can work together to reach our fullest aspirations.” 

Holleman said he and McDonnell have a good working rela­tionship and he trusts McDonnell to take charge of the college and chapel choirs.

McDonnell has directed choirs for almost 30 years, and has taught music theory and orches­tration at a uni­versity level for 15 years. 

The chapel is what attracted him to Hillsdale, McDonnell said, as it rep­re­sents Hillsdale’s com­mitment to the liberal arts.

In his new role, McDonnell said he aims to bring together these dif­ferent interests and expe­ri­ences through the use of images and analogies to open windows to the imag­i­nation and produce a sound that suc­ceeds expec­ta­tions. He said he believes it is important to build engagement with the members of the choir. 

“We’ve got all kinds of back­grounds, interests, and majors in this large choral ensemble,” he said.

McDonnell’s goal is to encourage stu­dents to par­tic­ipate with their full body, mind, and soul.

“It’s a little bit like a circuit,” he said. “Some days the current is stronger than others, but when things really line up, it’s an electric experience.”

McDonnell said he plans to con­tinue to instill prin­ciples of rightly approaching the text, taking into account the del­icate interplay between lyrics and melody.

“I appre­ciate how precise he is in our warm-ups,” choir student and sophomore Paul Lin­dauer said.

By making members more aware of the prin­ciples and nuances of vocal tech­nique, McDonnell said he plans to take the choir to even greater heights.

“He is turning us into pro­fes­sionals and chal­lenging us in new ways,” junior Marie-Thérèse Romanos said.

“I love Dr. McDonnell,” freshman Colin Joyce said. “I expe­ri­enced Dr. Holleman last year and am sad that I’m not taking him yet, but I have never had a better choir director than Dr. McDonnell. He’s cer­tainly made me a better singer in just a few weeks.”

Joyce’s brother Luke had similar thoughts. 

“Pro­fessor Holleman was the heart and soul of the choir for 24 1/2 years. He was the first one to hold the 4 year per­for­mance of the Messiah,” Luke said. “Pro­fessor Holleman will always have a place in my heart.”