The end of the unique school year parallels the retirement of two significant figures in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SOMTD): Dr. Richard Sowers and Dr. Fritz Robertson.
Sowers, professor of music and director of AU Chorale, and Robertson, professor of music, voice area coordinator and director of Boze Lyric Theatre, retired at the end of this semester. Both worked diligently to ensure a smooth transition for everyone in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.
However, the process was far from easy. Although Sowers and Robertson were already planning to retire, the SOMTD was hit with a round of budget cuts, both of their positions included.
Sowers met with President Pistole and Provost Morris to discuss concerns with the discontinuation of the two full-time positions.
“A series of events sort of occurred after [the meeting] that eventually led to the university deciding that they would give us one full-time position back,” Sowers explained.
Robertson elaborated on the hiring process.
“We had 42 applicants… we ended up doing nine Zoom interviews… and it became pretty clear to [the committee] that out of those nine… we thought we had three really strong candidates.” He continued, “Luckily, the university allowed us to have them in person, with some rules laid down.”
The three candidates each had an opportunity to teach a classical-focused and musical theatre-focused voice lesson, lead a Chorale rehearsal and answer student questions.
After a long process of receiving applications, conducting interviews and deliberating, the department chose to hire Prof. Theo Hicks to fill the position.
Hicks has been teaching aural composition at AU. He received his bachelor’s degree in music education at AU as well, and his master’s degree at Ball State University where he is currently finishing his doctoral degree.
As an undergrad, Hicks participated in Chorale and is now looking forward to creating the same great experiences he had for current members.
“I think back to the days that I was in Chorale and…I want a lot of those same experiences for my students,” Hicks said. “I want them to look back at Chorale and go, ‘That was one of the best choral experiences of my life,’ because I look back at that and I go, ‘That was one of the best choral experiences of my life.’”
Hicks has many plans and goals for the group, including continuing a long-standing tradition.
“One thing I’m really passionate about is continuing the tradition of touring,” Hicks said. “That’s a really important aspect of what we do… Touring is not only one of our greatest recruitment opportunities, but more importantly for the students, it’s always a really great way to have that collective experience that binds us together and reminds us why we even do this.”
Hicks continued, speaking on his new position as Chorale director. “One thing that’s important to me is that students feel a sense of continuity, as well as fresh excitement,” Hicks explained. “I recognize the legacy that’s been placed before me and I cherish that and I fear it in a good way… I hold it in such a high regard that I promise to take as best care of it that I can.”