After 23 years of bringing song and music to the Wittenberg University and Springfield communities, Associate Professor of Music Joyce Wendel took her final bow as conductor of the Wittenberg Singers in April. Throughout her Wittenberg career as a conductor, teacher and mentor, Wendel created strong ties not only with students, faculty and staff, but also with members of the Springfield community who participated in musical groups she led.
"I began conducting the Wittenberg Singers when I first came to Witt in 1986," Wendel said. "The group includes community members, and back then it was a mixed group – SATB (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) and included many faculty and staff. After a couple of years, for various reasons, Witt Singers became an all-woman ensemble, which I conducted until my sabbatical in 2000 and 2001."
Upon her return, a new SATB group, the Wittenberg Chamber Singers, was formed. Wendel brought her considerable experience and skills to conducting the new group, and she even led it on a memorable overseas excursion.
"That group went to Japan and South Korea in 2004 through a grant from the Freeman Foundation," Wendel said. "I conducted that ensemble until it was eliminated from the curriculum in 2007, when I became the conductor of Witt Singers once again."
In addition to conducting the Wittenberg Singers and Wittenberg Chamber Singers, Wendel taught courses in vocal performance, vocal music education and music fundamentals at Wittenberg. An accomplished flutist, she also performed with symphonies throughout Ohio.
"Watching students grow as musicians, seeing them go on to successful career has given me the most joy and satisfaction as a professor," Wendel said. "This was a good year to retire with very fond memories of the current music education majors. They are a fantastic group of kids and young musicians.
"There's hope for music education in this country with young people like that coming into the field."
Wendel's obvious passion for music and love of teaching clearly made her a trusted instructor and advisor for the many aspiring musicians who attended Wittenberg over the years.
"Over the past three years, Dr. Wendel has been my best professor, mentor and friend. Not only has she taught me so much about music education, but a lot about life too," said Annie Selong, class of 2010 from Bay Village, Ohio. "Her humor can always bring a smile to everyone's face, and we will truly miss having her around."
Though she is retiring from teaching and conducting, she maintains her keen love of music – especially for most things classical, such as symphonies, vocal music, leider and art song. She continues to practice and play the flute for her own pleasure and enjoyment, and she continues to play in the group TOFT (Tons of Fun Trio), with Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Barb Mackey and another flutist. For many years the group included Wendel, Mackey and the late Associate Professor of Music Tom Kennedy.
"One of the things that was life-changing for me was the two and a half years spent caring for Dr. Tom Kennedy through his terminal illness," Wendel said. "I think perhaps that turned out to be one of the better contributions I have made to Wittenberg.
"There are so many good memories of people and experiences. I loved working with young singers, music education majors and the ensemble work."
In more than two decades at Wittenberg, Wendel touched many – from the students she taught to the audiences who attended her concerts. She will miss those students and other members of the university community as life presents its next adventure.
Written By: Samantha Kimm '11 and Phyllis Eberts
Photo By: Erin Pence