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Shaping Lives Through Music, Hostetter Named EMHS Alumnus of the Year

September 13, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger
Janet beams after a program with the Shenandoah Valley
Children's Choir at Eastern Mennonite University where she
was named artistic director in 2014.

A “nudge from God” and a commitment to accompany congregational singing made her go to church on a Sunday in 2014 when Janet Heatwole ‘83 Hostetter says she was exhausted and might have chosen to do what she never did...sleep in.

But being there that morning may have changed the trajectory of her career. A sermon about Abraham and his obedience to move to a place he had never been at a later stage in life, spoke to Hostetter and led her to say “yes.” The "yes" was to a somewhat daunting invitation to become the artistic director of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir (SVCC).



2018 Alumnus of the Year

Hostetter -- Eastern Mennonite High School Alumnus of the Year for 2018 -- credits EMHS with launching her on a path that includes more than 25 years of directing choirs and ensembles, and teaching music from the Pre-K to the university level, as well as serving eight years in music ministry at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, and now as director of more than 200 children in three auditioned performing choirs and three non-auditioned early elementary classes.   

“My music experiences at EMHS were top notch,” says Hostetter. She came as an eighth grader and was quickly motivated by her admiration of older students and respected music instructors. In little time she was singing daily in choir, had picked up piano lessons again, and was part of a quartet with women who remain among her closest friends today. Advanced music class, Touring Choir, Chamber Choir, giving leadership to the quartet and accompanying choir rehearsals are among influential experiences.

Hostetter was selected by the EMHS alumni board for the award in recognition of the hundreds of lives she has touched through music education. “Music is key to who we are as a school, and we know it’s a tool for healing and transformation,” says Diana Suter ‘70 Berkshire, staff liaison to the alumni board. “We are proud of how musical seeds sown here in her early years has shaped Janet and so many more through her passion.”

A standing ovation for the SVCC at the 2018 American Choral Directors Association Southern Division Conference in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts was a career highlight, says Hostetter. “Having hundreds of music educators and choral directors affirm my students and our work together was so gratifying. I couldn’t have been more proud of my students, their musicianship, professionalism and poise.”

Hartzler is Music Mentor for School and Life

Hostetter credits Jay Hartzler, long-time choral director and music teacher at EMHS for encouraging her to pursue music after high school; she even student taught under Hartzler’s capable tutelage in the fall of 1987 and has enjoyed his mentorship ever since.

After majoring in music at Eastern Mennonite University, Hostetter earned a master of music degree in choral conducting from James Madison University. In the spring of 2008, she served as SVCC guest director and was chosen to take over the helm in 2014 from among dozens of national and international applicants.

Janet shares a library table in 1982 with classmate
Joye Ropp Cavari.

Currently, in addition to the SVCC role, Hostetter is writing her thesis for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting at James Madison University. The research topic--an overview of pedagogical practices utilized by selected international children’s choirs--has taken her to Peru (with the SVCC), Australia, the Philippines, Canada and the Czech Republic.

At Wilbur S. Pence Middle School in Dayton, Va., the choral program grew from 10 participants to more than 120 over seven years, and her choirs received “superior” ratings at District Choral Assessments.

From 2009-13, Hostetter served as Repertoire and Standards Chair for Children’s Choirs for the Virginia chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, during which time she worked with many nationally recognized children’s choir directors. Since 2008 she has had the privilege to teach several collegiate music education classes and has also supervised practicum students and student teachers from three local universities. Currently she is in demand as an honor choir director.

“I’m honored to accept this award in appreciation for the strong music tradition at EMS,” reflects Hostetter. “During my years at EMHS, I experienced how music can positively impact the lives of individuals and communities.  I believe that people can receive emotional and spiritual healing through music made in praise of God."

A number of Bible stories point to this profound mystery, notes Hostetter. She sites: Paul and Silas singing when their chains and the chains of other prisoners fell off (Acts 16:25-26); King Saul was relieved when David played his harp for him (I Samuel 16:23); and King Jehoshaphat won a battle he never fought by positioning men to sing praises to the Lord at the head of his army. (2 Chronicles 2:22-23).

"These stories, along with my own experiences and convictions, have instilled within me, a passion to be the best conductor and music teacher that I can be,” she says.

Married to Eric Hostetter  in 1986, the couple have three children -- Brook ‘09 Benson ‘11 and Jaden ‘16 -- all talented musicians in their own right who also sang under Jay Hartzler at EMS. “That kind of mentorship and training is an extraordinary thing,” emphasizes Hostetter. “I’m grateful to have had it for myself and my children, and honored to pass on the gift in my own career.”

Generations shaped by EMHS Music Program

Six 2016 EMHS graduates were fortunate to sing in Jay Hartzler's first touring choir in 1981-82, and to see their children sing in his final touring choir. Left to right, Wayne Miller '82 with Andrew '16; Janet Heatwole '83 Hostetter (2018 Alumnus of the Year) with Jaden '16; Doris Mast '83 Oberholtzer with Benji '16; Jay E Hartzler; Andrea Schrock '82 Wenger, with Leah '16;  Ruby Kauffman '83 Hostetler Erin '16; and Janice Good '83 Gandy with Ryan '16. Photo taken at final 2015-16 Touring Choir concert at Weavers Mennonite Church.


Service, Learning and Vegetables Create Outdoor Classroom

September 12, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger
Eastern Mennonite High Schol Family and Consumer
Science students sort vegetables ​​​​​​at Seasons Bounty
Farm. Photo by Andrew Gascho

When Radell Schrock -- Season’s Bounty Farm owner -- shared about a family medical emergency with his congregation of Zion (Virginia) Mennonite, it unleashed a support network that resulted in student service and learning, and fresh vegetables on hundreds of tables.

“The support from Eastern Mennonite School was a surprise, and has been terrific,” says Schrock, whose wife is hospitalized following a brain injury. “The student, teacher and administrative volunteers have been really appreciated,” says Schrock. The support allowed him to spend time at the hospital and be sure the couple’s infant daughter is well cared for.

Paul Leaman, head of school, learned of Schrock’s situation through their church network. In short order, he arranged for eight students to join him the next morning at the farm, just north of Harrisonburg. The students dug right in, literally, and “were a real help,” according to Schrock, in getting ready for Schrock’s stand at the Harrisonburg Farmers’ Market the next day.

Anna Haarer, Food and Consumer Science teacher
enjoyed a change of scenery as much the sudents.

The following week, Anna Haarer’s food science and nutrition class, spent three class periods at the farm preparing baskets for Schrock’s vegetable subscription pick up, later that day. The students have been studying food consumer habits and discussing what it means to eat local, according to Haarer, a 2009 EMHS graduate and current family and consumer science teacher.

“It was an excellent learning experience,” says Haarer, who was once a student of Schrock’s when he taught earth and physical science at the school. “You can tell Radell really cares about what he is doing. Growing beautiful, nutritious food for local consumption is his passion,” observed Haarer.

The students were a “seven out of 10” on wanting to do this kind of work again for the class, reports Haarer. “It was good to see how the vegetables are prepared and what goes in the subscription boxes,” says a Drake Heatwole ‘21. “It fit with what we are learning about nutrition and eating local.” And, he adds, “working outside was a great change from the classroom!”

Drake Heatwole '21, Anna Haarer, Family and
Consumer Science teacher discuss the subscription
boxes with Radell Schrock, of Seasons Bounty Farm.
Photo by Andrew Gascho.

The produce at Season’s Bounty is grown without pesticides and sheep are raised on grass. The products are  sold primarily through Harrisonburg Farmers Market, through CSA subscription boxes, to numerous local restaurants, the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, The Woods Edge Farm Stand and the Friendly City Food Cooperative.


Trisha Blosser Named Eastern Mennonite School Development Officer

September 11, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Trisha Maust Blosser has been named Development Officer for Eastern Mennonite School, K-12 effective Sept. 10, 2018. A 1995 graduate of the school, Blosser most recently worked as Development Officer for Harrisonburg’s Explore More Discovery Museum.

“Trisha brings a wealth of connections and experience to our advancement team at a time of growth and excitement,” says Paul Leaman, Head of School. “Her passion for our values of strong academics from a faith-based foundation will help propel us into our second century.”

Blosser will play key roles with annual giving, corporate sponsorships, alumni relations and capital projects, including Let the Children Come. This campaign raised nearly $3 million last year to purchase and renovate property adjacent to the existing middle and high school. The updated K-12 campus will serve some 350 children K-12.

“I enjoy meeting people, understanding their passions and sharing stories that show the impact of donor support,” says Blosser. “As an alumnus of EMHS I can speak to the value of Christian education in my personal, professional, and spiritual life. My grounding in strong academics, creative solutions, and compassionate peers laid the foundation for my college and career,” she reflects.

Extracurricular activities such as Touring Choir enhanced her lifelong love of music, she says. “When I think of times of

Trisha Maust '95 Blosser, new Development 
Officer, talks with Paul Leaman, Head of School.

doubt and uncertainty, I can say that many of the songs and hymns I learned at EMHS carried me through to a place of faith and hope.”

Blosser, a member of Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, was involved in a recent campaign to raise $1 million for a building renovation. “I appreciated working with Trisha on this project,” says Phil Helmuth, long-time fundraiser and a former supervisor of Blosser at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) where she oversaw the phonathon. “She is passionate about her work, asks wise questions, is a good listener, and fun to be around.”

In addition to the Explore More Discovery Museum and EMU, Blosser worked previously as Director of Resources for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and with Venture Builders, owned by her husband and father. In her work with nonprofits she oversaw major donor relations and fundraising events, including the Night at the Museum and Jazz in June for the museum. “I am still amazed and humbled by the generosity of our community,” she says.

Blosser earned an MA in history museum studies from State University of New York at Oneonta, a BA in anthropology from James Madison University, and studied in Ireland and Northern Ireland with Eastern Mennonite University.

She and her husband Jeremy, also an EMHS alum, are parents to two young boys.

Photos by Andrew Gascho.

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