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Posts Tagged "music"

You're Invited: Christmas Music and Worship

December 03, 2018
By Andrea Wenger

Join us for Christmas music and worship programs!

Tues., Dec. 4, 7 p.m. Eastern Mennonite Elementary School

A Christmas music program and sing-a-long directed by Joy Anderson. Students will share a program of light holiday fun and reflection on the season, including string performance under the direction of Maria Lorcas. The program will conclude with a luminary-lit walk as we remember the journey of Mary and Joseph and see the path to the elementary school building under renovation. Come hold a glow stick and join the "candlelit" singing. Live streaming of the outside portion of the program will be available inside for those who prefer to stay seated.

Thurs., Dec. 6, 7 p.m., Eastern Mennonite Middle School

Join grades 6-8 for Christmas songs and celebration featuring middle school strings, band and jazz ensemble will perform.

Tues., Dec 11 and Thurs., Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m. Eastern Mennonite High School

Professional musicians join the school orchestra and an 85-voice student choir to present Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria and other choral and instrumental music.


All programs are held in the school's auditorium at 801 Parkwood Drive, Harrisonburg. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Circle Continues as Recording Studio is Demolished for Elementary Program

October 04, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger
Watch the video of EMHS Touring Choir sing the final song in the
former Alive Studio space. 

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” asked -- and sang -- the 2018 Eastern Mennonite School Touring Choir in spring of 2018. It was the last recording made at the 37-year old Alive Studios.

With the renovation of the the former MennoMedia building for Eastern Mennonite Elementary School (EMES), the musical circle will not be broken, even as the recording studio was demolished in late September.

Music is an integral part of all our programming at EMES," says music teacher Joy Anderson. "This renovated space is going to 'hear' the sounds of children making music daily, whether it is in class or at a community gathering, lunchtime prayer, or outside. It’s a beautiful continuation of the studio’s legacy to renovate the building into a new place to nurture young voices."

Elementary students watch the demolition of the music
studio at the former MennoMedia building, which is being
renovated to house Eastern MennoniteK-5 program.
Photo by Heidi Byler.


The studio and MennoMedia warehouse were built in 1981. When EMS purchased the MennoMedia building in 2017, the school hoped to avoid demolition of the studio. “It was extremely well built -- like a bunker -- and one of the best studios in the region,” says Mike Stoltzfus, director of business affairs.

A diverse group of artists -- many with Mennonite connections, but not all -- recorded there over the years including EMS choirs, Eastern Mennonite University Chamber Singers, the folk-rock group Reunion Vocal Band and Valley artists. According to “legend,” a notable recording artist to use the space was Dave Matthews Band in one of their early demos. [This, and other stories from the studio, will be explored in a future article].

Stoltzfus led efforts to avoid demolition. The team explored repurposing the space, collaborating with area universities, joining with others to create a commercial recording studio, or even moving the studio to another site. “In the end, nothing we explored made sense from a financial perspective,” says Stoltzfus.

With the studio down and other demolition complete, renovation can begin. The main building and former warehouse will house classrooms with natural light and convenient access to water and kitchen equipment for hands-on learning. On the southwest side of the building, where the studio actually stood, there will be a mix of green space, play area, offices, and, eventually, a community gathering space.

Maria Archer K-8 principal who has led the elementary school since it launched in 2005, has an additional personal full-circle connection. “I actually recorded a demo tape in that studio in 1985… when I had visions of becoming a country music singer,” she says, remembering singing into a microphone while playing piano. “I remember Abe [Rittenhouse] saying, when I recorded my original song ‘Like a Fire,’ ‘I can hear Kenny Rogers singing this one.’ I think he was trying to be encouraging.”

Archer and other school leaders are encouraged today by the progress on the Let the Children Come campaign. More than $3.2 million in donations and pledges came in from generous donors by July 1, 2018. Paul Leaman, head of school, is committed to raising an additional $1 million by January 1, 2019. The immediate goal is to complete classrooms and offices; longer term the project will include a community gathering space, which is integral to the elementary curriculum and will be available as a rental facility for the community.

The Future and Why We Sing

EMS is committed to keeping the circle of strong a cappella singing alive and flourishing, according to Paul Leaman, head of school. "Singing together builds community, is key for faith formation, helps us memorize Scripture references and other text that will serve us for a lifetime, and honors our Creator," he reflects.

Read more about at "Why We Sing" by current music teacher and choral director, Jared Stutzman, and watch a Wednesday morning music chapel when students 6-12 sang the four-part a capella song,  "When Peace Like A River," and the worship song, 'In Christ Alone." 

Follow the progress of Let the Children Come campaign at


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.


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