Great concert!

Dear Singers

Wonderful performance last night. The audience loved it! We had a couple of hiccups, but I think they won’t happen again. Stuff happens. One exception, in Nootka, we will deal with today.

2 PM Call

I forgot to remind people that the call today is 2 PM. Also, we will have info about the party afterward.

Lynn Sjolund redux

Scott Nelson believes he is the only Siskiyou Singers member that sang with Lynn Sjolund as a high school student. I saw Lynn’s more important contribution to music in Southern Oregon as his teaching career at Medford Senior High School. Scott agrees with me. I asked him to write a tribute to Mr. Sjolund that I could share with you. Here it is.

You’ve probably read Mark’s message about the death of Lynn Sjolund, and probably have already read some of the many other tributes to him that have appeared in the short time since his passing. Many of you have your own memories of him or have spoken to others who do.

I’m writing this to underline Mark’s comments about the importance of Mr. Sjolund’s work as a music educator during the many years when he was the choir teacher and director at Medford Senior High School. I think I may be the only current member of Siskiyou Singers who sang with Mr. Sjolund at MSHS, but I am only one of hundreds of (formerly) young singers whose lives he touched and who will forever remember the experience of learning from him and singing with him.

First, though, why am I saying “Mr. Sjolund”? Why not “Lynn”? I always get a kick out of it when members of Siskiyou Singers who sang under Mark at North Medford High School refer to him as “Mr. Reppert.” Now the shoe is on the other foot. I can only think of Lynn Sjolund as Mr. Sjolund, and I think that for most of us who sang in his high school choirs, he will always be Mr. Sjolund—not because he was cold and distant, or because we didn’t love him, but because he had the complete respect of every one of us.

For anyone who attended the Medford schools during his era, Mr. Sjolund was choral music. When we arrived at MSHS as high school juniors, most of us already had had the benefit of very good choir directors at Medford’s two junior high schools, and at Medford Mid High School, where we spent our freshman and sophomore years. But Mr. Sjolund was something else, and when we entered his classroom we knew we were entering a new level.

Mr. Sjolund directed three choirs at MSHS: a large, mixed-voice choir of 80 to 100 singers; a 25-member chamber ensemble, and a girl’s choir of about 30 voices. Choir was the largest class most of us had in the course of a day, and the choir’s membership covered the whole range of kids in our high school: athletes, hippies, cheerleaders, nerds, stoners, serious students and those who were just passing time before graduation, actors, and just normal, nice kids. There were even a few serious and talented musicians. All we had in common was that somewhere along the way someone told us we could sing, and most of us enjoyed doing it.

How could anyone maintain order in a class of that size and composition, let alone coax music out of it? I don’t know, but Mr. Sjolund did it. He made an instant impression on us with his urbane manner, his humor, his composure, his way with words, his kindness and compassion, his encouragement, and his demand that we be the best singers we could be. Most of us had never met anyone like him. We knew we were in the presence of a distinguished and remarkable person, and we did our best to live up to his expectations.

The concerts and musical theater productions he spearheaded were high moments for all of us. Some of us were inspired to make music their careers. Others developed a lifelong passion for making music as more or less serious amateurs. Still others largely put music aside for other things. But all of us learned that in music there is a dimension of beauty and art that transcends the ordinary and enriches and exalts our lives.

At the time I sang under him from 1975 to 1977, I thought of Mr. Sjolund as older than he really was: In those years he was not yet 50, considerably younger than I am today. But it was impossible to think of someone who was already a legend as being as young as he really was, only halfway through a life of giving to his community.

He was of the same generation as my parents, people who grew up in the Depression, just missed fighting in World War II, and came of age in the Cold War 50s and turbulent 60s. Theirs is an in-between generation. But we owe them so much for what they taught us and the examples that the best of them, like Mr. Sjolund, set for us. They are leaving us now, and we will not see their like again.

Oh, where are our dear fathers? In Mr. Sjolund’s case, wherever he has gone, he has gone singing.