Floyd Slotterback, the choral director of the Marquette Choral Society, and Hildegarde Johnson,retired music teacher from the Marquette Area Public Schools, were the recipients of the 1996 U. P. Choral Leadership Award.
Floyd Slotterback and his family moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1986 following acceptance of his current position as Director of Choral Activities at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. A native of Sibley, Iowa, he received his bachelor's degree from Grinnell College in Iowa, his master's degree from Arizona State University, and his doctoral degree from the University of Iowa in 1982.
Dr. Slotterback is an Associate Professor of Music at NMU, is the director and manager of the UP Youth Choir, directs the University Choir, has been a judge for the Regional and State Solo and Ensemble contests since arriving in the Upper Peninsula, and provides support for children's choruses and public school choirs across the Upper Peninsula by inviting them to be part of his choral programs. He was cofounder of the Marquette County Boy's Choir, and has been the director of music in Marquette area churches.
In 1995 Dr. Slotterback was appointed to two state music boards, The Michigan School Vocal Music Association's (MSVMA) executive board, and the Michigan unit board of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). The MSVMA is the state professional organization for public school music teachers, and it is rare for a university representative to be appointed to a leadership role on this board. The ACDA, where he serves as the Upper Peninsula representative and District Director, is a national professional organization for school, church and community choral directors.
Throughout his ten years in Marquette he has been the music director of the Marquette Choral Society. His ability and willingness to share his many talents have been a real gift to us. His vision, skill, and confidence have led us through musical masterworks by such various composers as Brahms, Mozart, Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Rutter, Vivaldi, Pinkham, Rossini, Thompson, Schutz, Schubert, Britten, Vaughan Williams and Rachmaninoff; as well as the commissioning and performing of two world premieres by and with contemporary composers Dave Brubeck and Jackson Berkey. In addition, he traveled with us to a classical performance opportunity in New York City.
An exceptional experience for us has been singing with the John Anthony Singers from New York. Floyd opened the door to cultural exchange when he encouraged us to invite John Anthony and the John Anthony Singers, with pianist Joseph Joubert, to sing with us. His initiative afforded us the opportunity to experience in a unique way the power of African-American spirituals.
Dr. Slotterback has brought recognition to the Upper Peninsula at the state, interstate, and national levels. Through his pivotal positions of choral director and university educator, we have benefitted from his extraordinary conducting capability, his contagious enthusiasm and energy, his vision of what can be, and his courage to let us - a volunteer choral organization - put his credibility on the line by tackling the kinds of programs that we thought would remain dreams. He has been the kind of strong tie that binds communities to their schools.
Miss Hildegarde Johnson graduated in 1920 from Northern Normal School, now known as Northern Michigan University, with a teacher's certificate and a major in music. She taught in Ironwood, Michigan, for two years and St. Paul, Minnesota, for six years, but spent nearly all of her teaching career in the music program of the Marquette Public Schools in Marquette, Michigan. In addition, she directed the Junior and Senior Choirs at Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette for over fifty years. During her career she directed choirs in other congregations as well. She retired from teaching in 1967, and from her choral director's position at Messiah Lutheran Church in 1990 at the age of 89.
Her choirs have performed in numerous churches in the Upper Peninsula, singing both difficult cantatas and anthems. She strengthened the cultural opportunities for the Marquette community by bringing soloists from Chicago and other major music centers to perform in musical offerings such as Handel's Messiah and The Seven Last Words of Christ by Dubois. Those who knew her in earlier years remember the numerous special concerts, community productions and musical programs she helped plan and organize to completion. They also remember that her classes gave concerts every year at the end of the school term. Even in her later pre-retirement years she never lost her enthusiasm for "a good job well done."
She was the consummate professional, totally dedicated to her work, who seldom missed a rehearsal or Sunday service. Her example of dedication and commitment was an inspiration to those she directed, and many of her students have pursued careers in music. She was a perfectionist, yet was able to make music fun as well as an educational experience.
In Miss Johnson, perfection is coupled with a welcoming presence.
For all of the above she has gained the respect and admiration of many people, and in 1990 upon her retirement as choral director at Messiah, Messiah's Senior Choir established the Hildegarde Johnson Music Scholarship Fund.
At age 95 she is still here for us, setting a good example and providing encouragement for young and old. She loves music and has dedicated her life to it, sharing her love of music in a way that has led many of us to discover how music could enrich our lives.
If you sang with her 50 years ago, she probably will remember you, and if you are from the greater Upper Peninsula, or Marquette, you may well remember a wonderful musical experience brought to you by Hildegarde Johnson.