Graduates from the Department of Music are well equipped for careers and continued study in various areas within the field of music. Recent Gordon graduates have furthered their studies at the graduate and doctoral programs of some of the nation's top institutions, including Yale University, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati, and the Boston Conservatory. Others have developed burgeoning careers in opera, musical theatre, orchestral conducting, church music, music criticism, music technology, arts administration, musicology, public and private teaching, higher education instruction and music business.
For the past 15 years, 100% of our graduates from the music education program seeking placement in the field of teaching have secured positions within six months of their graduation, a statistic that very few institutions can claim, and one that speaks to the quality of education that Gordon provides.
Highlighted below are stories from several of our graduates.
SOPHIA AHMAD '04
Sophia Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, received her graduate training in piano performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Her Bachelor of Music in piano performance is from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., with additional chamber music studies in collaboration with New England Conservatory in Boston, Mass. She has appeared in master classes and coachings with Libby Larsen, Malcolm Bilson, Martin Canin, Ursula Oppens and James Buswell. Ms. Ahmad recorded for Prentice Hall's "Inside the Orchestra" video and has performed with artists from the New World Symphony and the National Portuguese Symphony Orchestra, among others. An advocate of new music, she premieres pieces and has worked with composers including Bright Sheng and Simone Fontanelli. In 2012, she made solo appearances at Iowa State University and Drake University, performing the music of Philip Glass.
Ms. Ahmad is a Presser Scholar and active as a music teacher, performer, critic and writer. At the Eastman School of Music, she taught piano class and co-founded the annual Women in Music Festival. Ms. Ahmad was the classical album critic for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., and for four years, she covered entertainment for The Des Moines Register, where she became the media company's first digital reporter. She was ranked by The Bivings Group for having the third highest Twitter IQ among American newspaper journalists. Ms. Ahmad received several awards for breaking news, innovative digital reporting and extensive coverage of central Iowa’s growing entertainment scene, while establishing herself as an active media personality. In 2010, she became a fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts' Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera at Columbia University.
She is currently the director of marketing and public relations at the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra and Academy, where she also serves on the piano and chamber music faculty. Ms. Ahmad oversees earned revenue for the Des Moines Symphony and under her leadership, the organization recently reported its highest subscription sales in recent history.
Interact with her on Twitter at @SophiaAhmad.
In her own words:
“The music program at Gordon College prepared me for music conservatory and for life. The faculty care deeply about their students, and the connections forged coupled with the training I received there have helped me become the music professional I am today.”
SARAH HELTZEL '01
Mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel is being noticed for her powerful stage presence and vocalism. The Houston Chronicle acclaimed, “Heltzel sets the stage ablaze with her vocal and dramatic pyrotechnics,” while the New York Times noted of her performance in The Saint of Bleecker Street, “Sarah Heltzel, vocally striking and visually appealing, walked away with the second act as Desideria.”
Ms. Heltzel made her debut in 2005 with Seattle Opera, as Siegrune in their acclaimed production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, for which she returned in 2009 and 2013. This past season included role debuts of Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Indianapolis Opera, Nevada Opera, Opera on the James, and Syracuse Opera, Azucena in Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Opera in the Heights, as well as Der Komponist in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos with Winter Opera Saint Louis.
Select recent engagements include Desideria in Menotti’s The Saint of Bleecker Street with New York’s Dicapo Opera Theatre, Dryade in Ariadne auf Naxos with Toledo Opera, Flora in La traviata for Seattle Opera, the title role in Bizet’s Carmen with both Tacoma and Skagit Operas, Orlovsky in Mississippi Opera’s Die Fledermaus, Handel’s Messiah and Janacek's Glagolitic Mass with Seattle Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem with Symphony Syracuse, Boston’s Back Bay Chorale and with the “Requiem for Darfur” at Carnegie Hall, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with the Boston Chamber Music Society, as well as numerous solo recitals with pianist Milos Repicky. In April 2013, she joined the Boston Philharmonic for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Symphony Hall.
Sarah received her Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Professional Studies Certificate in Opera from Manhattan School of Music, and lives in New York City with her husband Peter, a professor of theology, author and minister, and their two tuxedo cats. In April 2013, she joined the Boston Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Symphony Hall.
In her own words:
“ A life and career in the arts is incredibly challenging, but is also wonderfully rewarding. While nothing can prepare you fully for it, my experience at Gordon set me up with both the tools and tenacity to succeed, and the spiritual strength to withstand difficult times.
My professors in the music department were very clear about the self-discipline required for Opera, and those expectations were in place from my freshman year. Practice cards, juries, piano proficiency, translation, acting, history, theory, coaching, technique, performance—these requirements reflect skills that I actually use daily in my life, and the base was built at Gordon. Whether I am between gigs diligently preparing music and text on my own or with a coach, or I am in the middle of a rehearsal juggling movement, acting, technical proficiency and historical accuracy, these are all skills that were championed at Gordon.
Along with the benefits of the Bachelor of Music professional degree, the liberal arts core education that Gordon requires is crucial for artists. Musicians can become limited, buried in a conservatory or practice room, but to have something worthwhile to say, you must first experience the world, its writers and thinkers, its natural creativity. From Biology to Victorian Literature to my semester abroad studying Italian and Art in Orvieto, Italy, I was already becoming a complete musician and artist at Gordon, thinking in new ways and from different perspectives.
At Gordon I also received leadership training as a part of the A.J. Gordon Scholarship program. I was encouraged to be “Salt and Light,” in the world, a “servant leader.” When I am on stage, it is not just about me. It is about supporting those who are with me on stage and off. When I am off stage, I remind myself that my life is not about the struggle for worldly success, but about being worthy of God’s call in my life. Opera is a challenging life full of travel and uncertainty, but it is also full of beauty and truth, and I am grateful to be pursuing it.”
IRENE IDICHERIA '08
After graduating from Gordon College in 2008 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Irene Idicheria began her career as the general music and chorus instructor at the Guilmette Elementary School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In her first year of teaching, Idicheria was nominated for the Lawrence Public Schools’ "Rising Star Teacher of the Year" award. Today Idicheria continues her role at the Guilmette School, implementing a comprehensive music curriculum that she has created and developed.
In addition to her work in Lawrence, Idicheria serves on the artistic staff of the Boston Children’s Chorus. As a Neighborhood Training Choir Conductor, she directs two of the organization’s choirs. Idicheria’s extensive experience in working with young, unchanged voices has been showcased through sessions at professional conferences, clinics at the collegiate level, and most recently her role as a co-teacher of the elementary choral methods course at the Boston Conservatory with her Gordon College professor and mentor Dr. Sandra Doneski.
Idicheria completed her Masters of Music Education at the Hartt School, University of Hartford, where she also earned her Kodaly Level III certification.
In her own words:
“ Every teacher was inspired by a teacher; my inspiration was Dr. Sandra Doneski. "D," as I lovingly refer to her, powerfully impacted my perspectives on teaching music to young children. In watching her work with the Gordon College Children’s Choir and students of the Harrington Elementary School in Lynn, Massachusetts, she demonstrated the importance of high expectations and child-centered instruction. She showed me that all children could do more than just appreciate music, they could be taught to make music, both independently and communally. The first time I saw her teach, I thought, 'Wow, all this can really make a lasting difference.'"
"From her example, I not only learned the nuts and bolts of holding a classroom and curriculum together, but I realized the deeper stuff of teaching. Loving my students and working hard for them is my spiritual act of worship, my part in bringing Christ’s Kingdom on earth. D pushed and encouraged me to be the teacher I am today and the teacher I aspire to be in the future. She continues to be my mentor, friend and colleague, initiating connections for every major opportunity that has come my way. The Gordon community is full of devoted teachers like D, who invest in their students and invest in Christ’s Kingdom.”