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New UNK choir director, smooth transition

John Petzet directs Choraleers, an auditioned class that is open to both music and non-music majors

Ian Kahler

Following David Bauer’s retirement after 35 years at UNK, there were big shoes to fill in the choir director position. New director of Choral Activates, John Petzet, is aiming to keep the change between directors as smooth as possible and keep the students comfortable with the transition.

“It’s been terrific to be welcomed here. Tim Farrell, another UNK music faculty member, invited me to his home during the interview process and usually the instrument people and vocal people stay in their own bubbles, so it was different for me for him to invite me to his home and be so kind to new people,” Petzet said.

Petzet has been in Kearney for seven weeks, so Kearney is still a very new experience for Petzet. 

“I’m from Monroe, Louisiana so seeing kids ride bikes everywhere and having everyone be so nice is a very nice change of pace,” Petzet said. “The staff and the university itself have been so welcoming and helpful to me and the department secretary, Katherine Shinn, has gone above and beyond in helping me with whatever I need.”

Students are adjusting to having a new director after semesters under different direction.

“The first week took some getting used to, which was understandable,” said Terran Homburg, a junior music performance major with vocal emphasis. “We may be a smaller group overall, but we are continuing to make great music which is the ultimate goal.”

While UNK is a new venture for Petzet, this isn’t his first time teaching college-age students.

 “I’ve worked for about five to six other universities and while I’ve only been here for seven weeks, it’s been a fantastic experience overall,” Petzet said. “The students are still learning newer concepts that come with a new director or teacher, which is understandable. I’m not going to completely change things, but we recently had a choral retreat where I asked them to spend nine hours on a weekend rehearsing and talking with me about the music, which had never been done before.” 

Homberg related that the retreat was a great way to start the year and having students meet with the new director really made the transition a bit smoother. 

“The retreat we had as a group got us closer to the new director, as well as letting the freshman members get comfortable with their new surroundings and be stronger as a group overall,” Homberg said.

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