Beloved professor and conductor Joel Navarro to leave Calvin

Photo courtesy calvin.edu.
Photo courtesy calvin.edu.

Since September 2002, Joel Navarro has served as a professor and conductor for Calvin’s number of choirs, including Capella, Campus Choir, Oratorio Society, Lyric Singers and the Meistersingers.

But at the end of the academic year, Navarro will begin a new chapter in his life. He will leave Calvin and begin working at the Singapore Bible College (SBC).

Navarro will develop and lead the Master in Church Music program in Choral Conducting at SBC. He will also serve as a thesis adviser and mentor to at least eight graduate students in conducting.

Navarro did not take lightly his decision to leave Calvin and move to Singapore.

“I really wanted to retire here in Calvin, but the Lord has other plans and I can only follow his voice,” Navarro said. “This decision came as the result of at least two years of prayer, discernment and consultation. I have been pushing the idea out of my radar for too long.”

In addition to his work as a leader and adviser, Navarro could be asked to travel to various countries in Southeast Asia. He expressed his excitement at the prospect of engaging in missionary work there.

“Over the years, there has been an explosion of growth in the Christian church in Southeast Asia,” Navarro said. “Singapore is an ideal international hub for church leaders to converge and obtain rigorous training and global experience.”

Navarro also reflected on how he will be received in a country with rich religious diversity.

“It will be up to me to speak about my faith in ways that respect other faiths, but to also provide winsome reasons for believing what I believe,” Navarro said.

Navarro went on to discuss his future role as a Christian figure in Singapore.

“My sense is that my public persona in Singapore will be largely defined by my Reformed perspectives and my Christian witness,” Navarro said. “I aim to do nothing less.”

Students and faculty members said that Navarro has made a significant impact on Calvin’s community.

Capella member Chelsea LaJoye reflected on Navarro’s influence as a teacher and conductor.

“I have witnessed true humility,” LaJoye said. “I have seen grace given and received, and I have learned to feel pure joy in a single moment. Dr. Navarro is a man of many facets and depths.”

Former Capella member Dana Krol also reflected on Navarro’s depth.

“Dr. Navarro is a dreamer,” Krol said. “You can tell that he listens to his heart. He would often get lost in the lyrics or sounds of the various pieces.”

She went on to describe a particular instance that demonstrates Navarro’s passion.

“I remember one concert,” Krol said. “We were singing a song, and he was so moved, he had tears in his eyes as he directed. It was very cool to see so much passion for music.”

Navarro’s passion for music and life is evident in his extensive involvement in Calvin’s programs and the community.

In addition to his involvement in Calvin’s choirs and music department, he has been involved with the Multicultural Affairs Committee, Chapel worship, the Calvin Worship Symposium and other conferences and events.

Throughout his years at Calvin, Navarro also influenced numerous members of faculty and staff, including professor and conductor Tiffany Engle.

“He is one of the best conductors I have had the honor of working with,” Engle said, “not just because of his technique, but because of his innate musicianship. He has the amazing ability to get out of ensembles more than what they ever thought they could do on their own.”

Professor and conductor Charsie Sawyer echoed Engle’s high regard for Navarro.

“Joel is not afraid to show emotion and I respect him for his sincerity and knowledge of his craft.” Sawyer said. “He has influenced many future conductors, musicians, students, church leaders and members because of his love for music, people and God. He has been an advocate for justice and equality.”

Calvin students and faculty expressed their respect for Navarro as both a talented instructor and man of God.

“He has been a tremendous source of support and encouragement for me, and I really hate to see him go,” Engle said. “However, I deeply respect his response to God’s call — the fact that he is starting this new chapter fully aware of God’s purpose is such a wonderful example of who Dr. Navarro is.”

Although Navarro expressed his excitement for beginning a new chapter in his life, he also expressed his sadness over leaving Calvin.

“What I will truly miss is seeing Calvin’s future under the guidance and leadership of President Le Roy,” Navarro said. “I wanted to see the fruits of our collective efforts at reimagining the college’s future … By and large, the quality of my Calvin experience will likely go down as the best 12 years of my life.”

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