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Photo of Merle Mustert

Merle Mustert

Merle Mustert began teaching music part-time at Calvin in 1973, mainly because the college needed another choir to satisfy students’ interest. Back in the early ‘70’s he was teaching religion and choral music at Grand Rapids Christian High School. He came to Calvin on a full-time basis in 1981 and remained at the college until May of 2002 when he retired. During his years at the college, Professor Mustert directed the Campus Choir, the Capella, and Meistersingers. He taught vocal pedagogy for secondary music education majors, choral literature, and conducting. Professor Mustert greatly values the daily experience of teaching when he can be “a channel of Christ’s love to students”. And of the discipline of conducting choirs he says: “The [discipline of] conducting has come out of an authoritarian tradition. It’s a great gift if you can allow the Lord to work through you and serve the students. It’s a tough balance – a choir isn’t a democracy.”

Professor Mustert has toured with his choirs many times. One of his fondest memories is singing in Westminster Abbey at a worship service on a Sunday evening. He enjoys getting to know students up close on the tours. “The tours always are a very special time, because [I] get to know the students so much better in day-to-day living. They express their faith in devotionals before concerts, which is very inspiring.”

Today, Professor Mustert says his students are as talented as students were when he began to teach, but they arrive at Calvin with more experience. “We have more students who have come from excellent high school music programs and who love to sing, and they express that more openly than when I first arrived here.”

In the fall of 2000 Professor Mustert applied for a Calvin Alumni Association Special Projects Grant, which he hoped to dedicate to a choral music database project. His project was awarded $2500 by the Alumni Board. The board was excited to see how the Calvin Choral Music Database would serve Calvin alumni and other groups, such as church musicians and students majoring in music. The database is now about 3,000* octavos strong, and growing. Mustert is busy helping to build this database by adding repertoire from the Calvin Alumni Choir’s 25-year history and pieces performed through the years at American Choral Directors Association Conventions. He has high hopes for the database. He wrote in the grant application: “I have always chosen music which reflects the heritage of the past as well as current art forms. Students need to know that not everything worthy of study and performance was written during their lifetimes. Part of their education as musicians is to acquire a hearty and informed respect for the great choral classics, as well as a critical discernment toward and appreciation of fine works by recent and living composers. We as Calvin ensemble directors wish to transmit our particular emphasis in choral and instrumental choices to current and future conductors, as well as to teachers and conductors in our community. The easy availability of quality music is an essential requirement for doing this work well and striving to do it better.”

(* As of fall 2017, this number has grown to more than 5,400 pieces of music cataloged.)