The Department of Music celebrated three “living legends” — retired faculty Joan Conway, Roger Rietberg and Dr. Robert Ritsema, who had each spent 30 years or more teaching at Hope — during the department’s annual opening convocation on Thursday, Aug. 31.
The event was held at 11 a.m. in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. Among those attending were current students and faculty, emeriti faculty, and past administrators including President Emeritus Dr. James Bultman and Martie Bultman.
Conway is a professor emerita of music and pianist who taught at the college from 1969 until retiring in 2001. Rietberg is a professor emeritus of music who taught at Hope from 1954 until retiring in 1990 and also directed the Chapel Choir for many years. Ritsema is a professor emeritus of music and cellist who taught at Hope from 1967 until retiring in 1999, also serving as director of the Orchestra and Symphonette.
Ritsema and Conway performed “Vocalise” by Sergei Rachmaninoff. They and Rietberg also offered reflections during a “Learning from the Legends” dialogue led by Dr. Huw Lewis, professor of music and department chair. Conway noted, “The reward of living a long time without children or grandchildren is seeing students achieve beyond Hope, not just in piano. It is especially rewarding at age 82.” Ritsema reflected on his memories of leading the two orchestral groups and shared that the academic year was longer many years ago, when the Symphonette would tour for 14-16 days during spring break. He also noted that he enjoyed collaborating with Rietberg and other directors and performing in distinguished music halls. “Coach” Rietberg was asked how he recruited members for his choirs, and shared that “the sports fields were fodder for recruiting singers.” He often asked “Do you sing?,” and the student athletes regularly answered in the affirmative.
Senior Hannah Dirkse had ushered in the ceremony, performing the “Modéré” and “Brazileira” movements from Scaramouche by Darius Milhaud on unaccompanied saxophone. Lewis welcomed new students, introduced faculty and staff, and offered a brief history of the pink color in the academic regalia hood dating back to the 15th century at Cambridge. He explained that pink was selected because music was related to the scarlet colored Theology pursuit.
The program concluded with the cherished hymn “When in Our Music God is Glorified,” led by senior Jonathan Bading on the Casavant organ.