Music pioneer lauds the Philharmonic’s work with youth, others

Having a top-notch local professional orchestra is one thing. But having “a comprehensive music program that affects the whole community” is another thing entirely.

With those words, music pioneer and guest speaker Henry Leck saluted the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic at its annual meeting Monday at the Columbus Area Visitors Center downtown.

Leck said he was especially impressed that the Philharmonic spends time teaching strings in every public elementary school in Bartholomew County, and also conducts educational programs at places such as Mill Race Center for older adults.

“That’s the whole swath of life,” Leck said. “I’ve been all over the United States, and I don’t know of an orchestra that is as comprehensive as this group is. … So I actually find that pretty astonishing.”

Leck is linked to the Philharmonic because, until his retirement in 2016, Leck served as artistic director of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir for 30 years, where he built a legacy of one of the most respected ensembles of its kind in the nation. That choir, which Leck launched in 1986, became a cooperative effort with the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir in 1996.

Leck recommended Ruth Dwyer to lead the local choir as artistic director when it began, and they remain friends.

David Bowden, the Philharmonic’s longtime music director who has built a substantial reputation himself, called Leck “a true Renaissance man.”

Leck also served on the choral faculty at Butler University for 27 years. He retired from his position as associate professor of music at Butler in 2015, and now serves as Professor Emeritus. He is also recognized as an honorary associate professor at the Hong Kong Institute for Teacher Education.

Leck called the fact that the Philharmonic offers strings programs in every public school in Bartholomew County as “astonishing.” He used that word because he said he has seen music programs through the years succumb to other educational priorities such as science and math “in order to keep test scores up.”

“Why is music so important to a community?” he asked. “Music is the fundamental attribute of the human species. Virtually all cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, make music. In tune or not, we sing and we hum. In rhythm or not, we clap and we sway. In step or not, we step and we bounce.”

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During its business meeting, the Philharmonic board elected new officers. They are:

Barry Turner, repeating as president; Melissa Fairbanks, vice president; Matt Hotek, secretary; and Joe Smith, treasurer.