Hendrix Magazine

Alumni Voices: Dr. Rock Jones '80

Choir provides soundtrack for the Hendrix experience

The selection of a college in the mid 1970s was rather simple compared to the process followed by high school students today. I recall setting my sights on United Methodist-related liberal arts colleges within a day's drive of my parents' home. I had vague ideas about academic interests, but those initial ideas all washed out in the first year of college. I was not particularly interested in Greek life. I wanted to continue my choral experience, though I had neither the interest nor the aptitude for pursuing a major in music. The most natural choice was Hendrix, which I resisted because it was the alma mater of my parents. Then I visited the campus, and the rest is history.

Among the things that attracted me to Hendrix was knowledge of the Hendrix College Choir, its reputation for quality music, its openness to music majors and non-majors, the tradition of the Candlelight Carol Service, and the prospect of traveling to Europe. My introduction to the choir came through Roger Beal '77, a family friend who hosted me on my overnight visit as a high school senior.

I recall arriving for freshman Orientation and scheduling an audition. It was my first introduction to Bob McGill. Like everyone else who auditioned, I sang a verse of a well-known patriotic hymn and then was presented a piece for sight reading. Mr. McGill was kind. I was terrified. I was ecstatic when my name was posted for membership in the Hendrix College Choir.

Over the next four years the Choir became one of the defining features of my Hendrix experience. Fellow members of the choir became some of my closest friends. All of us from those days have our favorite McGill stories, ranging from the first time we were asked to join a quartet to sing a verse of Once in Royal David's City early in the semester, to his passion for the music and the choir, to the tantrums that occasionally accompanied his drive to bring out the best in the choir, to the demand for absolute precision in rehearsals of processions. Memories of T-3, Greene Chapel, and Reves Recital Hall remain crystal clear in my mind.

From time to time I reflect on the impact of participation in the choir. Here we were challenged to be better than we thought we could be. We were expected to maintain discipline and to execute with the highest technical skill while still allowing the music to be fresh and new each time. We worked hard. Through the experience of disciplined effort and creative expression, we produced beautiful music, and we learned to care deeply for one another.

I like to think of music as the language of the soul. As with the other arts, music invites us to embrace the full range of the human intellect, human emotion and human experience. And in the process, we discover much about ourselves and about one another, and we move a step closer to fulfillment of the Hendrix motto, "unto the whole person." Can we ask for anything more?

Dr. Rock Jones '80 is president of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio.