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Music Professor Laura Greenwald is wearing a new hat these days—that of soccer mom. As manager of her 11-year-old son Andrew’s team, she reaches out to the kids and the parents “to get them there.”

“I’m excited about it—it’s something new. I tie shoes and hand them water,” she says. “I grew up in a small town in Ohio; we had football. Huron, Ohio. It’s a dot on the map near Cedar Point.”

Greenwald is comfortable with the organizing aspects of soccer mom/manager. “Myers-Briggs says I’m an administrator. I like creating things from scratch, making them happen.”

Her higher education career has given her the ability to use her create-from-scratch skills—as a music professor, concert series and vocal studies director, and member and chair of numerous college/university committees. And she performs with the semi-professional chorus Schola Cantorum on Hudson. Underpinning it all is a love for teaching music and for “helping people discover their best,” she says.

To Greenwald, music is a unifier. “The arts and music are a way to share the human experience and emotions—to share what we have in common.”

“I’m thinking of the time following 9/11. Within a week, the New York Philharmonic prepared a performance of Brahms’ comforting ‘German Requiem’ dedicated to the victims of the attack. It was extremely moving. Music speaks to us in times of great sorrow and great joy,” Greenwald adds.

Her passion for music began as a child. Her mother was a piano teacher, and Greenwald played piano and the French horn and sang in the children’s choir at church. In high school Greenwald enjoyed marching band, choir and musical theater. She attended Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, majoring in music education. Each spring the conservatory hosted a Bach festival with international performers, which gave the students a chance to perform a major Bach composition. “In four years, we learned and performed each of the four major Bach works,” she explains. It was a formative experience to prepare and to perform alongside international stars.

Greenwald’s first teaching job was at a Catholic high school in Garfield, Ohio. “They were starting a music program, so I had to do some building.” She quickly discovered how much she enjoyed it. “Teaching is like being on the stage all
the time.”

After coming east to New Jersey, Greenwald attended Westminster Choir College and received a master’s degree in vocal performance and pedagogy. She had damaged her voice a few years earlier while teaching elementary school. “When I moved to New Jersey I was still overcoming the habits that caused the vocal nodules.” While healing, she focused more on studying, teaching private lessons and small classes and singing in church choirs. She was later able to pursue her doctorate in voice at the Manhattan School of Music. “It turned out quite well—the same year I completed my doctorate I received tenure at Caldwell.”

Concert series

One of her highlights has been the Caldwell University concert series, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. She and former faculty member Frank Archer founded the series to invite the community on campus and to expose students to professional artists. Performances have featured world music genres like Albanian folk song, Haitian kompa and a concert with traditional Chinese instruments. Jazz big bands, small and large vocal ensembles, solo piano and guitar and concerts featuring Caldwell’s talented music faculty have graced the stage.

The concert series has collaborated with the Garden State Opera for the past 11 years, which “thanks to a grant,” has been a “real opportunity” for students to perform with an orchestra, learn repertoire and interact with young professional singers, Greenwald explains. Her responsibilities have included writing the grant, producing the opera, organizing the publicity, training the chorus and coordinating the free Friday matinee for nearly 300 local schoolchildren. She also directs the university opera workshop with colleagues Warren Helms and Dan Yates. Caldwell students perform a children’s opera at local elementary schools, sometimes including the children in the production. Greenwald creates a study guide for music teachers to present in advance and rehearses those who perform in the production.

The concert series has always featured the Music Department faculty as soloists and in their professional ensembles. Dr. Nan Childress Orchard and Professor Rebecca Vega have performed with their chamber trio Terzetta, and Vega has performed with the UpTown Flutes. Rob Middleton has performed with large ensembles such as the jazz band NewYorkestra and smaller ensembles, as in last year’s Soundscapes. Greenwald has performed solo recitals and with ensembles such as Schola Sings Solo.

“I tried to feature some of our faculty in concert every year to highlight the great talent we have here,” she explains. The Christmas Spectacular has become a “big town event” with 500 people attending the last few years.

This spring the Caldwell series will team up with the Immaculate Conception concert series in Montclair to present the acclaimed vocal jazz groups New York Voices and the London-based Swingle Singers. “This is huge since both groups are known and admired internationally,” she says.

Elevating the profile of women in music

On March 13 Greenwald will give a solo recital, accompanied by faculty member and pianist Warren Helms. “Uncommon Women” will feature songs by or about women who were uncommon in their time including the biblical “Women of Valor” by Philadelphia composer Andrea Clearfield, a baroque cantata by Venetian Barbara Strozzi, songs by pianist/composer Clara Wieck Schumann and spirituals arranged by women.

Raising the profile of women musicians has been a passion for Greenwald after she learned decades ago that few women were mentioned in music history books. Someone recommended a recording of soprano Arlene Auger performing “Sonnets from the Portuguese” by Grammy-winning American composer Libby Larsen, which spurred Greenwald to focus her doctoral dissertation on Larsen and to further research women in music. “I was drawn to create recitals of music by women composers. One of my favorites was titled ‘Songs with Family Ties.’” She included songs by Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny, baroque composer Giulio Caccini and his two daughters, Francesa and Settimia, and Robert Schumann and his wife Clara. “Some people say Clara was as good a composer as her husband, if not better,” says Greenwald. “I just went through the ages and found these families of musicians where the men were famous and the women were unpublished. And now the women are published.”

A lifer for teaching

“I love the people I work with. I’ve worked here 27 years. I’m a lifer,” Greenwald says of her experience at Caldwell. One of the greatest honors for her was receiving the 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award, because she was student-nominated and selected by colleagues. She hopes parents of students who have a passion for majoring in the arts see the merits. “I want to tell them, ‘Don’t worry so much about whether your child can make a living in the arts. Ask yourself, what is the value of loving what you do? If you enjoy your profession, you will find work and, I think, be a happier person.’”

She finds it most rewarding when students get excited about learning and she can help them to do their best and discover new ideas. She is delighted when students in her scholars class come up with projects on topics that she knows nothing about. To her, learning is a lifelong adventure. Case in point—the soccer mom-manager thing. “Sports and music have a lot in common. You must practice to get better, cooperate to succeed, and go for those goals.”  n

— CL