Spartans of UD: Charles Barland

Nov 29, 2017 | University Relations staff

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus. Charles Barland, DMA, is a professor of music and head of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. He has been a member of the UD faculty since 2002.

Spartans of UD - Charles Barland
Professor of Music l Head of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts

1. Christmas at Heritage Center will celebrate its fifth anniversary on Friday. What has it been like to direct the UD Concert Choir in the Advent concert presentation that prepares the way for Christmas?

“The opening of Heritage Center transformed so many possibilities for us at UD. We had a tradition of presenting two performances with limited capacity in Blades Chapel. The front area limited us to only the Concert Choir and Chamber Singers. With Heritage Center, we could suddenly dream big and have our UD Wind Ensemble as well as several guest ensembles join us on stage!

“Directing the Concert Choir each year has been an honor and privilege for which I am deeply grateful. Working with my students and colleagues here has culminated in wonderful performances that we are so pleased to share with our audience. After 11 months of planning and a semester of rehearsals, the joy of finally sharing our work and message is indescribable. It must be experienced.” 

2. What do you enjoy most about teaching music to students at the University of Dubuque?

“What I enjoy most about teaching students at UD is helping them discover who they are and who they can be. I help unleash the natural and God-given abilities in each of them. Nothing could be more exciting for a teacher. I’m also fortunate to be able to work with a lot of students over several years. I’m grateful that I can share my love and passion for music with hundreds of students annually. I also learn much from my students. Continuing to learn is very important to me. I strive to always be reading, practicing, thinking, and attending professional gatherings. I like my students to know that learning doesn’t stop upon graduation; it is only the beginning. Being able to instill that zeal in students is the greatest reward.”

3. How many years have you been taking the UD Concert Choir on a national tour across the United States? What do you hope students will take away from the experience?

“It has been my good fortune to have lead the UD Concert Choir on tours each year since 2003. We’ve been able to perform in 38 states, two Canadian provinces, and Puerto Rico. Each choir and each tour is very different. After putting the tour together and determining all our performance sites, I work to build in educational opportunities. I want my students to have memorable experiences outside of the classroom, to gain a new perspectives on historical events, or to marvel at the beauty of nature. Over the years, I’ve taken students to Niagara Falls in Canada, Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire, Diamond Head State Monument in Hawaii, the White House in Washington, D.C., the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, the American Jazz Museum in Missouri, and more.

“It is my hope that students will never forget the places we visit and the people we meet at each of our performances. I was able to participate in choir tours as a college student and know how valuable these experiences can be.”

4. What is the most important piece of advice you give to your students?

“I mentioned above that I want my students to never stop learning and to make discoveries throughout their lives. Each of them has so much potential and if they’re willing to continue working and developing their talents and skills, they will enjoy lives of fulfillment and purpose.”

5. You are the organist at college events, seminary worship services, and several area churches. Why does the organ appeal to you as an artist?

“The organ has fascinated me as long as I can remember. When I was a little child, I was in a children’s choir at First Presbyterian Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. That is how I got started singing, but I was also able to sit close to the organist and watch her play throughout the service. I began piano lessons when I was 8 years old. After obtaining my driver’s license, I asked my parents if I could take organ lessons. I was able to drive myself to locations where I could practice. I never looked back. I’ve now been playing and practicing the organ for over 33 years. Someone asked me recently how long it took me to learn how to play the organ. Without much thought, I immediately responded, ‘I’m still learning.’ It really is true. I continue to work and develop my skills. I’m a better organist today than I was 10 years ago. I expect I will be a better organist 10 years from now than I am today.

“There’s so much great music written for the organ and it has such a wide variety of sound and possibilities. Every organ is different and unique. I get to play some fine instruments locally including Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, St. Raphael’s Cathedral, and Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque as well as Queen of the Rosary Chapel in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. I’ve also been blessed to have opportunities to present recitals in Europe and the United States including performances in Munich, London, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. Every organ allows me to rethink the pieces I’ve learned and approach them with a fresh start. I’ll never learn all the music I would like to learn, so I’m continually challenged and excited about the organ and its music!”