Augustana voice instructor Natalie Campbell is now directing the Angelus choir after Paul Nesheim, the former director, was “unavailable” for the duration of the semester. The announcement has left some choir members frustrated over continued communication issues with the School of Music.
On Jan. 31, Peter Folliard, the dean of the School of Music, emailed students registered in Nesheim’s classes and members of Angelus telling them the former director would not be present for the spring semester.
Nesheim did not respond to interview requests for this article, and Folliard declined to comment.
Nesheim sent an email to Angelus choir members on Dec. 21, seeming excited to see them again in the spring.
“I’ll see you on the first day of second semester,” Nesheim said in the email.
It is still unclear why his plans changed.
Nesheim said he was “legally unable” to tell choir members the reasons behind his absence, according to junior Ashley Elston, the secretary of Angelus.
Folliard asked Campbell to take over directing Angelus about a week before spring semester classes began. She has taken on the responsibility in addition to the voice lessons she normally teaches on campus.
“I think the transition has been as normal as it could possibly be,” Campbell said. “It has felt great, and I think that [students’] energy is high and they’re engaged, and I think they are enjoying the music.”
While Angelus members have said they are enjoying Campbell’s directing, the way the School of Music handled the sudden change of leadership frustrated some students.
“I feel like it would have been better if we had gotten more information on what was happening,” sophomore Shelby Scott, an Angelus member, said. “We were left in the dark like we were when Vespers happened.”
Elston said she still wants to see more open and honest communication and accountability as a whole.
“If somebody asks me, ‘What do you think about the choir at Augie?’ I’m not going to lie to them and tell them it’s awesome and it’s great,” Elston said. “I’m going to tell them that it has systemic problems that need to be fixed because it’s just awful right now.”
Elston said that while she was disappointed with how the directing change was handled, she has enjoyed Campbell’s directing.
“Natalie has been such a great director, and the girls and I have had so much fun with her since the beginning of the semester,” Elston said. “She is absolutely fantastic.”
Scott said she enjoys Campbell’s directing just as much as she did Nesheim’s, but she also said she is considering quitting in part because of ongoing communication issues with the School of Music.
“I’m considering quitting [choir] again just because how in the dark the whole choir has been,” Scott said. “It is very trying on us.”
According to Campbell, Angelus still has many performance plans in Nesheim’s absence: They are singing the national anthem for a women’s hockey tournament at the SCHEELS IcePlex and at the Augustana chapel in March; holding a middle school festival where they will sing with McGovern Middle School students and the Augustana Choir on March 21; visiting and singing with the Roosevelt High School treble choir on April 6; singing their first solo concert on April 15; and performing with the Augustana Choir and the orchestra at the end of May.
Director of vocal studies Russell Svenningsen and Campbell said it is still unclear who will direct Angelus in the fall.