When the stars align, it can be bel canto.
The Kansas Wesleyan Department of Music has filled the significant position of choir director and leader of its vocal area with David Corman, former professional opera singer, educator, humanitarian and hometown boy.
Corman grew up in nearby Minneapolis, Kan., where he was better known as an athlete than as a singer. He has music degrees from Friends University and Yale University and an artist diploma in opera from Julliard in New York.
He lived in Zurich, Switzerland, for five years, where he switched from baritone to dramatic tenor. Back in New York, he sang with New York Opera. During a career spanning more than 25 years, he has sung in more than 3,000 productions and 100 leading roles, both opera and musical theatre.
In 2004, Corman became director of vocal music at Odessa College, where his wife, Kimberly, is from, then was professor of voice at the University of Texas Permian Basin the past five years. Throughout his career, he has also been involved with the church, even in Europe, and was minister of music at First United Methodist Church in Odessa.
“We could not have found a more qualified person for the position,” said Dr. Bill Backlin, interim chair of the Music Department. “He truly is remarkable. And to think, our students will be benefactors of Mr. Corman’s rich musical experience and knowledge. It is rather amazing.”
Corman was not looking for a new job, but when the position at Kansas Wesleyan came open, he found he was interested.
“I’ve always considered myself a Kansan,” Corman said. “I wasn’t planning on coming here to work, but it seems there was a possible need.
“In a lot of ways, this is my hometown, this whole area, Saline and Ottawa counties,” he said.
His five brothers and sisters live in the area, as do many of his 50 or 60 nieces or nephews.
Corman will be joining a team of first-rate musicians and educators: pianist Dr. Gustavo do Carmo, director of jazz and athletic bands Jake Montoya, director of strings Dr. Leonardo Rosario and director of winds Wendy Stein.
“The thought of being part of building something here at Kansas Wesleyan is very interesting to me. I was very impressed with the other faculty,” Corman said. “I think the team is right. There are outstanding people on the music faculty and leadership.”
He said he’s looking forward to teaching majors and non-majors.
“I really enjoy teaching half-hour voice lessons to non-majors,” he said, “because I really enjoy tinkering with people’s voice. In the past, some of the success I’ve had is creating a choir with somebody who didn’t know they could sing, unlocking their voice. That should be celebrated.”
Keeping with his Kansas roots, he considers himself a type of farmer.
“I come from a long line of farmers, all the way back to Europe,” Corman said. “The interesting thing about education is you’re actually a farmer, a farmer of people. It’s a beautiful profession.”
Being able to do it in Kansas was an attraction.
“The thought of adding to my family’s heritage and history definitely was a draw,” he said.
Both of his family’s homesteads are in the area, near Bavaria and Tescott.
And although he didn’t go to Kansas Wesleyan, many family members did. Grandparents were here as far back as 1905. His parents met on campus in 1946. His mother was the piano accompanist for KWU choirs from 1942-46 and again in the 1970s and ’80s.
The tradition will continue: Corman has four children and three grandchildren, and three children are moving here with him. Two sons will start at Kansas Wesleyan this fall, while a daughter will attend high school in Salina.
Corman will begin his duties full-time Aug. 1, but is likely to aid in some activities prior to that time.
Story by Jean Kozubowski