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As we celebrate Muscatine Junior College/Muscatine Community College’s 90th anniversary, it allows us time to reminisce about the community connections that have made Muscatine Community College what it is today. Today we highlight the relationship with the Muscatine Civic Chorale.

The Muscatine Civic Chorale premiered its first concert in the spring of 1975 under the direction of MCC music director Jeordano (Pete) Martinez. The chorale’s first spring and winter concerts were accompanied by the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra, also directed by Martinez.

From the first season, until now, 45 years later, the Muscatine Civic Chorale is comprised of local singers from high school age to seniors who perform a repertoire from early baroque, to contemporary folk songs, to Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Throughout the years, the chorale has collaborated with the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra, the Muscatine Community College choirs, the Muscatine Children’s and Youth choirs and Eastern Iowa community choruses. The Muscatine Civic Chorale made its Carnegie Hall debut in February, 2013, joining Minnesota Blue Grass band, Monroe Crossing, to perform Carol Barnett’s Blue Grass Mass, the World Beloved.

Martinez directed the chorale until he left MCC in 1977. MCC director of Music, Jerome Winter was the director until 1984. Under Winter’s direction, the chorale participated in a Beethoven Festival Chorus at Iowa City’s Hancher Auditorium conducted by the prestigious Robert Shaw and the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. For a 10-year period, the Civic Chorale was led by conductors not affiliated with MCC. In 1995, MCC’s adjunct music instructor Janet Phillips accepted the position as chorale director and one year later became the head of MCC’s music department.

From its conception in 1975, to present day, Muscatine Community College has been a valued partner of the Muscatine Civic Chorale. Offering participation in the chorale as a credit class; offering the chorale use of facilities for rehearsals and concerts; partnering with the MCC choral ensembles on campus and providing music archival space, Muscatine Community College demonstrates that it is truly the community’s college.

Many alumni have gone on to have successful careers in music.

• Thomas Allen and Mollee (Shoppa) Allen, Professional Musicians, Recording Artists, San Diego

• David Kemp, artist name - DTO, Award-Winning Producer and Instructor, San Diego  DTOmusic.com

• Lisa (Simpson) Kemp, Elementary Music Teacher, Nashville

• Janet Phillips, Faculty Emerita, MCC, Muscatine Civic Chorale Director

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• Jonathan Ryan, Muscatine High School Choral director

• Alan Sweet, Iowa-based professional R&B singer/songwriter

• John Watkins, TV and stage Actor, Musician, New York City

• Anita Zahniser, MCC Adjunct Faculty, Elementary music teacher, Davenport Schools (ret.)

We invite you to join us for a concert, A Cool Jazz Christmas, by the Muscatine Civic Chorale, on November 22 at 7 p.m. in the Bob Roach Theater. A reception commemorating the 90th anniversary of the college will follow immediately afterward.

This article was co-written by Jan Phillips, Faculty Emerita at MCC and director of the Muscatine Civic Chorale and Dr. Naomi DeWinter, President of MCC.

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