More than 300 linear feet of shelving space – the length of a soccer field — are now dedicated to housing the choral sheet music library at Eastern Mennonite School’s choral room for grades six-12.
The installation came over the summer with volunteer vision, labor, and talent when an upgrade in the sixth grade classrooms spilled into the area that had been used for the music library.
“This vast collection is a truly special resource, especially for a school our size,” says music teacher and choral director, Jared Stutzman. “It’s a treasure, and something I really rely on and use extensively each year.
The project shelving was “mentally designed,” according to Paul Leaman, head of school, with former tech ed and shop teacher, Dennis Brubaker. The shelves are constructed of birch plywood for the vertical pieces and solid birch faceplates for the horizontal shelves.
Doug Lantz ’89 of Lantz Custom Woodworking and his son Andrew ’24, prepared the 56 door panels using their computer numerical control cutting equipment and spray booth to apply three coats of satin urethane. The Lantz team fixed the hinges before the Brubaker/Leaman team hung the doors.
The music library contains over 1700 titles, which the school began collecting in the early 1980s when Jay Hartzler was choir director. Prior to that, students bought and kept their own music. Hartzler believes it was Ruby Kauffman ’83 Hostetler who, in fact, wondered why students took their music home and suggested leaving it for future students to use. Generations have benefited in the nearly 40 years since that time with the library growing each year.
In the fall of 2017, four students and Mr. Stutzman spent two weeks re-cataloguing the library, shifting it to a numbers-based system instead of alphabetical, which enabled better shelf management, and also transferred each set of music from a box to a collapsible file folder. The folders save shelf space and allowed the needed space to be condensed significantly.
Choral music has been integral to an EMS education since the school was founded in 1917. Until recent decades, most students came to EMS with a history of singing, often in four parts. Changing student demographics and church practices mean choral singing is new to many students. EMS leadership made a strategic decision in 2021 to continue to make singing together a priority. All middle school students now have a music choral and/or
instrumental class every day, year round. This builds a comfort level with singing that has an impact throughout school life, particularly in chapel and for upper level choral programming.