A final note - Shepherd College music professor Jay Stenger to retire

April 17, 1997

Shepherd College music professor Jay Stenger to retire


Staff Writer

In his more than 25 years at Shepherd College, Jay Stenger has taught, performed and conducted many of the great works of choral literature.

But he still remembers his first recital. He played and sang the song "My Puppy."

Stenger, who started piano lessons at age 6, says children need to learn music while they are young - younger than 10 years old.

"I think it's an absolute necessity, an undeniable component of life," he says.

The idea of downsizing or cutting elementary school music programs strikes a negative chord with him. Shepherd's program in both musical performance and music education is a growing and rigorous one, according to Stenger.


The professor of choral music and founder and conductor of Masterworks Chorale will retire from the faculty this spring.

Stenger is willing to stay on with Masterworks Chorale, but whether he remains depends on what happens at the college. Because of cutbacks, he says his position on the faculty is frozen. He believes someone will be hired to fill the job, and if that person wants to conduct the chorale, Stenger says he will defer and pass the baton.

He's happy to see growth in choral music, citing Hagerstown Choral Arts and Mercersburg Area Community Chorus locally.

For those who teach

Stenger says he received lots of family encouragement for his music, and believes that to be key. He, in turn, has provided encouragement to music students through his years of teaching. Many of his students have become music teachers, carrying that encouragement further and wider.

Jeanie Cushwa, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was a senior voice major at Shepherd when Stenger joined the Shepherd faculty. Now a music teacher at Hedgesville Middle School, Cushwa has called on Stenger many times for advice.

"He's been a real resource for this area," she says.

1976 Shepherd graduate and Stenger student Susan Alsip-Lawson teaches music at Northern Middle School in Hagerstown. She also has been a member of Masterworks Chorale and has provided accompaniment for the group.

She calls Stenger a sweet and cordial person, but says when he's ready to perform, you'd better be ready. She says he taught students to expect the best from themselves as performers. Stenger makes the chorale feel professional, Alsip-Lawson adds.

Another Stenger student is professional performer Dawn Younker.

Younker has been with the national touring company of "Les Miserables" for a year and four months -including a five-week stint on Broadway. Younker also took voice lessons from Stenger's wife, Barbara Buck Stenger. She says the couple made their students feel part of an extended family.

She calls her preparation at Shepherd a great education, and says the Stengers were a huge part of it. She eventually wants to teach music.

Jay Stenger, 65, grew up in a musical family. His father was a preacher, and the family moved several times during his youth. He studied music at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and taught at a junior high school for 11 years.

Jay Stenger spent 15 summers as a professional singer, pianist, choir librarian and assistant choir director at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua Lake, N.Y. A tenor, he toured the United States with the acclaimed Robert Shaw Chorale for two years.

He met his wife, Barbara, and says she put him through graduate school at State University of New York at Fredonia. He came to teach at Shepherd in 1969.

Is Stenger looking forward to retirement? "Very much so," he says. His plans include catching up on his gardening - getting back to the earth. He will continue in his 25-year role as organist-choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg, W.Va.

He also wants to write some music. He's composed some liturgical works and anticipates staying with religious text.

The Herald-Mail Articles