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Tim Peter, February Faculty Spotlight

Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Tim Peter truly enjoys his job!

Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Tim Peter truly enjoys his job!

“I was inspired by music because of its beauty. If you can express your passion, you can inspire others.”

B.A., Luther College, M.M., D.M.A., University of Arizona

After 21 years of teaching at Luther College, Tim Peter, appointed last fall as Stetson’s Director of Choral Activities and Professor of Music, was ready for a change. Fortunately, his wife Sandra (who also teaches music and conducting at Luther) felt the same way, though she has remained in Iowa for one more year while their youngest son finishes his senior year of high school. Their decision followed Tim’s four-year stint as Head of the Department of Music, which confirmed for him that his primary passion is for teaching: working with students is what gets him out of bed in the morning. He wanted to teach, and he thought he might want to live somewhere very different geographically from Iowa, but he would only make such a dramatic change for a position at a college or university that cares deeply about students.

He didn’t start out thinking that he would pursue a career in music, though singing was woven deeply into the fabric of the small-town Midwest church culture in which he was raised. He thought, rather, that he might become an engineer. He enjoyed being creative and loved music, but he also loved math, numbers, and (even) planning and organization—not a combination of traits one always finds in talented musicians. He showed a strong aptitude for mathematics in high school, and he was strongly encouraged by a memorable calculus teacher, Elizabeth Kegel, whom he likens to the teacher who inspired the high school boys who successfully launch a rocket for the local science fair in the movie “October Sky.” Clarity came while on a visit to the engineering program at Iowa State: “It was a defining moment. To choose this life, I would have to forego music.” That, he reports, he simply wasn’t prepared to do.

Still, he didn’t have much guidance at home on how to align his passion for music with a career. He was part of a small, vital church choir; his father was a singer but did not read music. There was little, if any, exposure to a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan culture of music. Yet he was deeply moved by the simple power of voices singing together in harmony: “I was inspired by music because of its beauty.” Later, as an undergraduate at Luther College, he realized that he could indeed bring together his passion for music with a career. Music education provided that vehicle and confirmed what he had learned very young: “If you can express your passion, you can inspire others.” He cares deeply about relationships with others, as well, and finds music uniquely conducive for developing and sustaining such connections.

Tim brings to Stetson strong interests in the European canon as well as world music. He is especially interested in South African cultures, particularly those of Namibia (located on Africa’s West coast, just north of South Africa), where he has traveled and led study abroad courses: “It is an incredible place for understanding world culture, for connecting to people through music.” Singing, he finds, is especially well suited to relating to people from cultures without orchestras, where they rely so heavily on their voices for making music. He reports, too, that students are intensely interested in world music. He has tried a couple of African pieces with the Stetson Men’s Chorus—“they love it.” In the years to come, he will be programming more world music into the choral curriculum at Stetson.

Stetson captured his interest on the strength of the national reputation of the School of Music. He was also drawn to the University’s emphasis on liberal learning and depth of study. He characterizes Stetson students as “wonderful and passionate”: it was at the very end of his campus visit and interview, during a meeting with students, that it became clear to him that Stetson might be exactly the place he was looking for. He was attracted, too, by his sense that the University is at such a promising moment in its history, with a compelling vision for the future and a genuine interest in affirming its unique identity in the face of profound changes in the landscape of higher education.

A golfer (“very amateur”), Tim has no objection to Florida’s mild winters. He notes, too, that Florida is a state in which music education in the schools is still very strong. He appreciates the genuine spirit of welcoming here, and a greater openness to diversity and change, both of which run deeper, he suspects, than in the Midwest.

As for interests outside music, he admits to a strong interest in architecture, a special appreciation for the way it combines creativity and imagination with concrete (and at least relatively permanent) results. He also loves history, and regrets that he has little time to develop that interest: “I keep buying books I have no time to read. I just bought a new one, last weekend, on the Civil War. I’ve added it to the growing stack.”

Read this Faculty Spotlight and others at Stetson University’s Academic Affairs website.

Dr. Karen Kaivola, February 2013