Dordt College News

Horton named first artist-in-residence

January 11, 2009

Dordt has been home to many budding artists but never an artistin-residence until now.

This is the inaugural year of the artist-in-residence program for the music department.

What, exactly, is an artist-in-residence?

“An artist-in-residence is a guest performer who comes to campus to perform repeatedly within a given time span,” said Dr, Karen De Mol, chair of Dordt’s music department. She said that having an artist-in-residence is similar to having an additional temporary faculty member.

“Plus, the artist and the sponsoring institution get to know each other and discover ways that the artist-in-residence can strengthen the institution through lectures, workshops, lessons, and master classes,” said De Mol.

The first Dordt artist-in-residence is Dr. Robert HorKaren De Molton. A former Dordt music professor, Horton has won many awards for his organ-playing skills, including the Jordan International Competition prize and first place in the Mikhail Tariverdiev International Organ Competition in Kaliningrad, Russia.

Having taught organ at Dordt the past three years, Horton already has many student fans. Junior Helen van Beek is one such supporter. “It is obvious he knows a lot about music, not only how to make music, but also the technical and theoretical ideas behind it,” said van Beek. “I had him for music theory and aural skills, and it was a blast. I think everyone learned a lot.”

Through the artist-in-residence program this year, Horton is scheduled for four Dordt performances—in September, November, January, and April. September and January’s performances focus on the music of single composers. September’s event featured Baroque-era musician Louis-Nicholas Clerambault while January will celebrate the bicentennial of German composer Felix Mendelssohn. 

During November and April, Horton will work with Dordt faculty and students to present hymn festivals “in connection with the seasons of the Christian year—advent in November, Easter in April,” said De Mol. The Robert Hortonfestival events are led by the organ and will incorporate poetry readings and singing.

Organizing the events was a "collaborative” effort: “He suggested, and we responded,” said De Mol. “We liked his basic ideas for what to play, and we formed the programs around them.”

In addition to organ performances, Horton is also giving public lectures, workshops for area organists, and master classes for organ students.

When designing the organ workshops, Horton and the Dordt music department had a specific goal in mind: “We wanted to hit a variety of topics that would be directly useful to church musicians,” said Horton.

The workshops center around the need for articulation and improvisation in organplaying, as well as debunking the idea that organists can’t play pop choruses.

De Mol was pleased with the first performance in September and with the first workshop event. “Twenty-three individuals came [to the workshop] from places like California and Sioux Falls,” said De Mol. “I was tickled pink to hear that.”

Horton said he appreciates working with other students and Dordt faculty on the performances. “I could bang out solo recitals by the dozens, but it takes special focus to pull off an event that involves other people,” he said. “It helped a great deal that both the faculty and students involved were models of professionalism.”

Although he did not want to pick favorites, Horton said one performance stood out most in his mind. “The French baroque theme for the first event was the most personal choice,” he said. “I’ve been deeply attached to that music since I studied in France and have been working on producing a DVD about French music.”

De Mol and Horton have been encouraged by the response from the community and look forward to the rest of this year’s performances.


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