Music can build community

By Katie Hirv ’22

Carly Girtz ’22 has found her home in Wartburg’s music community.

“My junior year of high school, I came to the Meistersinger Honor Choir Festival with my high school choir. I fell in love with Wartburg, the campus, and the community. I toured the following summer, and I decided to come to Wartburg as a student,” Girtz said. “I’ve always loved to sing and loved all kinds of music. Growing up, I knew I wanted to do something with music. When I was in high school in Minnesota, I realized that I wanted to teach and be able to show others the impact that music can have on them, because I know the impact that it has had on me. Music has made me a more sensitive and kinder person. When you’re singing, it’s not always just about the music, it’s about the words you’re singing. I wanted to go into music so that I could give those experiences to others as well.”

A music education major, Girtz is actively involved in Wartburg Choir. Founded in 1937, the Wartburg Choir has earned critical international acclaim for its versatility of sound, artistic integrity, and innovative programming. The choir has received invitations for special appearances throughout the United States and abroad, including a performance on the White House Holiday Concert Series. The choir has performed in most major concert venues throughout the nation and in 25 different foreign countries. Members are chosen by audition and represent most academic disciplines on campus. The choir makes annual concert tours throughout the United States and travels abroad every three years during the college’s one-month May Term.

Carly Girtz

“We often sing off campus. We’ve sung at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church here in Waverly during their Sunday services. It helps you feel like a part of the Wartburg community. Doing Christmas with Wartburg and being able to sing with other students who you might not know is amazing too. You get to come together and make music, and I think it is a really beautiful thing. It makes you part of one community,” she said.

Girtz also appreciates the opportunities she’s had to learn about the music she is singing.

“Something that I’ve experienced a lot throughout Wartburg Choir is we talk about the poetry that we’re singing. I feel like that’s something that resonates a lot with me because I know what I feel and what I’m singing for. Now I can translate the message across to the audience when I’m singing. We always say in Wartburg Choir that we don’t sing to impress, we sing to inspire. Digging deep into the music and the meaning is something that I want to take into my choir someday.”

Being part of the music program at Wartburg also has connected Girtz with faculty and staff who have inspired her as she prepares to be an educator herself.

“Dr. (Paula) Survilla, who passed away in 2020, led with so much kindness and love. She cared for every one of her students. She was my music theory and history professor. I remember thinking when I grow up, I want to be like Dr. Survilla, and be as kind, loving, and caring as she was,” Girtz said.

For those who have performed music, having a favorite piece or two isn’t at all uncommon. Girtz recalls the two pieces that have stayed with her, even after the curtains closed on the performance.

“The first is called ‘Abide with Me,’ and even though my religious beliefs don’t line up with it exactly, it’s about not being afraid of life or death. When we all come together in our singing as one, your hearts start beating at the same time. Another was from this past Christmas with Wartburg. The Wartburg Choir sang ‘Silent Night,’ arranged by Dan Forrest. It was the last concert, we all loved the piece. As soon as the string quartet started playing, I think everyone was tearing up. We all were holding hands, which is something we haven’t been able to do because of COVID. I remember making eye contact with Dr. Nelson throughout the piece, and he was crying too. It just felt like we were truly one, and that’s a really amazing feeling to experience.”