New music faculty member continues a rich Lakeland tradition
Note: Tayler Otten, a senior majoring in English and creative writing, is creating content for the Lakeland blog, as well as the social media pages for Lakeland’s School of Humanities & Fine Arts. This is the latest in a series of blog stories she’s written.
Lakeland University welcomed its newest music faculty member, Christine Flasch, this fall. Although new to Lakeland, she is by no means new to the industry as she brings more than 40 years of impressive experiences to Lakeland’s music program.
Flasch will make her public Lakeland debut this Saturday, October 21, at the fall Lakeland University Singers & Lakeland Chamber Winds Concert, which begins at 3 p.m. in the Bradley Theatre.
The free concert will demonstrate the beginning of Flasch’s work at Lakeland and spotlight the talents of Lakeland students involved in music. Associate Professor of Instrumental Music and Director of Bands Evan Chancellor coaches the quintet of students who make up the Chamber Winds.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wis., Flasch lived in New York for 18 years to pursue a professional vocal career. While she was working toward her master’s degree in vocal performance at Syracuse University, Flasch made a startlingly cosmic connection with a name familiar to Lakeland University – celebrated soprano and former Lakeland (then-Mission House) student Helen Boatwright.
“I heard all about Helen's early years in Sheboygan, including spending a year at Mission House when she went off to college,” Flasch recalled. “I couldn't believe the coincidence when I saw the job posting at Lakeland, where Helen got her start. When I drove up to the campus, there was the famous Mission House she spoke of.
“I was even more amazed to learn of the Helen Boatwright Scholarship that Lakeland offers. Then, to see her beautiful photo in the Bradley Auditorium on campus – a photo taken during the years I studied with her in Syracuse – I truly felt called to the position at LU and was delighted to be chosen.”
A friend and mentor, Flasch can now also consider the late Boatwright a colleague as she carries on the high artistic standards Boatwright demonstrated so brilliantly in her professional career. After all, who better to conduct Lakeland’s choir than the woman who single handedly built the summer music festival at George Williams College in which she conducted full-scale orchestras and symphonies for 14 seasons?
Amongst Flasch’s impressive feats, she sang for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus for eight seasons alongside her husband, and sang leading opera roles throughout the country. Despite living most voice performers’ dream, she decided to return to Milwaukee to open her own voice studio, reigniting a passion for teaching that had been dormant since high school, when she was tasked with helping students learn their music for contests.
Since then, it has been her mission to shape the next generation of musical artists. At Lakeland, she teaches the first semester of conducting, as well as her work with the LU Singers.
Flasch always encourages her students to achieve excellence. She believes this is achieved by setting the highest standards, discipline, commitment and risk. Just as she exercised each of those qualities in her pursuit of excellence, she expects the same from her students.
When asked about her most impactful experience, Flasch’s answer came with a tone of surprise.
“In reflecting back on a lifetime spent singing, directing choirs, casting and directing operas, teaching voice, founding and directing a summer music festival in the Lake Geneva area for 15 years,” Flasch reminisced, “the greatest thrill of all was not singing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night production of Verdi's ‘Aida,’ though I will never forget what the opening night house looked like from the stage that night.
“It was the first opportunities I had to conduct operas with full symphony orchestras, first at Carroll University (‘Die Fledermaus’), and then at Music by the Lake in Lake Geneva (‘La Boheme,’ ‘The Student Prince,’ ‘La Traviata,’ ‘The New Moon,’ ‘Madama Butterfly’ and others). Absolutely nothing compared to having those marvelous players and singers honor me with their performances while I, a fledgling, female conductor, led them. The thrill cannot be described. And I grew so much.”
Flasch hopes to bring new opportunities to her students, igniting newfound musical passions within the LU music program to continue a legacy of greatness.