Life can offer countless opportunities for everyone to pursue their passions. Occasionally, it even offers signs to point people in the right direction. For Senior music major Henry Elling, all of his signs pointed towards Gustavus Adolphus College.
Music has been fundamental in shaping both Henry and his family into what they are today. He grew up in Colombus, Wisconsin listening to his father play cello, piano, and tuba while his mother sang on the microphone.
“Music’s always been an integral part of my life,” Henry said. “I don’t know what I’d do if music wasn’t a part of it. My family has always instilled in me that music is important. It led me to sing at church and the school’s choir as well as play saxophone in our school’s concert program. Doing stuff like this made me feel complete.”
Many students recognize Henry’s uncle, who is also an alumnus of Gustavus, jazz performer Kurt Elling. Kurt’s success as a musician contributed to Henry’s decision to attend his uncle’s college.
“I knew I wanted to do music at whatever college I was going to,” Henry said. “I got interested when my parents pointed out his education at a college fair, but what really got me to go here was when we went to see the Gustavus Wind Orchestra in Wisconsin and we had the chance to meet Al Behrends. He recognized us because of his work with Kurt. It was great to find out more about the music program and my uncle from him.”
“Henry has a great ability for creating an open community among people” — Nikki Skifton
Henry lends his musical talents to five different ensembles on campus, including the Handbell Ensemble, playing saxophone for the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, Wind Symphony, and the Gustavus Jazz Lab, and finally using his vocal cords for the Choir of Christ Chapel.
Outside of these, he’s involved as the treasurer of Music Council, the Brotherhood Chairman of national fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and has participated in Big Partner Little Partner for three years.
Even with his busy schedule, Henry can still find the time to make a lasting impression on his friends, including Senior theatre and psychology major Deborah Danielle.
“Henry is an amazing friend,” Danielle said. “He’s someone who will always be in your corner. My friendship with Henry has not only been a joy but has helped me grow as a person. He’s a truly compassionate human being and his sentience has made an incredible difference in my life. Not to mention he’s also a really talented musician. His dedication to his work is evident in his performances and he’s always a pleasure to watch.”
Performing alongside Henry in some of his ensembles is Senior music education major Nikki Skifton, who admires his enthusiasm towards his performances and peers.
“I am always impressed by Henry’s uncanny ability to make everyone feel welcome and accepted,” Skifton said. “I am always surprised by the sheer amount of people he knows personally, let alone his chipper attitude and endless conversations with all of them. Although he will deny it, Henry has a great ability for creating an open community among people. I will never forget his junior recital because I have never seen that many people show up in support for one person at a recital. This really is a testament to the type of person Henry is–not only does he know many people, but each of them feel supported by him, enough to show their own support in attending his recital.”
Currently, Henry is applying to become a part of the Young Adults in Global Mission through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to perform service abroad.
“His dedication to his work is evident in his performances and he’s always a pleasure to watch.” — Deborah Danielle
After that, Henry hopes to pursue something that would take advantage of both his music major and his minor in film and media studies.
“My dream job is to combine my passion for music and love of movies by becoming a film composer,” Henry said. “But even if I don’t get to do that, I’ll still be happy as long as music is involved in my life.”
As Henry begins finishing up his final classes for his last year at Gustavus, he has a few words of advice for the underclassmen who will join him soon.
“It sounds cliché, but please appreciate your time here. My time here felt like it went way too quick, and I wish I had more time to spend with my friends. An education’s important, but the people you meet and the friends you make truly define your school experience.”