Visiting Assistant Professor in Music, Dr. Elisabeth Cherland, has found herself more grounded in her roots since coming to Gustavus.
“I’m really thrilled to be here in Minnesota and at a Lutheran institution,” Cherland said.
Originally from Saskatchewan, Canada, Cherland continues to carry on a generations-long love of music as a singer, violinist, educator and now her role as the conductor of the Choir of Christ Chapel and the Lucia Singers.
“My dad is a choral conductor. In fact, I’m a fourth-generation conductor. It’s kind of the family biz,” Cherland said.
She pursued her passion for music and storytelling through her Bachelor’s degrees in Music and English, and a Doctoral degree in Choral Conducting. Prior to taking up her role at Gustavus, she taught band and choir in public middle and high schools in South Dakota for seven years. At Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat in Washington, Cherland was the Village Musician.
“That is probably the best job title I’d ever hope to have,” Cherland said.
However, in coming to Gustavus, she feels a strong connection to her position here and what she can accomplish with it.
“I had that feeling of, ‘Oh, there’s my job,’ and I just hoped they’d feel the same,” Cherland said.
Upon taking up her new role, she feels welcomed and supported by both the students and faculty, noting the closeness and variety of experiences within the department.
“The music department and the ensembles feel a little like family. It’s a pretty supportive place. The professors, the conductors, and the college itself wants students to be able to do a lot and have a lot of different experiences. I love that students get as wide of variety of experiences as possible. I’ve been really impressed with how everyone works together to make it happen,” Cherland said.
This focus on community is something shared by the students as well.
Senior Hannah Deyo positively remarks on her time working with Dr. Cherland as Chapel Choir Co-president.
“Working with Dr. Cherland has been an enormous pleasure. She brings something new to the Choir of Christ Chapel that was not previously there and I think that we sound amazing. I am so excited to continue to grow and work with her to make choir the best experience possible,” Deyo said.
Looking towards how she hopes to influence the choir community at Gustavus, Cherland notes the importance of the position she holds.
“I’m proud that I’m a woman in a conducting position and that I’m able to model female leadership in a typically masculine role. I’m glad that I can have an impact in that way,” Cherland said.
As her academic background includes experience in gender studies, Cherland sees the music program as an opportunity to engage students and the larger community in broader discussions.
“I’m looking forward to lots of beautiful musical moments and getting to create wonderful music and experiences. I’m also looking forward to being able to use the music to have some bigger conversations about what is going on in the world and how the arts can impact us,” Cherland said.
In particular, she sees herself engaging in social justice work through choir and potentially returning to her love of storytelling through music.
One of her specific interests is the choral setting of Emily Dickinson poetry which she believes would be a fun challenge to work with in her choirs.
“I love Emily Dickinson poetry. Choral composers are always looking for good settings, and she is really hard to set and set well,” Cherland said.
Though settling into her new role has been busy, Cherland is looking towards the future refreshed and eager to further her work, finding her students just as engaged.
“I’ve been impressed with the students here and their willingness to be open and welcoming to myself and to trying new things,” Cherland said.
Outside of her commitment and passion for musical excellence, she enjoys singing and reading and looks forward to settling into the St. Peter community with her family.