Dill Fills Role of Choral Director

Dill-headshot.jpgPerhaps no new faculty member coming in to Central Methodist University this fall has bigger shoes to fill than Dr. Patrick Dill, the new director of choral activities and assistant professor of choral music education. Dill was selected this spring to take over the role following the retirement of Dr. Claude Westfall, who helmed the Conservatory Singers and Chorale for 12 years.

Taking over for such a beloved instructor as Westfall comes with its own challenges, but Dill’s task has been made even more daunting by the ever-present threat of COVID-19.

He’s up to those challenges, however.

“I find myself in a remarkably unique situation and am having to be incredibly realistic about what we can hope to accomplish,” said Dill. “My first and foremost priority is the well-being of my students, so my focus has been on finding a way for our choirs to make beautiful choral music in a manner that minimizes the possibility for transmitting the virus, thereby protecting the health of our singers and the CMU community as a whole.”

Much of the day-to-day operation for faculty in the Swinney Conservatory of Music has been affected by the pandemic, but because of the respiratory nature of the virus, Dill says, singers in particular are prone to transmission through their more “athletic” breathing. He went on to describe how he and his choral colleagues were “horrified and saddened” to hear accounts in the spring of choirs across the globe in which nearly all of their members contracted the virus at single rehearsals.

With those stories and CMU’s long history as an excellent place to make music in mind, Dill and his fellow faculty members have worked tirelessly all summer to make sure the students can have the best, safest experience possible.

“I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Dori Waggoner and the entire CMU administration for their unwavering support for choral singing as we’ve worked together to solve these issues, and also to Dr. Westfall, who is only a text message away in case I need anything,” Dill said. “There is such a rich tradition of singing at CMU, so I will be doing everything I can to make sure that we preserve and promote our culture of choral music long into the future.”

Dill was well aware of CMU’s rich tradition even before applying for his new position. He had the opportunity to hear the Chorale perform at the 2019 national conference of the American Choral Directors Association, and he still possesses a handout from a presentation by the late Dr. Paul Drummond, who served as director of choral activities at Central for more than 25 years.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors, whose work I am very fortunate to have encountered throughout my career,” he said.

As for his own career, Dill has been in music education ever since he graduated from Millikin University with a degree in choral music education. After a ten-year run in Texas as a high school teacher, he pursued graduate studies at the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., then returned to Texas for his doctoral studies at the University of North Texas in Denton.

Prior to landing at Central, he was the director of choral activities and coordinator of the music education program and music recruitment at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. He served as the associate director of choral activities and assistant professor of voice at Northwestern State University of Louisiana (Natchitoches) before that.

Now, Dill lives in Boonville with his husband, Ryan, and their two daughters, Serenity and Patience. He says he is looking forward to being able to attend concerts and recitals as a family, cheering for his daughters at soccer matches, and getting them started in music lessons.

And of course, he is looking forward to being a part of the legacy of the CMU music department.

“I’m very excited to be working alongside my amazing colleagues in the Swinney Conservatory, where the reputation for a long-standing history of music-making is well-deserved, and to be working with the incredibly talented CMU students,” he said.

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