To sing with the Flint Hills Masterworks Chorale, you don't have to be a professional musician. Just ask the K-State employees who belong to the group -- most are experts in fields other than music.
K-State physicists, chemists, managers and librarians populate the group's ranks, in addition to some K-State musicians and folks from the larger Manhattan community.
"The choir has different levels of experience, musical knowledge and, of course, vocal talent," said Reginald Pittman, the chorale's director and a K-State associate professor of voice. "Most of our members do have some type of musical background, but that background most often comes from church choirs or musical groups they belonged to in college.
Though the Flint Hills Masterworks Chorale is a community choir sponsored by Manhattan Christian College, roughly half of the group's members are affiliated with K-State in one way or another.
K-State's Larry Weaver, professor of physics, joined the group about five years ago simply because he loves to sing.
"I get a lot of simple pleasure from the singing, plus pleasure at meeting the musical challenges because we sometimes do some stuff that I find initially difficult," he said.
Weaver compared his job in theoretical physics to his hobby as a vocalist.
"Singing is very different than doing theoretical physics. The singing is 'doing' and the theoretical physics is 'thinking,'" he said. "I guess in both music and physics I see some sort of complex and interesting pattern."
Scott Schlender, a bass with the chorale and assistant to the dean of K-State's Graduate School, began singing with the group because his father had been with the group for many years.
"Masterworks has given me the opportunity to sing with an ensemble that performs interesting and sometimes very challenging literature," Schlender said. "It has also been a great way to get acquainted with people who have similar interests in music and the arts."
This dedication to a shared interest in music is what got the mostly amateur group invited to take a European tour in June. Over two weeks' time, members of the choir performed eight concerts in big-name cities like Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Salzburg and Manhattan's partner city of Dobrichoviche in the Czech Republic.
"The chorale's trip to Europe was a wonderful way to see parts of the world I had never visited," Schlender said. "It also gave us the opportunity to perform in amazing venues."
The venues included historic churches and cathedrals, as well as the Museum of Musical Instruments in Prague.
Pittman said that the trip's intense performance schedule brought group members closer together and improved their performance.
"It made us a better choir because we sang with each other more often," he said. "As a community group, we generally rehearse only once a week for about an hour and a half. During our international tour we sang eight concerts in two weeks and we had three rehearsals. Anytime you're together that much, you get to be a better choir."
Weaver said the chorale's abilities might also have something to do with its director.
"I've sung all my life, but my 'training' comes mostly from choir directors -- and I've had lots of good ones," he said.
Along with Weaver and Schlender, members of the chorale from K-State include: Katharina Janik Bossman, research assistant chemistry; Robert Clark, associate professor of French; Kristan Corwin, assistant professor of physics; Larry Davis, professor of biochemistry; Nelda Elder, professor at Hale Library; Karen Garrett, associate professor of plant pathology; Stacia Gray, English instructor; Glenn Horton-Smith, assistant professor of physics; Rod Howell, associate professor in computing and information sciences; Elaine Johannes, assistant professor of family studies and human services; Jim Lewis, international recruiting with international programs; Chris Little, assistant professor of plant pathology; Ronna Olivier, program assistant with the Midwest Equity Center in the College of Education; Marietta Ryba-White, associate scientist in plant pathology; Telva Swenson, K-State Student Union; and Harry Williamson, hospital business manager for the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.