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Thank you, Eric Dalheim May 12, 2011

Posted by Judy in Musings.

I’ve been out of graduate school for 10 years. That’s right . . T-E-N! May of 2001 found me walking down the aisle to get my Master of Music diploma. Seems like it was yesterday and a million years ago, all at once. Graduate school was an interesting time for me, very much so a mixed bag. On the one hand, me and my art-song-loving self didn’t fit in so well at a very opera focused program. On the other hand, I was absolutely blessed with two amazing teachers, who taught me so much more than I ever thought was possible.

I don’t remember the first time I met Professor Dalheim. I’m gonna guess it was in Vocal Lit class. Twice a week, about 15-20 vocal students would pile into his studio and listen to an astonishing amount of art song. He was so very detailed in the information he gave. He’d start each section out with a little background on the composer, sometimes the poet, and sometimes a little bit of history. Then for each song, he’d give the vocal range, the voice type best suited for the song, the composer, poet, year of composition, who published the song, the tempo and various other bits of info. He did this for every. single. song. we listened to in class. I’m sure we listened to hundreds of songs during the course of the two semester class. He also gave us a list of “noteables”, other songs that were worth looking into but ones that we didn’t actually listen to. And when I say listen, 90% of the songs were perfomed live. So each week, we would get assigned one or two songs to learn and then perform for the class. We’d arrange a rehearsal time sometime before the class period, and then we’d perform on the given day. It really was an interesting class. I have used my little notecards so many times over the years when looking for repertoire ideas for students and for myself.

As you can imagine, this class took tons of prep work on his part. He had been teaching this class since the beginning of time, as evidenced by the old-fashioned typewriter print on all of our handouts. I don’t know if he updated the content each year or every few years. Any changes that he made were not made on a computer, he’s always pull out his trusty typewriter=)

Professor Dalheim was a stickler for perfection, he expected nothing but your best. I remember going in for a rehearsal and for some reason, I had learned a particular phrase wrong . . . ONE note was incorrect. He chewed me up one side and down the other telling me that I needed to me more careful in my learning, and sloppy learning was unacceptable, etc, etc. I was already kicking my perfectionist self over the mistake, and the lambasting didn’t help at all. I left his studio absolutely resolved to be much more diligent. To this day, I can safely say that I have never again learned a piece of music incorrectly.

In contrast to that rehearsal, there was another one the following semester where I was singing “Bist Du Bei Mir” by Bach, a song I’d done many, many times. This particular version was slightly different, but basically the same. We went through the song, and he had nothing but praise for me, up one side and down the other.
“And since you’ve been such a good girl, I have this recording of the song for you to listen to.” This wasn’t something that happened on a regular basis. The point of the class was to expose us to lots of art song as well as giving us the opportunity to learn and interpret many different songs. Listening to recordings of other people wasn’t really the ideal way to learn the song. But, he thought my interpretation was solid and good enough to warrant listening to another rendition. That day, I left his studio walking just a teeny bit taller.

In addition to being my vocal lit teacher, Prof. Dalheim also was my vocal coach. I’d meet with him once a week to go over the songs I was working on in voice lessons, and he would accompany me as well as give tips and such on the musical aspect of my performance. This also meant that he accompanied me on my Master’s recital. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned from his coachings. Some were easy lessons “Maybe you should think about phrasing this passage this way.”, while others were much more difficult “Your German is terrible, we really need to work on it.” Yikes! Here I thought my diction was great . . well, not so much when it came to German. After that coaching, I spent a goodly amount of time reformatting my brain pathways to incorporate correct German diction!

Several weeks ago, I was very saddened to learn of Eric Dalheim’s passing. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding his death, but I do know that he lived a good, long life. He had worked with so many “famous” singers throughout his career. He had the memory of an elephant, it seems that he never forgot a program that he’d performed. He worked with hundreds, maybe even thousands of students in his time at the University of Illinois. On his 80th birthday, the School of Music threw a party for him. I was fortunate enough to be able to perform a funny Gilbert and Sullivan song with text by Nicolas Temperley at the celebration. I was amazed at the number of students that came back to the university to be at the celebration. Clearly, this man touched many lives and I feel so blessed to have been one of them.

Thank you, Eric Dalheim for pushing me to be more accurate.

Thank you for challenging me to expand my vocal range.

Thank you for making me an infinitely better musician.

Thank you, Eric Dalheim, for sharing your wisdom.


1. Paula - May 14, 2012

Eric and I were friends, too. I can share some info if you like. I think you can access my email address. If not, post again, and I’ll try to find a way to get us in contact without posting my address

Judy - May 14, 2012

Sure, I’d love to hear your Eric stories! My email is adivamoment at gmail dot com.

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