The Sunderman Conservatory of Music

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“We unite the artistic standards of professional music with the intellectual breadth and depth afforded by one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges.”

— Prof. Kay Hoke, Director of the Sunderman Conservatory of Music

Gettysburg College prepares students to be active leaders in their their professions, communities, the nation, and the world. For the gifted young musicians studying at the College’s Sunderman Conservatory, this means that they become broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences while their musical interests and talents are honed by an expert music faculty.

As one of the College’s Distinctive Programs, the Sunderman Conservatory of Music holds a unique position at the College and among liberal arts institutions. Our students participate fully in the Gettysburg experience, including study abroad, service learning, athletics, and campus life. They also gain the instructional and performance benefits provided only in a conservatory environment.

Music at Gettysburg

Dedicated faculty and generous benefactors are inextricably linked in the evolution of music at the College. In the 1920s, faculty from other disciplines—Robert Fortenbaugh (history), Jerome Jackson (education and philosophy), and Bertram Saltzer (engineering)— first helped organize music and musical ensembles at the College.

Mounting interest in a program of formal study led the Woman’s Leagues to appeal to President Henry W.A. Hanson to establish a Department of Music. Hanson countered with a challenge for the Leagues to raise $50,000 for the program. The women agreed and the Trustees approved the department in 1945. Prof. Parker B. Wagnild served as the department’s first chair. For sixty years the department touched the lives of countless students, introducing the music major, supporting touring ensembles, and preparing and educating generations of musicians.

In 2004, F. William Sunderman, graduate of the class of 1919, left a bequest to the College to begin the Sunderman Conservatory of Music. Sunderman, a dedicated violinist, was a renowned physician, scientist, medical director for the Manhattan project, founder of the Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science, pioneer in the use of insulin to treat diabetic coma, and author of countless scientific papers and books about chamber music, travel, and photography. Sunderman left the College his extensive music library and prized collection of 18th and 19th century violins and bows. Dr. Sunderman’s intent for the Conservatory was to provide for an educational experience that unites the artistic standards of a professional program with the intellectual rigors and academic breadth of the liberal arts. His founding gift of $14 million provided funds that helped to establish today’s Conservatory.

In 2005, the Conservatory's founding year, there were 37 music majors and two degrees offered. As of 2012, the number of majors had nearly tripled to 109, and 43 students were pursuing a music minor. A performance degree, has been added, and the number of faculty and staff has increased.

The Conservatory continues to offer enthusiastic support to the liberal arts degree in music, as well as a degree in music education.

A strategic vision for the Conservatory

When Gettysburg College identified its strategic directions in 2007, few could foresee the economic instability to come. Yet the strategies for providing a top liberal arts education—creating a high level of student engagement, establishing programs distinctive to Gettysburg, ensuring accessibility to a diverse student body, and building a sense of inclusiveness and connection among members of the College community—had a sound basis and remain relevant.

Moreover, given the financial challenges that face both colleges and students, these very directions are more critical than ever to the College’s continued success. With a careful eye to prioritization and planning, making the most of opportunities and synergies, the College will continue on a path toward realizing its essential goals.

The Sunderman Conservatory of Music is identified as an area of distinction and public significance and it is a priority of the College to advance the Conservatory as one of the nation’s leaders in linking music excellence with excellence in the liberal arts.