Dr. Eric Foley will bring a wealth of experience in music education and a devotion to his craft to the Director of Choral Activities position at Barton Community College. He will teach vocal students, conduct choirs and ensembles and help direct musicals, among other responsibilities. He will work at the college as an adjunct faculty member through the spring semester and will begin full time in the fall.
One of his first projects will be leading the Central Kansas Community Choir on April 11, which is open to community members who would like to participate. The first rehearsal is Jan. 25 and those interested should contact Angel Morgan at 620-792-9391 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found at bartonccc.edu/news/central-kansas-community-choir-21.
Foley grew up with music, learning to play piano at the age of five. Both of his parents, while not technically trained musicians, were very musically inclined.
“When was music not a part of my life?” he said. “I would go to sing at festivals and participate in small ensembles and solos. I would go to summer music camps. Music was a big part of my life growing up.”
The hobby became something more over time, which ultimately led to his pursuit of music as a career.
“You start to see how well you can do it; try to improve on your own skills and improve your ability,” he said. “That kept me going. Then, there was a certain enjoyment that went along with it, which I enjoyed sharing with other people too, and that’s why music education became my career.”
He has since taught at the high school and middle school levels for 14 years, and in higher education at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Corban University. He eventually worked his way to the department chair position at both institutions.
Most recently, he has been teaching at Lyons High School just down the highway from Barton. He said he is excited to teach in higher education once again and in particular is ready to work on the musical theatre productions and work with the larger groups like the Central Kansas Community Choir, the Barton Orchestra and the smaller ensembles.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to working with collegiate students again,” he said. “And, I look forward to seeing what I can build out of what’s been at Barton before and make it a place where we can help students be engaged in music. It’s a camaraderie thing; the community that happens inside a community. That’s what I love about what I do, to build that community. I want to make the program at Barton a special place.”
Foley said the COVID-19 pandemic has made the work of a choral director far more challenging, but also more important.
“Many find (music) is both an emotional and psychological outlet and provides a healthy way to stay grounded,” he said. “Distance has become the biggest challenge, trying to find ways to connect and keep an ensemble engaged when you’re looking at six feet apart with masks. Faced, bodies and clarity make it more difficult for the ensemble to share information. I’m working to find different ways to do what we were doing before, but have the same quality of performance and engagement with the audience and ensemble members.”
Foley said he is excited about his first Barton concerts, which will take place in the fall semester, but the journey getting them ready to perform is just as rewarding as the final product.
“My favorite part about directing is watching the ensemble come together for a common goal and to see the emotional engagement in each one of those members in what’s going on during the performance,” he said. “The performance is a lot of fun but it’s not the only part. Sometimes it’s the performance inside the rehearsal that’s just as engaging, if not more so, where the connections to the music for the ensemble members becomes stronger.”