In the fall of 2016 Dr. Jacob Funk took up residence as Clark College’s director of choirs, a lofty undertaking with big shoes to fill after the previous choir director, April Duvic, retired after 26 years. “April has been so kind to me,” Funk shares about his predecessor. “She’s introduced me to a lot of local music teachers and music makers. She’s been a real supporter of the program, both when she was teaching here and even now she continues to be a supporter.”

Dr Jacob Funk Clark College Choir
It’s clear Funk loves the music he helps his students create while leading choir. Photo credit: Jenny Shadley

Funk completed his doctorate at the University of Missouri in Kansas City in 2016 and was living there when he applied for the position at Clark College. I wondered what brought him all the way out to Vancouver. “I was living in Kansas City and I was looking for a great place to work, which, you know, you apply to a bunch of different places,” Funk says. “This is one of the places we liked the best. My wife is from up here, so not only was it a good position, it was close to her family so I’m really thankful I found this job,” he says.

His first year has been full of adjustment, but he has enjoyed the students and faculty. “I’ve taught at a few other places, and any time you start somewhere new it takes a little while to find your place,” he shares. “Obviously as a professor we know our subject matter well, but we don’t always know the people well. That first year, finding a routine, finding where I fit in here, and finding what I could offer was challenging, like  it would have been anywhere. What I’ve found is it’s such a supportive environment, and the students work so hard, that in some ways it was much easier than other places I’ve started.”

Now in his second year, he feels more comfortable. “I’m able to give more of my time thinking about how to teach better and be a better teacher instead of just making sure my lesson plan is ready,” He adds. He attributes a lot of his early success to the help he received from the other musical faculty at Clark College and the college community as a whole. “It’s fun meeting people who have known about the choir program for a long time, and it’s fun meeting people who are new here and want to sign up for the choir,” Funk says. “So it’s very supportive, and I would like to get the campus singing more!”

Because of the amount of people unaware of the choir program, I asked him how attendance at concerts has been. “It looks like attendance is pretty good,” he says. “Concert choir does one concert every term with the concert band, which brings in all the folks who want to support them. Our chorale and our women’s choral ensemble do a joint concert together, so you’re bringing in more people there. I’m happy with attendance.”

Dr Jacob Funk Clark College orchestra
In addition to choir, Funk also conducts an orchestra from time to time. Photo credit: Jenny Shadley

As for the future, Funk says he’d love to see even more people participating in Clark College’s music programs. “Specifically choir because that’s what I do, but band and orchestra as well. I’d like to see more participation and I’d like the choirs to be able to become even more advanced. Right now we’re doing stuff that is fantastic, but you can always go to the next level. I’d like our singers to feel that they have a place here in our choir, and that they find fulfilment and have a satisfying musical experience at Clark.”

He says he likes to work on a wide range of music with his choirs, from Renaissance to modern music, as it’s important to both learn about the entire musical world and for the singers to have a chance to discover a type of music that speaks to them as an individual. His personal favorites, though, are Renaissance, folk music and Baroque. He adds that there is plenty of great modern music being written that is both fun to perform and can challenge an audience’s expectations a little.

There is one bigger thing Funk says he’s hoping for the future, not just for Clark College, but for all of Clark County: “I would like to see a performance space that is really ideal for choral music in Vancouver, and I think we can make that happen at Clark College. Hopefully in the long-term planning for this school there is going to be a performing arts center that will help the music program more and will help the whole campus and the community in general.”

Learn more about the music programs and upcoming events at the Clark College website.

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