An epoch ends on May 16th, the last day of Dr. David Shockey’s final Chorale tour, capping a nearly 40-year career that includes leading ensembles to England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland; Sweden; Poland; Austria and Germany; Japan; and lastly Hong Kong.
Dr. Shockey disclosed his decision to retire last May, two months after informing the dean of the School of Music. The announcement was made to the Cairn Chorale at the end of a weeklong East Coast tour. He will remain at Cairn as an adjunct professor, teaching private voice lessons.
“Dr. Shockey is a mentor, friend, and exemplar to many of his colleagues and students,” President Dr. Todd Williams says. “His example as an artist, teacher, husband, and father leaves a lasting impression on all of us who know and love him. His care and commitment to the chorale for so many years are an outworking of his personal character and have endeared him to generations of students. We will miss him greatly.”
Hired as a music instructor in 1978, Dr. Shockey retires as a full professor and chair of Voice Studies on July 1, 2017. In addition to leading the chorale for 23 seasons, Shockey also conducts the Cairn chamber singers and performs in faculty recitals. After this semester’s final classes and juries wrap up in May, he will lead the chorale on a nine-day tour to Hong Kong, where they will sing at churches and Christian schools throughout the territory, as well as at the newly founded Levites Institute of Worship and Praise.
In an interview with Cairn Magazine, Shockey reminisced about students, opportunities not taken (he had turned down teaching offers from his alma mater Roberts Wesleyan—“They never felt like the right thing at the right time”), and his love for Cairn. The most gratifying part of the job, he said, is the relationships: “My colleagues and my students are the highlights. I love my students, love my colleagues. They know that.”
Dr. Benjamin Harding ’02, dean of Cairn’s School of Music, has experienced that fondness both as a colleague and as a student singing under Shockey’s direction in the Chorale. Reflecting on nearly 20 years of knowing Dr. Shockey, he says, “When I think of David Shockey, I think of the model faculty member: He is faithful to Christ, he is excellent in his craft, and he loves his students. I have experienced those three things both as a student and as a faculty member and dean. I’ve seen faithfulness, excellence, and love poured out in David’s life.”
As a musician and mentor, Dr. Shockey’s interactions have been marked by candor and sincerity—he “shares his very heart and struggle with those he leads” and “has a tender and compassionate soul,” share former students John Maricle ’84 and Mark Hahn ’86. Genuineness is a trait important to Shockey. When asked if he believes his career has been “successful,” he answered “yes” with the following explanation: “When students see me in my home, maybe I’m wearing sweatpants instead of dressing up to go to school, but I think most of them would say that I’m the same there as I am here.”
Dr. Shockey’s dedication to Cairn and his students is evident, but he made sure that his students knew that his career was not all-important. “I wanted them to sing better by virtue of having studied with me, certainly,” he said, “but I wanted them to understand, too, that while I love Cairn, I love the Lord first… I think my students understood that: the Lord first, then my wife and children, and my job after that. I want my students to know right priorities, and I want them to know how much I love my wife.”
Shockey’s latter goal has been arguably as impactful on some students as his musical instruction. “I think part of my ministry here has been as a married man, a Christian marriage,” Shockey explained. “I believe my relationship with my wife has spoken powerfully to students.” This observation has been borne out in recent years, as several alumni have approached Dr. and Mrs. Shockey for premarital counseling.
The job itself has proven challenging at times. “I’ve always said that selecting literature for the chorale is maybe the hardest part of my job, because we are a Christian university, so most of what we do is sacred, and rightly so,” Shockey shared. “But we’re a university, too, and I didn’t want the University chorale to be merely a nice church choir that sings nice church choir literature.”
As a result, the ensemble’s repertoire often contains heavier pieces, such as last year’s Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God (a setting of a sonnet by 16th- and 17th-century poet John Donne) and Even When He Is Silent (based on a poem attributed to an anonymous prisoner in a WWII concentration camp). Challenging pieces like these are part of a bona fide university-level choral experience, Shockey says: “I don’t want students to ever leave here, go to grad school, and then realize, ‘Oh, this is what a university choral experience should look like.’ That’s where I kind of pushed the envelope.”
Shockey recalled that after 24 years at Cairn, feeling culturally out of place in the wake of changing leadership, he left to teach music at Seattle Pacific University—”not angrily, but kind of sadly, because I loved this place.” But four years later, when the position reopened, a couple of Shockey’s former colleagues at Cairn emailed him, asking, “David, would you be interested in returning to PBU?”
“My wife saw the email and said, ‘Oh no—I see boxes in our future,’” Shockey remembered. “I said, ‘No, Eleanor, just relax. We don’t know that.’ Of course, she was right, as usual. And I’m glad to be here.”
With 35 years at Cairn behind him, Shockey told Cairn Magazine, it is now time to retire. “I am looking forward to slowing down a little bit, but our plans—I say “our,” because it’s always my wife’s plans and mine—are not to go hit the golf course or just sit in front of the TV for the next 20 or 30 years,” Dr. Shockey explained. He and his wife will continue their work at First Baptist Church in Haddonfield, NJ, where Dr. Shockey directs the choir, as well as their long-time support of Csehy Summer School of Music, where Dr. Shockey serves as president of the board of directors. They also plan to prayerfully explore additional opportunities for ministry, including prison ministry—an idea planted in Dr. Shockey’s heart years ago when the chorale performed for a prison in central PA. “Who knows? Perhaps directing a prison choir is in my future,” he mused.
A native of Baltimore, MD, Shockey graduated from Milford Mills High School, where he joined the choir and other musical ensembles. “The highlight for me was the madrigal group,” he explained. “Madrigals are pieces that dates from the 16th or even 15th century, chamber pieces designed originally for one person to a part… With my chamber singers here at Cairn, I always include some madrigals, including in the upcoming Rug Concert in the Stearns Mission Center [on Monday, April 24].”
He went on to earn a BS in Music Education from Roberts Wesleyan College in 1974 and a Master of Music degree in voice from Eastman School of Music in 1977 (both located in Rochester, NY). Following graduation, he spent four years teaching music at Spencerport Central School District (near Roberts Wesleyan) before joining the faculty at Cairn as a music instructor, directing the Chamber Singers ensemble for the first time in 1979. Shockey briefly conducted the chorale from 1980–82, when Al Lunde left to pursue his doctorate, then assumed the position long-term in 1992. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree in vocal performance from Ohio State University in 1991.
Come bid farewell to Dr. Shockey at his final chorale home concert this evening, April 22, 2017, at 7 pm. Tickets are free.
Correction: The article originally misidentified the number of years Dr. Lunde and Dr. Shockey each led the chorale. Dr. Shockey conducted the chorale for 23 years (not 27); Dr. Lunde did direct the chorale for 27 years, making him the ensemble’s longest-running director. The four-year difference in Dr. Shockey’s service is due to his years teaching at Seattle Pacific University (2002-2006).