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Through Willamette Singers, Richard Liebing '13 says he enjoys editing and composing jazz music to make it his own.Through Willamette Singers, Richard Liebing '13 says he enjoys editing and composing jazz music to make it his own.

Richard Liebing '13 is working three jobs, one of which is at WITS on campus.Richard Liebing '13 is working three jobs, one of which is at WITS on campus.

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Willamette senior commits to finishing the school year on a high note

Some have accused Richard Liebing of overcommitting himself. He works three jobs. He’s double majoring in computer science and music, and he’s involved in several music ensembles.

But with graduation fast approaching, Liebing says he wants to cram in as many memories as he can, while he can.

“It’s really tough doing all these things, knowing they’re for the last time,” Liebing ’13 says. “This year, I want to make sure I make time to appreciate those things I’m doing as they’re happening.”

Musical endeavors

A native of Palmer, Alaska, Liebing heard about Willamette from his high school classmates. Attracted by its small size and comprehensive course offerings, Liebing chose Willamette from the eight schools he was considering.

When he stepped on campus for the first time during Opening Days, he says he knew he made the right decision.

“I was surprised with how friendly everyone was,” he says. “I felt I fit in really well here.”

To make Willamette truly feel like home, Liebing immersed himself in its musical offerings — starting with Chamber Choir and two jazz ensembles, Willamette Singers and Jazz Choir.

“I sang choir for three years in high school and it just kind of stuck,” Liebing says. “I really like singing.”

Liebing says he expresses a different side of himself in each ensemble. With jazz singing, he edits and composes the music to make it his own. And through Chamber Choir, he’s part of a robust, formal group that sings classic choral works.

If being part of three music ensembles wasn’t enough, Liebing joined Head Band as a sophomore. Through the student-led male a cappella group, Liebing says he adopts a rock ’n’ roll persona.  This year, he serves as the group’s president.

“I know it’s sad, because I’m a music major, but I love crappy pop music,” he says. “Performing with Head Band is just as much about entertaining as it is about music making. We’re there to be watched.”

Personal connections

While at Willamette, Liebing says he’s received continuous mentorship from music professor Wallace Long Jr. As director of choral activities, Long makes himself available to his students both in and outside the classroom, Liebing says.

“I consider him a personal friend,” Liebing says. “He has so much love and care for his students.”

Long says the feeling is mutual. To him, Liebing is a talented singer known for his generosity and drive. Not only is he a “Type-A, crazy academic” he’s a person Long can count on for help. 

“There aren’t many like him who are on fire to learn, to serve and to be a part of the community,” Long says. “Somehow he makes time for people, talking to them and taking care of whatever problems they might have. He’s an amazing friend to everyone around him.”

Staying busy

Each week, Liebing spends about 16 hours in rehearsal. He carries a full class load, maintains a 3.7 GPA and works three jobs. Through his jobs, he files paperwork with the choir office, provides computer and technical assistance through WITS and serves as a choir section leader at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Salem.

Liebing knows he’s taken on a lot of responsibility, but says he’s up to the task.

“There is nothing I can cut out of my schedule. I’m committed at this point,” Liebing says. “I don’t know what to do with myself if I don’t have something scheduled.”

Christiana Zollner ’13 knows Liebing through Chamber Choir and Willamette Singers. She says Liebing immerses himself in campus life because he enjoys spending time with others. 

“Richard is incredibly involved because he simply loves people,” she says. “He loves being around people, and helping to make whatever community he is in a better one.”

Liebing hopes his double major will open doors for him when he graduates. But because he loves the abstract thinking that comes with computer science, he aspires to work for an IT department. Later, he plans to attend graduate school.

By attending Willamette, Liebing says he’s prepared to launch his career.

“When applying for schools, I looked exclusively at liberal arts universities,” he says. “Here, when you learn something, it’s not just to learn the information. You get a better understanding of concepts and how to apply them to the world around you.”