Wallace Long leaves a lasting legacy on the Willamette community

by Paul McKean '11,

Long retires at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year as the music department plans for the future of the choral program.

  • Wallace Long conducting the choir

After 37 years of leading several of Willamette’s celebrated vocal ensembles, Wallace Long will retire at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Under Long’s direction, Willamette vocal groups performed around the world and received national and international acclaim. 

In 2004, the Chamber Choir toured South Africa at the invitation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The vocal jazz ensemble Willamette Singers received awards from DownBeat magazine. Both groups recorded several CDs, toured Europe and Asia and performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall.

Paul Klemme, director of the Willamette Master Chorus and longtime friend of Long’s, said the professor has always reached out and drawn together students.

“Wallace Long is the ultimate professor, scholar and community-builder,” he said. “Once students see him in action, they take that example and spread the same goodwill to their own community.”

Long will leave a lasting impact on generations of students and alumni. “What makes Wallace so special is that he’s a world-class conductor but an even better human being,” said Jeff Baker 01 at the time of Long’s 35th reunion. “He cares so deeply about every single student.”

Planning for the future

As Long departs, the music department leadership has worked to ensure that the choral music program continues to thrive.

Chris Engbretson, who has led the DVA program for the past three years and this year is directing the Voce and Vox Ensembles, will take over for Long while the music department plans a national search for his replacement.

The department is currently in an information-gathering phase, and will be visited by external reviewers who will provide advice this spring. Music faculty anticipate the search for Long's replacement to take place in the next academic year. The search committee will include music department faculty, students, a faculty member from outside of the department, and a diversity adviser; all members of the community will be invited to meet with finalists for the position during campus visits.

The university is assembling a memory book filled with stories and photos from colleagues and former students. Alumni, colleagues and community members are invited to share their memories of Wallace Long by contacting Kim Burris.

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