MC music professor Monek accepts position at NC State University

Monek leads the MC Concert Choir in the 2015 Spring Concert. Photo courtesy of Marietta College.

Monek leads the MC Concert Choir in the 2015 Spring Concert. Photo courtesy of Marietta College.

Matt Peters

Dr. Daniel Monek, professor of choral and vocal music and music department chairman, announced that will be leaving Marietta College to take a position at North Carolina State University in a Facebook status on April 10.

Two days prior to this announcement, Monek had informed choir students of his decision to accept a position at North Carolina State University as tenured full professor and director of the music program.

“Lindsey and I are looking forward to the many new opportunities and closer proximity to family this will bring, but we’ll be leaving many friends, colleagues, and the music programs at Marietta College and Trinity Episcopal with a heavy heart,” his message read.

When Dr. Monek originally announced this to the choir on April 8, he emphasized that this was strictly a personal decision.

“In light of the climate at the college, I think it is important to note that I’m leaving for personal family reasons. It has nothing to do with the situation at the college. I know that there’s a lot going on, a lot of angst over that,” Monek said.

For 16 years, Monek has diligently and passionately led the Marietta College concert choir and music department to new heights. Under his direction, the department has seen great improvements and overcome a number of obstacles. Monek says things were very different when he first arrived at MC in 2000.

“The department was in pretty tough straits,” he told The Marcolian. “There was a lot of unhappiness – I’d say there was a fair amount of bitterness. Students were protesting the cuts and reductions.”

When Monek arrived, the department was under review and facing the danger of being eliminated altogether. Monek says he and other professors took immediate steps to stabilize the program.

“That’s where the life preserver comes from the ’02 seniors,” Monek said as he gestured to a small inflatable life preserver, perched in the corner of his office.

“For saving the music department, they made me a life preserver. It’s been up there the whole time. It always reminds me where we were – how bad things were.”

Today, Marietta offers a bachelor of music degree, as well as majors in music education and vocal performance. The department has received National Association of Schools of Music certification. Multiple student ensembles have been added, and concerts such as “Christmas with the Concert Choir” draw hundreds of students, faculty and community members each year.

While he is proud of the academic progress the department has made, Monek says working with the choirs has always been the best part of his job.

“Hands down, that’s the thing I enjoy the most. It’s such an amazing family, ” he said.

Under Monek’s direction, the concert choir has premiered over 20 new works. They have performed in venues all across the United States, and in a handful of other countries. Whatever the destination, students look forward to tour each spring.

“It’s always a huge bonding time,” senior music education major Conner Busby said.

Busby has been a member of the concert choir since his freshman year, and has since made many memories with the group. He describes Monek as a stern, but fair professor who is very passionate about his craft.

“He really believes that music has an impact on the people who are receiving it,” Busby said. “So it’s not just ‘go and make a concert,’ it’s ‘go and impact people’s lives.’  That’s why he doesn’t take the music he makes lightly.”

Junior psychology major Aran Barney added, “He’s very professional. He’s very ambitious, and he definitely tries to make everyone that’s around him be the best version of themselves that they can be.”

This is Barney’s third year in the concert choir. She says Monek’s dedication and discernment have been valuable assets to the college.

“He’s definitely a critical thinker,” she said. “Some people can’t see the bigger picture of things if they’re too involved, but he’s very good – even if he’s involved in something – at looking in as an outsider and seeing how things are rounded.”

Monek believes the arts are a vital part of every student’s education. He explained that many students become so focused on their studies and careers that they overlook the importance of having an artistic outlet; they abandon their passions altogether.

“I think when [students] keep doing the thing that they love doing, it changes their whole experience. It makes them more employable. It makes them stand out and gives them balance in what they’re doing,” Monek said.

Correspondingly, the choir is made up of students from a variety of majors.

“It’s important for music majors to know that there are people who are pursuing other fields that can be quite talented; and it’s important for someone who’s doing a biochemistry degree to know that they can still sing in a top-rate ensemble,” he said. “That’s a defining theme in everything we’ve done as a department, and everything I’ve done in my time here.”

Coinciding with Monek’s passion for music is his sincere commitment to students. Accompanist Merewyn Weinkauf has worked with Monek for over decade.

“Dr. Monek is a very dedicated colleague who cares tremendously about the choirs and the state of his students,” Weinkauf said. “For many years he would stay late at the office just being available for students outside of regular rehearsal times.”

“When I heard that Dr. Monek got a job at NC State I was very happy for him because this is a great move in his career, but I am sad for the college because we will be losing a very fine colleague,” she added.

“I’m proud of him,” Busby commented. “I think it’s a great move.”

Busby said he had been wondering when Monek was going transition in his career. He added, however, that Monek is leaving tough shoes to fill.

“I’m really curious as to what the department will do without him in front of the choir – or in front of the department as a whole. I feel like he is very much the one that has kept it alive, and kept it growing,” Busby said.

More than anything, he wants it to be known that his heart is still with the college and the programs that he has fathered.

“Sixteen years is a long-long time. When you work here for this long, you tend to think of the institution as more of an alma mater than the alma maters you were at. We hope to be back, obviously not immediately,” he said. “So, we’ll always be supporters and fans of the college.”

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