after services at First Presbyterian Church,
Kalamazoo, Michigan, December, 2003
Tom Kasdorf's involvement in the musical life of Kalamazoo has entered its fifth decade. He is
still a vital presence among us as teacher, mentor, church choir director, colleague and friend.
Alice's Archives is pleased to present A TOM KASDORF TRIBUTE: Celebrating 50 years of
Great Choral Singing in Kalamazoo. Of thee we sing!
Please enjoy this eclectic collection of memorabilia, including photographs of Tom, dating from
the early 1960s to the photo above, taken in 2003. All items are from Alice's Archives.
Alice and Tom were great friends and colleagues who worked together for many years in opera and
oratorio performances by the Kalamazoo Symphony. Their association began in the early 1960s
when Tom prepared his Loy Norrix High School Choir to be the Chorus of Shepherds and Villagers
in Gian-Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. Alice was rehearsal pianist and orchestra member.
Loy Norrix High School Yearbook 1967
Some people wear a thin veneer of age, with their youthful selves living close to the surface.
Tom's like that. He looks the same as he did when he was a young chain-smoking vocal music
teacher in the 1960s. The only real difference is that he's stopped smoking.
At the start of class, Mr. Kasdorf would rush to the grand piano in the center of the choir room and
start pounding out the la-la-la-la vocal exercises modulating up and down the keyboard. He never
seemed to mind whether he sat on a piano bench or an office chair, or no chair at all. He was there
for the music, and he made it fun.
Choir was the cool thing to be in at Norrix. Students were suddenly transformed when cast in a
show-- from football player to romantic lead; from bookworm to Broadway baby... and the casting
always seemed to work!
Tom introduced new works to Kalamazoo audiences. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Randall
Thompson's Frostiana both had their Kalamazoo premières at Norrix under Tom's directorship--
and on the same program! Here is the program from this historic concert, March 19, 1963.
Tom Kasdorf had impeccable taste in choosing music for the Norrix Choir to sing. He knew the
very best repertoire in the world of classical vocal literature. The choir sang in all languages
including Church Latin, Old English, Medieval Spanish, American dialects, African and Asian
languages. From motets to Mozart to the Missa Luba, Benjamin Britten, Brahms and Broadway--
they did it all.
(click on to enlarge)
While many students cherished their high school years singing in Tom Kasdorf's choirs, they put
away their performing selves after graduation. For those who entered the music profession, his
training was invaluable. Ask any performer in the business who had inspired them, and they often
reply: "I had this high school vocal music teacher...". T.K. was one such teacher.
Tom Kasdorf expected professional-level work from his students. He was demanding and impatient
sometimes, scary at other times. He stormed out on several occasions. You never saw a room full of
teenagers go completely silent so quickly!
(click on to enlarge)
Tom directed a number of different choirs at Norrix. There was the Loy Norrix High School Choir,
the Mastersingers chamber choir, the Sophomore Choir, the Women's Chorus, and the massed
Spring Concert, 1966 (click on to enlarge)
sister Martie after the 1967 Twilight Concert.
Tom always planned a very busy school year for his choirs: a Christmas Festival, a Spring Concert,
a fully-staged Broadway musical, or an opera in the Norrix Auditorium, a Twilight Concert at
graduation time, and other performances in the community at large. The Norrix Choir also performed
at various vocal music educators conferences over the years. Alice accompanied the Norrix Choir as
guest pianist on several occasions.
Record albums of Christmas music were made in 1967, '68, '71, '75 and '81. Some of Tom's students
sang solos with the choir, while others joined in with musical instruments to accompany the songs.
They were recorded in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church. FPC Organists Troy Carpenter
and Kathryn Loew played, as well as guest organist J. Gary Stuart, Minister of Music at Church of
the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois. Alice played celeste on several of these Christmas L.P.s.
Kalamazoo Symphony's performance of La Bohème, 1966
(click on to enlarge)
In addition to teaching, Tom prepared the Norrix Choir to take on the difficult opera choruses for
a number of Kalamazoo Symphony productions. Starting with Amahl in the early 1960s, Tom began
a successful collaboration with Gregory Millar, Music Director of the KSO from 1962 to 1968. Tom
also prepared choruses for KSO performances of Puccini's Madame Butterfly (February, 1966) and
La Bohème (November, 1966). Bizet's Carmen followed in 1967.
Tom conducted the Kalamazoo Symphony on a number of occasions. In 1964, he conducted the KSO
in a performance of Benjamin Britten's St. Nicolas Cantata, with tenor Gregory Millar in the title role.
Tom reprised the Britten at First Presbyterian in 1967, with David Gardner in the title role.
-Color Photography by Lance Ferraro, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Tom donned a white dinner jacket and conducted the 90-voice Starlight Symphony Chorus and the
Kalamazoo Symphony at the popular Starlight Pops series on the top deck of Gilmore's Auto Park
in downtown Kalamazoo. The concerts took place on Wednesday evenings in July, from 1963-72.
with concert by the KSO and Bicentennial Chorus
July 4, 1976
Tom also directed an array of community-wide choruses that were needed for various large-scale
works with the KSO. The Kalamazoo Symphony Chorus (1960s), The Starlight Symphony Chorus
(1960s), The Kalamazoo County Bicentennial Chorus (1976), The Flowerfest Chorus (1986-88), and
the Summerfest Chorus (1989 and 1990).
In 1990, Tom was invited to join the faculty at the School of Music at Western Michigan University
on an interim basis. He taught Choral Literature and Senior High School Choral Methods for the
1990 and 1991 school years. Tom went on to conduct the Women's Chorale for three years starting
in 1992, and The Collegiate Singers for another three years.
(actual date of the photo unknown)
Tom arrived in Kalamazoo in 1958, a recent graduate of Northwestern University with a Bachelors
Degree in Music Education. He taught Vocal Music at Central High School on South Westnedge for
two years. He came to Kalamazoo on the cusp of a new era for the Kalamazoo Public Schools: the
building of a new high school.
Named after KPS Superintendent Loy Norrix, the new school opened in 1960, but the building wasn't
ready. Until December of that year, Loy Norrix High School held classes at Central until they could
move into the new building after Christmas. Tom recalls going out to the construction site to get a first
glimpse of the facilities, and wondered whether the choir room would be big enough.
During summer vacations, from 1959 to 1963, Tom worked on his Masters Degree in Choral
Conducting at Indiana University. In addition to course work, Tom did some singing of his own.
He donned white priestly vestments and sang bass in the chorus for a production of Verdi's Aida,
performed at the I.U. football stadium. The backstage area was on the field, and Tom remembers
drinking beer on the fifty-yard line during breaks. It was a hot night in Indiana!
In 1963, Tom was required to conduct a choral concert for his Masters Degree recital, so he brought
his own choir with him! 25 students from Central and Norrix traveled to Bloomington to perform
for Tom on this important concert. His professors averred that no other Masters Degree candidate had
ever done this before!
With a Masters Degree to his credit, Tom segued into a summer job back in Michigan. He was
Musical Director at the Barn Theatre in Augusta the summer of 1963. He returned to the Barn in
1965, and was Musical Director there until 1969.
And when the month of September rolled around again, T.K. was back at the grand piano in the center
of the choir room at Norrix... da capo.
In the fall of 1967, Tom was invited to serve as interim Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church,
and took on five choirs: the Adult Choir, the Westminster Choir (senior high mixed choir), the Geneva
Choir (junior high girls), the Calvin Choir (4th to 6th grade girls), and the Boys Choir (4th-9th grades).
FPC kept asking him back year after year, until they stopped asking... To mark Tom's 40th year as
FPC Director of Music, a rank of "en chamade" (organ) trumpets were installed in his honor at First
Presbyterian Church in 2007.
Tom is a master at planning special music for FPC services throughout the church year. Choir members
never quite know the extent of his planning until the Sunday morning rehearsal when all the elements are pulled together. Whether it is organ with brass and tympani, or opera star (and former student) Susan
Anthony arriving to sing a special solo, they are all part of Tom's creative palette. It's white knuckle
fun singing in the FPC Adult Choir, "We don't want to peak too soon" is Tom's favorite reply when
choir members ask to go over a difficult passage once more. "It's time to robe and go up!"
In 1979, Tom's career took a new turn when he became the Music Director and Conductor of the
Kalamazoo Singers. A versatile mixed choir of the area's finest voices, they have a busy schedule
with their own concert season, as well as performances in KSO productions. They are core members
of the large-scale opera and oratorio choruses required for certain works.
The Kalamazoo Singers have performed an impressive number of operas with the KSO over the years
including: La Bohéme, Madame Butterfly, Carmen, Cavalliera Rusticana/I Pagliacci, Faust, Die
Fledermaus and Tosca. They also sang in Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the Verdi Requiem, the KSO's
75th Anniversary, Gospelfest, and Home for the Holidays, under the baton of Yoshimi Takeda, Music
Director of the Kalamazoo Symphony.
In the 2000s, Tom and the Kalamazoo Singers began their collaboration with Music Director Raymond Harvey. In 2009, the Kalamazoo Singers sang in a semi-staged production of Puccini's Turandot, conducted by Maestro Harvey. After 30 years, Tom Kasdorf retired from the Kalamazoo Singers in 2009.
Tom's wife Gail works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly for the Kalamazoo
Singers and the First Presbyterian Adult Choir. Thank you Gail for everything!
In 1986, Tom made the decision to retire from teaching at Norrix, after 29 years. That same year,
Tom Kasdorf was a recipient of the Community Medal of Arts Award from the Arts Council of
In 1989, the auditorium at Loy Norrix High School was re-named The Thomas R. Kasdorf
Auditorium in his honor.
The Kasdorf Auditorium will be the scene of a TRIBUTE TO TOM concert, celebrating his 30
years as Music Director and Conductor of the Kalamazoo Singers. The concert will take place on
Saturday, April 16, 2011, at 7 p.m. Music, memories and surprises are in store. For more information
on tickets, visit the Kalamazoo Singers website. Here is the link:
Thank you Tom for brightening our lives with great music,
much laughter, and the warmth of your friendship.
April 3, 2011
ALICE'S ARCHIVES PRESENTS...A Gallery of more Tom Kasdorf Memorabilia!
(click on to enlarge)
in the 1964 Startlight Concerts.
Starlight Chorus Rehearsals for Die Fledermaus with the Piccolo Opera Company, 1968
(click on article to enlarge)
KALAMAZOO SYMPHONY 1964-65 SEASON NEWSPAPER AD (partial listing)
MADAME BUTTERFLY, February, 22, 1966
KALAMAZOO SYMPHONY PERSONNEL, 1966 Season
(click on to enlarge)
-drawing by Ruth Junker
ST. NICOLAS CANTATA by Benjamin Britten, Advent Service, December 3, 1967
LOY NORRIX HIGH SCHOOL CHOIR Christmas L.P., 1967 (back of album)
4th FEST, 1989, Featuring the Summerfest Chorus, Directed by Tom Kasdorf
KALAMAZOO SYMPHONY Rehearsal Schedule, 1998-99 Season (Carmen)
ALICE'S T.K. AUDIO ARCHIVES
on WMUK-FM, under the supervision of Garrard Macleod.
Alice taped a number of these broadcasts by plugging in her Wollensak
reel-to-reel tape recorder into the FM tuner on the family Heathkit Hi-Fi.
What remains is a stack of reel-to-reel tapes in their original boxes, with
quite good labeling on them. Since the tapes all have multiple tracks, some
performances are shared with other concerts (or groups) together on one tape!
Alice was a KSO member and a choir family member as both her children
sang under Tom Kasdorf at Norrix.
Some Norrix Choir concerts and musicals in this audio archives were taped by parents or volunteers,
but might be on the same reel with some of the WMUK broadcasts.
REEL-TO-REEL TAPES that feature Tom Kasdorf as Conductor or Chorus Master:
-Christmas Festival, Loy Norrix High School Choir, December 12, 1961.
-Twilight Concert, Loy Norrix High School Choir, June 8, 1962
-Bye Bye Birdie, 1962
-Spring Concert, Loy Norrix High School Choir, March 19, 1963 (2 copies)
Printed program above
-St. Nicolas Cantata, Kalamazoo Symphony, conducted by Tom Kasdorf
w/ Gregory Millar in title role, December 6, 1964 (WMUK broadcast).
Also on Track A is the Christmas Portion of Handel's Messiah with the
Loy Norrix and Central High School combined choirs
-Spring Concert, Loy Norrix High School Choir, 1965
-Spring Concert, Loy Norrix High School Choir, 1966 (with printed program)
on the same tape as Madame Butterfly, Kalamazoo Symphony, 1966
(WMUK broadcast) (2 copies)
-Madame Butterfly, Kalamazoo Symphony, 1966 (with printed program) Reel II
-Carmen, Kalamazoo Symphony, February 22, 1967 (photo & review above)
-St. Nicolas Cantata, First Presbyterian Church, Advent Service, December 3, 1967
(with printed program)
2 LONG PLAYING RECORDINGS (33 & 1/3 rpm):
-We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1967)
-Here We Come A Caroling (1968)
Recorded at First Presbyterian Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Produced and Published by Delta Records Custom Recording Services, Chicago, Illinois
1960s / FELBER / MILLAR / KASDORF / Amahl and the Night Visitors in Kalamazoo
by Gian-Carlo Menotti, with Andrew McKinley (Kaspar), Leon Lishner (Balthazar), David Aiken
(Melchior) and Francis Monachino (Page) (publicity photo supplied by the artists)
While on their journey to see the Christ Child, The Three Kings stop at the cottage of a poor
widow and her son, a crippled shepherd boy. There, a miracle occurs....
In 1951, NBC Television commissioned the Italian-American composer Gian-Carlo Menotti to
write an opera for the newly-formed NBC Opera Theatre. The 45-minute work was the first-ever
opera filmed for the medium of television. It was performed on December 24, 1951, in Studio
8H in Rockefeller Center, New York City. This world-premiere was staged by Menotti, directed
by Kirk Browning, and conducted by Thomas Schippers. Menotti wrote both the music and the
A short clip of the original NBC production can be seen on YouTube. Click on this link:
The original cast of Amahl and the Night Visitors shown here included Chet Allen as Amahl,
Rosemary Kuhlmann as the Mother, and the Three Kings: tenor Andrew McKinley (Kaspar),
baritone David Aiken (Melchior) and bass Leon Lishner (Balthazar).
Menotti's inspiration for Amahl came to him when he was visiting the Metropolitan Museum
of Art in New York City and saw the Hieronymous Bosch painting, Adoration of the Magi.
AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS IN KALAMAZOO
Most of the original cast members were assembled for this tour the year they arrived in Kalamazoo.
Kirk Jordan, who sang Amahl, was a new cast member, replacing Chet Allen, the original boy
soprano in the role. Rosemary Kuhlmann, who created the role of the Mother, was also on the tour.
Having this relatively new work performed in Kalamazoo goes along with FELBER'S plan to
program more modern works for the Kalamazoo Symphony and its audiences.
During the MILLAR years, in the 1960s, many of the original cast members reprised their starring
roles in return engagements of Amahl and the Night Visitors with the Kalamazoo Symphony.
THOMAS R. KASDORF, Director of Choral Music at Loy Norrix High School, was in charge of
rehearsing the Chorus of Shepherds and Villagers, made up of talented students who sang in his
choirs at Norrix. Thanks to his philosophy of expecting professional-level work from his students,
Kasdorf's young singers were well-prepared for the rigors of the rehearsal process and the per-
Tom Kasdorf also directed his own productions of Amahl at Loy Norrix High School, starting in
the early-1960s. In 1979, when Kasdorf became Music Director and Conductor of the Kalamazoo
Singers, he prepared this versatile choir to sing the chorus parts in later KSO productions of Amahl.
Tom Kasdorf's involvement in the musical life of Kalamazoo is entering its fifth decade. He is still
a vital presence among us as teacher, mentor, church choir director, colleague and friend. It is fitting
that the Kalamazoo Singers will give a concert in Tom's honor. Their "TRIBUTE TO TOM" will be
conducted by Ronnie Oliver, Jr. who took over for Tom as Music Director and Conductor of the
Kalamazoo Singers after Tom's retirement in 2009. The concert will take place on Saturday, April
16, 2011, at 7 pm, in the Thomas R. Kasdorf Auditorium at Loy Norrix High School, 606 East
Kilgore Road (at Lovers Lane), Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Click on this link to learn more about the "TRIBUTE TO TOM" concert, and the history of the
OPERA NEWS INTERVIEWS ROSEMARY KUHLMANN
"Reunion: Rosemary Kuhlmann", by Rebecca Paller, OPERA NEWS, January, 2007
Click on the link below to read this 2007 interview with Kuhlmann, who created the role of the
Mother in the world-premiere of Amahl and the Night Visitors in 1951.
The Wikipedia entry on Amahl and the Night Visitors will give you further information on the
opera's history. Google the name of the opera and find the link to the Wikipedia page.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!