Gerrit Scheepers is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choirs.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
My terminal degree is in music performance with specialization in choral conducting. I mainly teach choir, and when the opportunity arises I teach the art of conducting as well as choral literature.
It has been an interesting journey to my current career field. I have always known since high school that I want to have a job that interacts with many people but also puts good out into the world. I wasn’t quite sure what exactly I wanted to do after graduating high school, so I started out as Bachelor of Medical Science student but also sang in the prestigious University of Pretoria (TUKS) Camarata choir. The turning point was during my sophomore year when the conductor resigned just prior to a scheduled Christmas concert and none of the seniors in the choir was available to conduct the choir. So, I was sort of obligated to conduct the performance by default. It went really well, so much so that several colleagues came up to me afterwards, asking if I am planning to pursue a career in conducting. The rest is history.
What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?
One of my favorite courses to teach is choral conducting, as well as choral literature. I really feel a sense of accomplishment when I see students grasping conducting concepts in the moment. Conducting equals moving, and moving in front of other people can be daunting. It requires a deep sense of vulnerability from the person moving (in this case conducting). Here at SDSMT I don’t get to teach conducting, but I can apply almost everything I have taught in the past to the choirs I am teaching every day.
What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?
I am really proud of the legacy I left behind at Missouri State University. I was the very first South African to study for a Master of Music at MSU. Since my graduation in 2016, another four South African students have gone on to pursue a Master of Music degree at MSU. Three of them already graduated and the newest one just started this fall. I also had the opportunity to leave a mark there by starting the Scheepers Memorial fund in honor of my late parents in 2019. This endowment fund, for which I was just this past month awarded the Rick & Dee Uebel Award for “outstanding support and advocacy of the Missouri State University Choral Program,” was specifically created to give other international students the opportunities I had to fulfill their dreams via the MSU choral studies program. That fund will change the lives of future conductors from across the globe (and already has).
What is a book, movie, or another work of art or media you’ve enjoyed recently that you would like to recommend?
A musical artist I am currently obsessed with is Gregory Alan Isakov. We have some connection in terms of our country of birth. He was also born in South Africa but moved to the United States at an early age. His music combines indie and folk genres. His music reminds me of Leonard Cohen, who is another favorite of mine. The first time I encountered Isakov’s music was in 2017, while studying in Seattle for my DMA. My favorite album of his is This Empty Northern Hemisphere. He is just a master with words. One of my favorite lyrics perhaps is from his song “Big Black Car.”
Tell us something about yourself outside of work. What do you enjoy doing? What’s a detail about you that your students might not already know?
I am an avid and prolific painter, and I love to make pencil sketches as well. I have done art since an early age. In 2020 – after almost a 10-year hiatus – I dusted off my pencils and started sketching again. However, my favorite medium to work in is acrylic on canvas. I finished probably eight paintings in the first 6 months of 2022. I do not have a specific genre I paint in – portrait, still life, landscapes – I’ll paint it all. My current favorite painting I call “Autumn from a different perspective,” pictured below.