Recently when asked how he got his start in music, Lander University associate professor of music Dr. Charles Neufeld quickly drew a deep breath and said, "I've been making music all of my life."
With an exhale of relief and a glow of pride in contemplating this journey, he continued, "I started singing in church and school choirs when I was in the first grade. I started performing in the fourth grade. And by the time I was in the sixth grade I was doing the lead in my school's Christmas show."
With a music career that has taken him from that sixth grade show to Lander, Neufeld is now set to open his first show as the university's choral director. And what better way to start than with the Lander University Singers and Old Main Singers annual holiday concert. This year's concert, presented by Lander's Department of Music and The Laurens County Chorale, is a presentation of "Messiah," an oratorio by George Frideric Handel. Two performances will be accompanied by the Palmetto Chamber Orchestra. Concert dates are Monday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Lander's Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center Auditorium and Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Clinton High School Auditorium.
Before coming to Lander, Neufeld marked his music career with such significant achievements as singing with the Phoenix Bach Choir for six years and performing with the Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra for three audiences of 15,000 people. He has taught at Newberry College, Washington State University, Baylor University and Arizona State University. Neufeld holds a bachelor's degree from Tabor College, a master's degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of musical arts degree from Arizona State University. He has received training in both vocal and instrumental music.
In addition to being Lander's choral director, Neufeld teaches voice and music education courses at the university. But whether in the classroom or on the stage, Neufeld has one very simple agenda. "My goal in life is to make excellent music with choral master works," he said.
And with the upcoming holiday production, Neufeld, Lander students and members of the Laurens County Chorale will do just that.
"This is going to be a special performance," said Neufeld. "I'm excited because we are putting together two ensembles that are under my direction. We have a group of students and a group of community members, and both ensembles are making great music. The dynamic of having the older and younger voices together is going to be a lot of fun."
The concerts are sponsored jointly by Carolina First Bank and the Gore & Ramage Allstate Insurance Agency, Clinton. This project is also funded in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding is from the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC.
The Dec. 6 performance at Lander is free and open to the public. For information, contact Lander's College of Arts and Humanities at 864-388-8323. Information about other upcoming Lander arts events is available on the university's website, www.lander.edu, then click on Calendars. Tickets for the Dec. 7 Clinton High School performance are available at Elaine's in Clinton and Earl Thomason Jewelers in Laurens or at the door.