Rider University has been awarded a $125,000 grant from the Presser Foundation to support the university’s Westminster Choir College’s Concert Bell Choir.
The grant will be used to create a specialized rehearsal space on the first floor of the Fine Arts Center on Rider’s Lawrence Township campus, said Diane Cornell, Rider development communications manager.
The space will accommodate the choir’s extensive collection of handbells and Malmark Choirchime instruments, and it will feature sound attenuation that will protect student hearing during rehearsals and minimize sound transfer to adjacent offices and classrooms.
The grant will also provide a security system for the instruments, which have an estimated value of more than $200,000.
The Presser Foundation supports music performance and music education of organizations that provide a broad range of classical symphonic, chamber, choral and vocal music.
“For 67 years the Presser Foundation has touched and enhanced Westminster’s music programs, campus, students and faculty. Their support has resulted in activities that benefit the entire university and central New Jersey community,” said Dr. Marshall Onofrio, dean of the Westminster College of the Arts. “We are deeply grateful for their continued support.”
Since 1953, Westminster has received more than $820,000 in contributions from Presser. In recognition of the foundation’s support of this project and many others at Rider, the renovated space will be named, “The Presser Foundation Bell Choir Rehearsal Room.”
Westminster is a four-year music college and graduate school that prepares aspiring musicians for careers as performers and as music leaders in schools, universities, churches, and professional and community organizations. It offers seven undergraduate degrees and 12 graduate degrees.
This fall, the college will relocate to Rider’s Lawrence Township campus. Extensive renovation plans are in place and are anticipated to be completed by the time classes resume on campus.
“The Presser Foundation trustees felt it was important to be part of the college’s transition to the Lawrenceville campus,” said Teresa Araco Rogers, the foundation’s executive director. “The renovation of rehearsal space for the celebrated bell choir aligns perfectly with the goals of the foundation’s capital support grant making area.”
Hailed for its virtuosity, the Westminster Concert Bell Choir has made 11 solo recordings and has been featured on numerous television broadcasts, including Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and NBC’s Today show, Cornell said.
The ensemble performs on the largest range of handbells in the world—eight octaves, from C1 to C9. Many of the bells are made of bronze and range in weight from four ounces to 11 pounds.
“Westminster Choir College is a leader in education in the handbell world,” Cornell said. “Thousands have attended Westminster for this very specific study, and Westminster is unequaled in the number of handbell ringers, conductors, clinicians and composers it has produced since its training and performance curriculum was first developed in 1978.”
The integration of the Choir College into the Rider’s Lawrence Township campus is part of Rider’s vision for the Westminster College of the Arts as a vibrant arts community that effectively serves the needs of students of the 21st century.
Students will have the opportunity to take advantage of programs and facilities previously not conveniently available to them without traveling between campuses.
Established in 2007, Westminster College of the Arts is composed of two divisions in addition to Westminster Choir College: the School of Fine and Performing Arts and the Westminster Conservatory.
Westminster’s Concert Bell Choir is among the Choir College’s seven primary choirs. In September, the Bell Choir will begin its 42nd anniversary season.