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William Reber to retire as director of Lyric Opera Theatre program

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

February 27, 2015

The announcement of William Reber’s retirement from his position as director in May 2015 signifies the end of an era for the ASU School of Music’s Lyric Opera Theatre (LOT). Since 1992, Reber has overseen more than 100 music theatre and opera performances.

Reber’s favorite thing about working on operas and musical theatre productions is the variety, for both himself and his students. “Many years I’d do the two operas and one or both main-stage musicals out of the four or five productions LOT produced. That provided a needed variation in style and rehearsal procedures, as well as allowing me to do works from both genres and using that as a teaching guide for our student conductors, pianists, and singers,” says Reber.

The LOT is a community with a history of dedicated people who have worked with the program for long periods of time. As a testament to this longevity, there have only been two artistic directors since the program’s inception 24 years ago: Kenneth Seipp and Reber.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with two outstanding and very different stage directors: Professor Dale Dreyfoos and Graham Whitehead, “says Reber. “Each has had unique insights into the productions we’ve done together, making each experience with them treasured memories.”

Dale Dreyfoos, interim director of the LOT, says, “Dr. Reber’s love of teaching is absolutely legendary, and we are all so much the richer for having had the wisdom and benefit of his example of what it takes to be a truly great teacher and mentor. No one can ever replace Dr. Reber as the ‘heart, mind and soul’ of Lyric Opera Theatre.”

Reber’s dedication has made the program grow in both size and excellence during his time as director. He believes his greatest accomplishments at ASU include developing the conducting programs in musical theatre and opera, which are two of only a few in the U.S. to address the specific knowledge required to be a successful music director for musical theatre or conductor in the opera pit.

As a combined program, LOT is unusual in that it produces both musicals and operas, allowing students to work in both areas and discover their true interest and talent.

“I’m also very appreciative of the support our program has consistently received not just from the School of Music but also from the Herberger Institute,” Reber says. “We have so many alums who are now working in one aspect of the profession or another. That is what makes me most proud about what has been accomplished here during the past 24 years.”

Reber’s leadership and focus on creating a positive experience for all students has made an indelible mark on the lives of the people with whom he has worked.

“I have enjoyed my time with Dr. Reber because he takes a vested interest in creating amazing music and helping students realize their potential,” says Jennifer Jones, Doctor of Musical Arts student in vocal performance. “Dr. Reber’s mentorship has provided me with a platform to explore this amazing field, and the impetus to perform at a professional level.”

“My favorite memory of Dr. Reber was on my cast’s last performance of ‘Cosi Fan Tutte,’ when we had a huge storm that flooded the basement of the [Music Building] where the orchestra pit is,” says Asleif Willmer, Doctor of Musical Arts student in vocal performance. “We almost had to cancel our performance, but Dr. Reber rose to the occasion and did the whole show himself on the piano. He had not played the opera in many years, but he is an amazing pianist and was the best orchestra we could ask for as singers.”

“Dr. Reber is a supportive mentor with a seemingly endless supply of useful information,” says Josef Curtis, Doctor of Musical Arts student in vocal performance. “I will always be indebted to him for the countless things I have learned both in coachings and in front of his baton.”

The ASU School of Music is holding a celebration in honor of Reber, beginning with the LOT performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera “Owen Wingrave,” at 2 p.m. on March 1, followed by a reception on the School of Music 3rd floor patio. The next day, on March 2, the festivities will continue with a gala concert featuring performances by faculty, current and former students from the LOT and vocal programs, at 7:30 p.m. at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre.

“Benjamin Britten was still composing when I began my conducting training,” says Reber. “During my DMA studies, I enrolled in one of the first classes devoted to studying his operas. So, it was only natural that I identified with him and have found many occasions to perform his operas and non-theatrical works. This production will be my tenth Britten opera, the sixth at ASU.” 
Founded in 1964, LOT celebrated its 50th anniversary season during the 2013–2014 academic year. LOT presents five shows per season: two operas and two musicals and one student musical production. A search is currently underway to select Reber’s replacement.

From offbeat productions of little-known works to classic repertoire, the LOT program has prided itself on the variety of shows it produces. The 2014–2015 lineup of shows has included an opera double bill with “Dido and Aeneas” and “La Serva Padrona,” as well as “Owen Wingrave,” and the musicals “Children of Eden” and “Anything Goes.” This year’s student-produced workshop was “Reefer Madness.”

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Public Contact: 
Heather Beaman
Communications Liaison for the School of Music

Media Contact:
Heather Beaman
Communications Liaison for the School of Music