Zanne Gerrard ’94

I joined the Wesleyan Concert Choir at the beginning of my freshman year. And somehow—and I’m not really sure quite when Mel [Strauss] kind of noticed me—but he was  really instrumental in allowing me to explore singing and blossom as a singer. …

He asked me twice to come back to campus twice after I’d graduated to come sing with the Wesleyan orchestra and the final one was his retirement party, where they did this beautiful piece, by Vaughan Williams, called Seranade to Music. It’s 10 soloists and he brought back 10 singers he had interacted with during his time as a professor here. It is one of the most luscious, beautiful, romantic tributes to music.

For me it sums up about a lot about how Mel opened up doors to that sense of music.

It makes me think a lot about how have I—or how does anybody—take the time to recognize talent or potential in someone?  And then create opportunities to let them explore that, without really putting on a lot of pressure about what the outcome is going to be.

I don’t know that I do that as well for other people, but Mel just kept giving me opportunities and I kept seizing them.

It was a huge part of my experience at Wes. And I’m very grateful. And I’m sad he’s gone.

Excerpted from the Wesleyan Storytelling Project