has been leading vocal music in Redlands for 30 years
...Now Roger Duffer, artistic director and conductor of the Inland Master Chorale, celebrates 30 years of Redlands residency."Redlands was called Beverly Hills East back then," said Duffer, referring to the time of his move to Redlands, when he accepted a teaching position with the Redlands Unified School District, where he taught for 18 years.
"They took teachers on a tour of the town when they were new.You weren't just coming to Redlands to teach children, you were coming to be part of the community of Redlands."
How did you get involved? Duffer said he has known since junior high school that music would play a role in his life, yet he started college as a chemical engineering major at Northwestern University.He studied by night and worked at IBM during the day for about one year, then transferred to North Central College.
It was in 1980 when Duffer
was invited to become part of a group from the local music community gathering to discuss forming a community choral music group that would later become the Inland Master Chorale
"We sent out letters and advertised in newspapers for singers.We expected about 25 people to show up, we prepared for 60.But 125 singers showed up that night, so we knew there was a need for the group."
The response was not so great though to an ad placed looking for a director.Duffer
hat in the ring with the few other applicants, having no intention of taking the job.
"The plan was for the chorale to be organization-based, not conductor-based.So we set it up as a two-year position, with the thought we would bring in a new conductor every two years.
After several others auditioned, Duffer
was chosen for the job.
said the mission was two-prong: to provide a performance venue for talented people and a fine ensemble that can perform at a high level for the community.When Duffer began as director, it was his idea and the board agreed to change the chorale from a community ensemble to an auditioned ensemble.
The result was about 80 talented singers that Duffer
said have "gotten better each year."
For the first 11 years, the chorale practiced at the San Bernardino County Museum
, a sort of central spot in the area that intended to be inclusive of the Inland Empire.Now home base is First Baptist Church of Redlands, where Duffer also serves as chorale director.
"We try to do a mixed bag of performances," he
said, " from different genres, about four concerts per year.
"We have obviously fulfilled that two-prong need," Duffer
refers to himself as the "paid arm waver" but admits that he
did the job for many years on a volunteer basis, as most jobs within the chorale are done.
"I hope we continue to grow in quality," Duffer
"We have established a reputation for artistic excellence, purely the doing of Roger