Music Education - Spencer and Wilkie

Jacqueline Wilkie and Aidan Spencer

Oral History of the 1967 Nordic Choir Tour of Europe

Aidan Spencer ’18, Major: Music

Jackie Wilkie, Professor of History

About the Project

“Through our research we hope to share the story of Nordic Choir's first international tour, which took place in the summer of 1967,” Spencer says. “Over the course of about five weeks the choir traveled up the coast of Norway, briefly through Denmark, and in both East and West Germany. This project will continue into the summer of 2016 and will focus on the production of a documentary and print release.”

What’s Been Most Challenging About the Project?

“Learning the difference between making a list of the people you would like to interview and actually coordinating the time and place to meet with them has been the biggest challenge of this project,” Spencer says. “Because this story is scattered across the country between the various choir members and administrators of the tour, the scheduling and conducting of  interviews has to be planned, in-depth, and purposeful.”

Wilkie adds, “Luckily Luther alumni love their school so much they actually return at predictable times throughout the year. We were able to interview a number of people at the Weston Noble Alumni Choir gathering and hope to reach more at Homecoming.”

What’s Your Most Fascinating Discovery?

Wilkie says she found it interesting to learn from the printed record that there was some discussion about what to call the choir in the advertising being released in Norway. “It turns out that the name ‘Nordic Choir’ sounded odd to Norwegians at the time,” she says. “So in the press releases in Norway the choir is referred to as a concert choir from Luther College rather than by its name.”

Spencer says she loved learning about the choir's experiences while on tour: “It was so interesting to hear their memories of being behind the Iron Curtain, crossing through Checkpoint Charlie, giving Kennedy half-dollars to children, and hearing pleas from the East Germans to be smuggled out of the country. It really expanded their perspective on global politics and made them appreciate their own lifestyles and opportunities.”

Why Was It Important to Involve a Student in this Research?

“I’m an expert on oral history and a significant number of the oral histories of the college in our archives were conducted by me or my students over my several decades of employment here,” Wilkie says. “What I’m not an expert on is the production of documentaries or video histories. Aidan has experience in the latter and she is a music major. Our skills combined promise a much better outcome than either of us working alone.”

To do research you need an intrinsic interest in the topic. Don't do research just to get a tick mark on your resume. That approach can end up feeling like a chore. If you keep your eyes open, you can find faculty doing things that mesh with what you feel passionate about, and then research is fun and educational.

Jackie Wilkie

It was great to be involved in every step of the research process and develop the end product with someone who I can work with and learn from at the same time. I've also learned that documenting stories and sharing them with others is very important to me and I want to continue to do that throughout my life, no matter what career path I take.

Aidan Spencer