Teresa Taylor — Staff Writer
In 2018, Ryan Smit, instructor of music, began obtaining his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting through North Dakota State University to meet Dordt University’s doctoral requirements.
Over the last four summers and three semesters, the choir director has taken online classes. During the 2022-23 school year, though Smit will move to Fargo, ND to complete his doctorate.
“I had always wanted to get a doctorate, but it’s kind of difficult to do when you have a family and have to quit your job a year or two,” Smit said. “When I began teaching at Dordt, it made it much more feasible to actually do.”
Smit’s emloyer assists him and other professors obtaining their doctorates by paying for a portion of their tuition. Smit will also receive a percentage of his salary during his absence from campus.
“I can’t do everything online, especially with music. You have to conduct real choirs for them,” Smit said.
For the music department, professors commonly take a year of leave to complete their doctorate.
“For music, you can’t do it in the summer because the choirs aren’t there,” Smit said.
The choir director leaves behind four choirs, each of which he has invested years of musical growth.
“I don’t relish leaving Dordt for a year, I would rather just stay and keep teaching these students,” Smit said.
Although the over one hundred choral musicians will not receive Smit’s direction, the music department has hired another individual to serve during the interim period.
Dr. Robert Hobgood will assume Smit’s role as Choir Director for the 2022-23 school year. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Hobgood attended Covenant College in Georgia and then Westminster Choir College in New Jersey.
Following his graduation, Hobgood remained in New Jersey for six years and worked at Covenant Presbyterian Church as the Director of Music. Hobgood moved to Lawrence, Kansas to attend the University of Kansas and graduated in August of 2021. His degrees are in church music. He also plays the organ. Over the last eight months, Hobgood has accompanied several choirs at KU and is the Director of Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Topeka.
“I have sung in church choirs most of my life,” Hobgood said. “But my real love of choral singing began at Westminster Choir College where I got to work with many amazing vocalists and conductors.”
Hobgood’s skill and love for church music manifests itself in more than just choir.
“I also play the carillon, which is when bells in a tower are connected to a keyboard that looks like a giant piano,” Hobgood said. “Instead of keys, there are batons that you play with your fists and feet to move clappers that hit the bells and make the sound.”
Hobgood applied to Dordt after seeing the job posting sent to the organ and church music department at KU.
“Since I had gone to Covenant College for my undergrad, I was excited to apply for Dordt since they are similar in size and theological, educational framework,” Hobgood said. “Dordt felt like the right fit and I was excited to accept when they offered me the position.”
During his time with Dordt’s choirs, Hobgood plans to continue the “tradition of excellence that Professor Smit has established.”
“I am very blessed to step into a position with such a strong choral foundation and choir culture already in place,” Hobgood said.