Marc Erck ’88, Distinguished Professional
Known for his pithy sayings, “I’m here all week” and “There is no off position to the genius switch,” Erck’s commitment and discipline has never gone unnoticed. His sense of humor coupled with his high energy, compassion and wit, make him one of a kind. And he could always be counted on—giving many years of service by providing music for holiday celebrations, weekly services, and funerals. His hallmarks are abundantly clear to the outside looking in—the commitment to his craft, fanatical preparation, and above all, his devotion to religion.
The truth is, he’s known for all those things, and more. Erck has been in service to God and his community for decades by teaching, conducting and performing choral music.
Currently a National Curriculum Specialist at McGraw-Hill Education, Erck earned his bachelor’s of music degree in choral music—conducting, graduating cum laude from Southwestern in 1988. He later earned his certification in Advanced Church Music at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He’s both a certified teacher of All-Level Music in Texas and a Choral Music Adjudicator for the University Interscholastic League.
“Marc has affected my life by saying yes to something he simply didn’t have to say yes to,” says John Thornburg, who invited Erck to join him in a mission to provide music education to pastors in the Cameroon Mission of the United Methodist Church in 2011 and 2013. “It’s a courageous choice to go outside your comfort zone, and so I honor him for his courage. But Marc also affected me by showing a commitment to excellence over time. He knew that an enduring choral program takes time to nurture and develop, and he had the patience to stick with his practices and principles.”
Thornburg shares a memory of how Erck’s sensitivity as a teacher could change lives. “I shall not ever forget the gift he had of teaching some naturally gifted singers in Cameroon how to access more vocal power by engaging the muscles of their core. He simply extended his hand as if to shake hands, and then asked the singer to keep hold of his hand. He then pulled against the singer’s hand, causing the singer to exert pressure on her core, and the resulting sound astonished and delighted her. I hope to this day that those singers are still practicing the gifts Marc gave them.”
David Polley, a longtime friend and colleague, shares a memory from when he and Erck were both middle school choir directors bringing their best students to a Music Memory contest. “Since he knew that many of the kids would get a perfect score, we needed a tiebreaker. He added about five extra listenings which consisted of one to two second sound clips of random places within the selected music examples. Imagine “Name That Tune” in one note. My kids looked confused. Marc’s kids aced it. That was my first indication of Marc’s masterful teaching style.”
Erck’s work with the University United Methodist Church (UUMC) in Austin and conductor of the UUMC choir for more than 20 years still reverberates. As Director of Music and worship, he created hundreds of worship and musical experiences for parishioners and commissioned many new hymns and anthems for the congregation. Works he commissioned have been published by major music publishers and are being sung at churches throughout the United States.
“Marc’s contributions to humanity have been supported and highlighted by being a performer and believing in the strength of what music feeds the soul,” says Richard Buckley, artistic director of Austin Opera, where Erck as Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor for more than 14 years. “His 20-plus years as the music director of his church supports his true belief in God, and he has blessed his community with his service.”
For his accomplishments in the classroom, the church, and at the podium, as well as for his tireless dedication to sharing the joy of music in countless ways, the Southwestern University Alumni Association is proud to present Marc Erck with a Distinguished Professional Award for 2016.