The right note: Silvertones choir director brings national experiences home

October 2019 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

Debra Huddleston (center) with co,e of the Silvertones during a recent rehearsal. Nancy Jennings

By Nancy Jennings

She has performed at the White House, attended college in Austria, and held positions as an adjunct faculty member at Linfield College and George Fox University. Now, Debra Huddleston, choir director of the Silvertones for the past five years, is happy assisting locals find their voice.

“Whenever you’re in a choir, you become a family,” she said. In addition to putting on concerts for free during “First Friday” evenings, the choir regularly performs at local events and assisted-living communities.

Having recently resumed rehearsals on Sept. 20, the adult mixed community choir (with 22 members currently), is always open to adding more. And the ability to read music is not required.

“It’s non-auditioned, but I hope they can carry a tune,” Huddleston said, adding that the late Silverton resident Jean Hadley first formed the group in 1996 through Chemeketa Community College, where Hadley had worked at the time.

While most members are retired with flexible schedules, there was a younger exception to the rule.

“We once had an 18-year-old woman who was between jobs and not going on in school. She stuck with us for a couple of years, bless her heart. She loved it,” Huddleston smiled.

Born and raised in Silverton, Huddleston, 64, left home at 18 to attend college – in Austria. What propelled her to such a golden opportunity was a teacher in Salem who taught her how to play the organ.

“He had the connections over there, so I went and studied for two years at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Then I came back and finished my undergraduate degree at Hartt School of Music in Connecticut at the University of Hartford,” she explained, adding that she earned her undergraduate degree in organ and liturgical music, and her master’s in piano accompanying. She also plays the harpsichord.

“Both of my parents loved music. Mom’s dad taught steel guitar, and my mom had taken violin. My dad played piano, harmonica and guitar – all from ear – and used to play for dances in Silverton in the old days. I was doing ballet and tap dancing. In the second grade, I chose to take piano lessons,” she said.

Now a resident of Woodburn, she’s been the director of music for 22 years at the Woodburn First Presbyterian Church.

Her professional experiences are vast and impressive.

In addition to performing twice at the White House, she has accompanied choirs on European tours, and in choir festivals. She’s also worked with notable conductors from places including the Chicago Cathedral; Shrine in Washington, D.C.; the all-glass Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California; the Warland Singers in St. Paul, Minnesota; the American Boychoir in Hopewell, New Jersey; and the Oregon Bach Festival.

Away from rehearsals and concerts, she is also an artist at heart, creating colorful hand-drawn and painted greeting cards with musical decorations and themes.

For information on joining the Silvertones, contact Tomina Wolff or Kay Strobel. tmwolff@ymail.com. kaystrobel@gmail.com.

The Silvertones meet on Fridays from 10 – 11:30 a.m. at the Silverton United Methodist Church, 203 W. Main St., Silverton.

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