News and Events
The Gift of Music
By Jovie Baclayon
The soothing sound of a student practicing an aria fills the hallways of the Ahamanson Music Building and filters into Milt Pullen’s office. Music seems to find its way to Pullen, who is a professor of music and director of Pepperdine’s Concert Choir. Pullen was exposed to choral music at an early age when his older brother sang in a school choir. “Even as early as elementary school, I loved choral music. In my opinion, there is nothing more exquisite, more personal or more heart-rendering,” says Pullen, whose Texas roots can still be heard when he speaks. He earned his degree in voice and conducting from Texas A&I University and began teaching at Abilene Christian University in 1965. Pullen went on to direct award-winning high school programs in Texas for 24 years before joining Pepperdine in 1995.
Pullen’s latest achievement was directing the choir when they recorded their first ever publicly marketed CD in October 2004. “Sacred Songs From the Chapel” was commissioned by David Baird, dean of Seaver College, who had approached Pullen for years about recording a CD that could be sold at lectureships and help promote Pepperdine. “It’s a CD that is way overdue and we hope it is a blessing to our listeners,” says Pullen. “I hope people listen to it while they drive and that churches will use it for pre-worship times as people are assembling. I even think there are appropriate pieces for funerals.”
Planning for “Sacred Songs From the Chapel” began during the 2003-2004 school year and the choir began rehearsing when they assembled for the Fall 2004 semester. After just 12 rehearsals, the choir recorded the CD acapella in Stauffer Chapel in early October. “There was no air conditioning so it was quite warm inside the chapel,” recalls Pullen with a laugh. “These kids sang for two days straight plus they had the Fall Concert the day after recording! They’re such a dedicated group. I hope to do it again.”
The Pepperdine Concert Choir is comprised of 31 males and 32 females who are all undergraduates majoring in various disciplines, with the exceptions of Don Thompson, associate vice-president for planning, information and technology, Michael Murrie, professor of telecommunications, and Kevin Iga, assistant professor of mathematics.
The Choir performs annual Fall and Christmas concerts and a Masterworks concert accompanied by an orchestra in the spring. The group also sings at special events such as convocation and Parent’s Weekend. One of the greatest honors the Choir acquired recently was being invited to sing before the California Music Educators Association (CMEA) on March 18 at their convention in Pasadena. “We had to audition for the show, so we’re quite thrilled with the honor,” says Pullen proudly. “We’re working really hard to prepare for it.“ Pepperdine will get a sneak peak of the group’s CMEA performance at a concert held March 9 in Smothers Theatre. The choir’s annual Masterworks concert will be held April 19 in Smothers Theatre as well.
Outside of Pepperdine, Pullen serves as the minister of music and deacon over worship activities for the Simi Church of Christ in Simi Valley. He also leads a seminar titled “Face the Music” which focuses on strengthening congregational singing. “It teaches how notes and words come together to form a bond of expression that one without the other wouldn't have,” says Pullen. “A lot of times, churches put words on an overhead projector and people sing the tune, but they have no idea that the tune and the harmony are very important. There’s something about the tune that merges with the words to create an expression,” says Pullen.
It seems the love for choral music continues to flow in the veins of Pullen’s family. Pullen and his wife, Evie, have been blessed with three children, who are all teachers in Texas. Their daughter Tara coaches volleyball and tennis at League City Intermediate School in Texas. His twin sons, Sean and Kyle, are co-directors of their father’s former choir at Clear Creek High School “The gift of choral music is a wonderful emotional and expressive outlet that nourishes our body, soul and mind, drawing us more closely to our God and our neighbor,” says Pullen. “The dimension of expression rendered through the bonding of words and music in choral music is boundless.”
“Sacred Songs From the Chapel” contains 16 songs and can be purchased for $15 by calling the office of the Dean of Seaver College at (310) 506-4280. The proceeds will be used to record another CD.
For more information on the choir’s upcoming performances, please call the Center for the Arts at (310) 506-4522 or go online to www.pepperdine.edu/cfa.