Peggy Dettwiler - Choral Conductor & Clinician

Click to View: Hear the Voices August 2013 – #15

Click to View: Hear the Voices January 2013 – #14-2

Thirty-two women from the Mansfield University Concert Choir performed as the Nuns Chorus in a concert of “The Sound of Music” presented in Carnegie Hall on April 24.

Rob Fisher, an internationally known artist in American music and musical theatre, conducted the production. He has directed and produced other similar performances at Lincoln Center and supervised Broadway revivals of Anything Goes, Hair, The Apple Tree, and Wonderful Town and received a Grammy Award for Chicago.

The Carnegie Hall production of The Sound of Music also featured numerous Broadway veterans, including Laura Osnes, Brooke Shields, Tony Goldwyn, Patrick Page, Veanne Cox, and Metropolitan Opera star mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe.

All expenses were covered by the Carnegie Foundation for the Mansfield women and their director, Peggy Dettwiler, who were invited by Rob Fisher to be a part of the cast.  The story behind the invitation is unique.

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  The typical answer is “practice, practice, practice!”  But the women of the Concert Choir at Mansfield University found out that first you have to practice, then go to Wales and win an international choral competition.  Which they did!  The Mansfield folks reached it by a circuitous road: the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales.

One of the judges in Llangollen was Rob Fisher—conductor, producer, and artistic director in New York City—who liked the women’s voices from Mansfield so much (they were awarded First Prize in the competition in Wales) that he thought they might serve as the “Chorus of the Nuns” in a concert-production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music he was planning as a fundraiser for Carnegie Hall for the spring of 2012.

Contact was established in the fall of 2011. Mansfield University authorities gave their approval to whisk students away from studies close to the end of the school year, and plans proceeded for an unforgettable encounter with the glamorous world of Carnegie Hall, one of the most historical of American concert halls.  Tchaikovsky conducted there, and so did Dvořák and Mahler more than a hundred years ago.  To reinforce the educational experience, the musical was staged this spring at Mansfield University in Straughn Hall.

On Sunday, April 22, the MU women arrived at Carnegie Hall and spent two days in rehearsal before the performance on April 24.  They were treated like royalty, warmly greeted by the stars of the show and Carnegie staff, given presents and backstage passes; in other words, recognized as artists.  Upon entering the hall, they were overwhelmed by the elegance and beauty of this most famous of American concert venues.  Being on stage for all of the rehearsals and the performance gave the MU women a powerful glimpse of everything that goes into making great stage performances. The process of preparing for the production was as enjoyable as the thrill of the performance itself!

Several students commented in a journal reflecting on their experience:

Danielle Montgomery, who played Maria in the MU production, said:  “At our first rehearsal I was blown away with the way we sounded singing in the hall; at our second rehearsal I was blown away with the professional actors and actresses who were in the cast.  One thing that really struck me was their amazing personalities.  They were not only talented, but funny and kind as well.  The entire cast and crew received our choir very well and treated us like professionals.”

Daniela DiBenedetto, who is completing a music business degree and was Liesl in the MU production, wrote;  “One of my favorite parts about the whole experience was getting to see professional musicians and directors at work.  As a career I would love to work in live theatre, whether it be in management, administration, production, or performance.  When I walk into a theater it just feels so welcoming, comfortable and exciting all at the same time; I never want to leave, and that’s how I felt as soon as I walked into Carnegie Hall.  Watching these wonderful professionals and getting the chance to see how they worked in a rehearsal setting was just exhilarating for me.”

Another member of the MU nuns chorus, Sarah Eline wrote: “It is hard to put into words just exactly how moving, touching and amazing the whole experience was of being able to perform in and on the stage of Carnegie Hall.  The most breathtaking part was not the stars, the famous stage or the fact that we performed the Sound of Music.  No, it was the sudden silence, then roar of applause that we, the Women’s Choir of Mansfield University, received after many months of hard work and dedication.”

Bruce Pomahac, Director of Music for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Estate, attended the rehearsal on Monday, April 23.  He spoke to Peggy Dettwiler at a break and said: “The women are brilliant!  They are the best nuns chorus I have heard since the original broadway cast….Your women are going to be the stars of the show!  They’re wonderful!”

In a personal letter, Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director for Carnegie Hall, wrote to Dettwiler:  “Congratulations on your truly magnificent performance in our presentation of ‘The Sound of Music’ on April 24…. The music of the nuns was truly ethereal.”

And, finally, at the cast party following the performance, Rob Fisher, who invited the MU group and conducted the performance, said “I couldn’t be happier with our collaboration. I am really glad that I went to Wales!”

The Sound of Music performance was hailed by the press as well as the VIPs of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Estate and the Carnegie Foundation.   And our Mansfield women were specifically mentioned by each one!

“The musical highlight of the evening was sung by the women of the Mansfield University Concert Choir.  As the chorus of nuns, they were staged in several corners and levels within the Carnegie Hall seating areas for their opening ‘Preludium.’  The beautiful a capella sounds coming at the ear from various heights and distances was thrilling to hear.”

Read the full review at:
(Michael Dale in

“Special mention to the Women of the Mansfield University Concert Choir, who supplied breathtaking renditions of the liturgical music in the show.”
Read the full review at: “The Sound of Music” – Carnegie Hall – Theatre Aficionado at Large
(The Theatre Aficionado at Large)

“The uneven vocal performances were minor drawbacks in a concept that made the best possible case for the music, especially Robert Russell Bennett’s orchestrations and the show’s ‘Preludium,’ in which nuns (the women of the Mansfield University Concert Choir) bearing electric candles, sung from all four corners of the house.”

Read the full review at: ‘Sound of Music’ Carnegie Gala With Orchestra of St. Luke’s –
(Stephen Holden in the New York Times)

Click Here to view the May 2012 Issue of Hear the Voices (#12)

Click Here to View the Hear the Voices Newsletter: January 2012

Peggy Dettwiler, professor of Music and director of Choral Activities at Mansfield University ofPeggy Dettwiler (center) receives the 2010  Elaine Brown Award from O. David Deitz and fellow MU faculty member  Sheryl Monkelien. Pennsylvania, was honored with the 2010 Elaine Brown Award for Choral Excellence at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) of Pennsylvania annual summer conference in State College on August 2.

The award is presented “to an individual for outstanding lifelong work in the choral art.”

In introducing Dettwiler, along with O. David Deitz, fellow MU faculty member Sheryl Monkelien said of her colleague, “her direct involvement with students and faculty on our campus is monumental. She is an extremely valued colleague in the music department and a strong presence in the community.”

Dettwiler has been a member of the Mansfield faculty since 1990. She conducts the Concert Choir, the Festival Chorus and teaches choral conducting and methods.

Under her direction, the Concert Choir won the championship in the Gospel and Spiritual category at the 2008 World Choir Games in Graz, Austria. The Concert Choir has also been invited to perform at at least one state, regional, national or international choral convention for 18 consecutive years.

Dettwiler has served as a guest conductor and lecturer throughout the country and has given presentations at numerous ACDA national, regional and state conventions. The MU Student Chapter of ACDA, which she advises, was recognized as the Outstanding Student Chapter in the Nation in 1997 and 2001.

Dettwiler served as ACDA of Pennsylvania president from 2001 to 2003.

In accepting the award, Dettwiler said she was “overwhelmed and honored.”

She also talked of presenting at ACDA divisional conferences in Seattle, Tucson and Minneapolis while on sabbatical this spring.

“Having seen and heard great choral performances at these conferences, I know that choral music is alive and well in this country despite the current economy,” Dettwiler said.

MANSFIELD, PA— “Love Came Down,” this year’s Mansfield University Music Department Holiday Choral Concert, will be broadcast on several media outlets during the holiday season.
– WSKG-TV (PBS, Binghamton) will broadcast the concert on December 17 at 10 p.m.
– WVIA-TV (PBS, Scranton-Wilkes Barre) will also show the concert on Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. and again on Christmas Day at 11 a.m.
– WETM2-TV (Elmira) and will simulcast the concert on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m.  and again on December 26 at 4 p.m.
– Blue Ridge Cable will broadcast this year’s concert several times in the Northern Tier on Cable Channel 13. The concert will be broadcast at noon, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Christmas Day. On December 26 and 27 it will be broadcast at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
– Blue Ridge Cable will also broadcast the concert in the Pocono region on Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. on Cable Channel 13.

The program, produced and directed by Director of Choral Activities Peggy Dettwiler, features almost 200 musicians with music for men’s, women’s, and mixed choirs from the Renaissance period to the 21st century that describe love in the sacred and secular world.

The broadcasts are produced and directed by MU Director of Media Services Mark Polonia and the MU Public Relations Department, with editing by Wade Spencer.

The broadcast is a one-hour version of the concerts original performance on December 5 in Steadman Theatre.

The Mansfield University Music Department invites you to celebrate the holiday season in a concert of choral music on the theme, “LOVE CAME DOWN.” Almost 200 musicians will perform, under the direction of Peggy Dettwiler, on Saturday, December 5, at 7:30 pm in Mansfield University’s Steadman Theatre in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, and on Sunday, December 6, at 7:30 pm in the Troy High School Memorial Auditorium in Troy, PA.

The concerts will feature a wonderful mixture of classical and popular pieces sung at times under the magic of candlelight.  Selections by Bach, Mendelssohn, Bruckner, Howells, and Hogan as well as other familiar holiday favorites for men’s, women’s, and mixed choirs from the Renaissance period to the 21st century that describe love in the sacred and secular world will resound from Mansfield University’s Steadman Theatre and Troy’s Auditorium.  Familiar carols and hymns for audience participation will add to the holiday spirit.  The choirs will combine for a celebratory finale, entitled “Rejoice,” written for voices, brass, organ, and percussion by Gwyneth Walker.

Tickets will sell for $10 to adults, $8 to senior citizens, and $5 to students and children and may be purchased on-line through the Mansfield University website at or reserved by calling 570-662-4710.   Patrons are encouraged to arrive 30 minutes before concert time to get preferred seating.   Join us to experience in music how LOVE CAME DOWN.

“The Mansfield University Concert Choir and Mansfieldians swept the World Choir Games by storm with two championships and one 2nd place in Graz, Austria!  They won the categories entitled Gospel & Spiritual and Vocal Jazz A Cappella with scores of more than 92 and 89 points, respectively, out of 100.  In the Mixed Youth Choir category, the Concert Choir placed second to a choir from Japan with less than one-point difference (92.38 to 93.25.)  They were judged on intonation, tone quality, fidelity to the score, and artistic expression by six separate international panels of judges over the four-day competition.  Peggy Dettwiler, Director of Choral Activities at Mansfield, led the Concert Choir and Sheryl Monkelien, Associate Professor of Music Education, directed the Mansfieldians.  Overall, the Mansfield groups earned 6 gold medals in both qualifying and final rounds. They were ranked higher than 63 choirs from 18 countries:  Australia, Austria, China, Croatia, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and the USA.

The Fifth World Choir Games took place over eleven days between July 9 and 19 in Graz.  The Mansfield choirs participated in Part I of two parts that included 28 categories.  Overall, more than 20,000 singers in 441 choirs from 93 countries competed in the festival.”

The Annual Choral Collage, featuring all of the Mansfield University vocal ensembles, will take place on Saturday, October 25, at 7:30 pm in Steadman Theatre.  Almost 200 singers under the direction of Peggy Dettwiler and Sheryl Monkelien, as well graduate student conductors, John Hunter II and Masashi Kishimoto, will perform.  The ensembles include the Men’s and Women’s Choirs, Festival Chorus, Mansfieldians, and the Concert Choir.  The program will feature a wide variety of works from the Renaissance period through Gospel and Jazz styles — something to satisfy everyone’s taste!

Masashi Kishmoto, conductor in the MU Masters Degree Program, will lead the Women’s Choir on a unique Japanese folksong called “Hotaru Koi,” and John Hunter, also a student working on his Masters Degree, will take the podium leading the Men’s Chorus on a chorus by Franz Schubert.  The Festival Chorus will set the stage for the university’s spring major choral-orchestral works by presenting “Introit and Kyrie” from the Fauré Requiem and “Gloria” from Haydn’s Mass in Time of War. The Concert Choir, newly formed – but maintaining their championship excellence from their summer award-winning performances in Europe, will present a glorious English psalm motet by William Byrd, a lush 19th-Century German motet by Rheinberger, and a beautiful song composed for a wedding from the Biblical story of Ruth.   The Mansfieldians will delight the audience with their vocal jazz renditions including the popular, “Voice Dance.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear some fabulous choirs in their first appearance this year in Steadman Theatre!   Admission is free to all persons!