Longtime SUNY Oswego music faculty member Julie Pretzat will lead the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble in a wide-ranging choral concert titled “An American Tapestry” at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29, in the Sheldon Hall ballroom.

A professor of music and former dean of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts, Pretzat joined SUNY Oswego in 1985 as director of choral activities. She also now leads the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble, thus the performance –- her swan song with the campus –- brings together many threads of her life.

The concert includes music from William Billings, Charles Ives, Judith Zaimont, Amy Beach, Nathaniel Dett, Moses Hogan and several of the new works commissioned by the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble over its 50-year history. 

Styles will include early American through more contemporary, including Shaker, hymns, spirituals, Southern harmonies and more representing the titular national tapestry.

One commission involves SUNY Oswego music faculty member Paul Leary, set to Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the Thing With Feathers,” arranged for choir, marimba, piano and flute with some electronic textures.

Another interesting commission is one by Syracuse University composer Earl George titled “Weather Reports and Other News,” using Shakespearean texts.

Musical legacy

Pretzat started as director of choral activities, and along the way conducted the College Choir, Chamber Singers, State Singers, Festival Chorus and more then took a leadership role for SUNY Oswego’s School of Communication, Media of the Arts for several years. She retired from that post to wind down her higher education career, with spring 2024 representing her last semester of active teaching.

She especially appreciates the variety of collaborations and opportunities to introduce new works throughout the years. 

One of the most notable was for Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light,” a live performance featuring Anonymous 4 coupled with showing the silent film “La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc.” 

Under Pretzat’s leadership, SUNY Oswego’s Music Department and Artswego commissioned and the world premiere at the university of “The Origin,” a multimedia oratorio composed by Einhorn and celebrating the life and work of Charles Darwin marking what would have been the influential thinker’s 200th birthday.

Pretzat also cherished collaborations with Theatre Department, including staged readings of “A Christmas Carol,” a choreographed version of “Carmina Burana” and many other musicals; with Oswego Opera Theatre for “Verdi Requiem” and “Carmina Burana”; Syracuse Symphony for Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Saint Matthew Passion”; Onondaga Civic Symphony for multiple major works for chorus and orchestra; and the Syracuse University Brass Ensemble for several concerts that included the Festival Chorus.

Syracuse Vocal Ensemble performs four concerts a year with one outreach piece, and this year’s being at SUNY Oswego was particularly appropriate for Pretzat to put a bow on her nearly four decades with the institution.

“It’s going to be a bittersweet kind of thing,” Pretzat said. “I have so many good memories of performances here in the past. I’ve made so many wonderful connections with faculty, former choir students and also community members.”

Tickets are free for SUNY Oswego students and those under 18 years old; and $10 for all others, available at the door for cash, Venmo or Paypal only.