The Concert Choir, under the direction of Alfred de Jaager, typically presents a “farewell” concert in the spring to mark the departure of the choir for its overseas tour. Begun in 2007, the Concert Choir spring tour offered students a chance to perform internationally as they visited Spain, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic and Austria.
This year, the concert had special meaning since it was the final concert for de Jaager who retired at the end of the 2014 academic year.
“We wish Al well as he enters retirement and we thank him for his many years of excellent service. He has touched the lives of countless students and left a mark on West Liberty University that will not soon be forgotten,” said President Robin C. Capehart.
It was standing room only at the concert, held at Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church on April 27, as former students, fellow faculty, administration, family and friends filled the church located along National Road in Woodsdale. The concert featured sacred and secular music and ended with a touching rendition of the alma mater as de Jaager invited all alumni in the church to come up to the altar and join the choir in singing, “Dear Old West Liberty!”
de Jaager was director of Choral Activities and an associate professor of music at the time of his retirement. After joining West Liberty in August 1966, he went on to lead the University Chorus, the Madrigal Choir, the Concert Choir and the Opera Workshop. He also taught conducting and music literature classes.
“Al has been an ‘institution’ within our institution. Beyond his extensive and excellent service as a professor, academic administrator and director of choral groups, he has always represented a truly human side of West Liberty in terms of his positive interaction with students, parents, the public and his colleagues. Al’s record-setting 48 years of service have been permeated by his sense of commitment to his students,” said Dr. John McCullough, executive assistant to President Capehart, who has known him for43 years.
de Jaager has a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music degree from West Virginia University. He earned a Choir Master Certificate from the American Guild of Organists and completed graduate studies at West Virginia University, Westminster Choir College, University of Texas at Austin, North Texas State University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
He received an Award of Excellence from the American Choral Directors Association of West Virginia in 2002 and in 2006, he received the Professor of the Year award from the WLU Student Government Association.
Born in Paterson, N.J., de Jaager sold his Wheeling home and moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he recently built a two-story brick home.
de Jaager has visited Cambodia a couple times and has friends there, so he welcomes his relocation. His two-bedroom home has a balcony on the second floor and a tile roof that adds to the charm by creating usable space on the rooftop!
“It will be a great adventure. It puts me close to some other places I want to visit,” he said. “I’ve done a good bit of traveling — visited 30 countries. But I want to visit Vietnam, Thailand and others in that area. And you know we have a graduate in Thailand. There are alumni all over the world.”
The Siem Reap region is an international tourist attraction due to Buddhist temples and ruins such as Angkor Wat. de Jaager already has plans to enjoy a visiting concert performance by Yale’s famous a cappella singing group, the Whiffenpoofs, performing there in July. (Sharif Youssef is a member of the acclaimed group and also the son of WLU professor Mohamed Youssef.)
“As I leave West Liberty, I’m not burning any bridges. I liked the students, the staff, the faculty and I have no regrets. I spent 48 years doing things that were very enjoyable,” he said.