Vonnie Elker, accompanist, MN State University-Mankato

Nominated by Aaron Humble
Presented by Michael Jeffrey (Southeast District Chair)

Photo l-r: Michael Jeffrey, Vonnie Elker, Aaron Humble

I don’t need to tell anybody here how incredibly valuable it is to have a collaborator, a partner sitting at the keyboard in rehearsal. Someone who knows where you’re going to go before you even say it aloud. For the past 15 years, that’s exactly what we’ve experienced at Minnesota State, Mankato. When I had my first lunch with my predecessor David Dickau in the fall of 2016, I asked about certain colleagues, and of course I asked about pianists and David gave Vonnie Elker, a rave review. Recently, he said, “Vonnie and I made a great team and she always worked incredibly hard to make great music happen. She could play anything I ever put in front of her and she inspired our students with her high standards. I am personally grateful for all of the premiere recordings she performed of my compositions. She has nerves of steel!” And if you’ve ever played a Dickau score, you know that his gifts as a fine keyboard player come through in his compositions. He expects a lot.

When David retired, I feared that Vonnie might go with him, but I was so pleased that she planned to stay on for a few more years. Her presence in the choir room brought a constancy that helped make my transition into the role as DCA smooth and graceful. Like so many, Vonnie’s retirement from MSU came at a time when we couldn’t celebrate her, so I am so pleased that we are tonight. Of course we’ll miss Vonnie’s musical excellence, but we’ll also miss her wit, her hand-knitted hand warmers for our frigid choral rehearsal room, and her construction-worker sized thermos of coffee. Please join me in congratulating Vonnie Elker, for her time inspiring us, supporting us, and making musical memories that will last a lifetime.