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Dr. Paula Zerkle, professor of music

Dr. Paula Zerkle conducts the Moravian College Women's Choir at the Christmas Vespers service.

I studied piano from the fourth grade on and through high school accompanied the choir. In college, I decided to major in music, and eventually, I added French, which allowed me to spend the summer before my senior year as a work-study student in Paris. One afternoon I took a walk up the Montmartre, the big hill in the north of the city. Out from the open doors of the Sacré-Cœur, the majestic cathedral at the top of the hill, I heard a choir singing from the balcony. At that moment it dawned on me that leading choirs brought together everything I loved—singing, piano, languages—and a year later I decided to apply to grad school in choral conducting.

What class do you most enjoy teaching?

I love all my classes because they involve making music. Music is a wonderful end unto itself. It keeps you growing throughout your lifetime. But playing and singing can also teach you so much about yourself. A moving performance requires a performer to dive honestly into their own psyche and discover what they have to offer. All my classes and ensembles in some way lead toward this goal.

What is your favorite spot on campus?

The Pleasure Garden on South Campus. My office looks out on the grounds there, and I love watching the plants and trees change through the seasons.  

What is your favorite college tradition?

The Christmas Vespers. The choirs work so hard for these performances all semester, and we get to see our efforts flow out to the community. The evenings are filled with warmth and grace and inaugurate the holiday season for many people, including myself. Of course, this year will be a bit different...

What do you most enjoy doing when you are away from campus?

Spend time with my husband and trans son and our snake, bird, chinchilla, and two black cats.

What book, film, song, or piece of art has so touched you that you find it enduring, unforgettable?

I listen to all kinds of music, but the Beatles in some ways are my life’s soundtrack. I listened to them along with my (much) older teenage sister in the 60s, but I owned all their records by the 70s. Their creativity with lyrics, harmony, orchestration, and form have always been fascinating to me. I like their solo albums as well, but I enjoy George’s music and lyrics by far the most. I appreciate his honesty, gentle style, and spirituality.  My high school yearbook quote was from the song “Hey Jude”—“For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder.”  I have always appreciated people who risk being honest and real—whose “outsides” match their “insides.”  And I know this is corny, but I pride myself on the name connections. Of course, my first name is obvious, along with my middle name (Ring, my grandmother’s maiden name), but also my father’s name was John, and my dad started calling me “George” when I was a baby to prove to my mother that I didn’t respond to just my “real” name. The nickname lasted for years.

Jennika Borger, Chaplain
Adam Strouse, Class of 2021
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