In Memory: NWU Professor Composes Musical Piece for Long-Time Friend and Alum

NWU music professor Jean Henderson knew she wanted to write an emotional piece.

Something with a lot of harmonic shifts.

Something that would highlight each instrument in the orchestra, especially the violin. After all, Henderson was writing a piece in memory of one of her favorite violinists.

Henderson’s long-time friend and colleague Larry Maupin was the orchestra director at Grand Island Senior High School for 38 years. He died of pancreatic cancer on December 15, 2009.

Henderson went to kindergarten with Maupin and remained close friends all the way through college, graduating together from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965. They followed similar career paths in music education. Maupin played an instrumental role in adding an honors orchestra to the university’s annual high school honors festival.

Maupin had a successful music career. In addition to his job at Grand Island Senior High, he was a member of the Hastings Symphony Orchestra for 40 years, a member of the Hastings Symphony String Quartet, and the founder and conductor of the Tri-City Youth Symphony for 25 years. He was also instrumental in bringing public radio to central Nebraska.

“A lot of people knew him,” Henderson said of her decision to write In Memory. “I wrote it on my own not knowing what would come of it.”

She spent most of her winter break writing a piece that was reflective and interesting for musicians. She admits it’s not an easy piece to perform.

“I can’t write anything easy,” she said, laughing.

“The ending didn’t end up as I had planned but that’s how these things work. It’s like writing a story; it just takes off,” she said.

In Memory was performed for the first time in February at Nebraska Wesleyan’s High School Honors Festival. It caught the attention of Kearney High School orchestra director, Dave Klein, one of Maupin’s former music students.

“He inspired me to be teacher, he was my idol, he meant a lot to me,” said Klein. “I’m honored to be able to play this.”

Klein’s 21-piece orchestra ensemble has been practicing In Memory for nearly two months. They will perform it at a couple of upcoming concerts.

But perhaps the most meaningful and emotional performance will be at the district music contest. The annual competition will be hosted at Grand Island Senior High.

“We’re taking the piece home to the very auditorium where Larry spent all of his years,” said Klein.

“There will be a lot of emotion,” Klein continued. “My students knew him and knew what he meant to me.”

Henderson is also looking forward to hearing the ensemble’s performance.

“It went well when I first heard it played at the honors festival,” said Henderson. “And I look forward to hearing it again.”

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