Westminster Choir College of Rider University has been awarded a $1 million gift from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pa., to establish the Elsie Hilliard Hillman Endowment Fund to support the Westminster Choir’s touring performances.
The gift was made in memory of his wife of 70 years who died on Aug. 4, 2015, and in recognition of what would have been her 90th birthday on Dec. 9.
“Elsie had great devotion to Westminster Choir College having attended it and given her family’s longstanding connection to the school,” said Mr. Hillman in announcing the gift. “She believed that traveling performances by the Westminster Choir were not only beneficial to its student members, but were a wonderful way to bring further recognition to the Choir and to Rider University.”
Elsie Hillman’s grandmother, Katharine Houk Talbott, was the first major benefactor of Westminster Choir College, which was founded at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio. Elsie studied at Westminster in the late 1940s.
“Rider University is grateful to Henry L. Hillman for this investment in Westminster Choir College and our students,” said Rider University President Gregory G. Dell’Omo. “The Westminster Choir’s annual tours and other off-campus performances offer our students exceptional opportunities for musical growth. They also provide a platform for engaging with high school students who are considering a career in music and connecting with our alumni and friends.”
“It means a great deal to us and to our students to carry on Elsie’s legacy through the Westminster Choir’s touring performances,” said Westminster’s dean, Matthew Shaftel. “We are extremely grateful for the Hillman family’s extraordinary generosity to Westminster Choir College. They have helped us to transform so many lives through such projects as the Elsie Hilliard Hillman Chair for Artistic Direction, endowed scholarships, technology renewal on campus and, most recently, the construction of a new academic building, home of the Hillman Performance Hall. Thanks to the Hillman family’s support, our alumni are able to achieve unparalleled success making an impact on their communities.”
Composed of undergraduate and graduate students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University and conducted by Joe Miller, the Westminster Choir has been setting the standard for choral excellence for 85 years. It has been the chorus-in-residence for the prestigious Spoleto Festival USA since 1977, performing both in concert and as the opera chorus. American Record Guide has described the Westminster Choir as “the gold standard for academic choirs in America. ”
The ensemble’s 2015-2016 season includes performances and broadcasts at its home in Princeton and its annual residency at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C. Its performance of John Adams’ El Niño at the 2014 Festival was praised by The New York Times as “… superb. Meticulously prepared, the chorus was remarkable for its precision, unanimity and power.”
Each January the Westminster Choir embarks on a two-week tour of one region of the United States. Its January 2016 tour will take it to Boston; Long Island; Washington, D.C.; Richmond; and Greensboro, and it will include concerts and workshops in area high schools. The tour will culminate in a Homecoming Concert at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton on Monday, Jan. 25, which will be broadcast and webcast live by WWFM The Classical Network.