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A Note from the Poet

I discovered Connor Koppin’s music by happy accident. His 2014  setting of the ancient text “There is No Rose,” recorded by the National Lutheran Choir, struck me as so direct, heartfelt, and gorgeous. I wrote to him out of the blue and told him.

Through an odd coincidence, he’d been thinking of writing to me to see if we might collaborate on his next piece—a commission to celebrate a remarkable educator’s career. Would I like to write the text? We dove right in. Connor told me about Bob Anderson, and the profound effect Bob has had on so many lives. A long phone call to Bob covered the headlines of his life’s work as a choral educator, most of it happily spent at Linn Mar High School in Marion, Iowa.

Bob told me about the student ensembles he conducts, his joy at watching kids grow from freshmen to seniors, and especially the pride he takes when they dig in, support, and challenge each other to new heights in All-State prep.

As we neared the end of the conversation, though, I didn’t really have a solid lead to write from. “Is there anything I’ve missed, Bob?” Out came a tender story of his late grandfather. As a boy, Bob had been touched when a number of northwest Iowa farmers and townsfolk told him that his grandfather had essentially saved their lives during the Great Depression—helping them find jobs where none seemed to exist, training them for jobs they didn’t know they could do. Best one: his grandfather took a typewriter into the town tavern and taught men how to use it. They still remembered this generosity decades later. “My grandfather called this a circle of giving,” Bob said. “We never know how many lives we affect with our actions. I’ve tried to live up to that.”

So the image of a seed, planted and tended by a loving hand, growing, spreading out, touching others… The seeds in this case are the young lives Bob Anderson’s inspired, and his determination across decades of devoted teaching that each might grow and have an impact far beyond himself and become its own circle of giving.

Brian Newhouse

Spring 2017

A Circle of Giving

Commissioned in honor of Bob Anderson's retirement from a storied career at Linn Mar High School in Cedar Rapids, IA. 

Premiere: May 2017. 

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The Score