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Gerald Custer is a multifaceted choral musician, active as conductor, composer, editor, teacher and author. A native of Baltimore, he earned his B.Mus. in choral music education at Westminster Choir College, where he studied conducting with Robert Simpson, Dennis Shrock and Robert Carwithen, choral literature with Elaine Brown, and composition with Harold Zabrack and Malcolm Williamson. He also served as assistant conductor of Westminster's Collegium Musicum, directed student choral and operatic ensembles, and participated in conducting master classes with Wilhelm Ehmann and Robert Shaw.
He earned the M.Mus. in orchestral conducting with additional work in historical musicology at George Washington University, where he founded and conducted the University Chamber Singers and served as assistant conductor of the Alexandria (Virginia) Symphony Orchestra. While a graduate student at GWU, Mr. Custer was appointed adjunct instructor in the university's Department of Music, teaching voice and music theory in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. He is presently pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting at Michigan State University.
Mr. Custer has directed choral activities at Schoolcraft College and Oakland Community College in Michigan, and served as visiting faculty at St. John's Provincial Seminary and Madonna University as well as interim music director and conductor of the 100-voice Saginaw Choral Society, leading them in performances of the Haydn "Lord Nelson" Mass and Mozart Vespers with the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra.
For ten years, he was conductor and music director of The Arbor Consort, a semi-professional chamber choir that was the featured ensemble-in-residence at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. He has also served as both an arranger and guest conductor of the Dodworth Saxhorn Band, the nation's premier 19th century brass band, leading them in performances at The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and across southeast Michigan.
Choirs prepared by Mr. Custer have performed under conductors Gustav Meier (Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra), Leon Gregorian (Michigan State University Symphony), Dai-uk Lee (Michigan Chamber Symphony Orchestra) and Nan Washburn (Plymouth Symphony Orchestra)—the latter in the Midwest premiere of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel's rarely heard "Oratorio on Biblical Themes." He remains active in musical theater as well, conducting performances of Bernstein's West Side Story, Willson's Music Man, and other standard repertoire in both New Jersey and Michigan.
A prolific composer, Mr. Custer was a finalist for the Michael Hennagin Composition Award sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, and took first place in the composition competition that marked the 75th Anniversary of Westminster Choir College of Rider University. His music has been performed by the Westminster Choir under conductors Joseph Flummerfelt and Joe Miller, the Chapel Choir and Schola Cantorum of Westminster Choir College during the annual Festival of Readings and Carols, the State Singers and Wind Symphony of Michigan State University, the choirs of Concordia University-St. Paul, the choir of Case Western University, the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Ann Arbor, the Dodworth Saxhorn Band, the Interlochen Arts Academy Chorus, and the Westminster Williamson Voices under the direction of James Jordan, for which he is resident composer.
Mr. Custer's setting of Yeats' Innisfree was featured as the title track on the first recording released by the Voices of Anam Cara, directed by James Jordan, and his extended work for chorus, brass, and organ, the cantata I Kiss My Hand to the Stars, was premiered at Princeton University Chapel by the 2007 Summer Vocal Institute of Westminster Choir College. His original compositions, arrangements, and scholarly performing editions of Renaissance choral music appear in the Evoking Sound, Westminster Choir College and Calvin Institute for Christian Worship choral series published by GIA Publications.
Recognized for his innovative scholarship in the performance of Renaissance choral music, Mr. Custer has taught on the summer conducting faculty at Westminster Choir College and published articles in the Choral Journal of the American Choral Directors Association, the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Bella Voce, Pastoral Renewal, and other professional journals. He is the featured choral methods columnist for GIA Quarterly, a publication which reaches more than 20,000 musicians around the world, and serves as a choral clinician for GIA Publications. He was a contributor to Raymond Robinson's The Choral Experience, and has authored chapters on Renaissance performance practice, choral rehearsal technique, and the philosophy of choral music for each book in James Jordan's landmark three-volume work, The Choral Rehearsal. His book, Breaking the Renaissance Code, is slated for publication in the coming year.
Mr. Custer is presently Director of Music at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan, where he leads a multiple choir program and directs an active performing arts series.