Picture this: an architectural engineering major and his roommate in their college dorm room at Penn State University, the engineering major helping the music major with assignments from classes such as Music Theory and Ear Training.
The subject matter comes easy to the engineer-to-be, who has been playing the organ since the age of 9. He can’t help but wonder if he is enrolled in the wrong major . . .
If this was a movie about Kim Rauch’s life, this would be the scene where Rauch switches majors and begins taking classes that will earn him a bachelor of science degree in music education. Next would come a scene in which we see Rauch, decades later, still helping others learn about music. Because if there’s one thing you should know about Rauch, it’s that he’s a teacher at heart and this humble teacher has contributed to Johnstown’s music scene immeasurably. Thanks to Rauch, for example, children as young as 5 years old can get involved in Inclined to Sing, a music program that allows children to experience the joy that music can bring and, he says, “expand their perspectives about the world.”
Rauch founded Inclined to Sing 20 years ago; it exists in association with Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. The program includes the Inclined to Sing Chorus for children in grades 5 through 9, and the Inclined to Sing Apprentice Choir for children in kindergarten through grade 5 (grade 5 overlaps in both programs, he says, in order to cater to children who may not be ready to move up). In addition to providing quality music training, Rauch puts an emphasis on teamwork and confidence-building while also giving children unique opportunities to perform at venues around the region.
As the program’s director, Rauch has spent the past two decades helping children learn, watching them grow and witnessing the positive influence that a performance-based choral music experience can have on their lives.
“Inclined to Sing has been my personal dream choir,” Rauch says. “I cannot be more enthusiastic about the singers, their parents and our interns. In 2001, Andrea Mulligan, my wife Mary Beth and I welcomed our first group of singers. Andrea was the accompanist and Mary Beth handled details and connected with the parents. We wanted to enrich our community by having this program for kids. I am proud of our accomplishment and how the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra has supported us.”
Rauch also worked with young people at Richland School District, where he was employed for 22 years before retiring in 2014. He taught music classes and electives, worked with the middle and high school choirs and helped bring the school’s annual musical productions to fruition.
“Richland was a great school district in which to work,” Rauch says. “The students had musical talent, were energized, loved performing and were just great young people. Every day was a privilege to guide young people in music.”
Rauch has spent many years guiding adults, too; he has conducted church, community, school, college and festival choirs. He received his training in prestigious music programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
After his time at Penn State concluded, and after attending summer workshops at Westminster Choir College, Rauch enrolled in the College’s Church Music program in 1978. There were certain members on the faculty with whom he wanted to study so he could learn how to become the most effective choral conductor he could be.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if I could handle the conservatory atmosphere,” he says, “but the rigor and experiences I experienced there changed my life. The caliber of the school and the high expectations for excellence really helped me understand who I was to be as a musician.”
After earning his master of music in church music (with a focus in choral music), he accepted a full-time position as director of music for a Lutheran church outside Reading. When he and his wife moved to Central Pennsylvania, Rauch found a similar position at a Methodist church. In 1988, Rauch was eager to advance his education, so he enrolled in the doctoral program in musicology at the University of Pittsburgh. He secured a teaching fellowship, the “perks” of which included playing the organ for weddings at Heinz Chapel and directing Pitt Men’s Glee Club.
Rauch didn’t complete his doctorate degree, but that’s beside the point: his experiences at University of Pittsburgh allowed him to “gain so much in the field of music,” he says. Conducting the Pitt Men’s Glee Club was certainly a big deal; under Rauch’s direction, the club performed across the city of Pittsburgh and even toured throughout Europe.
“Each ensemble I have worked with has given me new skills, and the Pitt Men’s Glee Club is no exception,” says Rauch.
Currently, Rauch serves as director of Greater Johnstown Community Chorus. “The group loves singing and we love music and giving music back to the community,” he says. He also serves as director of music for Laurel Trinity Lutheran Church in Jennerstown. “The interesting thing about being at Laurel Trinity is that that was my home parish as a young person. The people are like family and I have the opportunity to serve and do music ministry there.”
His community involvement extends even further through his role as program director at The Grand Halle on Broad Street in Cambria City. “I have been involved with The Grand Halle and The Steeples Project since 2012,” Rauch says. “The project is meaningful to me because I believe in the preservation of our heritage and the former churches represent so much in the Johnstown story. Programming at The Grand Halle has been fun. Our 2019-2020 season includes organ music, the Nicholas Feast, a SongWorks concert and the Spring Victorian Tea. The Service of Lessons and Carols (scheduled for Dec. 20 this year) will be my favorite program of the holiday season because it uses the hall as a place for the sacred experience of Christmas with music and the Word.”
Nowadays, Rauch also finds himself back in the classroom: he’s an adjunct professor at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, teaching classes such as Music History, Music and Film and Music Appreciation.
With the winter holidays fast approaching, it seems appropriate to end our story by saying this: whether he’s standing in front of a classroom or a chorus, or sitting behind the keys of an organ, Rauch gives our community the gift of music year-round. And in true conductor fashion, he has championed the power of togetherness.
“Music and all the arts are what make our lives better,” Rauch says. “The arts make us an expressive people, a civilized people, a sensitive people. From the child who is finding his voice to the accomplished musician who shows us mastery of an instrument or a style, I applaud them all. If I can be a guide on that musical road for someone, then we are both blessed.”