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In tribute: Don Paschke shared his love of music across continents and generations


January 13, 2019

Courtesy photo

Donald Paschke and the University Singers carol for the 2017 holidays.

Don Paschke walked both the Great Wall of China and the Greyhound Arena, he braved flooded cobblestone roads in Venice, he made "puddin bars" for his students - all of that incidental to half a century sharing a love of music with eastern New Mexico.

When The News reached out last week for remembrances of the late Donald V. Paschke, his former colleagues and students did not miss a beat. Paschke, who passed last month at the age of 89, was remembered in the highest terms: an influential scholar, a lifelong learner, a humble and dedicated light to the community. From 1962-1994 he was a music professor at Eastern New Mexico University and meanwhile led church choirs for four decades, using music to bridge gaps. He is survived by two children and four grandchildren.

"Don Paschke was an outstanding musician and superb human being," wrote ENMU's music department chair and director of bands Dustin Seifert. "He was an excellent role model for our faculty and students. A dedicated lifelong learner."

That much is abundantly clear according to those whose lives he touched. In fact, Jann Hunter believes "it would be too large to estimate" how many lives he impacted, but for her and others it's multigenerational. Hunter, an ENMU-Portales professor of curriculum and instruction in Roswell, said she first really got to know Paschke once he started directing the choir at Clovis' First Presbyterian Church. He and his wife Helen became friends with Hunter's parents, Harold and Dottie Dalbom; years later, Paschke would tip his hat to Hunter's daughter Molly during his daily walk around the Greyhound Arena and sang with another of her daughters, Emily, in the University Singers group some ten years ago.

"He had such a genuine interest in others, in people that he knew," said Hunter. "That was a gift that he gave to the world....He was a contributor to something that I think is important in today's time that we hold onto. He was a person that cared about community, and who valued community, and modeled what that meant at every turn."

Paschke's influence was also multigenerational for Stephenie Wilkerson, now the choir director for Lovington High School. Wilkerson sang with Paschke in the University Singers; before that her mother sang in his voice studio during the 1980s, and before that her grandfather took voice lessons from him in the 1960s.

"I can recall that he was always so joyful to be singing - to be making music, even if it was with silly college students," she wrote. "He was so incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, yet was never presumptuous."

That's an ideal combination for an educator, and one that still impresses his old students. Colton Hardy, choir director at Albuquerque's Eldorado High School, recalled frequent conversations with Paschke after being seated next to him as a freshman baritone in the University Singers.

"Soon enough, I became friends with a man who was nearly 4 times my age. I remember standing next to Don as we performed Mozart's Requiem together, which is still one of my most cherished musical memories to this day," Hardy wrote. "Don was one of the rare human beings who dedicated their entire lives to furthering education ... He showed me how music can mend the gaps of generations and time."

Paschke maintained a "zest for life and tireless energy" well past his retirement, as ENMU vocal coach Kayla Paulk recalled of a 2007 trip to China with the university choirs.

"One the day we were to climb the Great Wall, we were a little surprised to see Don as one of the first choristers to board the tour bus," she wrote. "...several of our college students opted not to go and to remain at the hotel, as they said they were 'too exhausted' to climb the Great Wall. Don put these 18-21 year olds to shame."

Former ENMU president Bob Matheny recalled a comparable anecdote from a later choral trip to Venice, which happened to coincide with a hundred-year storm hitting the city and flooding the roads up to knee-height. Paschke was a little less certain on his feet by then, but Matheny told The News he saw students on the trip not hesitate to lift him up and place him on a boat.

"It was not just the act of doing it, but they were very responsive," he said. "It indicated to me that that was one of the marvelous things that takes place in a university setting and one of the positive things about the relationship between a university and students."

Paschke's influence also extended to newer faculty; when Jason Paulk joined ENMU in 2005 as a junior faculty member, he was astonished to meet the man whose scholarship he had himself referenced dozens of times in his own recently-completed dissertation.

"As part of Don's doctoral research, he translated the treatise of a Romantic-Era voice teacher named Manuel Garcia and this work has been used by generations of voice scholars since its completion," wrote Paulk, now the director of ENMU's choral activities. "I really benefited from his support, friendship, mentorship, and guidance. He was always the embodiment of a gentleman and a scholar, and always curious to learn and share knowledge. That kept him feeling young and allowed many students - decades and decades younger than himself - to engage with him far later in life than most people experience."

Music is a universal language, and Paschke knew a couple others, too. A previous recipient of the Donald V & Helen Paschke Young Singer Award recalled a moment from another choral visit abroad.

"On a 2010 tour of Europe, we were driving to the Terezin Concentration Camp near Prague and Dr. Paschke began singing 'Silent Night' in German ('Stille Nacht')," wrote Emery Garcia. "It was beautiful and solemn, and was a testament to the power of music."

Jonathan Lynch, a recipient four years ago of the scholarship in Paschke's name, told The News he was "sadden(ed) to know future musicians will not get to experience his wit in rehearsal.

"But like all things concerning music, he can rest easy knowing his life ended in this piece called Life with an impactful resolution," he wrote in a message.

Mick Jagger once sang, "Our love is like our music / It's here, and then it's gone."

But not gone so soon, not in this case.


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