USF choir celebrates 115 years of singing together with a reunion

The University of Sioux Falls choral program held a special choir reunion during the 2023 Cougar Days
Published: Sep. 30, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Not only did the University of Sioux Falls celebrate homecoming, or “Cougar Days”, but this year they celebrated two big milestones. As a school, they have existed for 140 years and one of their staple programs celebrated 115 years. The choral program honored its 115-year anniversary by hosting a choir reunion.

Current students and alumni from as early as the class of 1966 spent the morning rehearsing songs for a Saturday night performance at USF’s talent show, “USF’s Got Talent”, and the national anthem that they performed before the homecoming football game versus Augustana. The gathering gave Susan Jump, class of 1969, and Judy Oldert, class of 1968, the chance to reconnect. The two were roommates as freshmen at Sioux Falls College in the Fall of 1965. They both have numerous family members, before and after their college years, who have gone to SFC/USF and it was an easy decision to call the school home.

“I came here, met a South Dakota boy, I live here,” explained Jump. “South Dakota and Sioux Falls are my home and now USF is, too.”

They recalled stories of meeting their future husbands on campus. In their first year on campus, Jump and Oldert went on a double date. Oldert remembered coming back to their dorm and saying the date was a “bust”, but Jump would eventually marry her date from that night. While the double date didn’t go well for Oldert, Jump still got to see Oldert meet the love of her life when Oldert’s husband spotted her from across the quad. Their years on campus were filled with many memories

“Seeing the positive growth and the future of the University of Sioux Falls, I think that is so exciting,” said Oldert. “To see new buildings, new students, the enthusiasm of the students who are here, the growth and just how God has blessed this place.”

Things may have changed, yet they saw how things have stayed the same, too. They sang alongside generations from the same program.

“Well, music, what else is there in life, right?” Jump said. “The thrill of doing that today with the students and the alumni, it’s just over the top. I love it.”

David DeHoogh-Kliewer (known as “Dr. DK” to his students), the fourth tenured choral director in USF’s history, has been at USF since 2006. It was a rewarding day for him to lead the group.

“It’s humbling to be a part of history,” DeHoogh-Kliewer explained. “For this program to persevere for over a century and for me to get to play a part in that. The relationships created are what sustains it and it’s what I appreciate the most. Making beautiful music together and getting to travel and just meet together on a daily basis are the main reasons why I love my job.”

He reminisced about the piece of the program’s 115 years that he got to play a part in.

“I’ve heard them sing, they’ve been through auditions, we’ve traveled together across this nation and across the globe,” DeHoogh-Kliewer said with a smile. “As I look through these passionate faces who are performing from the heart, I’m just imagining, we were in Florence together, we were in Paris, in Prague or New York City or Los Angeles. It just touches my heart.”

They shared memories and the gift of music together. It’s a program that has meant so much to so many.

“Hopefully the legacy that has been created within this choral program sustains people, not only drawing them closer to each other, but drawing them closer to God and that is why we do what we do,” said DeHoogh-Kliewer.

DeHoogh-Kliewer sees something special in music that helps achieve those goals of drawing people closer to each other and closer to God.

“Music moves people,” DeHoogh-Kliewer described. “Particularly, our singers take the opportunity to feature the most personal instrument there is which is the voice. When we can collaborate with others, it just multiplies the effectiveness exponentially. I think that’s why people come back to campus to celebrate, to relive those memories and to reminisce together.”