Cheryl Zeman to retire as choir director at Grace Presbyterian

May 1, 2019

When the Grace Presbyterian Church choir sings its final note May 12, director Cheryl Zeman will retire after 18 years leading the group.

She also led the congregation’s bell choir for six years before that.

Zeman, who also is a vocalist in the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre musical group Loco Vocals, has retired as a school secretary. Rich Zeman, her husband, is the music director for the Beaver Dam Area Orchestra and retired as a music teacher in the school district in 2017.

Zeman is originally from Muskego and got her degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Zemans found a home in Beaver Dam and raised their children here.

“When I got this job, it was nice because I could finally use my degree and my skills,” Zeman said.

Zeman is staying in Beaver Dam and at the church, but has family in need of help in Minnesota and can no longer devote the time to being a music director.

She said she will miss the camaraderie.

“What I loved about this job in particular is that the choir members are a lot of fun and they get along well,” she said. “Everybody gets along well. We just enjoy each other. That’s why I stayed as long as I did, because it’s a fun job.”

The choir has stayed around 25 singers. Zeman said she can pick out plenty of people in the pews who have the talent, but not the time to commit to rehearsals, including people who used to be choir members but had their situations change.

“We do a lot of laughing and kidding around, but we get our work done, so its been a really nice, relaxing fun group to work with,” she said.

The choir rehearses on Thursday evenings and warms up before the 9:30 a.m. Sunday service.

“Really the neatest part of it is all these people who have this talent of singing are doing something for their church,” Zeman said. “That’s what their gift is for their church, for our church. We hear about how you should use your gifts and talents, and every once in a while, we’ll look around and say, ‘Think about how you could use your gifts and talents.’ Well, the whole choir has got it, we’re done, we know what we’re doing.”

Zeman said the choir performs different styles of music, whether gospel, more meditative songs, slow and fast, songs with instrumentation and so on. Her favorite composer is Pepper Choplin. Zeman has never contacted him directly, but she said that when she receives CDs to sample every summer, much of the music she is drawn to while listening is from Choplin.

“I could do three concerts of his stuff,” she said. “His stuff is fun and it gets a message across in a way that people listen. You’re not going to put the congregation to sleep.”

Pastor Chris Davis quipped, “That’s my job.”

The choir’s final performance under Zeman’s direction will be 10 songs performed in front of the pews. The group usually stands at the back of the church. The choir takes a break during the summer months when soloists and instrumentalists take over. The church will set about finding a new choir director at that time.

“In good Presbyterian fashion, we form a committee and the committee then spends 20 years trying to find the person who can walk on water,” Davis said.

The singers in the choir said they will of course miss Zeman. Ann Peck said Zeman knows how the follow the message of the service and incorporate other musical talents into the performances. Lowell Peck said it’s been great to just show up and sing.

“What an amazing person this woman is,” Ted Meekma said. “The fun almost borders on craziness.”