James Gentner ’70 still keeps in touch with his fellow alumni from Denison Singers, an ensemble that flourished for 42 years, from 1961 until 2003, and toured widely across much of this country. The Singers also traveled on a dozen foreign tours, mostly in Europe, ranging from Portugal and The Netherlands to Ukraine, but also once in Venezuela.
Gentner and the Denison Singers choir alumni group continue meeting over Zoom every two weeks, along with professor emeritus and still current director of Denison Singers, William Osborne.
Their sustained connection makes sense. Gentner spent most of his time at Denison around the music department. He was a music major and sang in three different choirs, practicing and going to rehearsals “almost every day.”
Student job leads to career
Gentner’s student job as a music librarian influenced him most of all. He enjoyed his role cataloging music scores in the library and it was Osborne who recommended that he pursue his passion.
“If I got a PhD in musicology,” Gentner told Osborne in a meet-up for lunch while at graduate school, “I might not get a decent job.”
“You loved being a choral librarian,” Osborne told him. “Why don’t you go to library school and make it a career?”
Gentner followed Osborne’s advice and earned a Library Science degree at the University of Illinois, which led to a fruitful career as a music librarian and even a job at the Library of Congress.
Relevant courses contribute to career success
His Denison education had provided him with an early class in computer programming, rare for the 1960s, which helped him as he learned to catalog in his library career. He was ahead of the game as he entered his career in the 1970s, learning and applying new technology.
When his husband took a job in Vienna in the late 1980s, Gentner left the Library of Congress and worked at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, cataloging a “small collection.”
“I always would tell people, I knew nothing about trade law,” he said. “But I knew computers.”
Gentner has since retired in Rhode Island, and visited Vienna again on vacation this past summer. He also attended the Denison Singers reunion in July, and enjoyed touring the Eisner Center.
“There was nothing like that at Denison when I was there,” he said. “We practiced at Burton. The rooms used to be dorm rooms, and there was no sound installation. You walked down the hall, and you heard it all.”
Gentner and the other Denison Singers alumni raised funds to name a couple of room in the Eisner Center; naturally funding the music and choral libraries and naming the music library after Osborne. “I was a big proponent of that,” Gentner said.
He enjoyed being back on campus this summer, in the place where it all started.
“Denison has changed a lot, but it hasn’t changed either. I think that’s one of the beauties of the college.”