Graduate success

Heidi Ackerman ’08Mezzo-soprano
U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus
Fort Meade, Maryland

Singing soldier
After graduating as a music and secondary education major, Heidi returned to her home state of Arizona and taught elementary music before earning a Master of Music degree in vocal performance from Arizona State University. She also directed church choirs and a community chorus, soloed with the Phoenix Symphony, and performed in such productions as Otello and Madame Butterfly for the Arizona Opera Company. She did an about-face in 2013, enlisting in the Army as a professional musician. As a member of the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus, she is on the road 100 to 120 days a year carrying the Army story through music to audiences around the country.


How well did Northwestern prepare you for your career?

I felt well prepared for teaching and graduate school. I was passionate about what I was teaching, but beyond that, I believed it was my job to love students with my whole heart and be a constant presence of nurturing support and inspiration. As a performer, Northwestern readied me for the “real world” through my recitals. During my junior and senior years, I performed hourlong recitals consisting of repertoire from varying time periods, languages and styles—all fully memorized. These experiences taught me a foundation of discipline I built upon in grad school.

What did you most appreciate about the music department?

I appreciated that the department was small enough to enable professors to invest ample one-on-one time with students. I developed strong ties with the faculty that are still solid today.

In what ways did your music studies at Northwestern challenge and strengthen your faith?

College was a time to authenticate my relationship with God. I learned how to listen for his calling. I learned to trust myself and my Savior so I can confidently step out in faith on whatever path I'm called to follow. It’s been said that “he who sings prays twice.” I believe that whole-heartedly and take my job as a performer very seriously.

What are some of your favorite memories from NWC?

I have so many! I toured the West Coast with the A cappella Choir and Mexico with the Symphonic Band, studied art and theatre in England one summer, and served with missionaries in Italy another summer. I loved my time at Northwestern and tried to take advantage of all the opportunities afforded to me. One of my favorite memories occurred post-graduation. In April 2013 I sang Handel’s Messiah as a principal soloist under the baton of Dr. Holm alongside the Sioux County Oratorio Chorus and Northwestern’s Heritage Singers. It is still one of my favorite moments as a professional singer. I hadn’t been back to campus since graduation; it felt like I was returning home. I was so proud to sing for my former professors and show them that the seeds they planted in me had been cultivated and bloomed into the singer I’ve become today!

What do you enjoy about your job?

I get paid to sing! I’m honored to serve this country while at the same time following my calling to sing. I also love the breadth of repertoire we perform: opera, pop, jazz, musical theatre, spiritual and classical. In January I soloed in our Opera Scenes program singing Mozart, and on the spring tour, I soloed in an arrangement of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors. I love the challenge of singing so many different styles.

What are your future career goals?

I love performing, but I love the classroom and conducting with equal passion. I plan to work toward my doctorate in choral conducting so that when I feel called back to the classroom, I will have the credentials to teach at the collegiate level.

Recent graduates

Kelby Robinson '14
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Rebekah Stofer '14
French Horn player, 147th Army National Guard Band
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Ashley Wielenga '14
Orchestra director, Western Christian High School
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Jessica Kleveland '13
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Brandon Lenderink '13
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Meghan Schuster '13
Elementary music teacher, Kent School District
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Simon Campbell '12
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Chelsea Stanton '11
M.A. student in religion/social justice and reconciliation, United Theological Seminary
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Kathleen Marsh '10
Music therapist, Music Speaks LLC
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