Musical Serendipity

Alumni separated by 30 class years united by music

By Kristin Hurst

Jamey Ray '06

Jamey Ray '06

Talk about fate.

When aspiring music arranger Jamey Ray ’06 visited Rollins last fall to meet Sally Albrecht ’76, he never imagined the impact it would have on his career. He not only received valuable insight from Albrecht—an acclaimed choral conductor, composer, and clinician; he also gained an opportunity to showcase his talents on the world stage.

Albrecht had come to campus to sing with other former members of the Chapel Choir at a memorial service for Dean A. Arnold Wettstein ’06H. While there, she also conducted a choir rehearsal and lunched with students interested in music composition. Rollins Music Director and John M. Tiedtke Professor of Music John Sinclair invited Ray to join the group, knowing he could benefit from Albrecht’s experience. An award-winning composer, Albrecht is director of School Choral and Classroom Publications for Alfred Music Publishing. Her composition “I Hear America Singing!,” written with her husband and composer/arranger Jay Althouse, was performed during the 2009 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony.

Ray was thrilled at the chance to spend time with a choral icon. “It was great to listen to someone who has been successful in doing exactly what I want to do,” he said. “Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse are huge, huge names in the choral world. I sang their music while growing up.”

Albrecht counseled Ray on advancing his career and agreed to critique his a cappella arrangement of the national anthem—although she admittedly was less than enthused over his song selection. “Honestly, the last thing in the world I wanted was another rendition of the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’” she said.

Despite her misgivings, she was captivated by Ray’s arrangement, which eventually was published by Alfred. “The piece was so different because of the contemporary harmonies,” Albrecht said. “I thought it was fantastic!” Apparently, others do, too. Orders for the music have been rolling in from both the U.S. and abroad.

Sally Albrecht '76

Sally Albrecht '76

Ray, who is also a skilled pianist, said he strives to put a unique twist on his musical arrangements. “I try to write music that is going to be interesting for the audience and interesting for the choir. I like it to be unpredictable. I like the audience to not know where the song is going to go.” In another serendipitous Rollins “duet,” Ray recently arranged the spiritual “Were You There?” for Sinclair, who will conduct the new arrangement with the All-State Men’s Chorus at the FloridaMusic Educators’ Convention in January. Alfred Publishing has also picked up this rendition.

Sinclair is gratified to have brought these two “choral music junkies” together. “I’m so proud of both of them. Sally has an A-plus career and Jamey has the potential to be a star in this field.”

Albrecht agrees that Ray has the talent and drive to be a great success. “I’mtruly touched that I can open a door for a young talent like Jamey. He is so focused and so imaginative and so vibrant—you can see it. He’s got such a positive energy about him.”

Ray earned a master’s degree in music technology from NYU and is now living in New York City where he has landed work arranging and transcribing for Broadway productions. While it’s been a “fun, cool experience,” he has loftier ambitions. “If I could be teaching music theory at the college level and arranging choral music on the side, it couldn’t get any better than that.”