Once again, apologies for audio quality.
Amanda Work was kind enough to send me these tracks from Collage circa Christmas 2002. I thought she mentioned it was one of his last performances, but maybe I’m mistaken. Any rate, great music and some great speeches from the man himself!
After reading so many wonderful tributes, I’m not sure mine will do Hoff justice, but here is my attempt. I met Hoff my freshman year when the Collage keyboard player was in New York for the spring and they needed someone to fill in for the tour and shows that semester. I had the honor of being part of the “Rent” medley and touring in Chicago with people who are, to this day, the most talented musicians I know. I knew it was only for a semester and that the keyboard player would be back the following year, so I tried out for the vocal part of Collage that year. Hoff literally looked heartbroken when he thanked me for filling in the year before but told me he couldn’t accept me as part of the vocal ensemble. I think he felt my sense of loss more than I did!
That second year of college brought many, many trials for me and by the end of the year I was diagnosed with anxiety/OCD and was in cognitive-behavioral therapy for it. To get to that diagnosis, I had gone through extensive testing, stress, various medications, and had therefore not been focusing as I should have been on my classes. Hoff was never once condescending to me and was always available to chat and go the extra mile to keep me on task. While other people were telling me to drop out and take a year off to deal with things, Hoff supported my decision to keep going and rise above the crazy things happening in the rest of my life. He supported me so much, in fact, that he still chose me to be the lead pianist for both Collage and Into the Woods despite being one of only two professors to know about the other issues. He had me over about once a week the entire summer to chat, play piano, teach me how to be a little less classical and a little more Collage-worthy, and just to generally let me know that he knew I could do what he was asking of me.
As most have said, I didn’t always love Hoff. I didn’t always show him the respect that he deserved. I am grateful that he gave me the chance to join in Collage my freshman year, the chance to prove to everyone and myself that I could handle my junior year, and the chance to show him everything HE had taught me as a student teacher my senior year. He was an extraordinary man in so many ways and he taught me – maybe more than anything – how to laugh at myself, then move on and get to work!
Rest in peace, Hoff, and thank you for countless laughs, lessons, and truly incredible shows.
Keri (Hansen) Worden graduated from Coe in 2001 and resides in Marion, IA.
I have to admit it; I am jealous of all of you. Those of you who were priveledged enough to be members of Collage, especially. My husband, Phil Koopman, has such wonderful memories of that time in his life. Pretty much as long as I’ve known Phil, over 8 years now, I’ve heard amazing stories about Coe in general, and Collage specifically. Stories like faking a broken wrist before the 20th anniversary Collage show, only to have Hoff throw a shoe at him. Or wearing his erect Santa hat every year for the Christmas show. Or Joe and Ryan getting totally shot down by some Swedish models of some sort in Hawaii (I believe this situation was affectonately nicknamed the “Crash & Burn”)?!?!
I met Hoff shortly after Phil and I began dating, when Phil played percussion for him at Westminster on Easter Sunday. Though it was Easter, and there were tons of people there waiting to congratulate him after a gorgeous service, he took time to come over and meet me while I was patiently waiting for Phil to load out his stuff. He came up, introduced himself to me and gave me big hug. We talked for a few short minutes. I understood why Phil loved him. In my 3 minute interaction with him, I could feel his amazing spirit. I loved him from day one!
We’ve come a long way since then. When Phil and I got married, Hoff was there to congratulate us and steal a dance, from each of us, I believe… When we baptized our daughter, he was there singing with the choir. He’s always there. Unfortunately, I fell ill nearly 2 years ago now. I was at St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids, then was sent to the University of Iowa. I spent 29 days between the 2 hospitals. I lost my hair, lots of weight, and most of my energy and stength. The first time I ventured back to church was, again, Easter Sunday, when Phil was playing percussion. I sent the kids the nursery and sat alone (with several “ladies of the church”!) while taking in the beautiful service and amazing music. I, in my bright pink headscarf, stuck out like a sore thumb! As soon as the service concluded, I went up front to tell Phil what a great job he’d done and Hoff came up to me and gently hugged me and told me how beautiful I looked. I’m not sure I told Phil that… Anyway, he said he’d been praying for me and our family and was so happy to see me. I just felt good knowing that he was on our team! He was certainly a good one to have in your corner.
Ever since that time, whenever our paths have crossed, he made a point to ask how I was doing, how the recovery was progressing, how the kids were, etc. He always made me feel special and that I was a part of his life and I was important to him.
10 days before we heard this devestating news, Phil had the good fortune to play at church with Hoff one last time. This was the first time since we’d been together that he played but I didn’t attend. I decided not to go that day because we had friends staying at our house that were leaving later that morning. Hoff called though. Right after Phil left for church, Hoff called to make sure Phil had a piece of equipment (that Phil had actually used with Hoff, several times!). Since Phil wasn’t home, Hoff and I had a nice chat. He made sure to ask the usual questions! We talked for a few minutes, I assured him that Phil did have the wind chimes, and we said goodbye. I’m so glad he made that call. The last thing he said to me was, “Make sure to kiss those babies!”
I will forever be envious of those of you who got to know Hoff better than I, and have more experience with him. I did get to know the *wink* you all have been talking about, and am grateful for that!
Katie Koopman lives in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Hard to know where to begin. Hoffman was my adviser as a Music Education major. Every semester, I’d have to wander into his office and ask for his signature. But it was never an irritation. Appointment or not. I remember how he’d pluck the plug out of the back of the phone and put it under the receiver after I’d walk in. It was clear to a young 19 year old boy that he was sending a message of how important that meeting was to him. And it didn’t matter if you were there to cry, or just get a signature.
My first show with him was Side by Side by Sonheim, 1984. Boy, that was a handful for a 19 year old boy. He smoked like a chimmney during rehearsals in Dows. And I remember one moment when he teased me about a hickey I got from a Cornell girl over spring break (with a wink, of course) that I thought nobody else saw. Lots of blushing (and later private laughing) over that.
That was my first experience in performing at Coe, with Hoff, and Micheal and Candace. I was so young then. But we did such a good show! I remember getting a glowing spontaneous letter from the Coe president at the time about after he saw it. At the timeI thought it was S.O.P. for the president to do that, just as a courtesy. I found out later that it wasn’t. I still have it somewhere.
Then other years in the music department. Not just Collage. But the academic work. Elementary conducting. Practicing gestures, ‘left hand independence’, being prepared for rehearsals. “Taking control of your space” which meant that you could move whatever the hell you wanted, if you were in charge of the rehearsal. And if it wasn’t bolted down. And I remember observing hours of Women’s Chorale that semester. I did my final exam with those ladies. We made beautiful music for like 20 minutes.
Then there was Choral Techniques. History of Musical Theater. God-Awful Vocal techniques that was always at 8:00 on Tuesday morning! For FOUR YEARS! I think he had a section of that. And Music Ed Seminar. He came out to observe me when I was student teaching. when I was placed at an Elementary school. A little girl puked all over the floor when I was doing my lesson. He took over a class of 2nd graders while I rushed her to the nurse.
And later, Hoff premiered an A.L.W. arrangement that I wrote with the Women’s Chorale. He had no real reason to do that, except his desire to give his students every opportunity to shine. And I’d graduated by that time. But he still did it.
So many times. So many rehearsals. Such undivided attention. And such gifts that brought me to where I am now. I miss him so much.
Bradley A. Janey attended Coe College from 1984-1988. Hoff was one of his teachers, his advisor, and (of course!) Collage director. Bradley is currently living in Tomsk, Russia, as a Fulbright scholar.
Often in the grieving process there is guilt. Guilt for not connecting soon enough, guilt for not recognizing the pain in someone’s life that lead to their passing. Guilt for not saying to the person that has passed how much they meant to you. In this case I hadn’t really talked to Hoff in the last 3 years. I saw him in periphery during the last Homecoming, but became ill during the concert and missed chatting with him after the show. And today as I read all the tributes and memories that people have of him from my alma mater, I struggle with the guilt that I never really told Hoff how much he meant to me.
My tenure at Coe was filled with theatre and more theatre. I never fully branched out in any other discipline, but I did have Woman’s Chorale all four years. Hoff was director of the group for 7 of those 8 semesters and I missed him terribly when he was gone for one of them. Not being involved in Collage, I sometimes felt on the outside of a particularly exclusive club. With my theatre background, I was often on hand to help out with lighting or other theatrical needs of the group, but never went on tour or joined anything other than a dress rehearsal.
But in Chorale, I always seemed to be at Hoff’s right hand. He would ask me to turn on lights for rehearsals in Sinclair, he would just pull me aside and give me a quick run down of our concert and in what order he would plan the songs with his moments to talk to the audience. I think he decided that since I was a stage manager in the theatre department, I would give him my best work if I had ‘backstage’ knowledge of all our performances.
I’ll never forget my last concert with Chorale and Hoffman. Spring of my senior year and things were moving so fast for me, I had no plans at the end of the year and began to feel sort of a disconnect from Coe and even the people around me. Standing on the risers in Sinclair waiting to sing our last song of the concert, Hoff stopped and turned toward the audience. He thanked them all for coming and then proceeded to talk about the Seniors in the group. Just a quick little blurb about each person, how long they’d been in Chorale and his impression of each woman. I remember blushing thinking, oh dear, we work so hard in a chorus to blend in and here he is pointing individuals out…what will he say about me. And I was stunned that he saved me for last and mentioned that I was his liaison between the theatre and music department (!Candace?!), that I was a disciplined singer, dedicated choir member, and he would miss my smile most of all. Suddenly I was a part of his exclusive club and I didn’t know it until the end.
He told a whole auditorium of his feelings for me and now in front of God and everybody, I’ll try to keep a smile on my face during the grieving process, even through the tears.
Second only to me, I believe, was Hoff’s love for Jonathan! We were just reminded of a story from college today. Jonathan had just got done singing for something and the person asked Hoff, “WHERE did he come from?” Hoff said, “Heaven!” He adored Jonathan, so he was ecstatic when he found out we had moved back to CR. In fact, he was THE only non-family member to attend our open house/welcome back to CR last November. As usual, he had his camera with him and we snapped a few pics with him. I wish I would have had my camera available that day. We showed him our tribute to Coe wall in our house and soon it will also have a picture of him on it. Hoff was devastated after losing his friend Mark Elliott in August. He and Jonathan went and had a drink “to Mark” and he let Hoff vent. It was good for him, it was good for both of them.
It was so fun to watch him play for Jonathan and Daniel at Mark’s tribute concert a couple weeks ago. He was as giddy as a school boy…smiling the whole time. Afterwards, I told him so and added some other sarcastic comment to which he promptly slapped me (ever so lightly) across the face. This was to be the last time I would see him.
We hadn’t yet shared the big news with him about having another baby in May. Perhaps if we would have called him last week, Jonathan could have had another drink with him and let him vent. Perhaps we wouldn’t have to have this page.
I pray with all my heart that Hoff is with Mark right now and they are having a grand musical party! Every time I think of him being gone, I shake my head in disbelief. Is this really happening? How is this true? Why?
Hoff, thank you for my experiences in Women’s Chorale, I shall never forget them. Thank you for all the experiences and fond memories you gave Jonathan and letting me share in them too. Thank you for loving Jonathan and being the best mentor to him. Thank you for all the times you encouraged him whether by note or in person. Thank you for being bubbly, happy you. I will truly miss you.
As you always would say;
Meegan Keller Dyrland graduated from Coe College in 2001. She sang with Hoff in Women’s Chorale for 3 years.
Look to This Day
I knew of Rich when I was just starting to volunteer at Theatre Cedar Rapids (TCR) in 1989. Our paths really didn’t cross.
In 1989, I was invited to sit in with the (very small) Coe College Band, as they needed a bass clarinet player. As the band grew under Dr. Carson, I was encouraged to continue sitting in with the band (as I am to this day). I am heartened to read comments here from so many whom I have met because of Coe Band.
I would see Hoff in the halls, at concerts, and especially when he would videotape the conducting students each term. He seemed woven into the fabric of Coe music life.
I can’t remember which year had Homecoming terribly early in the fall, with hardly any preparation time for any one group to give a concert. The Homecoming Multi-Group Concert was the answer. Every group would perform a little, then we would play the Coe Songs together at the end: “Alma Mater-Coe Overture-Coe Loyalty,” “Coe Fight Song,” and “Sling-a-da-Ink.” I can’t say if we played this at the first, but soon, a piece was added to the repertoire called “Look to This Day.” I was told that is was about the only work for college-level performance that had parts for choir, orchestra, and band.
The piece was not universally well liked by the students. It has mixed meters. It opens with choir a capella, so the band version starts with “Rest, rest, rest, BOM, BOM, rest, rest, rest, BUM BUM.” Not very engaging.
As students came and went though the band, joking about the piece, alumni would come back to the college of the west and some would mention after the Homecoming Concert that “Look to This Day” really wasn’t such a bad song after all.
Then came 2008.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was celebrating its 150th anniversary. Coe was invited to perform a concert as part of their year-long celebration. That year, I also learned that the composer of “Look to This Day,” Leland Sateren, was Rich Hoffman’s own mentor from Augsburg College and that Sateren had passed away in late 2007.
Hoff alone conducted the ensemble. The setting and acoustics at Immaculate Conception were much better suited for the piece than Sinclair Auditorium was. As a community member, I had played it for about a dozen years already, but this time it was different. The song had found its own. Everything sounded just right. Everything clicked.
And Hoff? I remember thinking during the performance that if Hoff were any more joyful, any more exuberant, any more expressive, then he would just burst into pure sunshine. He was in his element and it seemed like that moment was his reason of being.
Which is how I shall always remember Hoff.
Heidi Ehrenberger Haney worked with Hoff in TCR from 1989-1999 and has been a member of the Coe College music community since 1985. She resides in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Shawn “Smith” Peirce is a producer/writer/broadcaster/journalist based in Nebraska. Http://www.silversmithproductions.com