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Kasper receives Fulbright grant to teach voice in Paraguay

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – When Kathryn Dick Kasper retires this spring from 34 years of teaching at Bethel College, she has no plans to slow down. In June, Kasper, associate professor of music and the college’s primary voice instructor, will join the ranks of international scholars under the auspices of the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Since the program’s inception in 1946, more than 40,000 U.S. faculty and professionals have been awarded scholarships to lecture and conduct research in foreign countries. Kasper received her Fulbright grant to train professional singers in Paraguay. She leaves in mid-June to spend the next six months teaching voice and establishing a vocal pedagogy program at the Universidad del Norte (UniNorte) in Asunción.

Kasper learned about the program when Paraguayan conductor Diego Sanchez Haase came to Newton in 2005 to direct the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra. Haase told Kasper about the need for a technical teacher in voice at UniNorte.

“The president of [UniNorte] loves music,” Kasper said. “With his assistance, Diego began an opera company. He hired nine singers full-time to do five productions a year. But he hired nobody to teach them how to sing. Diego was pretty desperate for me to come.

“You have to teach [people] how to teach before they can really get the opera program off the ground,” she continued. “It’s important for them [eventually] to get indigenous teachers who teach voice. They have had a Russian teacher and a German teacher, but both went back home.”

Her opportunity to apply for a Fulbright opened up during Bethel College’s academic program review during 2004-05. The program review committee proposed cutting one music faculty position, so Kasper offered to retire at the end of the 2005-06 school year.

“It sort of just happened that I got this idea for how I could help Bethel out,” she said. “It’s a pragmatic thing for me, to enable the college to keep that position.”

Kasper will be accompanied by her husband Arlo Kasper, retired Bethel professor of theater, who will be working at an institute in Asunción that teaches English through the arts. Though Kathryn Kasper’s scholarship grant is applicable for only six months, the Kaspers may choose to continue with their work in Paraguay. “Hopefully the university will see some benefit in keeping me around,” Kathryn Kasper said.

The Fulbright Program was initially proposed by Senator J. William Fulbright in 1945 as a vehicle for promoting “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world.” Grant applicants must have a Ph.D. or an equivalent professional/terminal degree. They must also have college or university teaching experience and have foreign language proficiency. The program is funded by the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, a branch of the U.S. Department of State.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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