Alumnus Jan Alexander recalls university’s first music building dedication, looks forward to exploring new Borland Center for Music and Theatre
Janice (Jan) Prante Alexander ’68 has been surrounded by music most of her life. She describes her parents as very musical, especially her mother, who played background piano music for radio programs in the 1930’s and 1940’s. After learning piano basics from her mother, Alexander went on to teach herself hymns and popular secular music. She then accompanied her junior choir in sixth grade.
“When I went to Lutheran High in Los Angeles in 1960, I often played for chapel services,” she said. “In my senior year I sang with the prestigious musical group, Melody Makers, directed by Bud Bisbee. Music was my life by the time I went to Concordia….but it was almost all self-taught!”
Alexander learned about Concordia Nebraska from her fifth grade teacher, Don Pape. She recalls taking a music theory entrance exam when she first began classes at Concordia. She failed.
“I had no education in theory, but I played piano well and loved to sing. I took basic music theory from Dr. Ted Beck and basic piano lessons,” she said. “I was terribly homesick during my freshman year, but found peace as I played hymns that were prayers frequently on the piano in Nebraska Hall. By the end of my freshman year, I was told I could start organ lessons but also take more piano lessons. Dr. Beck became a close friend and mentor, and I babysat for his children.”
She said the dedication of the university’s previous music building was thrilling, but she also recalls the hard work of moving things from Nebraska Hall to the new music building.
“My main memories of the old music building is the cacophony of sound from a building that was not truly sound proof,” she said. “The rooms were dingy and not pleasant!”
At the end of her sophomore year after the music building had been dedicated, Alexander remained in Seward to take additional classes. She was also offered a secretarial job by Dr. Paul Rosel and spent every opportunity working in the new music building.
“I not only was his secretary, but I helped organize choral music, and I gave tours. I remember Dr. Jan Bender coming for a tour. He taught me about each organ and how each had a specialty or style of its own,” she said. “I practiced every chance I had during that summer, the best part being the music building had air conditioning and my dorm did not!”
She said majoring in music was not just a goal but a passion.
“When I went home the summer after my junior year, I practiced on the pipe organ at my home church. My mother was church secretary and often came inside the church to hear me play,” she said. “She was amazed at what I had accomplished.”
Alexander earned a bachelor of science in education from Concordia Nebraska. Three weeks after graduation in June 1968, she married Tom Alexander ‘67. The couple settled in Lodi, California, where they both had teaching calls and she had an organist call.
“My parents came for a Sunday service and surprised me. I loved playing difficult pieces and also various hymn accompaniments, so they were the ones surprised!” she said.
Over the last 55 years, Alexander has played for many churches. She remains a member of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lodi.
“I taught grade school in the Lutheran schools until I had my first child in 1977 and had to take a leave of absence,” she said. “After that I taught in public schools. I served on the building committee of our new Lutheran church and worked with Dr. Rosel on designing the organ we still use today. I asked a close friend, Dr. Paul Manz, to play the dedication. He and I often worked together especially when he visited the Bay Area of Northern California.”
Several years ago, Alexander severely injured her foot in a fall. The injury means that she can no longer play the foot pedals on an organ, but she has adapted much of her organ music for piano and plays services when needed.
The Alexanders have two children, David and Lisa. Tom and Jan were married 50 years and two months. He passed in September 2018 from complications from strokes. Jan retired in 2010 from public school teaching. She currently serves on various committees and visits shut-ins from her congregation.
She is currently very involved in helping to plan her church’s 125th anniversary, which means she will not be able to attend the upcoming dedication of the university’s new Borland Center for Music and Theatre, but she said she looks forward to visiting Seward soon to tour the new space, sit in on a few music classes and take a walk down memory lane.
“I am so grateful I attended Concordia Nebraska,” she said. “I took my daughter and grandchildren to Seward a few summers ago. I think my daughter learned much about me through that experience, and we grew closer because of it. I am so excited about the continued growth and influence of Concordia Nebraska. May God bless the university as He uses His children to edify others, especially through music!”
Learn more about Concordia Nebraska’s new Borland Center for Music and Theatre here.