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We Are Knox...

Pier Debes '10

Elementary School, College, and Church Choir Director

Music and Secondary Education Double Major


Story by Sam Brownson '12

Photo by Jessica Couvillier '15

Most music majors -- in fact, most college graduates -- would give an arm and a leg to be in the shoes of Pier Debes '10 right now. Boasting three positions in his chosen field, he is building a resume that even graduate students would be envious of.

Debes has long had a passion for music directing -- he even formed and directed his own acapella group for his senior project in high school -- but, ironically, he certainly did not intend on going to school for it. He originally came to Knox to become an architectural engineer through the "3-2" dual-degree program. However, having Professor of Music Laura Lane as an advisor changed all that.

"Laura Lane has been my biggest influence and mentor. Being with her in choir every day, you learn something new, just by watching her. It's crazy," he said.

With Lane guiding him along the way, Debes quickly changed his direction to music and education and began paving the way for what would be a future in conducting. Thanks to Debes' hard work and the help of Lane, he filled his first paid choral directing position at Grace Lutheran Church in Knoxville, Illinois, during his junior and senior year.

"Doing the church choir opened up my eyes in terms of expectations and what one should expect as a choir director from different choirs," he said.

Following this position, Debes spent his fifth year at Knox directing the Costa Jubilee Choir at Costa Catholic Academy in Galesburg to fulfill his student teaching requirement. A choir consisting of children grades 2-8, the ensemble was a challenge for Debes. However, his performance greatly impressed Costa music teacher and Knox music faculty member Jill Marasa and he was offered a permanent position with the choir.

Debes' connections continued to pay off. Shortly after he was offered the position at Costa, he applied and was hired to be the director of the concert choir at Monmouth College, a position typically only given to applicants with a post-graduate degree.

With this position, the challenge for Debes has been how to accommodate a vast range of skill and interest levels. Some join for music requirements, while some join because they could not get into the better choir and are hoping to improve so they can get in the next year.

Debes' third position is director of the Chancel Choir at First Presbyterian Church in Galesburg. He chooses from a "vastly beautiful" collection of choral music each week to prepare an anthem to be sung in accordance with the weekly sermon.

"That's what I really like about my positions," says Debes. "Unlike most other kids in my age group who are in their first year or second year out of college, I am doing what I went to school for, and I am really appreciative of that."

Debes sees graduate school as a possibility and his work experience as a step in that direction. "I'm accepting the fact that I'm probably going to live here for a couple of years and I'm completely okay with that because I don't feel bogged down," he said. "At least in the field of conducting ... I feel like grad schools want to see experience."