Lisa Hearne created an expectation of excellence

Former students often remember Professor of Music and Director of Choral Music Lisa Hearne for holding high expectations. As she retires after 28 years on the Cornell College faculty, Hearne is happy with that. 

Lisa Hearne“I’d like to be remembered for having created an expectation of excellence with my students and our audiences,” she said. “We spend a lot of time on both musical and interpretive details of performance. A professional presentation requires a lot of preparation and practice but it gives both the performer and the audience a sense of confidence. 

“Students can draw on that experience for whatever they do in life, even outside of music.”

Hearne, who is retiring along with her husband, Professor of Music Martin Hearne, said she was lucky to work with outstanding student talent at Cornell. Often they were music majors, but many were not. “That’s the cool thing about teaching in a liberal arts college,” she said.  

Another benefit of teaching at a small liberal arts college has been the diversity of music she’s involved with: “In one day I may conduct a Bach motet, coach a Cole Porter jazz chart and a Sondheim musical theater number, block a Mozart opera aria, and choreograph a calypso tune with the steel drum band. Where else can you do that?”

She and Martin Hearne mounted highly anticipated, massive holiday concerts with choir and orchestra that involved resources from across the college and community.

Among her fondest memories were tours, which she said formed bonds that resulted in better music-making. There were three European tours and about 10 U.S. tours, including Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans and Nice, France, with the steel drum band and singers.

Another highlight was the year her students Erin Prall Reykdal ’06 and Joe Okell ’06 won their senior divisions at the National Association of Teachers of Singing auditions and Sarah Brungard Clough ’07 placed in the top five of the junior division.

Hearne performed recitals regularly, saying it was important to “walk the walk” for her students and stay involved in researching repertoire and interpretation.  

“I will miss choir rehearsals, and I will miss preparing my students for recitals. It’s so energizing to work with students,” she said. “In rehearsals and lessons, the brain is firing on all cylinders. The creative process in music is both art and science. I love the detective work that comes with analyzing why singing sounds a certain way, how it can be better, and devising solutions toward improving and reaching our goals. Those “Ah ha!” moments when it all clicks for the student is what this is all about.”

Alumni remember Professor Lisa Hearne

“Dr. (Lisa) Hearne has had more influence on me, and therefore my 25 years worth of students, than any other teacher in my life. Her strength, clarity, and passion for both her students and her craft are the traits I try hardest to emulate each day in my own rehearsals. Dr. Hearne has uncompromising standards and challenges her students to meet and surpass them everyday. I only came to one Dr. Hearne voice lesson unprepared … you learned quickly not to make that mistake twice. Her directness never had ill intent. Her goal was honesty and to stretch your mind, your voice, and your musical understanding to heights you did not believe you could reach. And the days you reached those heights it was harder to tell who was more excited about it, you or Dr. Hearne.” — Storm  Ziegler ’94

“Dr. (Lisa) Hearne had the greatest impact on my college career of any other professor. She pushed me to be the singer and teacher she knew I could be and is who I aspire to be as a teacher: someone who inspires, encourages, cares, and sets high expectations so she can celebrate with you when you reach them. I feel so lucky to have gotten to study under her for four years and for the mentoring she has provided me since.” — Rebecca McGovern de Souza ’10

“We could talk about anything during lessons. Choir practice was always fun and, once you earned her trust, was a great place to laugh and joke. I knew she cared about me as a person as well as a student. I am a website designer and online marketer. I don’t really get much of a chance to use my music. She did teach me life skills like practicing, making sure you are prepared, and being part of a group.” — Andre de Souza ’10

“We’ve both been blessed to know you in an academic and professional context. For Mary, four years spent taking voice lessons and thriving in two vocal ensembles meant more than you ever could have known, Lisa. You were perpetually patient and kind with bouts of stage fright and a realization that a career in music wasn’t in the cards, but still managed to boost confidence throughout. For Joel, it would be impossible to identify two more influential figures. Courses taken with you were the literal building ‘blocks’ of what has been a successful career.

“It’s disappointing to think that for future generations of Cornellians, music will exist without ‘The Drs. Hearne.’ but we are so excited that you’ll have ample amounts of free time to spend time with family, strike up conversations with strangers in the unlikeliest of places, or simply sit quietly together and take in a view of the mountains, hear the sounds of the city, and experience joys everywhere between.” — Joel Foreman ’05 and Mary Dix Foreman ’05

Lisa Hearne Emerita Citation

Your contributions to the college and to the department are many, but they are all united by your steadfast commitment to the very highest standards. You not only delivered this excellence in your own work, but you also expected it of our students—asking them to search for the best within themselves, and importantly, giving them the tools with which to accomplish it.

Your ensembles, the Concert Choir and the Chamber Singers, consistently performed at a level unknown before your arrival at the college. Your groups included singers from a variety of musical backgrounds and collegiate paths—everyone from vocal majors pursuing performance degrees, to non-majors, to non-student community members. Yet under your direction, these diverse groups always performed as one, with an amazingly tight professionalism, and with a unified musical execution and expression. Your many tours for the ensembles shared the fruits of this work with the world beyond our campus, representing Cornell well on stages from the regional to the international, and creating life-long memories for all of the students involved.

Your voice students were consistently among Cornell’s best performers. It was clear from each performance that the students were always improving in technique and musicianship, synthesizing tools that you had given them in lessons, in ensembles, and in courses such as Vocal Diction and Pedagogy.  This climate of constant improvement resulted in great things for the students in your studios—including very fine seminar recital performances, capstone recitals, musical theatre roles, and placements at NATS.

In addition to your work with student performers, one of the greatest gifts you gave us was your many outstanding vocal performances as a soloist. Your recitals had everything: deep expressive works; lighter, more eloquent and charming works; humorous works; all performed with a style that demanded our attention as audience members. They lit up the stage and the hall, consistently transmitting both a professional mastery of all elements and a warm spirit of intimate communication with your audiences. They also provided an important professional example for your voice students, and in a larger sense for all Cornell students, demonstrating what it means to demand musical and professional excellence of oneself.   

Finally, your commitment to excellence was also evident at every step in your many years as department chair and administrator.  You acted with authority and integrity, and always with the best interests of our students, department, and program at heart. Thank you to our colleague and friend; we will miss you.