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Barbara Witham McCargar

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Barbara Witham McCargar is truly an Aquinas treasure. She is highly regarded by AQ students (current and former) and faculty and is well-respected by colleagues throughout the United States.

Barbara received a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Aquinas College as a student of June Law Marshall. She also holds a Master of Music degree in voice, with secondary emphasis in opera from the University of Michigan, where she studied with Katherine Hilgenberg, and has studied at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. Barbara has been a teacher at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Grand Rapids Community College, Jordan College, Cornerstone University, Western Michigan University and in the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ “Study with a Master” program. She began teaching at Aquinas College in 1987 and is currently an associate professor of music, director of vocal studies, chair of the music department and NASM institutional representative.

Ms. McCargar’s performing career spans over four decades, from musical theater to opera to art song recitals. Regional performance venues where she has performed include the Lansing Lyric Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Youth Opera USA, Circle Theater, Spectrum Theater, Summerfest, Grand Rapids Symphony Pops, Frederik Meijer Gardens, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, the Dominican Center at Marywood, and the Urban institute for Contemporary Arts. Barbara has performed nationally and internationally as a member of Vox Angelica and The Hildegard Singers, recording CDs with each of those ensembles, and performed and recorded as a member and soloist with the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids. Of particular note is the 2005 CD, “Women’s Work,” for soprano and piano, which evolved from a series of annual lecture recitals with her colleagues Mary Hurd and Catherine Williams, O.P., presented on the Aquinas College Campus during Women’s History Month.

Her most recent CDs are with The Hildegard Singers: "Songs from the Abbey," (2012) featuring Linn Maxwell Keller as Hildegard von Bingen, “O Greenest Branch” (2014), and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" (2015) through Alto Productions and River City Studios, Ltd. Performing in concerts, international medieval conference venues and churches, in July 2013, The Hildegard Singers performed the chants of Hildegard of Bingen and plainchant in concert in the Chapel of Queen’s College, Cambridge, England, and for the International Conference on St Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins, at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen Campus. The Hildegard Singers have been heard many times on the AQ campus, most especially during the October 2017 Our Lady Seat of Wisdom service, where the Keller Organ was dedicated to the memory of Linn Maxwell Keller, the group’s founder, who died in June of 2016. 

Barbara is a much sought-after cantor, clinician and speaker on vocal technique. She has presented workshops for choirs and the church cantor, Alexander Technique and Body Mapping, throughout Michigan. She has directed church choirs for 20 years and has been a long-time member and past president of the GR chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and has served as a Michigan state board member and treasurer for that organization. Her students have received awards at both the NATS regional and state auditions. An active advocate for and participant in the arts in and around Grand Rapids, Ms. McCargar has been the chair of the Classical Music category of the GR Festival of the Arts and National Music Week for St.Cecilia Music Center and is a member of the education sub-committee of the Board of Opera Grand Rapids.

All of this makes Barbara a treasured asset to Aquinas College. However, it is her passion for teaching, her commitment to the College, and commitment to the success of her students – regardless of their degree pursuits – that make her truly remarkable. 

Stay tuned for the many events Barbara has planned in the months to come, including presentations, another recording and performances in the Midwest and Southeast regions of the United States with The Hildegard Singers (which also includes sopranos Diane Penning and Lisa Walhout) as well as a fall chamber music recital on the AQ campus with some of her favorite collaborators!