Eastern Mennonite University's new elite vocal ensemble, Emulate (with director and music professor Ryan Keebaugh at right), makes their inaugural tour to Pennsylvania next week, where they will perform at several churches and Lancaster Mennonite School. The group sings publicly for the first time at Friday's chapel. (Photo by Jon Styer)

Emulate, a new elite vocal ensemble led by music professor Ryan Keebaugh, visits Pennsylvania for inaugural tour

Emulate, a new elite vocal ensemble from Eastern Mennonite University, will travel to Pennsylvania for a four-day “Spring Break Tour” March 5-8. In addition to four concerts at area churches, the group will perform at chapel and provide workshops in music classes at Lancaster Mennonite School.

The 16-member group, led by assistant professor of music Ryan Keebaugh, specializes in madrigals, jazz, and modern and contemporary concert literature, both secular and sacred.

EMU’s newest ensemble is comprised of the “best of the best,” said Keebaugh. “I needed singers who could learn music quickly, were strong musicians, and able to balance this time commitment among their many other involvements.”

The son of an organist and a Brethren minister, Keebaugh is an experienced choir director and a widely traveled and oft-performed composer. He earned his DMA at The Catholic University of America, and was previously choral director at Mary Baldwin College and director of choral activities at Clarke County High School.

Keebaugh praised this particular group for their dedication. “These are incredibly hard-working and passionate musicians, who are also very strong representatives of Eastern Mennonite University and the music department.”

Paying tribute to musical roots, Keebaugh noted that Emulate includes nine graduates and former participants of two strong high school music programs.

Sophomore Jon Bishop joins Abby Bush and Jaclyn Kratz in representing Christopher Dock High School. A tenor majoring in vocal performance and composition with a social environmental sustainability minor, Bishop calls this new group “focused” and “well-rounded.”

Junior Jeffrey Smoker, a business major who sings bass, is an experienced choral performer, having toured while at Eastern Mennonite High School (EMHS) and Hesston College. Fellow EMHS graduates in the group include Hannah Shultz, Caitlin Holsapple, Michaela Mast, Eli Wenger and Perry Blosser.

“Emulate is a group of talented singers who have been able to come together very quickly and sing challenging music,” Smoker said. “I was very impressed that by the end of our first rehearsal, we had sight-read four or five pieces, and they sounded pretty good. I am really excited to see and hear what we can do over the next few months.”

Local ties make this tour especially appealing, said senior Erin Hershey, who is among six Pennsylvania natives in the group. She and junior Luisa Miller are members of Slate Hill Mennonite Church, which hosts Emulate on March 5.

Rounding out the group are Heather Evans, of Alexandria, Virginia; Mischa De Jesus, of Kalona, Iowa; Jake Rhine, of Indianapolis, Indiana; Guilio Garner, of Harrisonburg, Virginia; and Nathaneal Ressler, of Mount Vernon, Illinois.

The Pennsylvania tour is a prelude to a longer two-week tour this summer through the midwest, with final performances at the Mennonite Church USA Convention June 30-July 5 in Kansas City, Missouri.


March 5 – 7 p.m., Slate Hill Mennonite Church, Camp Hill, PA

March 6 – 6:30 p.m., James Street Mennonite Church, Lancaster, PA

March 7 – 7 p.m., Martinsburg Memorial Church of the Brethren, Martinsburg, PA

March 8 – 9:30 a.m. worship service, University Mennonite Church, State College, PA

Discussion on “Emulate, a new elite vocal ensemble led by music professor Ryan Keebaugh, visits Pennsylvania for inaugural tour

  1. Will there be a recording of this available to purchase? Can you please post a selection to listen to as a sample? Thank-you.

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