We were so lucky to have had a very difficult decision in selecting our new music director. We had a strong applicant pool and two very strong finalists, and each would bring incredible – and distinct – gifts that, if they were hired, our congregation would be stronger and richer as a result.
After careful discernment and listening to both where the congregation is and where we hope to be, our Search Team was unanimous in our decision. We are all delighted that we have offered the position to Benjamin Hanson, and he has accepted our offer to be our new Music Director!
We were especially impressed with Benjamin’s depth of skill and experience in choral direction, and we are so excited about the many different ways he will bring these skills to our community as we continue to emerge post-pandemic. We also experienced Benjamin as warm, steady, and thoughtful, as well as a trustworthy partner in both our preparations for and during the weekend of worship and choir rehearsal together. We believe that his background and his approach will be a very good fit for our congregation as a whole. You can read Benjamin’s fuller biography below.
Benjamin will begin his work with us in early to mid-August, depending on how his move and search for housing goes. Speaking of housing, if you have any leads for housing for him and his partner, please reach out to our Director of Finance and Operations, Katie Watkins (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is assisting them in this challenging part of moving to Fort Collins!
We knew that the risk of bringing two candidates to the whole congregation would be that some might wish we had made a different decision. However, the value of seeing how our applicants work with the whole community and in our actual settings was so high that we decided it was worth that risk. Now that we are here, I want to acknowledge that there may be some disappointment for some of you. And I understand that! It really was a difficult decision. Still, I hope that we are all able to move forward with the excitement and joy that this hire represents.
After all of the transitions and challenges of the last few years, this is a huge moment for our congregation. In many ways, this hire represents a wonderful new start for Foothills, specifically in our music ministry of course, but also as a whole. Especially as the pandemic continues to shift and as we look ahead to the next year when our new building will be completed, it feels as though the future is expanding in possibility and in healing.
Thank you to all who participated in this process. From listening sessions to choir rehearsals, your thoughtful input has been invaluable in shaping our shared vision for the future of music at Foothills and in discerning the person who can help us bring that vision to life as our Music Director.
A special thank you to our Music Search Team – Kara Shobe, Gretchen O’Dell, Georgia Peeples, Chris Hutchinson, and Jack Morgan – whose musical passion, expertise, and focused dedication to our shared mission made this process possible.
As we work through details about timing and transition, we will share more information about welcoming Benjamin into our Foothills and Fort Collins community, and ways for you to help make this new start successful and rewarding for us all.
Rev. Gretchen Haley
Benjamin Hanson is a conductor and baritone with a background in church music leadership and vocal pedagogy. He holds a master’s degree in Choral Music from the University of Illinois, where he conducted many of the University’s choral ensembles and studied conducting, music history, and voice science. During his studies he also directed the choirs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign. Before moving to Illinois, Benjamin served for several years as the Music Director at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, CA.
In addition to his experience leading school, community, and church choirs, Benjamin performs regularly as a solo singer. He earned an undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance from the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence University, where he studied voice and vocal pedagogy. He has recently performed as a soloist in J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and in the North American premiere of Johann Hummel’s Exodus oratorio, Der Durchzug durchs Rote Meer. He has a particular love for leading congregational singing through hymnody, song, and chant.
Benjamin has a passion for using choral singing to build community and inspire action, and he looks forward to making meaningful music with the community at Foothills beginning this fall. He will be relocating to Fort Collins this summer with his partner Lauren and their two cats.