Get to Know…Barbara Hulac
OK, we all know that Barbara has been the organist at Montview for 39 years, which makes her one of the longest employed (if not THE longest-ever employed) member of our staff, but there’s a lot more to know about her.
Where did she come from 39 years ago, where did she grow up, what are her interests, and just what is a Music Administrator? Read on !
Barbara, a native of Willow Grove, PA was born to Virginia and Alexander Laverty. She has two siblings, a brother, Tom who lives in Atlantic Highlands, NJ and a sister, Nancy who lives in Schwenksville, PA. As a young girl, she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. Barbara’s family was Methodist, and we have the Methodist church in Willow Grove to thank for supporting and enabling Barbara’s early fascination and enjoyment of music.
Her piano study began at age seven and Barbara was playing for the Sunday School assembly at Willow Grove Methodist Church by age eleven. At thirteen, she was asked by the church organist if she’d like to play the organ in worship one Sunday. Organ lessons followed and by the time she was fourteen, Barbara was organist at a small Methodist Church. The call to be a church musician was clear. Her next church position was at Abington Presbyterian Church as assistant organist to her then organ teacher, Virginia Cheesman. The position at Abington continued through her years of study at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. Barbara earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Organ and Church Music in 1971.
During the years at Abington, Barbara met Peter Hulac. Pete was a medical student at Temple University School of Medicine. They were married in 1971 after Barbara’s college graduation and Pete’s medical school graduation. A move to Denver, Colorado followed as Pete was to start an internship at St. Joseph Hospital.
Before coming to Montview, Barbara’s Denver church positions included being organist at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, and assistant organist at St. John’s Cathedral.
Barbara and Pete have three children and five grandchildren. Son David and his wife, Mary, have three children Bridget, 12; Sarah, 9; and Paul, 7. They now live in Greeley, CO. Daughter Beth is married to Mark Millard, and has sons Ryan 15 and Josh 12. Son Steve and his fiancé Gilly Warren live in Denver.
Barbara holds the dual position of Organist and Music Administrator at Montview. In addition to playing the organ for worship services, weddings, concerts, recitals and memorial services, she accompanies Westminster Choir rehearsals. 10 to 15 hours of weekly practice at the piano and organ are in addition to other responsibilities such as overseeing maintenance of our Reuter/Morel pipe organ. Barbara says that playing the organ and piano, and working with new compositions allows her to stretch herself and to continue to learn about and share the music with her church family. Sitting down at the organ with a piece of music is more involved than just playing. Preparation time involves rehearsing difficult sections, choosing certain sounds from the organ, and possibly reworking piano music accompaniments to be well-suited to the organ.
Sunday morning preparation is an ongoing process as clergy, minister of music, organist and choir work several weeks in advance. Even if Thursday night choir practice was perfect, or Barbara has played a piece many times before, “success is never certain, failure is never final.” (Robert Schuller)
As music administrator and “detail” person, she supports the Minister of Music and the choirs. Maintaining the music library which contains some 1100 adult anthems, 200-300 children and youth choir anthems, 150 major works, and 400 orchestral music titles is part of her job. Her maintenance of the computer database of music allows searches by title, composer, and genre.
Part of Barbara’s job is also overseeing the Montview Conservatory and the Orff program of music education. Orff-Schulwerk is for students from preschool through third grade, where youngsters are exposed to basic music theory and practice using a variety of instruments without concentrating on any specific instrument. Want to know more about what Orff is and does? Ask Barbara, and she’ll be happy to tell you all about it.
Barbara’s work week, in addition to learning and practicing the music we hear in the church, includes music staff meetings, worship planning meetings, full Montview staff meetings and her music administrator work.
Like so many of our staff, Barbara enjoys working at Montview because of the people. She says everyone is supportive, and she truly sees the church as a family. She has enjoyed working with several Ministers of Music over the years, Dr. David McCormick, Dr. Jerrald McCollum, John Kuzma and Adam Waite.
As an adult, practicing is still rewarding for her, and beneficial for us. Many choir members say that they have never heard her make a mistake (something she disputes, but she is out-numbered!), and the perfection she brings to her playing is a blessing to all of Montview.
Barbara has high praise for John Kuzma, as one of two people who have had great influence on her musical work. She treasures their almost three decades of friendship and collaboration. The other person who greatly influenced her music was Dr. Donald McDonald, her organ teacher at Westminster Choir College.
Barbara says that two things always make her smile. The first are those times when her entire family – husband, children and their spouses or fiancés, and all grandchildren are gathered together (especially with hugs from her grandchildren). The second are those times when she and the choir are connected in a unity of tone, tempo and energy. These times can’t be planned — they just happen, possibly a few times a year but, when they do, it is a spiritual experience — for Barbara and, she hopes, for choir members, too.
Montview’s Musical Instruments
Barbara says that one of the joys of being a musician at Montview, is our variety of instruments. The Montview Sanctuary organ is a large, four-manual (keyboard) instrument with over 4,000 pipes. Each manual has a five octave keyboard (61 keys). The pedal board is 2 ½ octaves with 32 keys.
The Steinway D piano in the sanctuary is an especially fine piano. In contrast with the organ, the piano keyboard is longer with 88 keys. The church has recently received a gift of a Mason and Hamlin piano for use in the Westminster Choir rehearsal room.
Our Barrett Chapel organ is a one-manual instrument with no pedal board. It is a flexible and moveable instrument as it can be used in the chapel or wheeled in to the sanctuary for use with orchestra.
Nonmusical interests in Barbara’s growing years included competitive swimming with occasional forays into synchronized swimming. As an adult, she taught aerobics classes for five or so years.
Other interests include reading historical fiction and about the Christian mystic. Quilting and doing jigsaw and crossword puzzles are hobbies. Barbara has long had an interest in photography, and particularly enjoys taking close-up photos with macro lenses, so she can enjoy and study the intricacies in the world around her. Barbara attends Pilates exercise classes and practices yoga and meditation. Each May she attends a week-long mediation retreat in California.
And, earlier this week, she was named Montview’s “Associate Minister of Music and Organist”, a title she has clearly earned and so richly deserves. She will remain our Music Administrator.
Barbara Hulac: prodigy, family woman, musician, organist, detail-person, photographer, administrator, Montview member, meditator, friend, professional — quite a bundle! High quality comes is all sizes and, in Barbara, we have a complete package of the highest quality. Next time you see her, take a moment to tell her how happy and lucky we are to have her as part of our Montview family.
Notes from the writer:
First, do you know that our sanctuary organ can play itself? I didn’t, but Barbara told me all about it. Curious? Ask Barbara!
Second, do you know that there are trap doors and secret places in our church? Again, curious? Again, ask Barbara!!