Three O∆K Members Lead in Performing Arts

03 Nov


Karen Van Dyke

Karen Van Dyke began playing the piano when she was five, and took up the flute at age eight. She says, “The minute I heard the sound of it, I knew it was the instrument for me. We had a constant backdrop of classical music playing in our house, and I was always drawn to the beautiful nuances of the flute tone.”

From a young age, she knew her career would be in music. She went on to perform as a soloist for the Baltimore Symphony, in the orchestras of the Berkeley and San Jose Symphonies, and served as the principal flute at the Anchorage Festival of Music. Van Dyke has collaborated with eminent flutist Jeanne Baxtresser and released a solo album, Mouvements Perpetuels: Music for Flute and Guitar.

In addition to performing, Van Dyke has taken a leading role as a teacher—she founded and directs the Stanford University Flute Ensemble. She has also served as the Director of the Northern California Flute Camp since 1994.

“In many ways, Northern California Flute Camp has become my life’s work. My job as director has utilized my leadership skills more than any other aspect of my career. Not only am I responsible for 45 students for a week, but I also manage staff and plan an enriching curriculum including solo performance, flute choirs, master classes, chamber music, and elective classes. It has been both rewarding and enlightening to witness what a profound affect NCFC has had on hundreds of students in our 21-year history.”

As a teacher, Van Dyke has also learned how to conduct an ensemble. “The most challenging part of conducting is conveying what you want to musicians to do with the music without talking to them. This took me several years to truly master.”

Van Dyke counts herself as “very lucky” to teach world-class students at Stanford University and explains that their drive to progress forces her to improve as well. She has worked hard to master her role as not only a performer, but as a mentor, a teacher, and a conductor.

“Ninety percent of a conductor’s responsibilities happen during rehearsals. Getting an ensemble to play in tune and together while communicating what the composer wanted requires hours of dissecting the piece, a knowledge of the compose, the period, and the piece, as well as good conducting technique. I work on which gestures to make, without talking, that will trigger the greatest response from the musicians.”

When asked what advice she would give to young people today, Van Dyke has three suggestions: view failure as a challenge, put your ego away in a broom closet, and consider yourself to be a perpetual student.

“No matter what your GPA is at graduation, where you went to school, or what accolades you may have achieved when you graduate from college, everyone experiences failure at some point in life. Pursue your passion doggedly, knowing that you may fail again. There is no limit on the number of tries you get. If the Wright Brothers had given up after their first twenty failures, none of us would have flown.”


Burr Datz

Within the first few minutes of meeting W. C. “Burr” Datz, Catholic Campus Minister at Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, it’s clear his approach to music is much like his approach to life. Datz believes that to lead others he must also serve them, and his music is another opportunity, along with his many anecdotes and his faith, “to lift people up.”

He plays in approximately five local bands and has a long list of musicians that he calls friends. At the drop of the hat, he could assemble a band to fit any number of genres: bluegrass, blues, southern rock or folk.

When asked about his love for music, he explains, “A passion is something that you are willing to suffer for. It is about finding a special place outside yourself. Frederick Buechner explains it best, ‘Passion is where your deepest longing meets your deepest gladness.’ Music can change people’s mood,” explains Datz with a twinkle in his eye.

When Datz is not playing music, he can be found serving as President of Main Street Lexington and other boards, holding services at St. Patrick’s Church, or advising college students.

The latter became a large part of his career when he was named director of leadership development at Washington and Lee in 2001.

When asked about the biggest challenge in advising students, he identifies how different the problems young people face today are than the struggles of their parents’ generation. “They’ve lived through one tragedy after another—first Oklahoma City in 1995, then 9/11, then Sandy Hook. These days, children grow up with a constant threat of attack.” Perhaps these tragedies led to ‘helicopter parents,’ those well meaning parents who guide their children every step of the way.

Datz is uncritical; yet, he tells this story: “One day a boy saw a caterpillar cocoon in the forest. He sat and watched the cocoon sway and shake for a long time. After much effort, the boy saw the tip of a wing break through the cocoon. For hours, the boy watched the butterfly struggle to pry open its shell. Finally, two wings pushed the cocoon apart, and a beautiful butterfly emerged.”

“The next day, the boy saw another cocoon swaying. So, he pried open the cocoon to save the caterpillar from suffering. Yet, when the boy opened the cocoon, an immature, partly-formed butterfly fell to the ground. The butterfly was too weak to fly.”

He explains that personal growth results from change—from stepping outside of your comfort zone. This change is uncomfortable, but suffering is part of growth. Not one to take himself too seriously, he laughs and says, “the experience of failure is a great teacher.”

While in college, Datz asserted change that altered the course of his life. His father expected him to graduate from law school, return to New York and work for the family law practice. Yet, he knew that law was not a good fit. He changed his major to Spanish and began loving his studies. Datz knew that he wanted his life to be simply about helping people, and servant leadership became his method.

“Today’s college students have grown up in a narcissistic celebrity culture—a glorification of material excess or family fights. But, when you look at Jesus’ life, you see a life of service, not of celebrity.”

“There is a difference between leadership and a leader. Leadership isn’t just about everyone following one person. Anyone can step up and be a leader in their own way. It’s about each of us finding a way to serve the world.”


Linda Stone

Linda Stone, a much-loved pediatrician in Birmingham, Ala., has always enjoyed singing. Though she never had formal voice training, she reads music and sang in the church choir, concert choir, and ensemble in high school. For Dr. Stone, music is a path to give back to the community.

Dr. Stone also served the Auburn University community in many capacities while an undergraduate student. “My years at Auburn were some of the best of my life. I was active on campus, serving in the SGA and in the President’s cabinet. I was secretary of the O∆K circle and attended the national convention in Williamsburg, Va. While studying hard and participating in several campus organizations, I came to appreciate the wisdom of the Auburn Creed: I believe this is a practical world and that I can count on only what I earn. Therefore I believe in work, hard work. I believe in a sound mind and in a sound body and in a spirit that is not afraid.”

After graduating as the Outstanding Graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences, music took a back seat to medical school at the University of Alabama, and then her career and family life.

“About ten years ago, when my three children were old enough to behave in church sitting with just one parent, I joined the church choir, and soon after the Junior League of Birmingham Choral Group.”

The JLB Choral group has about 50 volunteers ranging from mid- thirties to the mid-eighties. Dr. Stone says, “We are committed to our mission of bringing joy through music to nursing homes, hospitals, under privileged schools, supervised work places for the disabled, and shelters for abused women and children, and recovering addicts. I think every one of us would say we receive equal, if not more, joy in return.”

She still manages to balance the group’s performances—from local events to an event at Carnegie Hall—with her career as a general pediatrician.

“I have been fortunate to have a rewarding career influencing the lives of many young people and their families. I count them as “my” children. I revel in their successes, and provide help and support during the hard times.  I am part of a remarkable practice of women, including Auburn’s first female ODK president, who practice exemplary medicine, raise families, and serve the community. We have accomplished this by working together to create flexible schedules and by a willingness to cover for each other when the need arises.”

When asked about leadership, Stone replies, “I believe the best leaders are servant leaders. They are committed, hard working, and willing to do what is needed not for recognition and reward, but because it is the right thing to do. Their decisions and actions are marked by honesty and integrity.”