Andress Retires After 33 Years
at the helm of the Centenary College Choir
The Centenary College Choir is world renowned and a major reason for that has been the leadership of its director for the past 33 years, Will K. Andress.
An alumnus of the Choir himself, Andress brought a passion to his work that built upon venerable Choir traditions and elevated them to legendary status by the end of academic year 2006–07. As he hangs up his director’s hat with official retirement at the end of June 2007, he can look back with pride upon a stellar list of personal and Choir accomplishments, including:
- Performing in 31 countries on six continents, including Russia, South Africa, Australia, India and China
- Visiting the The White House seven times to entertain Presidents, First Ladies and guests during annual holiday receptions
- Opening the Super Dome alongside Al Hirt and Pete Fountain and their groups
- Being the first collegiate choir from the South to make an Around-the-Word Tour and the first Protestant choir to sing Mass in St. Peter’s Basicilica
Additionally, he sang as an undergraduate during the Choir’s lengthy engagements at Radio City Music Hall and also participated in the Choir’s first and second international tours—to the Far East—soloing at both. “For a little boy from El Dorado, Ark., that was quite a trip,” he recalls.
Some 13 years after his 1961 Centenary graduation, Will Andress was back on campus as director of the Choir, following Voran’s retirement in 1972 and a two-year director’s stint by Dr. William Ballard.
Andress brought with him a desire to always give students the benefit of the doubt and to always expect their best. “I believe in providing a quality program that offers variety and where young people can look good and be the best in American youth—which they are,” he said in a Choir publication honoring its first half-century. Fifteen years later, he’s still able to say: “In all my years, in trips all over the world, I never had a problem.”
For Choir presentations, he has been hailed as having a knack for choosing sacred choral pieces that never seemed to go out of style, mixed with secular music that changed with the times. Throughout his tenure and travels, he developed a series of local, regional, national and international contacts that informed future performances and venues. Andress provided Choir members with a variety of performance opportunities, with celebrities—like Bob Hope and Barry Manilow—and with professional symphonies, musicals, television shows and recordings in addition to the hundreds of presentations at churches throughout the world.
“His high standard of ethics imposed on the Centenary students has provided the world a taste of Louisiana hospitality and courtesy representing the best that our state has to offer,” said Choir alumnus Randy Brown during his Image Award presentation. “His influence on more than 500 of these students has created generations of Shreveport-Bossier ambassadors living all over the world…I guess if I had to sum up Will Andress in a few words, these would come to mind: genuine… respectful… professional…courteous…imaginative… charming… inventive…creative.”
Though there is a lengthy list of impressive people and places touched by the Centenary College Choir, Andress seems most proud of the individual students and the close relationships that have developed among Choir members. He is pleased that so many assume leadership roles on campus, that they do the right thing, maintain a spirit of gratitude and develop a great love for the college and one another. Some even some find their spouses among fellow Choir members. Many have become successful choral directors in churches and schools, and many more participate in Choir alumni activities and choirs.
“I believe that the Choir over the 65 years has really developed and enhanced its love of the College. Sixty-seven percent of Choir alumni give to the College. That shows how much they love this College and I think loving it and supporting it and traveling and singing for it 30, 40, 50 times a year, you really develop a love of it,” Andress said. “We are here to support and be an arm of the school and to carry it into the community and to educate the students.”
So, after all these years, how does he feel about the prospect of retirement? “Well,” he says, “I’ve walked the campus for 38 years. I’m going to miss it. The students have been my vitamin pills for so many years as I’ve aged.”
Words of wisdom for those who come behind? “On my watch I tried to do the best I could. I wasn’t as gifted as some but I made up for it with passion…The Choir will continue to do the right thing. They’ll know that that is. Their inner spirit will know.”
—By Lynn Stewart with contributions from Peyton Dufour ’07, Choir Alumnus