Professor helps encourage women

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

She stresses that women can do anything, she wants her students to make a big splash in the world and she once wore glittery red shoes like in the Wizard of Oz to a concert.

Laura Diddle-Hildebrant has been a professor of music – teaching courses in elementary general and secondary choral music education – at SDSU for the last four and a half years. She serves as the conductor for the University Women’s Ensemble and teaches private voice at SDSU, along with being the South Dakota American Choral Directors Association president.

Prior to her time at SDSU, Diddle-Hildebrant taught music to fourth through 12th grade students at a public school in Indiana and was the head of choral activities at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn.

She attended high school in Metamora, Ill., and received her bachelor’s degree of music in voice performance from Indiana University-Bloomington. Originally, she wanted a career as an opera singer but discovered that teaching made her happier.

She completed her master’s degree in music education from IUB, and in December 2005, she received her doctorate in music education from the University of South Carolina.

Around the same time that Diddle-Hildebrant received her doctorate, she married Brian Hildebrant, a Brookings resident. She has a daughter, Julianna, 15, and three stepchildren: Christopher, 20, Andrew, 12, and Beth, 10.

Throughout her lifetime, Diddle-Hildebrant has seen the transitioning role of women, and these experiences play into her teaching style.

“I try to encourage [the choir members] and instill in them the potential they all have,” she said. “Any one of them can do anything they choose to do.”

In addition to encouraging her students, Diddle-Hiddlebrant also said she loves to observe her students’ growth and tries to help them “fly.”

“My purpose is to grow them and get them to a place where they can ? step out with confidence instead of tentatively inching forward,” she said.

Through the women’s choir, she hopes to achieve that purpose. “I see the choir as an opportunity to be a mentor and role model to encourage what I see as the future,” she said. “I have such faith, confidence and hope for these young women.”

Currently, the women’s choir has 117 members, and Diddle-Hildebrant does not limit enrollment. Instead she actively recruits for the choir, which is unusual for a conductor to do, she said.

As Kelli Fremark, a sophomore choir member, said, “The choir does not audition, nor does it discriminate against those who are not music majors but would still like to stay involved with music.”

In the future, Diddle-Hildebrant would like to start a women’s chamber ensemble of about 40 members, but right now, the University Women’s Ensemble has all her energy, she said.

With that energy, Diddle-Hildebrant has already achieved great things, according to choir members Fremark and the choir’s student assistant, April Geffre.

“She works wonders with the ensemble and knows exactly where we need to work and uses unique ways to get us to do the things we need to do,” Geffre, a senior music merchandising major, said.

Fremark said, “She turned the choir around from being a pathetic little campus vocal group into an accomplished musical ensemble known to directors throughout the country.”

As for the glittery red shoes, one December, Katie Jo McGuire – a member of the women’s ensemble – gave her the red shoes because McGuire knew how much she likes the Wizard of Oz. Diddle-Hildebrant then wore these shoes to a Christmas concert, causing someone to shout from the balcony “nice shoes.”

#1.882758:279274123.jpg:drdiddle_JN.jpg:Laura Diddle-Hildebrant leads the womens chorus through “Watane” by Mark Sirett during a rehearsal in Lincoln Music Hall on Feb. 11.: