Braxton Clark ’18
“So what about me?” Wallace Hornady asked his boss James Litton on a train ride from Princeton to New York. “And that’s how I became the assistant music director at the American Boychoir.”
Never mind that Hornady is a trained organist and a graduate of the Westminster Choir College in choral conducting. This Woodberry teacher has been featured in major news articles from The New Yorker to The Washington Post about his work with one of the world’s most prestigious institutions for the arts. But he wouldn’t be the one to tell you about it.
Known as the “darling” of the classical music world, the American Boychoir is beloved by choir fans and composers alike. The choir has risen to elite recognition not only due to its precocious singers but also because of the skilled and caring direction of Litton and Hornady. They presided over the choir during its “golden years,” and they even earned commercial deals and soundtrack recordings for national television commercials and movies.
Hornady started at the choir as a proctor, or in his words, a “glorified babysitter,” while he was in graduate school for choral studies. In reality, the job was strenuous, but Hornady recounts his past with the humility of an old sage. He rose through the ranks until he became the right-hand man of Litton, the legendary head music director. Litton decided to expand the operation into two choirs, and he was deliberating who should take the place at the head of the second choir on that train ride when Hornady spoke up.
Hornady’s choir traveled around the world, touring in Japan, Poland, and France. In the only synagogue preserved in Poland after World War II, he prepared a soloist for a performance at a fundraising concert with an Israeli conductor and a Polish orchestra. Hornady found himself thrust into the upper echelons of the music world. He had spent time with skilled conductors and musicians before, but now he was expected to perform on their level.
“I always felt like a dwarf among giants. You really had to produce. It was humbling,” he said.
Exhausted with the pace of life as a choirmaster, Hornady decided to find a less stressful job where he could still do what he loved. “It felt like the entire operation was on your shoulders. If I didn’t make it happen as associate music director or artistic director, it didn’t happen. You’re not only taking care of people’s children, which is most important, but you’re conducting a world class choir. It took a huge toll.”
“Then Woodberry called. It had huge inertia and gravity. I could stroke out this afternoon, and people would miss me for a while, but Woodberry would not miss a beat without me.” Hornady originally came to Woodberry as a substitute teacher for the choir conductor, but he never left.
Before long, Hornady turned into a cornerstone of the Woodberry community. Now he directs the choir and plays organ during chapel services. He mentors budding electronic artists and organists. Who else could teach choir in the morning, discuss jazz theory in a tutorial after lunch, and compose hip-hop with students in the afternoon? On Monday evening, you might even find Hornady in St. Andrew’s Chapel leading 400 boys in Gregorian chants.