Ludden to leave to teach, compose at college level

Starting next fall, a singular booming laugh will be missing from the bottom floor of Chalmers. Instrumental music teacher Dr. Paul Ludden will return to teaching college at the end of the school year after eight years on the Coldwater campus.

Ludden, who conducts the Symphony and Concert orchestras and teaches music theory classes, started the Major Works concert, a collaborative effort between instrumentalists and singers and also arranges parts for various music groups on campus, including his own.

A scholar to his fingertips, Ludden often discusses music history in his orchestra classes, reading from a well-worn edition of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ National Music or challenging students to guess the year Beethoven was born. Though he teaches orchestras, Ludden is an accomplished singer as well, and he often walks into the choral room during the Chamber Singers class period and joins the bass section, Director of the Choral Music Program Rodger Guerrero said.

“He’s as good a singer as he is a conductor,” Guerrero said. “Not many symphonic conductors have that kind of dual expertise, and he does.”

Ludden moved to Los Angeles with his wife and three sons in 1999 to teach at the school and he initially planned to stay only until his youngest son, Peter ’05, graduated from high school, though he has stayed on for two extra years.

“At the high school level, the teacher is always busy,” he said. “I come here early and I stay here late. To be fair to God’s calling to me I have to be involved in my own creative work.”

Ludden received his bachelor’s degree in music composition at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, where he studied cutting-edge experimental and electronic music. He worked with the composer Ben Johnston using a system called “just intonation,” in which the frequencies of notes in a scale are related by whole number ratios rather than multiples of one basic interval.
“It’s hard to play, but it’s sometimes dissonant and sometimes even more beautiful than modern equal-temperament intonation and delivery,” he said.