Published: Oct. 17, 2016

Leaving a legacy for the art of singing

For as long as she can remember, Kay Toben has enjoyed singing.

Growing up in Morgantown, West Virginia, Kay sang with the United Methodist Church and with the A Cappella Chorus at Morgantown High School. When she was a little older and settling into her college and professional career, Kay worked as a 4-H county camp instructor throughout West Virginia and led a variety of activities, including singing. She can’t recall a time that music wasn’t part of her life, and remembers fondly how the family home she shared with her parents, brother and sister was always filled with music.

Today, singing and music is part of Kay’s everyday life. She is a member of the Choral Union at Michigan State University and on the board of the MSU Choral Society— activities she has supported and cherished since the early 1990s.

“Music is my passion,” she says. “I sing all the time. It just makes me feel good.”

In July 2016, Kay strengthened her commitment to the art of singing by establishing an endowment through the MSU College of Music. The endowment leaves a generous legacy gift that will benefit the college, MSU Choral Society and the MSU Choral Union. It’s a gift, she says, that comes from her heart and something she can share with others.

“The bottom line is if you really enjoy something and it’s important in your life, it’s likely that it’s important in other people’s lives, too,” says Kay. “If you can enrich that financially, it’s a great thing. I’d encourage anyone to support and give to what they enjoy.”

The Kay M. Toben Choral Society Endowed Fellowship in Choral Conducting will provide fellowship support for deserving and talented graduate students in choral conducting at MSU.

Kay Toben’s endowment complements the support she has provided the Choral Union for decades. Her goal, she says, is to help the college perpetuate choral excellence through scholarships that attract and retain gifted students.

“There’s a lot of competition out there for talented students,” Kay says. “This is a way to get some of your best people to come to MSU for their master’s or doctoral studies.”

David Rayl, director of choral programs, agrees.

“In the years to come, Kay Toben’s endowment will be an important source of funding for graduate conducting students and will help MSU continue to attract some of the brightest young talents in American choral music,” says Rayl who is also the associate dean for graduate studies in music. “Kay has been a committed and faithful member of the MSU Choral Union for many years and has made outstanding contributions as a Choral Society board member. We are grateful that her passion for choral singing and her experiences here at MSU have influenced her to set up this endowment.”

Kay says being around people who love to sing as much as she does greatly enriches her life. She made many friends over the years through rehearsals, activities and performances, as well the chance to perform in Florence, Italy and Carnegie Hall. Kay also met her husband Kenneth Moomey through the Choral Union and enjoyed 18 years of marriage before he passed away in 2012.

“These wonderful memories will last a lifetime,” says Kay. “I just love the Choral Union. For two hours a week, those rehearsals take me to a different world — to a place where no one talks business or about their troubles — to a place where you’re simply enjoying life.”

James Forger, dean of the College of Music, is grateful for the gift. “Kay’s vision ensures that the choral arts remains a cornerstone of culture and artistic expression for generations to come,” says Forger. “Our students, faculty and community are deeply indebted to her generosity and kindness in ensuring that others can share in the beauty and joy of singing.” 

Reused with permission from the MSU College of Music

Kay Toben, donor and creator of the Kay M. Toben Choral Society Endowed Fellowship in Choral Conducting, practices with the MSU Choral Society.

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