- Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
Celebrating 45 Years of Music - Jan Lanterman
Jan Lanterman joked, “I have often said. ‘I was born in a choir loft.’” Listening as she told her story, we thought it just might be true. Music was always a big part of her life. Her mother was an accomplished, professional singer with her own radio show out of Fort Worth, Texas. Their family moved to Petaluma when Jan was five years old. Jan grew up singing with her sister and mother; she played the piano since early childhood. At the age of eleven, she joined the adult choir at church. She enjoyed playing clarinet through her youth––until she went to college in Chico, where the band marched on the football field in the midday heat. It didn’t take long before she realized if she sang in the choir, she wouldn’t have to be out in the blazing sun. The director of the choir required her to audition; she easily made the grade. Of the experience she said, “I folded up my clarinet, sat in on the A Cappella Choir, and it changed my life. If it would have been cold, that [singing in the choir] may not have happened.”
Jan and her family moved to Napa in 1966, when her husband accepted an Industrial Arts position with the school district. Initially, they were not thrilled to move to Napa. The plan was to ‘give it a couple of years’ and then pack up and move to a more desirable location. Lo and behold, those years passed quickly and Jan’s expected dislike of Napa never solidified––she fell in love and has been thankful ever since that they made the decision to grow roots in the Valley.
It’s quite the coincidence she began singing in the Methodist Church as a child, and in 1973, she was tapped to become the Director of Music at First United Methodist Church of Napa, now also known as Napa Methodist Church, a position she has proudly held ever since. The past thirty-five years, her musical responsibilities at the church overlapped with her Artistic and Musical Directorships of Sing Napa Valley.
Jan did not set out to be a conductor. She was uncomfortable with her every move being watched, which for a musical performance, is imperative and unavoidable. When she did take on conducting responsibilities in her church choir, the pastor appreciated her effort and offered to send her to workshops to learn the craft, if she so desired. Her first summer school workshop was hosted at the Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. During the workshop, she discovered she already had the required skills; her task now was to improve on them. As time passed, she became accustomed to the role of conductor. “That’s the better part of me. I like being able to create a certain sound. I like working with people to achieve that goal. I think I like conducting best.” In the bigger scheme of things, the generous spirit of her pastor and his appreciation of her efforts, opened the doors which led Jan to her distinguished career.
When asked which local venues she thought had the best acoustics for her singers, Jan enthusiastically replied, “There are several that are quite good. The Methodist Church is highly regarded acoustically, and surprisingly, the Napa Chrysler dealer showroom on Soscol Avenue sounds wonderful. We had a concert there about a year and a half ago. We’ve had exceptional experiences at the Mont La Salle Chapel, of course. Last June we did a concert at Blue Note that went very well. We were pretty crammed up on stage, but we got friendly with each other and it worked out just fine.”
Jan recently had the honor of leading the church choir in New York City at Carnegie Hall. They also put in many hours preparing for their annual performances of Broadway musicals. A former Napa Methodist Pastor, Ginnie Pearson, came up with the idea to perform the plays and work the theme into her sermon or message, “Showing the gospel is alive in all aspects of life.” Jan said. “This program has come and gone through the years depending on the preference of the presiding pastor. This year in honor of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, we did West Side Story, and last year was Fiddler on the Roof. We’ve done Les Mis (twice), Cabaret, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and more.” Watch the church calendar for dates of future performances.
Travis Rogers, Napa High School’s retired, award-winning, Music Director––had much to say of his long-time colleague.
“It has been my pleasure to know Jan Lanterman for nearly 40 years. The lady is ageless! Many years ago, the state board of the California chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) was looking for an executive director to serve the nearly 1,000 members of the chapter of all professional, choral conductors. When the job description was presented at a board meeting I attended, a colleague and I simultaneously blurted out ‘Jan Lanterman!’. We knew she would be just the right person to take the job on. Jan ended up filling the position for over 15 years with tremendous success.
Jan’s people skills, administrative savvy and musical talent have served her and the hundreds of singers she has conducted through a long career in the Napa community––with class, poise and professionalism. Jan has enriched the lives of so many with her commitment to excellence in choral music. She has collaborated with many other conductors and choirs on combined concert performances in a wide variety of settings.
Rogers said, “I count Jan Lanterman as a close personal friend and professional colleague, we ‘talk shop’ still today. I have found her wisdom and common sense advice to always be sensitive, real and valuable. In short, Jan is the closest thing we have to a matriarch of choral music in Napa Valley––loved, respected and admired, a true musical treasure.”
Michael Herzog, Lay Speaker of Napa Methodist Church, echoed Travis’ sentiments.
“In her 45 years as Music Director, Jan Lanterman has built a program that enhances worship and provides a vital facet of the mission and ministry of the church. Jan challenges musicians to be the best they can be, and provides the tools, coaching and encouragement to make the musical experience the best it can be. That is a moment worth waiting for––worth working for. To participate in the music program at Napa Methodist Church is to experience being a church within the church––not an assembly of individuals, but a finely tuned instrument, the whole of which is greater than the sum of its parts. Thanks be to Jan.”
Jan’s extra-curricular music affiliations keep her busy. In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities with the choirs, she plays piano every Sunday during Vespers at The Meadows of Napa Valley. She is the regional treasurer of the American Choral Directors Association, which includes choral directors from California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Hawaii.
When we asked if she thought of retiring––a resounding “No way!” was her reply. “I’m going to sing until I can’t anymore.”
There is much more to be said of Jan, her career, and about her personally––as a local, loved by all––but space does not allow. Go see one of the many performances throughout the year and hear for yourself.