The Man Behind the Conducting Baton

Merisa Ashbaugh- Contributing Writer

Plato once said, “Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” Driven by a love for music and his students, Adam Pulver brings a fresh, upbeat spirit to the McKendree University community and dazzles those he encounters with his gifted abilities. You’ve probably seen him walking around campus dressed to the nines or like a student, or perhaps passed through the lower level hallway of Clark and wondered where the alluring aroma of apple from a Scentsy warmer came from. If you happened to guess the show choir office, you would be correct.

Mr. Adam Pulver performing during the fall recital. Photo taken from McKendree University Show Choir.

Pulver was born in Jacksonville, FL and raised in San Diego, CA until the age of fourteen. For as long as he can remember, Pulver had a passion for music. His mother got him involved in community choir at the age of six. Pulver recalls a pivotal moment in his life: his mother’s passing from breast cancer before his first show choir performance in the seventh grade. She never got the chance to see him perform. At this point in his life, Pulver knew there was a place for music in his future.

In high school, he got the chance to be a part of a talented show choir program that was very constructive. He was enthralled by the levels of trust and respect he experienced firsthand. Pulver was also presented with the opportunity to bring to life a new show choir program that he developed his senior year and gave him the chance to further explore his talents.

Pulver earned his undergraduate degree in community health from Georgia Southern University. While finishing up his masters degree at Georgia Southern, Pulver came across a position at McKendree University in an online search. Based on his upbringing and coming from a large public school, he was always told that private school was too expensive. Initially, he saw the job as out of reach and knew that there was not a lot of opportunity for job offers in the world of collegiate show choir. “I never thought I would be a director of a collegiate program on a professional scale,” he said. However, the year he stumbled upon McKendree happened to be the exception. When he first came across the job offer, he did not apply immediately. It wasn’t until months later that he applied and found himself being flown out to McKendree for an interview. “You kind of get that feeling inside like you should do it, and I did,” he said.

Mr. Adam Pulver with Dr. Joni Bastian following the show choir’s end-of-the-year performance. Photo credit to Adam Pulver.

When Adam first arrived at McKendree, he immediately fell in love with the campus. “Everything felt so obtainable. It was all right in your reach,” he said. From the time that he first spoke with Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joni Bastian on the phone for a pre-interview to the time she picked him up from the airport, he felt a strong connection to her right off the bat. He looked forward to not only having her as his supervisor, but also the opportunity to learn from her and make her proud. “She drew me in. I just adore her and respect her so much,” Pulver stated.

Since accepting the show choir director position in 2013, Pulver hit the ground running and has not stopped since. He built the program from the ground up, spending countless hours recruiting, creating the shows, ordering costumes, and managing the business side of things. The group consists of singer/dancers, band members, tech crew, and support staff. Pulver sees each member as a valuable asset to the team dynamic, something that he strives to continually grow each year. “We’re a team first that ultimately grows into a very strong and resilient family,” he said.

Under his leadership, the show choir program has performed shows that include “Marilyn,” “Carmen Sandiego,” “Time,” “Christmas on Broadway,” student recitals, and their next big production, “Fame & Fortune,” that will take place in the Hett on April 21st. A proud director moment that has stuck with Pulver was the closing number of the “Time” show. “It was such a great show. It really drove a message home,” he said. The production centered around the concept of truly living in the moment and facing the harsh reality of time. “We taught something and did a really great thing that day.”

Members of the show choir program pose for a photo outside of their cabin retreat in Tennessee. Photo credit to Adam Pulver.

In addition to practicing year-round, the team knows how to work hard and play hard. Leadership and members of the program have performed on a Carnival cruise ship and travelled to the Smokey Mountains for a cabin retreat. Pulver reminisces about the tranquility of that special bonding trip for the group: no cellphones, no television, and students enjoying each other’s company while sitting on the porch under the stars. “I was just so moved by that trip,” he said. I’ll never forget it.”

Pulver with his dog, Little Girl. Photo taken by Adam Pulver.

While show choir consumes a great deal of his time, Pulver has an eclectic set of interests outside of the program. First and foremost, his beloved dog, Little Girl, remains his pride and joy. She became a part of his family in May of 2011 and has been his like his child ever since. “I wish I could adopt more puppies,” he said with a huge grin on his face. He also loves trying as many new foods as possible, especially those with new sauces. “I’m currently addicted to the Thai food peanut sauce. I can’t get enough of it.” Social justice is another passion for Pulver. Within show choir he is able to teach music, leadership, and empowerment, but he also incorporates special moments into practices where he is able to educate the group on social justice and doing the right thing. “I also would really like to find a philanthropy to be a part of that I can help to make a difference in.” He could see himself serving on a board of trustees for a philanthropy or organization one day where he could ultimately help them grow and prosper.

Pulver values the strong bond with his students and considers being a mentor for them to be one of his greatest successes in life. He loves nothing more than to see his students overcome obstacles and being able to help them get to a better place, along with being a part of those special moments when students feel broken and all they need is a helping hand. A quote that stays near to his heart from the film Nanny McPhee perhaps describes the resilient bond with his students best: “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.”

With that quote in mind, Adam Pulver did announce that he will not be returning to McKendree after the spring 2018 semester. He will forever be grateful for his experience at the university and his most precious moments with his students. Pulver looks forward to the next chapter in life where he will be starting another collegiate choir at a different institution.

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