Announcing Unity's Next Director of Music Ministries
Brian Newhouse, Director of Music Ministries Search Committee, Chair
The envelope please! (Drumroll…) After a year-long national search, Ahmed Anzaldúa has been chosen as Unity’s next Director of Music Ministries. As Ruth Palmer retires this summer, Ahmed will begin.
Who is Ahmed?
Here’s a brief summary of his bio: Ahmed Fernando Anzaldúa El Samkary is a Mexican conductor and pianist of Egyptian descent. He holds a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Choral Conducting from Western Michigan University, and will receive his Doctorate in Choral Conducting from the University of Minnesota this spring. Prior to his arrival in Minnesota, he served as Music Director at Oshtemo United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo, MI. Before his family moved to the United States, Ahmed was professor of piano and orchestra at the Chihuahua Conservatory of Music, and was a freelance pianist, singer, and conductor. He’s the founder and artistic director of Border CrosSing, a Twin Cities-based organization whose mission is to integrate historically segregated audiences and musicians through choral music. He is also editor of the Justice Choir Songbook. Ahmed is married to Mayra Mendoza, currently a stay-at-home mom and a wonderful violin player and teacher. Their son, Ahmedito, is eight and he loves calculators and math.
In the Director’s job posting, we called for an exceptional musician who can build on our church’s many musical strengths, especially in choral music. We explicitly referenced our new Ends Statements, which were echoed in last fall’s congregational survey: “The Director will play a key role in Unity’s ongoing transformation, as we actively work to become an anti-racist, multicultural spiritual home. The Director will help shape that expression in service to Unity’s members and those who have yet to walk through our doors.”
After vetting 43 applicants, conducting hour-long interviews with 10 first-round candidates, multiple interviews with three second-round candidates, and coordinating final-round auditions with Unity’s three adult choirs, the Search Committee unanimously agreed that Ahmed is a strong fit for this position. What particularly excited us was how his life experience, career, and vision for the transformative power of music are in such clear alignment with our Ends.
I happened to see this first-hand even before we posted Unity’s position, as he led Border CrosSing — a choir of some of Minnesota’s finest singers — in their debut concert at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on St. Paul’s west side, rarely a site for choral concerts. He’d prepared the choir immaculately, and between numbers he turned to the audience and first in English, then in Spanish, gave them program notes — warm, insightful, with a touch of humor — and welcomed this new audience into the beauty and relevance of this music.
We witnessed this same approach in his Unity auditions. Fusing music into a larger mission is Ahmed’s calling. Our music program aspires to do the same: to build the free and inclusive religious community of our mission statement. We have an exciting path opening up as Ahmed begins here.
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