Leaving a Legacy for the Art of Singing

Love of singing leads long-time member of MSU Choral Union to establish endowment.

The Choral Union and MSU Symphony Orchestra at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.
Kay Toben, center, rehearses with the Choral Union.
Choral Union is a large mixed chorus of 125 voices designed to bring the campus and community together in a joint musical effort.

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

Growing up in Morgantown, W. Va., 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.”

Kay Toben poses with David Rayl, professor of music and director of choral programs at MSU.

A Voice of Support

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 observes. “This is a way to get some of your best people to come to MSU for their master’s or doctoral studies.”

Director of Choral Programs David Rayl agrees. He reflected on how Kay’s passion for singing and choral music has also influenced the tone and direction for the MSU Choral Union. 

“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 came to MSU in 1977 to pursue her doctorate in counseling. In addition to studying urban issues, she also enrolled for a one-semester women’s glee course. When an internship took her to Central Michigan University for a year, she kept up with her singing by joining the CMU Chorus.

Kay moved to Indiana for two years, but returned to Mid-Michigan to work as a licensed psychologist. In 1988, she accepted a position at Emergency Services at Clinton-Eaton-Ingham County Community Mental Health. She worked there until retiring in 2013.

“Someone told me about the MSU Choral Union shortly after I came back to the area,” she says. “I joined almost immediately after hearing about it, and have been a part of it ever since.”

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 commented on the impact of Kay's 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.” 

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