Eric Stark was in the middle of conducting the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir in a rendition of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” Tuesday evening when State Rep. Dan Forestal and about 25 guests stepped onstage to deliver a surprise: Stark had been named a Sagamore of the Wabash, one of the State of Indiana’s highest individual awards.
“I almost always have something to say,” Stark, Butler’s Director of Choral Activities and the Symphonic Choir’s Artistic Director, said after receiving a standing ovation from the 200-member choir and guests. “But tonight I’m absolutely speechless. This will take a while to sink in. But I’m touched, and honored, and incredibly humbled.”
See a video of the surprise here.
Forestal (D-Indianapolis) delivered the award at Butler’s Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts, flanked by a contingent that included Stark’s mother, Sherry Stark, and stepfather, David Tiede; Stark’s brother Chris and sister-in-law Ann; and cousin Julie Moll and her husband, Tom.
“To say Dr. Eric Stark is deserving of this recognition is an understatement,” Forestal said. “The role he has played in enriching our community can be seen in many ways, but mostly in the lives of the people he has guided through the years. Through his great service, untold numbers have gained a greater appreciation of the power of music and have used that knowledge to entertain and enrich the lives of others.”
Stark, a Columbus, Indiana, native, began teaching at Butler in 1996 and is in his 12th season as Artistic Director of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. The Wabash College alumnus received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
Stark also has four CD recordings to his name and multiple new music commissions. He has conducted at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Strathmore Music Center, as well as in Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States.
Michael Pettry MM ’06, executive director of the Symphonic Choir, took a conducting class from Stark while in graduate school.
“Eric is an incredible leader, and I’ll tell you why,” Pettry said. “You wouldn’t know that he’s leading. Anybody who’s been in his choir, or who’s been in a committee meeting—as exciting as those are—with Eric sees the quiet, hands-off sort of leadership that Eric exudes. He’s a true educator through and through.”
The Sagamore, bestowed by Gov. Mike Pence, is considered among the greatest honors to come from our state’s chief executive. It is a tribute given to those who have provided a valued service to Indiana and its people. Sagamore recipients include astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, and ordinary citizens who have contributed greatly to the Hoosier heritage—including Stark’s maternal grandfather, businessman J. Kirby Risk, who received a Sagamore of the Wabash in 1969.