Many professors have great relationships with their students, but Lowell Hepler, chair of the Allegheny Music Department, fosters healthy ties with students for their entire time at Allegheny.
Many students look to “Doc” as they call him, as a mentor. Hepler also knows how to take a joke — something students have capitalized on lately on April Fools’ Day. On April 1, 2018, members of the Allegheny Wind Symphony secretly distributed music to the “Super Mario Bros.” theme song. While Hepler was prepared to conduct a symphony, he was surprised to be met with cartoon video game music. Thus, a tradition was born pranking Hepler every April Fools’ Day.
The plan for 2019 was a bit more complex, as it required a lifesize cutout of Hepler. The plan was as follows: Take a full body photograph of Hepler, submit it to a lifesize cardboard cutout company, and move the cardboard version of the beloved conductor into the ensemble. After Hepler recognized his own face in the crowd of his 90-plus students (all of whom he knows personally) a “take a picture with Doc” day commenced. The twist? Students took their photos with the cutout version of Hepler.
What does it take for students to be so comfortable with their professor that they can prank him? According to Katherine Hubert, a senior at Allegheny, “The fact that he’s a friend and a mentor. He always says that ‘he doesn’t get mad, he gets even.’ I’m still waiting for him to get even for last year.”
To students, Hepler is more than just a professor; he is a mentor, a confidant, and most importantly, a friend. That said, Hepler’s cheerful personality and interactive teaching style allows for far more than just pranks. It opens doors for students of any skill level to develop a love for music.
Hepler has spent 45 years at Allegheny. He works alongside his wife, Dr. Julie Hepler. It is often said that the Allegheny Music Department is like a family. These two take that in stride. “Students are the very reason I exist,” Hepler said. “It’s the reason faculty are here. … Students depend on faculty and faculty depend on students” to demonstrate the symbiotic relationship he holds with students.
Hepler never forgets the true reason he is here–students. In fact, the student’s are Hepler’s most cherished part of his job. He loves the “interaction with the students” and “the personal relationships you can have,” he said.
Clearly, Hepler is more than just a professor, he is an integral part of the Allegheny community. His caring, fun-loving personality allows students to interact with him in and out of the classroom, whether that be as a mentor, or the target in a years’ long prank war. The past two April Fools’ Day were a success for the Allegheny Wind Symphony. It will be interesting to see their plans for 2020 unfold.