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In Perfect Harmony

Beloved husband and wife music professors retire after 28 years


From The Ichabod - Fall 2018

Fondly referred to by students as “Dr. Mrs.” and “Dr. Mr.,” Ann Marie and Lee Snook made a huge impact on both the Washburn University music department and its students. The two recently retired after Ann Marie suffered a massive stroke on Aug. 8, 2017. Calling Washburn home for the past 28 years, making the decision to retire was a tough one.

Although Lee was initially told Ann Marie wouldn’t survive the stroke, a successful surgery to remove a fist-sized clot revealed a much better outlook, and they anticipate a full recovery. However, knowing recovery will take time, the decision to retire made sense.

The Snooks are loved by students and administrators alike, leaving big shoes to fill in their absence.

A Classic Composition

Originally from Chicago, Ann Marie graduated from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Lee grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and graduated from Michigan State University. The two met in the apprentice program at the Chicago Lyric Opera Center for American Artists in 1977. The pair has performed with world-class conductors, symphonies and vocalists, including the Chicago Symphony and Luciano Pavarotti — as well as with each other.

“I can say, I would rather sing a duet recital with Ann than a solo recital with just myself, it's just much more fun,” Lee said.

“We've been married 38 years, and we're pretty darn happy together,” Ann Marie said.

They taught at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, before attending Michigan State University where Ann Marie received her master’s degree and Lee received his doctorate. In 1990, the pair accepted jobs at Washburn. Ann Marie received her doctorate from the University of Kansas in 2002 and became chair of Washburn’s music department in 2007.

Working in Concert

The Snooks undoubtedly took the Washburn music department to a new plane of professionalism. Gordon McQuere, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Washburn and current adjunct music faculty member, said the Snooks helped the vocal performance program remain particularly highly regarded.

“Highly talented music students often select a school based primarily on who the major performance teacher will be,” said McQuere. “The Snooks attracted many highly-talented young singers to the University.”

Former student and Broadway star Jeff Kready, b music ’04, holds them both in high regard.

“The Snooks gave me the ability to make a living in the performing arts,” Kready said. “Lee helped me find my true voice. He helped me strip away everything and find my instrument, find my most honest and natural sound, and if it weren't for him, I can unequivocally say I would not be where I am today.”

Lee was recently the recipient of the Ned Fleming Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is presented each year to recognize members of the faculty who have demonstrated a high level of excellence in teaching.

“Ann Marie showed me what it means to be a professional artist. She taught and exemplified what kind of study, practice, diligence, and work ethic are required of a professional musician,” said Kready. “Studying with her for years showed me the kind of focus I needed to be competitive in a brutal industry.”

As the chair of the music department, Ann Marie paved the way for positive change within the department.

“I was privileged to work closely with Ann Marie in her capacity as department chair,” McQuere said. “She was an able administrator with a clear vision for where the department was going, a ready grasp of complex issues, and the ability to be decisive when needed, even in uncomfortable situations.”

The Encore

A year after Ann Marie’s stroke and the couple’s retirement, the Snooks are now looking forward to what the future holds with a heartfelt reflection of the past.

“We feel fortunate that we were able to do something beautiful every day,” said Ann Marie. “You take poetry and music and put it together with a good voice — you just can't beat it.”

“We loved our 28 years at Washburn,” said Lee. “We’re not sure what we're going to do next, but it's kind of fun to think about it.”


Lifetime Achievement

Ann Marie Snook did significant outreach to get the community more involved with the department. These high-profile activities help gain support and attention from the public for both the music department and the university:

  • Bringing in Libby Larsen, a top female composer in the United States, for master classes and a concert
  • Welcoming back Jeff Kready and his wife, Broadway star Nikki Renée Daniels, for master classes, outreach performances in the community and a concert that raised $20,000 for the department
  • Having rock band Kansas play their 30th anniversary concert in White Concert Hall
  • Working with KTWU to produce and televise the Emmy-winning Holiday Vespers concert every year
  • Engaging with donors and patrons through the Friends of Washburn University Music to help secure numerous scholarships and funding for departmental programs and offerings.

The Ichabod magazine spring 2021

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

View past editions


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