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2007 recipient: Lynn McRuer

The spirit of creativity, relevance, and excellence.

Lynn McRuer receiving the Distinguished Alumni Service Award from Henry Paetkau, Kenneth Hull, and another person

Giving back to the community seems to come naturally to Lynn, owner of Kitchener’s Music Plus,

said Conrad Grebel Music Chair, Dr. Ken Hull, when announcing Lynn McRuer as this year’s winner of the Conrad Grebel University College Distinguished Alumni Service award.

In many ways, Music Plus has become the hub of the regions' musical community. It's not just that Lynn is in touch with pretty much everything that's going on; it is the commitment to the well-being of the musical life of the community and the readiness to support the development of music-making that stands out.

The purpose of the award is to honour significant service and contributions of Grebel alumni while inspiring other alumni and current students. McRuer has indeed made a unique contribution to the community that is significant and worthy of recognition.

While studying at the University of Waterloo, McRuer was an active student in the music program at Conrad Grebel. She studied piano with Ken Hull and sang in the University Choir, Chamber Choir and even played in a recorder ensemble at Grebel. Music Professor Dr. Leonard Enns remembers her as a gifted musician and an excellent student. McRuer said,

The professors were an inspiration to me. Leonard Enns, Wilbur Maust, and Ken Hull are the educators who were most influential. I truly loved the choral experience with these gentlemen. Leading church choirs and starting a community choir seemed to follow naturally.

Practicing on the grand piano in the chapel (while praying that one day she could afford a similar instrument) is one of McRuer’s most vivid memories of Grebel. She also liked the small class sizes, accessibility to the professors, and exposure to new compositions played by other students and written by students and faculty.

Today, the name "Lynn McRuer" is synonymous with local Kitchener music store "Music Plus," in addition to countless other projects in the Kitchener-Waterloo music community.

McRuer, a 1985 Music and Psychology double major graduate from Waterloo, began working at Music Plus in 1988. Six years later, her boss offered to sell her the business for $1.00 - inventory not included. After careful consideration, McRuer assumed ownership and incorporated Music Plus.

When Music Plus Corporation, staffed by talented, working musicians, moved to a spacious old factory in downtown Kitchener, they welcomed the Beckett School of Piano – now owned by McRuer’s husband Bill Labron. As well, they rented facilities to Saxonia Music (instrument repairs), thus fulfilling McRuer's dream of a real "Music Factory" – lessons in all instruments, retail, print music, instrument sales, repairs, and even musical giftware. McRuer and her husband also helped co-found Kelman-Hall Publishing, a division of Music Plus Corporation. Their goal was to publish quality choral music with an emphasis on the music of Canadian composers. The company now distributes print music worldwide.

McRuer studied piano from the time she was 7, has sung in church since childhood and took her first job as a church organist when she was 16. She developed her love of great choral music while in high school and continued that interest by supporting local choral endeavours. McRuer and her sister Heather were the founding musical directors of the North Dumfries Children's choir, starting the group to provide the opportunity for all children regardless of ability or experience, to share in the joy of singing.

In 2003, the Lyrical Lines Education Network, a non-profit foundation attached to the Beckett School, presented the inaugural Waterloo Region High School Choral Festival. McRuer and Music Plus generously became a corporate sponsor of the event allowing 750 high school students in the region to raise their voices in song at the Centre in the Square. This year Kelman-Hall Publishing provided a commissioned work for the students and Leonard Enns conducted the Honour Choir.

McRuer said,

Winning this award was quite a surprise. I feel very honoured to be chosen, since I see my contributions as part of my offering back to the communities that have supported me. I see it as a normal part of life! For example, choir has always been part of my existence. It builds community like few other organizations. Whether in a church environment, community centre, or school, it allows one to express all manner of emotion and soul. Singing also is an integral part of my being. So to enable others to participate in singing is a joyful experience!

According to the Grebel Alumni Committee,

McRuer exhibits the ability to make musical connections in the lives of people everyday. She has been a wonderful example of leadership and service to the community and it is in this spirit of creativity, relevance, and excellence, that we award Lynn McRuer the Distinguished Alumni Service Award from Conrad Grebel University College.

This award was presented at Conrad Grebel’s convocation on April 15, 2007.