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AHS Music Hall of Fame inductees named

The Austin High School Music Hall of Fame Committee will introduce its newest inductees during the high school’s spring choral concert May 18.

The three inductees were selected by a committee from a list of AHS graduates compiled by committee founder Ken Jensen, a retired AHS music teacher.

The inductees will be introduced to the public at the AHS spring concert and a banquet will also be held for them at the Hormel Historic Home.

From the class of 1945, the AHS Music Hall of Fame Committee will honor Shirley Wennes Jirele; from the class of 1971, Dr. Rick Orpen; and from the class of 1982, Elizabeth Hunter Ashley.

Shirley Wennes Jirele studied music at St. Olaf College and Mankato State University, and taught music in public schools in Westby, Wis., Austin and Lyle. She taught vocal music at Austin Community College.

She was chapel choir director at St. Olaf Lutheran Church as well as a private vocal music teacher. Wennes also belonged to the St. Olaf choir, sang with the Northwestern Singers, the Austin Symphony Chorus and the Miss Minnesota Pageant Singers. She had 27 students who won Miss Austin and three who won Miss Minnesota.

She traveled professionally with the Greg Smith Singers from 1966 to 1970.

Wenne now lives in Tempe, Ariz. where she conducts sing-a-longs at the Westchester Nursing Home.

Dr. Rick Orpen graduated from Riverland Community College with an associate’s degree, and earned a bachelor’s, master’s and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

He has been a member of the music department at Gustavus Adolphus College since 1980, where he has taught courses such as music theory, jazz guitar, composition and percussion techniques. He is also the developer of the MIDI-based music lab at Gustavus and offers a summer music technology workshop at the college.

Orpen plays guitar, bass and percussion and has performed at the Ordway Music Theater and the Walker Art Center.

He received the college’s Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2009.

Orpen now lives in St. Peter, Minn.

Elizabeth Hunter Ashley, Miss Minnesota 1985, graduated from the University of Kansas in 1987. She earned a master’s degree in music from the University of Nebraska, Omaha in 1995.

She won the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition and the 1995 concerto competition while she was studying in Omaha.

She now lives and in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has a private voice studio and is a voice teacher for the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

She is also a professional soloist and has performed in operas, operettas, cabaret, oratorio, recital and musicals. She has been featured as a soloist in orchestras in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois and New Jersey. Internationally, she has performed in Salzburg, Austria with the Mozart Prodigy Orchestra.

Ashley has been nominated for the Shelley Award three times, most recently in 2007 for her performances as Lily in “The Secret Garden.”

AHS Music Hall of Fame Induction

and AHS spring choir concert

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 18

Where: Knowlton Auditorium, Austin High School

Tickets: $5 for students and $7 for adults