Episode 13: Choral Snobbery? with Chris Maunu

In this episode I dig deeper with Chris Maunu on his “choiral” blog called “Choral Elitism” which has been a frequent conversation starter on choral conversation pages. I identified with his article very deeply, and felt the need to talk to Chris more about this topic. My hope is to use this show to help the audience gain a deeper understanding of the cultural change that is possible in our profession. Join us for an in depth discussion on the pressures we put on each other as choral musicians, conductors and teachers.

Episode 13: Choral Snobbery? with Chris Maunu
Chris Maunu- Arvada West HS

The question is How do we make our profession a reflection of the choirs we trying to build? NOT, how do we make our choirs a reflection of us.

Chris Munce

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Chris Maunu is a conductor, educator, and professional singer based in the Denver-Metro area. GRAMMY® nominated conductor Maunu is the Director of Choral Activities at Arvada West High School. A passionate teacher, Mr. Maunu was 1 of 10 Finalists for the 2018 Music Educator Award at the 60th GRAMMY® Awards. He was also 1 of 10 educators named as a 2019 CMA® National Music Teacher of Excellence. Since starting his career at Arvada West in 2006, the department has nearly tripled in size and has become one of the premiere high school choir programs in the United States. Choirs under Maunu’s direction have performed at 10 state and national music conferences, including Arvada West’s Vocal Showcase being one of two high school mixed concert choirs in the nation invited to perform at the 2017 National American Choral Directors Association Conference in Minneapolis. They were also recent winners of the prestigious American Prize in Choral Performance and have been invited by audition to perform in the Champions Competition of the 2020 World Choir Games (the 9th American high School choir in history to receive this invitation).

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Mr. Maunu received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Northern State University where he delivered the 2018 Commencement Address. He was also a recipient of a Commendation from the 71st House of Representatives for his work as a choral educator.

Be sure to visit Chris’ great blog! https://choirthoughts.wordpress.com/

Christopher has enjoyed serving as a clinician for all state and honor choirs in numerous states, including a recent appointment to the faculty of Guest Artists at Manhattan Concert Productions (MCP) in New York City. An active member of NAfME, CMEA, and ACDA, Christopher currently serves as the High School Chair for Colorado ACDA and is a past member of the CMEA Vocal Music Council.

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Mr. Maunu is also co-founder and artistic director of Colorado’s Anima Chamber Ensemble, an elite 16-voice ensemble of choral professionals. New to the Rocky Mountain choral scene, Anima has enjoyed plenty of time on the classical music airwaves and packs the halls with enthusiastic concert goers of all ages. In addition, Maunu has sung professionally with various ensembles. Such groups include St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Evans Choir, and Colorado Bach Ensemble. He has also performed with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Central City Opera, and Opera Omaha.

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Christopher holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Bachelor of Music Education from Northern State University in South Dakota. When not on the podium or singing in an ensemble, Christopher enjoys sharing his life with his beautiful wife Aleisha, and their pets, Paavo and Ligeti.

Episode 12: Does the Performance Goal of Most Choirs Lead to Exclusion? With John Perkins

Episode 12

In this episode we parse our way through a Choral Journal Article from December of 2018 called “What is Written on our Choral Welcome Mats” with the author, Dr. John Perkins of Butler University. In the article, Dr. Perkins seeks to tie the tendency toward valuing a performance standard and competition in choral culture to racial and cultural prioritization. As the reader I found myself bouncing back and forth between agreement and disagreement with the premise. While I do see the pernicious influence of COMPETITIVENESS in choir (ie. choir is NOT a sport…), I do not share his view that this can be tied in any way to race or culture. So, I just HAD to talk to him about this and he graciously accepted the invitation to parse out the particulars in the article. The end result was a civil and productive conversation that left me a greater understanding of his view on this topic. I hope you find it informative.

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Be sure to take the time to read the whole article here for context discussed in the episode.

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Dr. John Perkins owes his professional career to his loving partner, Emily, and children, Lili Amna, and Noah Ameen. He is the Associate Director of Choral Activities and an Associate Professor of Music at Butler University. Instruction at Butler includes the Butler University Choir (SATB ensemble) and Spectra (SSAA ensemble), Aural Skills I, and Conducting (undergraduate), and Graduate Choral Conducting Seminar. Combining with Nassim Al Saba Choir (United Arab Emirates), Sao Vicente Acapella (Brazil), and five local high school choirs, Dr. Perkins created a transnational course in Spring 2016, entitled “Peacebuilding through Choral Singing.” The course focused on social justice dialogue, relationship-building, and community leadership through choral singing. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Perkins will lead a similar course with partners in Malaysia, entitled “Musicking Futures.” Recently, the Butler University Choir has partnered with Eastern Star Church, Fishers campus, to encourage dialogue between predominantly Black and White communities. He practices choral-dialoguing with his ensembles and in the community as a way to more deeply engage in justice learning.Outside of Butler’s campus, Dr. Perkins is the Director of Music at Castleton United Methodist Church, a Fellow at the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Justice, and Global Reconciliation, and an Advisory Board Member for Euro Mediterranean Music Academy (EMMA) for Peace, and a member of the American Choral Directors Association Diversity Initiatives sub-committee.

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Before arriving in Indianapolis in Fall of 2014, he taught at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 2008-2014 and developed the country’s first music program in higher education. There, Perkins directed the university’s choral program and founded the Nassim Al Saba Choir, the first Arabic, four-part choir in the Gulf region. The ensemble, aimed at building bridges between Arab and non-Arab countries, performed extensively in the UAE and abroad in New York City, Indonesia, and Jordan.As a guest clinician, Dr. Perkins has been a resident artist and has given conducting masterclasses in the United Arab Emirates, USA, Indonesia, Oman, Lebanon, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His research and professional contributions include, presentations, articles, and arrangements concerning social justice through choral musicking, Arabic choral music, cross-cultural initiatives, the choral works of Lili Boulanger, music of the Symbolist (Belle Époque) era, conducting technique, and collaborative music projects. Perkins’s new choral-orchestral arrangement of Lili Boulanger’s Psaume 130, Du fond de l’abîme and Arabic choral arrangements have been internationally premiered.

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Dr. Perkins has presented at the International Society for Music Education (Azerbaijan), Research in Music Education (United Kingdom), New Directions in Music Education, ACDA statewide and regional conferences, the Lund International Choral Festival (Sweden), Aswatuna Arabic Choral Festival (Jordan), International Symposium on Choral Music (Indonesia), and the International Musicological Conference: Marginal Figures in 20th-century Music (Russian Federation). His research is published in the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, the Choral Journal and the International Choral Bulletin.Originally hailing from Titusville, New Jersey, Perkins holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Arizona (Tucson), a master’s degree in choral conducting, from Temple University (Philadelphia), and a bachelor’s degree in theory and composition from Westminster Choir College of Rider University (Princeton). He continues to grow through many transformative moments with his students.

Visit Dr. Perkins at his Butler University Website

Episode 11: Breaking Down Barriers with Jason Max Ferdinand

In this episode I sit down with the biggest star in the Choral World right now. Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand of the famed Aeolians, fresh off their WORLD changing performance at the ACDA National performance in Kansas City this spring. Our topics are wide ranging including his upbringing in the Caribbean and early life, his planning process for ACDA, the proper approach to spirituals, racial stereotypes in Choral Music and the social significance of the Aeolians’ rise to prominence.

Episode 11: Breaking Down Barriers with Jason Max Ferdinand
Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand- Oakwood University
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Jason Max Ferdinand is a Full Professor, Chair of the Music Department, and Director of Choral Activities at Oakwood University where he conducts the Aeolians of Oakwood University.

A native of Trinidad & Tobago, Ferdinand received his Bachelor of Arts degree in piano from the Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), the Master of Arts in Choral Conducting from Morgan State University, and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Maryland.   

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As a doctoral student, Dr. Ferdinand was privileged to have studied under the heedful eyes of Dr. Edward MaClary who is a protégé of the late Robert Shaw and also studied and collaborated with Helmuth Rilling, Margaret Hillis and Robert Page.  During his time at the university, he served as co-director for the University Choir and was an assistant conductor for the Chamber Singers and the Maryland Chorus. In addition, he taught undergraduate conducting classes. In the summer of 2006, Ferdinand was selected to lead the Summer Choral Festival Program at the University of Maryland.  Jim Ross, a former pupil of Kurt Masur and Leonard Bernstein served as his orchestral conducting teacher. The late Dr. Nathan Carter at Morgan State University changed the life of Dr. Ferdinand in a potent way. He served as graduate assistant to Dr. Carter and it was here that a true and clear vision for his life work was formed. Dr. Ferdinand attained his undergraduate degree in piano performance at Oakwood University.  He studied piano with Dr. Wayne Bucknor. Dr. Lloyd Mallory was his choral director and he was afforded the opportunity to serve as student conductor, student accompanist and had his arrangements performed.

Under Dr. Ferdinand’s baton, the Aeolians of Oakwood University have graced stages the world over.  Their repertoire of choral music which ranges from the Baroque era to the 21st century has been sought after and performed at venues throughout the USA, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Canada, Poland, Romania, Great Britain, Russia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Hungary.  Capping off a successful 2011 – 2012 Concert Series which saw the Aeolians visiting Moscow, Russia as part of the Russia-US Bilateral Presidential Commission on development of cooperation between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, they made their inaugural entrance at the 7th World Choir Games held in Cincinnati, USA, resulting in the choir earning gold medals in all three categories of entrance and the overall championship for the Spiritual category.  

In October 2015, Ferdinand made his debut at Carnegie Hall conducting the Aeolians, the Altino Brothers Concert Chorale and the Beyond Boundaries Symphony Orchestra.  Later that month, Ferdinand directed the Aeolians as they accompanied the world acclaimed soprano, Kathleen Battle at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center in her, “Underground Railroad: A spiritual Journey” Concert Series.  In January 2016, Ferdinand directed the Alabama Symphony Orchestra as they accompanied the Aeolians in a collaborated annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

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The summer of 2017 was a highlight in Dr. Ferdinand’s career.  Having attended the LLangollen International Musical Festival, in Wales, UK as a doctoral student with the University of Maryland in 2007, he returned as the director of the Aeolians of Oakwood University and won the coveted “2017 Choir of the World” award along with the event’s first ever “Most Outstanding Director” award.

Ferdinand maintains an active schedule as a presenter, adjudicator and guest conductor for high schools, collegiate, and church choirs throughout North America, Europe, and the Caribbean.  He is a former board member of the Alabama American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). A choral series bearing the name of Jason Max Ferdinand is now in circulation by Walton Music publishers.  He continues to actively compose and to mentor up-and-becoming composers. His greatest passion is watching those who he has mentored as conductors and composers, become conductors and composers in their own right.

Dr. Ferdinand loves to teach and was named “Teacher of the Year” for the 2017/18 school year by Oakwood University. Dr. Ferdinand is thankful for his parents, Dr. T. Leslie and Mary Ferdinand who are both retired educators.  His siblings Alva Ferdinand, J.D., Ph.D. and Abdelle Ferdinand, M.D. tribute any academic accomplishments they have attained to their parents.

Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand is married to Meka, who is a registered nurse and they are the parents of Caleb, Ava and baby Jamē.

You can learn about the Aeolians here.