I have noticed in the 6 months I have been doing this show that there is a hunger for questioning and exploring choral and educational topics at a philosophical level, about asking why, offering answers, and dialogue. We don’t get much of this at conventions, we get presentations. We get it a bit in college, but they are mostly lectures and prescriptions. So I invited Adam Paltrowitz of the Choral Clarity Blog to join me in discussing this brave new world and his experience in the choral blogosphere.
Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician.
During his 21-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States.
What makes his choirs unique is his belief that anyone can sing; as a result, his ensembles are always self-selected, while maintaining the highest standard of musical excellence. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. All students in his choirs continually learn and perform solo repertoire in various languages. Adam’s choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs.
Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University – Teacher’s College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University – Teacher’s College.
His weekly blog, Choral Clarity, has gained a large international audience as it provides a unique perspective to both the role of the choral director and the empowerment of all students.
Be sure to check out all of Adam’s great work at www.choralclarity.com and on the Choral Clarity facebook page.
Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla, and son, Nolan.
In this episode, I joined William Baker and Patrick Neas of the Choral Conversations Podcast to discuss a variety of topics including the distinctions and practices that set the amateur choral ensemble apart from the professional ensemble, and in what ways they are similar. Is a professional ensemble “better” than an amateur one? Are they so structurally different, that a comparison is useless? We discuss programming for large and small ensemble, the development of a sound ideal, as well as the business aspects of running a choral organization. Dr. Baker is the founder of the William Baker Choral Foundation . Patrick Neas is an arts contributor to the Kansas City Star and KC Arts Beat and serves as the moderator for the conversation.
William O. Baker has earned a reputation as an entrepreneurial conductor and creator of choral organizations. He founded the DeKalb Choral Guild in 1978 at the age of 19. By the age of 21 he had conducted Brahms’ German Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Schubert’s Mass in G, and Handel’s Messiah with professional orchestras, launching a career of ambitious artistic leadership that now has extended over forty years. In the last few years he has conducted the St. Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor of Bach, and the Sacred Service of Ernest Bloch, at the time of the performances the only Kansas City-based conductor to lead the works in over a quarter-century.
Baker created the Atlanta-based William Baker Festival Singers, originally called Gwinnett Festival Singers, in 1985, and established the William Baker Choral Foundation in 1990. In 1998 the conductor moved his home to the Kansas City area and created the Kansas City ensemble of the Festival Singers. The Choral Foundation has created over a dozen ensembles based in three states, involving hundreds of singers during the course of any year. His choirs have performed for numerous conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Education, and the American Guild of Organists, in addition to the 1982 World’s Fair and music festivals in the United States and Great Britain, most notably appearances before capacity audiences at Charleston’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival since 1989. He has led the Festival Singers in the production of 25 nationally released recordings and in television and radio appearances across the nation, including The First Art, The Sounds of Majesty and National Public Radio’s Performance Today.
No stranger to the orchestral podium, William Baker created the Mountain Park Wind Symphony in 1994 and the Kansas City Wind Symphony in 1998. Recent orchestral performances have included Vivaldi: The Seasons, Sibelius: Finlandia, Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, Bizet: Suite L’Arlesienne, Haydn: Symphony No. 59 “Fire,” Mozart: Symphony No. 41,Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 and Symphony No. 9. Choral collaborations have included projects with members of the Kansas City Symphony, the Kazanetti Chamber Orchestra, the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Kansas City Civic Orchestra, the Baton Rouge Symphony, the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and, in recent years, the Atlanta-based Orchestra of the American Heartland.
An Atlanta native, Dr. Baker studied voice and choral conducting at Mercer University and the University of Georgia before culminating his formal education at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago where he earned the Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting. His accomplishments have been recognized in his home states through proclamations by two Georgia Governors, Joe Frank Harris and Sonny Purdue, by Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer, by United States Congressman Phil Gingrey, by proclamations from the cities of Kansas City, MO and Roeland Park, KS, by the Johnson County (KS) Commission, and by a 2015 proclamation by the State of Georgia House of Representatives. In 2012 he was honored for his contributions to the cultural life of his hometown by the Pro-Mozart Society of Atlanta. In 2015 he was named Conductor Emeritus of The DeKalb Choral Guild.
A special JOINT production of the Kantorei Summer Choral Institute and the Choralosophy podcast that took place on June 19th, 2019. Each of the guests were in Kansas City working with the 120 regional young singers that participate in a one of a kind week of intense rehearsals, collaboration with adult professional educators and performers, and finally, a performance in beautiful acoustical venues. While they were here, I thought it would be great to sit them all down and pick their brains. This special episode features Dr. Allen Hightower of the University of North Texas, Dr. Alyssa Cossey of the University of Arizona and Robert T. Gibson of Reed Academy in Springfield, MO.
I moderated a broad range of topics from the stories that led each of the guests to where they are today, their philosophies on programming, representation, tone building and much more. As always, if you have anything to add after listening, be sure to head over to FB, and join the Choralosophers private group and share your thoughts. You can also find the show on Twitter and Instagram! I hope you enjoy!