As we march through what has been the most challenging semester possibly to EVER face the field of education, we find ourselves twisting our minds in pretzels to discover what works and what doesn’t work on the fly. Every day is an experiment whether you are in person with masks, hybrid or all online, you are having to treat each day as if you are a first year teacher. We cannot predict outcomes because we have never done this. We have to innovate every day. Dr. Kyle Nielsen of Southern Virginia University has been putting together a highly innovative programme for his students this year that changes fluidly all of the time. In this conversation, Dr. Nielsen and I talk through the ideas and the processes that he bas been experimenting with.
Dr. Kyle Nielsen is the Director of Choral Studies at Southern Virginia University, where he was voted Professor of the Semester in Spring 2019 by the students and faculty. He conducts the Chamber Singers and Men’s Chorus, teaches Conducting, Choral Literature, and Applied Voice, oversees the Vocal Music Internship and Music Education programs. Previous to Southern Virginia, Nielsen completed the Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. While at Frost, he led the university men’s chorus Maelstrom, taught in the Experiential Music Curriculum, directed marketing and recording services for the Choral Studies area, and was the assistant conductor for the internationally-acclaimed Frost Chorale.
An active clinician and researcher, recent conference presentations have included the Western Division and National Conference of the American Choral Directors Association in addition to a recent webinar with Chorus America. An excerpt of his dissertation research was recently published as a Case Study in the Eastman Case Studies series, titled “Kinnara Ensemble, A Project-Based Ensemble.” Upcoming engagements include the Utah State Large Choir Festival coupled with various high school clinics throughout the mountain west.Nielsen also collaborates with some of the country’s leading professional vocal ensembles.
Recent positions include conducting fellow with Grammy-nominated Seraphic Fire in addition to Artistic Administrator for the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, where he coordinated all artistic contracting and operations. Additional appearances as a professional ensemble singer include the Piedmont Singers (Virginia), Schola Cantorum at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Virginia), Brevitas (Utah), and Musica Judaica (Florida).In addition to the University of Miami, Nielsen holds the Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and Theatre from Southern Virginia University and the Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting as well as Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from East Carolina University.
When we see and hear the Aeolians perform we impressed by the technical precision. We are in awe of the dynamic range, the tone, the diction and the phrasing. But we are INSPIRED by the emotional buy-in and engagement from the singers in the ensemble. This culture doesn’t happen naturally in choral ensembles. It is taught. It is a an art in and of itself to convince singers to pour their whole selves into each piece of music.
In Dr. Ferdinand’s second appearance on the show (Episode 11) we discuss the philosophy behind his “Teaching With Heart” book that seeks to inject tools into the conductor’s arsenal to address the most important issues of our world. In doing so we do a deep dive into the rehearsal techniques that foster connection to each other through the making of choral music.