The home for content and extra material related to the Choralosophy Podcast with Chris Munce!
Author: Choralosophy Podcast
Chris Munce is an accomplished choral performer, conductor, educator, clinician and arts administrator. As a performer he is a member of Kantorei of Kansas City, as well as the founder and Artistic Director. Under Mr. Munce’s direction, Kantorei has recorded and published three albums. The Kansas City Star praised “Music and Sweet Poetry” for its “lush and full bodied soundgorgeous singing” and The Observer (London) called “To Bethlehem” one of the best Choral albums of the year and “the most interesting festive album.” He has also performed with the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, and the Grammy Winning Kansas City Chorale. Chris was fortunate to be a part of the Chorale's Grammy Nominated album, "Rheinberger: Sacred Choral Works.”
Chris received a Bachelor's of Music Education and a Master's Degree in Choral Conducting from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. His graduate research focus was the performance practice of early Baroque choral singing in the French and Italian styles. Chris has studied with Eph Eely, Charles Robinson, Ryan Board, William Dehning, Peter Bagley and Jerry McCoy. He also served as adjunct faculty at the Conservatory teaching choral arranging, and at Blue River Community College as a professor of voice.
At Lee’s Summit High, Mr. Munce has lead his choirs to performances at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, the Missouri Music Educators Convention, Alice Tulley Hall at Lincoln Center and on a Masterclass with the multiple Grammy Award winning vocal group Chanticleer. He has been an active private voice instructor since 1999. Mr. Munce is married to Beth, a soprano and voice teacher. They live in Lee's Summit with their two children, Clara (10) and Colin (7).
This special episode comes at Podcasting from a bit of a different angle. Enjoy a spot as a fly on the wall while two couples, both comprised of two choral musicians, sit down to discuss the benefits and possible pitfalls of being married to someone who shares your professional sphere. My wife Beth and I welcomed Dr. Jennaya Robison, from the Conservatory at UMKC and Dr. Brett Robison of Viterbo University to join us in our living room for a candid and open sharing of experiences being “Married to the Choir.”
We covered how choral music brought both couples together, how competitiveness can create a challenge in the relationship, how it’s important for us to remember our role as supporter and fan for each other while also wanting honest professional feedback, and much more. We are still all trying to walk this tight rope, but I believe you will find the conversation interesting and engaging.
From myself, along with Robin and Jon at MyMusicFolders
Colorado STATE Testing: We were given the opportunity in early July to send prototypes to Colorado State aerosol lab for testing, and those results were published, along with several others, as part of their interactive mask effectiveness charts, and people continue to reference those results. Again, those published results contained tests on our PROTOTYPE Mask. When we realized that their published comparison charts declared that “ALL Singers’ masks” performed badly, we entered in to several conversations with Dr. John Volckens and more often his assistant, who actually conducted the tests, Dr. Christian L’Orange. We made changes or improvements in the RESONANCE Mask fabric choices and construction as a direct result of those tests.
We continued to improve our mask by adding the sewn-in polypropylene filter layer beginning with October production. Unfortunately, the prototype Resonance test results were permanently published in their charts and embedded in the Music & Performing Arts video broadcasts. Dr. L’Orange has assured us that when they update their Colorado State Lab website, they will include the more recent test results of our actual production Resonance masks, but since their website update has been delayed several times (they are busy working on air exchange measurements for classrooms now) they offered to take down the specific results for our prototype mask for now.
They agreed that leaving those results up were causing mis-information to continue to be distributed. Filtration is important, but equally important is how the Mask FITs: Simply stated, the Colorado State aerosol labs’ test is for filtration only. There are 2 masks that specifically “look great” in their tests, that do not function nearly as safely as one might assume, as the fit of the mask is loose & in-secure on the face as well as made of a difficult to breathe through neoprene material (TMF Vocal Performance mask) , or in one instance (The NOTEable Mask), instructs the wearer to be certain to leave “2 fingers’ width open at the bottom of the chin”. The NOTEable mask is constructed of such tightly woven material that to actually breathe through the fabric is very challenging, thus the need to allow air passage up from the bottom.
There are some important factors one needs to consider when choosing a mask for SINGING that differ from considerations for a daily use mask. The mask must fit closely to the face, without moving/slipping/dislodging from the face when engaging the face and mouth in complete width of movement necessary for a healthy singers’ vocal production. The mask must provide “breathability” – early on, the recommendations were to find “tightly woven cotton” and very tightly woven or extruded fibers (such as neoprene) in fact do prevent aerosol transmission, but can be extremely difficult to breathe in, especially when singing. We now know that several layers of more breathable fabrics can provide very good or better protection without impeding breathing.
The mask should be able to accommodate “double-masking” either by adding further filters or by being able to fit securely over a second mask in order to protect against the newer more transmissible Covid virus variations. Even though we added the silver-infused polypropylene filter layer sandwiched between the cover fabric and the lining, we continued to offer the additional disposable filters as an option, and always include 3 in every mask package. Those additional filters are a 3 layer non-woven melt blown polypropylene that we have 3rd party tested each production. Those filters have come back consistently at over 95% filtration efficiency. (Note the Colorado State Lab tests only the mask, not the optional disposable filter.) Using our 3-layer resonance mask with the additional filter should give even higher filtration protection.
Performers using various singers masks seem to prefer either ours or the Broadway Relief mask. Between these 2 masks, the RESONANCE Mask is better fitted – no gaping at the edges of the cheeks, fits snugly beneath the chin, and the silicone lining under the wide cheek-nose-cheek moldable wire really secures the Resonance mask to the face. The main complaints about the Broadway mask that I hear is that their nose wire is very stiff and difficult to adjust, and that the BR mask cannot be wet-laundered, only sprayed with disinfectant for sanitization.
I attach the most recent results from Colorado State regarding the RESONANCE Singers mask. Jon has created an overlay with these results within the graph Colorado State provides on their current website. The RESONANCE Mask results are the dashed lines (these are 3 separate test – results) and you can observe that our mask is more protective than the Broadway mask (even without our extra filter) at the lower levels of aerosol transmissions.
Lastly, our Resonance singers’ mask is used by the Colorado State University choirs, after consultation with the testing lab. We know this because their choral director, Dr. Gregory Gentry, spoke with us more than once throughout their Singers Mask selection process, although his University has advised against him actually “endorsing” us – I think they – Colorado officials – are worried about liability. Second attachment is the current certification at 97% avg. efficiency filtration of the disposable bio-filters that we provide for use with the masks.
With Dr. Jerry Blackstone, Matthew Workman and Brian Gaukel
Have you heard about this yet?! What an exciting project this is. My three guests for this episode have teamed up to create a monumental expression of what choral singing means to us here in the United States. “CHORAL SINGING IN AMERICA: NURTURING THE AMERICAN SOUL.”
So Jerry, Matt, Brian and I hooked up to discuss the behind the scenes scoop on how how this project came together and where it’s headed. You will definitely want to hear this story and continue to follow it closely over the next year. I believe the end result will be something we can all be proud of.
This documentary series gives voice to choral singing in America, the roots from which it grew, and what so many have felt for generations: in times of division and challenge, joy and sadness, heartache and ecstasy, life is better when we sing and even better when we sing together.
Reena Esmail is currently the composer in residence for the LA Master Chorale and the composer of TaReKiTa published by Oxford University Press. Reena works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, to bring communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces and holds degrees from Juilliard and Yale. In this engaging discussion, I had the opportunity not only to help you get to know Reena, but also to get her perspective on many critical issues facing the classical music community. We discussed:
The beauty of working with organizations that truly value relationships
Reena’s criteria for accepting commissions
Indians/South Asians representation in Western classical music
The distinction between the organizational level conversations about representation and the interpersonal
Working with both Western and Indian classical music styles
How it’s exhausting when there’s always a qualifier in front of your name
And much more! This was a VERY fun conversation! So be sure to tune in!
Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, to bring communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. Esmail holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the Yale School of Music. A resident of Los Angeles, Esmail is the 20-23 Swan Family Artist in Residence with Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the 20-21 Composer in Residence with Seattle Symphony. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Board of New Music USA, and Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural music connecting musical traditions of India and the West.
And don’t forget, the show is now on PATREON! Subscribe and receive Patron only content for as little as 3 bucks a month!
The hot topic this week has been choir snobbery online in regards to pop music, or commercial music. I think this is an important topic, but as always, I have my own little angle that might be different than most. It could be that telling people what they must support can be just as elitist as not supporting things. I will call it “Preference Policing.” So, where is the line?
Can we express our likes and dislikes just like other consumers of music?
Or do we, as music educators need to vocally “cheerlead” all music?
Is the tendency for vocalists to nitpick the techniques or “validity” of pop singers a sign of our corruptly elitist view of singing?
Maybe. But it could also be that we’re just jealous…
I saw a few posts from colleagues recently that seemed to lament our inability to have good discussions among people who disagree online. The first problem: we aren’t actually having discussions anymore…
The best conversations I’ve ever had with colleagues have been in the bar at conventions. Or on my show!
Just a random rant in my car. As performance opportunities dwindled over the last year, we have been quick to rationalize this as a good thing. Maybe because we needed to in order to cope with the loss? Either way, maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe the performances are critical.
In this conversation, Soprano Deborah Stephens and I engage in an open and raw conversation about many aspects of identity and how it effects our concepts of self as well as how this effects our view of the music world. We hit the hot button topics of our own identities and how we see ourselves, tokenism, stereotypes in musical tastes, blind auditions, appropriation, “who is this music for?” and much more. You won’t want to miss a minute of this one!
Deborah Stephens graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Georgia in December 2019 with a Bachelors of Music in Voice Performance. She is currently in a Master of Music in Early Music, Oratorio, & Chamber Ensemble at Yale University. In September 2017, Deborah founded and began to direct VERITAS Vocal Ensemble, a small group of 10 UGA students passionate about choral singing. VERITAS has performed on the UGA Student Spotlight Concert, many faculty and student recitals, and hosted a joint-ensemble benefit concert to support music education. Deborah currently enjoys speaking engagements at universities and on music podcasts, has been featured by Early Music America, and performs with professional choral ensembles such as Kinnara, Coro Vocati, and the Lake Junaluska Singers, and is a sought after freelance soloist.
Your TeacherGram can’t be your main focus. Make sure your kids remain at the center of everything you’re doing.
We are now in a time in which the line between our day to lives and our social media lives are becoming ever harder to keep separate. Almost like a living business card, we are curating public personas that for some people are the closest they will come to knowing the “real” person. As teachers, we are citizens of the world and are not immune to this rapidly changing landscape. The pandemic has only increased the amount of time we spend on social media. Katherine Rosenfeld has been winning this game as far as I can tell. She has managed to create a truly positive, professional and FUN web persona. As a new teacher, she is seeking ways to stay connected with her students whether in or out of the classroom.
Katherine Rosenfeld graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2019 with a degree in choral music education. Her time at NAU was marked by leadership roles including serving as the President for both the NAU chapter of the American Choral Directors Association and the Shrine of the Ages Choir. After finishing her student teaching in December of 2019, Katherine accepted a position teaching 7th and 8th grade choir at Arizona School for the Arts, a charter performing arts school in downtown Phoenix, where she currently teaches. Since the majority of Katherine’s teaching career has been online thus far, she seeks creative and innovative ways to connect with her students including her presence on social media. In addition to teaching, Katherine sings in church choirs and professional ensembles in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona and runs a private voice studio.
I was recently introduced to the Enneagram, so I cannot claim any expertise on it, so I called in a knowledgable friend! I invited Kailin Kane to come explain the Enneagram in a way that can enhance the context for those that know about it already, or as an introduction to noobs like me. As a music educator, she also has some really interesting ideas for using Enneagram as lens through which a director could view our students, singers or players. If we have groups of any size in front of us, it is safe to say that we have each of the nine distinct points of view operating within our rehearsal. Understanding these human truths can help us create an environment of empathy and compassion in our rehearsal spaces.
Kailin Kane has taught oboe and faculty development courses at the U.S. Army and U.S. Naval Schools of Music as well as coaches student chamber groups. She enlisted in the Army in 2007 and has served with the U.S. Army Ground Forces Band, U.S. Army Europe Band & Chorus, and the 323d Army Band “Fort Sam’s Own,” and has been a guest musician with U.S. Military Academy Band. A native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, she earned her Bachelor’s of Music in Oboe Performance from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She is currently seeking certification and training to teach the Enneagram.
Discuss (let kids chime in as much as possible) the examples of simple musical instruments. Why does a piano sound like a piano, or guitar like a guitar etc. (I recommend having your computer ready with some simple instrument sounds mp3s that can be imported and shone in Voce Vista.)
How is the human voice different? It’s way more complicated than a piano. Why? The human voice is complicated because the air speed, vocal fold proximation, and almost infinite number of shapes created by the resonating cavity allows for infinite numbers of sounds and timbres. Show this video https://youtu.be/au92XTLm_SU You could also ask kids to make goofy noises into the meet one at a time to prove the point.
Define pitch vs. noise (Show live examples in Voce Vista)
Discuss spoken language. “Why can we understand each other? Our brains are able to detect the subtle changes of overtones that occur when a person is moving their mouth. Show in Voce Vista, and be sure to point out that we speak in pitch. Without pitch our brain would not be able to detect the overtone patterns.
Then move into singing sounds. Demonstrate some clearly sung, resonant examples of the 5 major vowels live into Voce Vista. Point out the singers formant up around 3500 hz, and point out the shifting overtone pattern as your mouth changed shape. Optional video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N5q85G3ydk
This is a good chance to explain the importance of blend in a choir.
Next, I “imitated” young singers in a loving way… “The breathy kid,” “Kid who’s too cool to open his mouth” and any other funny ones you come up with. Recorded these live in Voce Vista and showed the kids some of the lack in overtone clarity that happens with those types of singing errors in technique. Always good to put good examples up for comparison. A nice review of concepts here: https://youtu.be/PKengo7y28U
On the last day I gave the kids 3-4 minutes to record and send their own sound sample for analysis. I imported and shared them all and let the kids see the “pictures of their sound” which they got a kick out of. It also gave us a chance to address the issue of “I don’t like the sound of my voice. I sound weird on recordings.” Well, yes Sally, that’s because you hear your own voice before the RESONANCE is complete. Ties things together nicely.
visit vocevista.com/choralosophy to download the software for a free 30 day trial. If you chose to purchase it, you will get 10% off when you enter Choralosophy checkout!
Tune As I Reflect On The Year, and Look Forward to 2021!
2020 is coming to a close (thank God) and I wanted to thank the readers and listeners here on ChoralNet, the Podcast channels, YouTube, or wherever you engage with Choralosophy content! This year has been year of growth for the show, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all of you!
A huge portion of that growth in 2020 were centered around two themes that got a lot of attention on the show for obvious reasons. Covid, and Social Justice related issues.
When the May webinar came out, I jumped into the fray be creating the Covid Conversations Series in which I interviewed some of the top infectious disease experts in the world in order to cut through a bit of the hype around the topic and offer a different way of looking at the issue than many had been exposed to. This project drew a lot of both positive and negative attention to the show, but it definitely drew in listeners! Ultimately, that’s why I did it. Covid affected our professions this year in a rather unique way, so I felt that a full exploration of the topic beyond “how do aerosols behave when we sing?” was warranted. As 2020 rolled on, it turns out that assumption was correct as hundreds of choirs around the world have returned to singing with risk mitigation strategies in place.
Back in February, prior to the tragic killing of George Floyd, I had decided to do a mini-series on topics surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion called “Choral Music: A HUMAN Art Form.” The episodes did well in terms of audience response and downloads prior to the pandemic. But, when the summer hit thousands more came back to download many of the episodes housed there. This was an interesting development as the discourse on social media heated up, and often times turned contentious, the conversations on this series took a different approach. Real people, just talking. In a way a Facebook discussion group cannot offer.
With both of these topics, it is likely more episodes will be added in 2021. Though, wouldn’t it be great if the world healed in a way that I didn’t feel the NEED to do more? Oh well, I guess we can dream. In the mean time, keep tuning in, and keep being part of the conversation.
Don’t bring work home with you. Grading practices and making literacy the core of the curriculum can lead to better choirs, less stress for the teacher and more time in class for a rich and in depth learning experience.
This episode takes on a unique format, in that it was birthed from listener response from a past episode on teaching literacy, and grading practices. John Sargent had been sending me some questions mostly centered around Episode 18: Ripping Off the Bandaid. I was finding answering the questions via text was too tricky, so I asked John to come on with me and flip roles and just grill me on how all of the ideas I talk about in the show play out in the real world. As we prepared to record, Nathan Connell jumped on over on Patreon with a bunch more questions.
So, tune in for a real nuts and bolts discussion about how a strategic curricular approach to literacy, vocal technique, and grading practices can make your job more fun, more fulfilling, less stressful and WAY less consuming of your free time.
Mr. Sargent is Choral Music Director at Newbury Park High School, where he conducts the Concert Choir, Women’s Ensemble, Chamber Singers, Men’s Chorus, and Advanced Women’s Ensemble. John graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor of Music Degree in voice and music education There, he sang in major opera productions, and studied under the tutelage of John Alexander. At Littlerock High School in the Antelope Valley, he initiated a choral program from the ground up with an enrollment of over 120 singers in three choirs, and from 2000-2003, he served as Assistant Conductor of the Antelope Valley Master Chorale at Antelope Valley College. John earned his Master of Music degree in choral conducting at California State University, Los Angeles, where he studied with Dr. William Belan and Donald Brinegar. Also known affectionately as “Sarge,” this is his 18th year teaching at Newbury Park High School.
Below are video examples of many of the ideas discussed in the episode
I am really struggling with teaching online. I know many of you are too. Since, I pick up a vibe that this is a touchy subject to discuss, I have no choice but to discuss it. Such is the lot of the podcaster, I suppose. I hope this helps somebody.
When you do music from a culture that is not your own, it is like you are holding someone else’s dreams and past in your hands.
In this touching and vulnerable conversation, Dr. Galván and I discuss the very important issue of programming and preparing to perform music from an ever growing number of traditions and cultures. This can be an overwhelming topic to approach in many ways. Partly due to the sheer number of styles and performance practices that exist. None of us can master them all, and that’s ok! Downstream from this problem is whether or not we give ourselves and our colleagues grace when they make mistakes. Do we shame the conductor who presents an inauthentic performance or do offer help and resources?
This episode is structured as a help and a resource. Dr. Galván has done a tremendous amount of work in the trenches on this topic in her storied career. That experience has left her with some very solid practices and procedures for each of us to use when we approach a new style of music to introduce to our ensembles.
Dr. Janet Galván, Director of Choral Activities at Ithaca College, was recognized by her New York colleagues for her contribution to choral music when she received the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) New York Outstanding Choral Director Award. Dr. Galván was awarded the Ithaca College Faculty Excellence Award for teaching, scholarship, and service in 2018. Galván was presented the 3rd Distinguished Alumni Award in Music Education and Choral Music from the University of North Carolina in 2016.
Sought after as a guest conductor of choral and orchestral ensembles, she has conducted professional and university orchestras including Virtuosi Pragenses, the Madrid Chamber Orchestra, and the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra in choral/orchestral performances. She has conducted national, divisional, and state choruses throughout the United States for ACDA, the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME),and the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE. She has conducted choruses and orchestras in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Washington’s Constitution Hall, Minneapolis’ Symphony Hall, Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, and Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center. She has conducted her own choral ensembles in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall as well as in concert halls in Ireland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria, Canada, and Spain. Galván was the sixth national honor choir conductor for ACDA, and was the conductor of the North American Children’s Choir which performed annually in Carnegie Hall. She was also a guest conductor for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Galván has been a guest conductor and clinician in the United Kingdom, Ireland, throughout Europe, Canada and in Brazil as well as at national music conferences and the World Symposium on Choral Music. She was on the faculty for the Carnegie Hall Choral Institute, the Transient Glory Symposium and the Oberlin Conducting Institute.
I am pleased to introduce you to the next EXPOSED composer from Graphite Publishing, David von Kampen. I am doing a piece of David’s this winter with my students, and was inspired to pass along how great it is! So, why not resurrect this segment on the show. Enjoy!
“To stimulate thinking you must ask questions. The instant you give YOUR philosophy, the thinking stops. What you want is for them to think for themselves.”
Dr. Eph Ehly
It’s difficult to describe the impact that Eph Ehly has had on the choral profession. In fact, it may be impossible to quantify. He has cultivated the passion to teach and conduct in multiple generations of young teachers. He has impacted thousands upon thousands of singers in honor choirs, and in his own choirs. Perhaps I can only illustrate this with an anecdote. He was my teachers in the late 1990s, but also inspired my mother to become choir director while directing the South Dakota All-State choir in the 1970s. He is truly an intergenerational choral legend. Meanwhile, in Idaho, he came to work with my wife’s collegiate ensemble where he inspired Beth to come to Kansas City for her Masters. Where she and I then met! So, when I say I owe this man a lot, I mean a lot.
In this episode, Dr. Ehly and I discuss the changes he has seen in the choral profession over the decades as well as what has stayed the same. We discuss his philosophy of education, and where he sees music fitting into that philosophy. We also discuss the concept of teachers being models of curiosity rather than the source of answers.
Named “one of the most sought-after choral conductors/clinicians” by The American Choral Directors Journal, Eph Ehly is renowned as a conductor, author, and lecturer. Ehly has appeared in 48 states, as well as Canada, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and several countries throughout Europe, and presented on more than 100 college and university campuses. DCINY’s Maestro Jonathan Griffith—the recent winner of the 2014 American Prize in Conducting—comments: “Dr. Eph Ehly has been a major influence in my life, not only musically but also personally. Much of who I am today as a conductor goes back to the early days of my doctoral studies at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and specifically with my daily contact with Dr. Ehly. It is a sincere privilege to honor this wonderful and giving musician and human being.”
After 27 years of service – and conducting over 80 All-State Choirs, and over 600 festival ensembles – Dr. Ehly retired from the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City. He also served an Interim Professorship at the University of Oklahoma in 2006-07. More than 90 Doctorate and 100 Masters Degree students have graduated under his supervision. He imparts a lifetime of wisdom and expertise in his popular memoir, “Hogey’s Journey,” published by Heritage Press, and Hal Leonard Publishing Company released a series of video master classes which feature Dr. Ehly’s philosophies in conducting and rehearsal techniques. He has received numerous important teaching awards and fellowships.
Is school really driving community spread? Or is school safer than the general community?
Dr. Høeg joins me to discuss a topic that is directly pertinent to many of my listeners as colleagues and friends who are concerned or at least interested in understanding how Covid is affecting school from a science and data perspective. We take a depoliticized, hype-free deep dive into what has been going on in the data surrounding Covid in schools during the last few months. Should schools be open? Should they stay closed? What are the risks to students and teachers in terms of data? What are other countries doing about schools? What are the risks of NOT opening schools? Has the politicization of this issue caused us to miss an important middle ground?
Dr Tracy Høeg is a Physician Scientist (MD, PhD) Danish-American double citizen based in Northern California, specializing in Sports and Spine Medicine and with a PhD in Epidemiology. In private practice at Northern California Orthopedic Associates. She is also an Associate Researcher at UC Davis and a journalist at UltraRunning Magazine. Mother to four, long-distance runner, lover of mountains, music, photography and anything that makes her kids happy.
A choral musician with a “marathon mindset” would never listen to a choir and think, “well, we’re done. We’ve done all we can do.” The same is true of our lives as teachers/conductors.
Welcome Dr. Emily Williams Burch BACK to the show, but this time IN my home studio. A personal and vulnerable conversation in which Emmy and I discuss the ways in which the process of learning for our students AND for ourselves as teachers/musicians must be viewed as a marathon and not a sprint. You will not want to miss this candid conversation that we hope you will find not only helpful in the classroom for your students, but also for you and your growth as a professional.
Tune in as we discuss negative ways choral directors compare ourselves to each other, the need to appreciate our growth through reflection on where we started, being honest with ourselves about our goals and much more! (Apologies for some technical issues with this episode. It was my first attempt with some new gear. Podcasting is also a marathon!)
As many listeners know, quality conversation is my passion. Building our resistance to vitriol and judgment in online conversation is a huge part of that. Angel Eduardo is a writer that I came across on Twitter when his article “Three Tips for Having Difficult Conversations” came across my feed. I instantly knew I had found a kindred spirit. So, if the election has you stressed, followed by the prospect of an increase in family time at Thanksgiving in which you will surely be dragged into a tough chat, then this episode is for you! Perhaps more importantly, this episode is for EVERYONE of any political background or profession that wants to put anger and judgement in conversation behind them.
His photographs have been published in The Olivetree Review and exhibited at various shows in Northern New Jersey, most notably Jersey City’s Casa Colombo as part of the Eye Write photography exhibit, and at the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center as part of an event called The Photographic Code. Angel has also provided cover art for books, including Personal Effects: Essays on Memoir, Teaching and Culture in the Work of Louise DeSalvofor Fordham University Press, which makes use of his photograph entitled “Early Bird.”
Angel has been writing, performing, and recording music since the age of 15, and has gigged at numerous venues in the tri-state area and beyond. His former band, Blue Food, released a full-length album and, through fan votes, beat out dozens of other groups for the chance to join the lineup of 2014’s Mantrabash outdoor festival in Ferguson, North Carolina.
An autodidact with a passion for presentation and big ideas, Angel has been intimately involved in every creative facet of his projects, from songwriting, producing, mixing and mastering, to designing and overseeing the creation of album artwork, concert posters, and merchandise. His tireless work ethic and boundless devotion to the act of creation has him dipping into multiple mediums, experimenting with myriad crafts, and endlessly searching for the biggest, best, and most exciting ideas.
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.
Dr. Weber, in my mind, is one of the legends of the choral profession due to the contribution of her body of work over many years and at all levels of teaching. I find the combination of her high level of music making, along with her experience in classrooms with young kids and everything in between to be a fascinating model to which we can all aspire. I can’t think of a better person to guide us through our thinking about concepts related to ownership and professionalism within our ensembles.
Is it possible for us as conductors to “let go” of some of the control? What would that look like? Could our choirs actually improve by us getting out of the way? How would our egos handle that…? In this refreshing episode Dr. Weber and I tackle these and many more questions. Be sure to tune in!
Dr. Betsy Cook Weber is a Madison Endowed Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. She teaches a full load of coursework, oversees the large and varied choral area at the Moores School, and is also highly active internationally as a conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and lecturer.
The University of Houston Moores School Concert Chorale, which she directs, has established a reputation as one of the world’s finest collegiate choirs and has been a featured choir at multiple state (2002, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2017) and national conventions (ACDA 2007, 2017, NCCO 2017). Internationally, Chorale has received acclaim at six prestigious competitions, winning or placing in every category in which they were entered. These include the Eisteddfod in Wales, Florilége Vocal in Tours, France, International Chamber Choir Competition in Marktoberdorf, Germany, the Grand Prix of Nations in Magdeburg, Germany, the Bela Bartok International Choral Competition in Hungary, and the European Grand Prix in Arezzo, Italy. Judges’ comments include “de luxe singing, eliciting admiration and gratitude,” “wonderfully elegant and humorous,” “sophisticated choir — expertly prepared and with a finely-tuned corporate ear.” In 2015, Musica mundi, in its ranking of the top 1000 choirs in the world, placed UH Concert Chorale #1 in its age category and #3 among all choirs worldwide.
In addition to her work at the University of Houston, Dr. Weber serves as director of the Houston Symphony Chorus. Under Weber’s leadership, the Houston Symphony Chorus has performed over 200 concerts consisting of repertoire as varied as Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and Video Games Live. She is privileged to collaborate with some of the world’s best conductors, including Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Jane Glover, Christoph Eschenbach, and Nicholas McKegan. She has led the HSC and HS Chamber Singers on two European tours to the Czech Republic in 2017 and in Poland and Germany in 2019, including a performance at the world-renowned Bachfest in Leipzig.
In the coming year, in addition to her return to work once again with the Arkansas All-State, Dr. Weber looks forward to engagements in California, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Germany.
Dr. Weber frequently prepares singers for early music orchestras Ars Lyrica and Mercury Houston and is also routinely called upon to prepare choruses for touring shows, includingJosh Groban, Andreas Bocelli, NBC’s Clash of the Choirs, Telemundo’s Latin Grammy’s, Star Wars in Concert, and the Eagles.
In the summer of 2013, Weber became the 13th person and 1st woman to receive the Texas Choral Director Association’s coveted Texas Choirmaster Award.
She holds degrees from the University of North Texas, Westminster Choir College (Princeton, NJ), and the University of Houston.
How can we set up our music courses to truly meet students where they are and encourage students that singing is skill to be built, and not a talent one “has” or “doesn’t have?” Can we create a curriculum and grading structure that does not reward and punish students for their exposure to music, or lack of it, BEFORE they signed up for our classes? We can if we grade on growth.
“NOT teaching literacy every day to every student is elitist.”
In this short episode I will present some ideas and processes that have been very successful for me and my students, and how those processes have changed through trial and error. At one time, I held the belief that students should be held to a standard to be “reached.” Now, the academic goal for each student is to leave the class a better singer and musician than when they came in. Achievement is simply a byproduct.
At the end of the year the students should be better singers. Not better CHORAL singers. Better SINGERS.
Dr. Jami Rhodes
This special episode is a tag team. Dr. Andrew Crane of Brigham Young University and Dr. Jami Rhodes of East Carolina University join me to discuss some common myths, misconceptions and vocal pedagogy practices that many of us undertake in a choral rehearsal that cause us more work in the long run. Need to fix the intonation? Have you fixed the technique first? Or are you talking to the singers about their “ears.” Trying to achieve blend? Maybe a unified technical approach to healthy vocal production can do all of the heavy lifting for us. This episode had SO MANY good one liners and quotes, that I had trouble choosing them for the promo materials. Don’t miss this one.
This conversation is not only informative, but practical and flat out fun! Tune in and bring your note pad! You will want to try a lot of these ideas in your rehearsal tomorrow!
Andrew Crane was named Associate Professor of Choral Conducting and conductor of the Brigham Young University Singers in 2015. Previous to this appointment, he served for four years as Director of Choral Activities at East Carolina University, and six years in the same position at California State University, San Bernardino. He is also the former choral director at Provo High School.
Choirs under his direction have appeared by invitation at multiple conferences of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO). Recent such performances include the 2017 NCCO biennial conference in Baton Rouge, and the 2019 ACDA national conference in Kansas City.
On the international stage, in 2015 Dr. Crane led the East Carolina University Chamber Singers to a first place finish in the 13th Maribor (Slovenia) International Choral Competition Gallus, the only American choir to win in the history of the contest. He has also appeared as a guest conductor and lecturer at the Conservatory of Italian Switzerland, the Military University of Culture and Arts in Vietnam, the Choral Musicians Association of Hunan Province (China), and the Indonesian Institute of the Arts.
Jami Rhodes, mezzo-soprano, appears regularly in recital, opera, and concert works throughout the United States. Dr. Rhodes is currently Associate Professor of Voice at East Carolina University where she teaches applied voice, serves as coordinator of vocal pedagogy, and conducts ECU’s treble ensemble, the ECU Concert Choir. She holds the Doctor of Musical Arts in vocal performance and pedagogy from Louisiana State University, a Master of Music in vocal performance from the University of South Carolina, and a Bachelor of Music in music education from East Carolina University. Dr. Rhodes is the 2018 ECU recipient of the NC Board of Governors award for Excellence in Teaching.
Recent and upcoming appearances include Anita in Bernstein’s West Side Story and mezzo-soprano soloist in Corigliano’s Fern Hill, Handel’s Messiah, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, Mozart’s Requiem, Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody, Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio, Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil, Durufle’s Requiem, Forrest’s Jubilate Deo, Arnessen’s Tuvayhun, Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Mahler’s, Symphony No. 3, and Dvorak’s Stabat Mater. She can be heard as the Baroness von Krakenfeldt on the Ohio Light Opera’s recording of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Grand Duke released by Albany Records in 2003. Her recording of Dinos Constantinides’ Marche de Galvez with the Louisiana Sinfonietta and Schola Cantorum was released by Centaur Records in February of 2008.
At this point you have probably heard of Chor Amor. If you haven’t then get out from under that rock, and listen! 😉
They, under Troy Robertson’s leadership, have hosted brainstorming sessions, virtual choir performances, and teaching resource content on choramor.com and so much more. The value of a centralized location and effort of professionals collaborating to rise to a challenge like our current one cannot be over stated. In this conversation, Dr. Robertson and I discuss the story BEHIND Chor Amor and the thinking that led to this idea becoming so valuable to many in our profession.
Creativity: We are singers, conductors, and teachers. We first gathered to create. The singing we do gives us the opportunity to be creative, but it does far more than that. It leads to new resources that serve as an example of what we can accomplish together: scores, guide tracks, video, and audio.
Learning: The thrust of our efforts is in developing and showcasing techniques, speed, and opportunities we can carry forward into whatever comes next, whether face-to-face, at distance, or some hybrid of the two. We believe these opportunities will prove to be exponential in number and variety as individuals come together to brainstorm and solve problems.
Service: We use our social media and professional service channels to invite all to take part. Our members join in Zoom meetings and webinars, and some choose to sing with us. We invite them to mix and master their own choirs into a digital musicking experience that will include thousands from across the nation and around the world. The challenges of the moment are evolving, but they have exposed inequity in our ability to serve using digital solutions. We will explore and develop the means to serve singers, students, and parishioners without access to high quality hardware, software, and internet service.
Dr. Troy Robertson is the Director of Choirs at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX. Before coming to Tarleton Dr. Robertson taught at Ithaca College and served for several years as choral director at East Gaston High School in Mount Holly, NC. He is a composer whose works are published with Hinshaw Music, Santa Barbara Music Press, Colla Voce, and Music Spoke. Dr. Robertson holds degrees from Florida State University (Ph.D.), the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (M.M.), and Furman University (B.M.Ed.). He is a lifetime member of ACDA and an active member of NCCO, TMEA, and TCDA.
This Choralosophy Podcast special has been recut and reimagined by Michael himself to include the most salient portions of our free wheeling conversation on many choral topics including the role of the conductor, the reimagining of the performing arts during our hiatus, and the secrets of the Anuna brand of small ensemble singing, and much more! Interspersed throughout with stunning video and music performed by Anuna and curated by Michael for this special. A truly unique presentation that will leave you inspired, informed and excited about the future of our art form.
In this short episode, I welcomed Lori Sonnenberg, speech pathologist and singing voice specialist, BACK on the Choralosophy Podcast to help us with a pressing issue. The school year is starting again, and many of us are know using our voices again in new and unique ways. Namely, teaching or singing in a mask, or online, or BOTH. This will present unique vocal health challenges for singers and teachers. We hope this little tutorial will serve as a useful resource for you as the wear and tear increases on your instrument.
LORI L. SONNENBERG is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Voice Specialist. In her clinical work, she combines her passion for treating injured voices with her extensive background as a singer and voice teacher. She has achieved remarkable results in working with her own students and patients as well as in assisting some of the country’s most respected voice teachers and clinicians. This blend of talents and skills makes Ms. Sonnenberg a formidable asset to the clinical and singing voice worlds.
A Choralosophy First attempt at a front porch conversation. I invited members of my recently graduated choral program to talk about what life has been life in lockdown.
Featuring Eghosa Ogbevoen, Avery Beavers and Zaria Jackson.
This episode is an experiment for sure! I began to feel like much of our conversation had been a little too teacher focused on the show. A bit too “informational” and not enough “relational.” So, I became very interested in hearing from some of my students to hear what it was like from the perspective of some graduating seniors who watched their Senior year of high school evaporate in front of them. What was that like for them? What was the emotional roller coaster, and how has it affected their mindset for the future?
We discussed their feelings about losing choir of course, but we also discussed other realities of life for the class of 2020. Isolation, the forcing of all conversation into an online forum, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and ensuing protests, and much more.
Apologies for the audio quality. We recorded outdoors for safety, and much of it turned out ok, unless my AC unit was on.
When Science gets thrust to the center of our artistic world, how do we react, how do we gather info, and how do we decide?
An enlightening conversation about our singing with Covid situation with Nick Sienkiewicz. Nick is a young colleague preparing to earn his Masters in Choral Conducting at IU Bloomington. But before that, Nick earned a degree in Bioechemistry. I was very impressed with Nick’s ability to explain the scientific process, as well as some of the pitfalls that those of us who are not trained in science can step into when we aren’t careful. On this show, a major undertaking has occurred and collected under the Covid Conversations page on this site to collect extremely relevant expert opinion on a broad range of virus related topics to help us ask the full range of relevant scientific questions beyond the important aerosol questions. This is unfathomably important as schools and communities begin to open. I think you will enjoy Nick’s perspective and tips for navigating this complicated web.
Nicholas Sienkiewicz is a conductor and scientist currently based in Bloomington, Indiana. Nick obtained his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, and Bachelor of Musical Arts from Western Michigan University. During his time at WMU, he served as Music Director for the Unitarian Universalist Community Church, Choir Director for the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus, and the Executive Director of Open House Theatre Company. On the scientific side, Nick worked as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant and Supplemental Instructor for the Chemistry Department at WMU. Nick also served as a Research Assistant in the Teske Laboratory and a Protein/Vaccinology Intern for Zoetis Inc. Nick is pursuing his Master of Music in Choral Conducting at Indiana University Bloomington.
How can we streamline the rehearsal process to make the most of student contact time?
If you are like me, you have seen a TON of ideas for online activities to keep our choirs engaged. And that’s wonderful! We need as many tools in our belt as we can get. However, what about the times when we may encounter a “hybrid model,” where contact time to sing together in person is allowed, but drastically limited? How then, do we prioritize our time?
Sadly, I cannot offer this short episode as “tried and true tips” for obvious reasons. It is very likely that this will be the situation for myself and many others soon. So instead, I will be hopefully offering some helpful ideas that I THINK will work nicely all things considered. We will focus on some time saving strategies that can maximize our precious minutes with the students.
If it can go online, get it online (music theory, individual sight reading, listening activities and analysis, maybe even some rehearsal elements)
Sight reading instruction is more important now than ever. It will speed up your rehearsals.
Adjustments of repertoire to fit the time demands. What priorities rise to the top?
Eric Whitacre may be the father of the virtual choir. But could he have ever envisioned what it would become?
In this episode, I have the honor of speaking with the FATHER of the virtual choir. Eric Whitacre. We discuss the origins of his virtual choir “franchise” and his thoughts on watching that concept evolve during the pandemic. I really appreciated his openness in discussing his “behind the memes” persona, as well as the philosophy behind the virtual choir and its community based ecosystem.
“I am ACHING to make music again. I never realized it was my oxygen. Lot’s of people feel this way. When we come out of this, we will enter a golden era of singing. People will cherish and make time for it like we’ve never seen before.”
Our online choral conversations are frequently centered, especially recently, around culture. How do we negotiate a diverse society within our classrooms and the online conversations that result?
Dr. Graham invited me on his YouTube channel to discuss topics that fall under this broad umbrella like cancel culture, race, discourse and why so many of these topics are difficult to discuss. I was honored to participate it Dr. Graham’s series on his show on “The Culture Wars.”
Teaser: in this conversation I refer to Robin DiAngelo as Beverly D’Angelo… TWICE. Cancel me now…so embarrassed.
Introducing an AMAZING product from MyMusicFolders.com! The resonance singer’s mask shown in this short demo is an excellent option for risk reduction in Covid-era singing. Ultimately, for choirs who choose to sing using tools like this, you will need a mask that is conducive to comfortable breathing and articulating. This is the mask for you!
Remember: you MUST use the mask in conjunction with local health guidelines and other risk mitigators like hygiene, ventilation and distancing.
In this episode, I continue my deep dive into attempting to understand how the pandemic may effect our world generally, but specifically the world of music and the performing arts. However, it should be obvious that parallels to our everyday lives are interwoven into this information. In this conversation, Dr, Manian and I focus primarily on the mode of transmission for this virus. Toward the end we spend quite a bit of energy discussing the much disputed concept of “droplet” spread and “aerosol” spread, as well as the benefits of mask wearing in as many situations as possible.
Farrin A. Manian, MD, MPH, FACP, FSHEA, FIDSA, received his Masters of Science in Public Health-Epidemiology and MD (cum laude) degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha National Honors Society. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America and Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Dr. Manian has authored or coauthored more than 90 scientific articles and book chapters. He is the author of the book, Mosby’s Curbside Clinician: Infectious Diseases and was the first editor of APIC handbook of Infection Control. He is a member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Infection Control. His publications have appeared in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology and the AmericanJournal of Infection Control. He has been voted as one of America’s “Top Doctors” in Infectious Diseases.
His hobbies include photography and collecting antique medical books and paraphernalia. He created the website http://www.doctorsbestshots.com donating his photographs in return for a donation to the Care for AIDS Patients fund designed to defray the cost of care of indigent patients with HIV infection.
National Chair of the American Choral Directors Association’s Diversity Initiatives Committee
This episode flipped the normal script a little bit, where I got to be on the hot seat! I was honored to be invited to be the guest on “And the Beat Goes On” presented by Arreon Harley-Emerson of the Choir School of Delaware. We agreed to co-present this conversation largely centered around diversity and inclusion. This is been a frequent topic on the Choralosophy Podcast, but this time we focused on ideas about how to broaden the conversation to include people who might not currently be engage in this important work.
Are we willing to consider that some of the rhetorical techniques employed by many in equity circles might be a barrier to some people that don’t speak the lingo?
Music Educator. Choral Conductor. Nonprofit Executive.
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Arreon A. Harley-Emerson was appointed Director Music and Operations of the Choir School of Delaware in June, 2013. In this position, he is responsible for the musical components of the renowned Choir School program as well as the day-to-day operations of the organization.
Mr. Harley-Emerson began singing with Doreen Falby and the Peabody Conservatory Children’s Chorus at the age of seven. Later, he went on to sing with the Columbia Pro Cantare, under the directorship of Mrs. Frances Dawson. Harley-Emerson began building his technique through private voice and piano lessons in Mrs. Dawson’s studio in Columbia, Maryland. He would later return to the Peabody Children’s Chorus during his college years, serving diligently as a conducting intern for three years. Mr. Harley-Emerson has had the opportunity to sing with the Columbia Festival Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, and the Baltimore
Opera Company. Mr. Harley-Emerson graduated with honors from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, with bachelor’s degrees in Music Theory & Composition and Vocal Performance (opera). There he studied piano with Dr. Lisa Weiss, voice with Mrs. Betty Ridgeway, and conducting with Dr. Elisa Koehler. He received master’s of music degrees in Choral Conducting and Vocal Performance from the University of Delaware School of Music, studying Choral Conducting with pedagogue Dr. Paul Head and Voice with Dr. Noel Archambeault. Mr. Harley-Emerson has had the opportunity to conduct in venues such as St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, The Kimmel Center for the Arts in Philadelphia, and the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. Mr. Harley-Emerson also contributed a chapter to The Oxford Handbook for Choral Pedagogy entitled “The Gang Mentality of Choirs: How Choirs Have the Capacity to Change Lives.” He also has a TEDx Talk that bears the same title.
Committed to the principles of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), Mr. Harley-Emerson has established a thriving consultancy to assist arts and culture nonprofit organizations in remaining relevant in the 21st century. His work includes longitudinal studies, strategic planning, Board Excellence training, resource and asset development, and board diversification. Mr. Harley-Emerson currently serves as the National Chair of the American Choral Directors Association’s Diversity Initiatives Committee. An active member of the Wilmington, Delaware community, Mr. Harley-Emerson is on the Delaware Arts Alliance’s Board of Directors, where he serves as President of the Board and chairs the Advancement Committee which is tasked with fundraising, membership development, and DEIB.
In addition to conducting and performing classical and operatic works, Mr. Harley-Emerson is an avid lover of musical theater. When not performing, you can find him indulging in his true passion…potatoes! He has never met a potato that he did not eat!
In this episode, I bring you a substantially in depth conversation with another expert physician who specializes in infectious disease and is on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients.
Humans have a strong bias towards pessimism and the disregarding of any good news. As a result, we tend to trust bad news without question, and demand proof for good news. We apply this imbalanced approach to evidence to our peril. We should be making an effort to understand as broad of a picture as we possibly can. The goal of this episode is NOT to view the situation through rose colored glasses. In fact, you will hear explanations of the scary side of this virus here. However, we will be weighing these things against the positive developments that have occurred leading to an overall drop in the risk to our society as doctors have continued to learn and discover new and better ways to care for COVID patients.
My concern during the entire month of May and June in choir world has been our hyper focus on one set of questions related to this pandemic. We have asked important questions about how choirs might contribute to the spread of this virus due to increased expulsion, or “super-spreading” of aerosols and droplets that may be produced when singing. This is an IMPORTANT question, but it is not the only question that we should be focused on as we consider a safe return to ensemble singing. Some critical questions that I think we are missing:
1. What do we know now that we didn’t know a month ago about viral transmission and risks to people exposed? (now that data has been collected over many months, and therapeutics have been developed and improved, the risk picture looks much less severe than it did in early March.)
2. What do we know that we didn’t a month ago about therapeutics? (discussed in episode.)
3. What do you know about the metrics being used in your area by public health officials to determine ending or changing certain gathering restrictions? (Discussed in episode.)
I addressed some of these questions in Episode 33 with Dr. Adalja from Johns Hopkins. (I address the danger of hyper-focusing in general here.) In this conversation, we were all fortunate that Dr. McKinsey was able to give us a substantial chunk of time to devote to a broader conversation related to understanding our predicament in a deeper way.
Dr. David McKinsey is a physician with Metro Infectious Disease Consultants-Kansas City. He serves as Regional Medical Director for his group. In addition he is hospital epidemiologist at Research Medical Center, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Kansas, and Infectious Diseases consultant at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. He received his medical degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and completed an Internal Medicine residency at the University of Iowa and then an Infectious Disease fellowship at the University of Tennessee-Memphis. He is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases. He has served on the boards of several organizations regionally and nationally, has been actively engaged in medical research throughout his career, and has published many manuscripts and book chapters.
Just in case anyone still doubts the docs that have been on this show re the regionality of risk:
“I hesitate to make any broad statements about whether it is or is not quote ‘safe’ for kids to come back to school. When you talk about children going back to school and their safety, it really depends on the level of viral activity and the particular area that you’re talking about. What happens all too often — understandably, but sometimes misleadingly — is that we talk about the country as a whole in a unidimensional away.” Dr. Anthony Fauci
Also, some have seen the article from the British Columbia CDC posted earlier related to “no evidence of airborne spread.” Sadly, I didn’t see this until after I had done the interview with Dr. McKinsey. So I emailed him, and he confirmed that within the physicians circles, this seems well accepted. All of the latest data suggests that it is droplet transmission, not aerosol/airborne. ”Bottom line is that since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, droplet transmission has been postulated as the main means of spread and now the data are confirming this. Airborne spread would have been very bad news.” I followed up and asked if that means masked singing would be a significant increase in safety (a different angle than what we were told in webinar on May 5.) He said, “That’s exactly right. Droplets containing virus are trapped by the face mask, protecting the wearer. (And others if they wear one it’s a two way street.) In theory, with an airborne pathogen, a mask would not filter the virus (unless it was a N-95 mask) but that is not of practical importance with SARS CoV-2”
Lastly, I am really embarrassed by the sound quality of this episode. For that, I am sorry.
Some critical misunderstandings in pandemic world: (As a lay person I had to work pretty hard to wrap my head around this. I am sure some lay people already get this, but many don’t)
Conflating, unintentionally, getting infected or exposed to SARS-Cov-2 (a virus) with being diagnosed with COVID-19 (a disease) One does not always lead to another. (CDC best estimate shows 35% infected will show no symptoms)
Conflating, unintentionally, the Case Fatality Rate or CFR with the Infection Fatality Rate or IFR.
Not understanding that the number you see on the news and on data tracking websites is real time info that is not at all informative or helpful. Starts as a crude number and gets refined with vetting. Many areas have seen this crude number look like 4-7% or 4-7 out of 100 are dying.
Understanding the two vetted numbers:
CFR is the higher number based on the number of people who pass away, divided by the number of people who are sick enough to seek treatment and then get diagnosed with COVID-19. That number is easier to nail down early in a pandemic when testing is not widespread for obvious reasons. The only ones factored in are the ones actively engaged with the health care system. (Though time from onset to death causes fluctuation in the rate due to the lagging indicator and differs from the reported numbers because not all reported cases are ever confirmed.)
Current overall CFR best estimate: .4% or 4 in 1000 (see number broken down by age below in attached image.)
The health care system uses this number to help plan for the allocation of resources that they can predict they will need to devote to those patients who show severe symptoms to save as many lives as possible. (ie, the much touted “having enough hospital beds, ventilators,” etc.)
IFR is the lower number that reflects all people who become exposed and infected with SARS-Cov-2 and the proportion of those people who pass away. It is a much lower number for all viruses because it includes the people who don’t get sick at all, and the ones who only have minor symptoms and don’t seek medical treatment. This number is MUCH harder to pin down, also for obvious reasons. This requires MANY data collection points from across the world to be aggregated and vetted, and it also requires the widening of the testing net to include people in the general population who would otherwise have no reason to be tested. So, a solid attempt at publishing an IFR is impossible in the early stages of a pandemic.
Seeing that current best estimate from CDC is 35% asymptomatic that puts the IFR at .26% or 2.6 in 1000 (you can find these by age below as well, simply by multiplying the CFR by .65)
This number is a better used for individuals in the community to measure the risk to themselves and their families. Because it represents how the disease statistically effects the general population. In other words, understanding the risk if they or their loved one were to be exposed to another person with the virus.
All of this must then be factored in to our best local indicators in order to assess your overall risk. Best local indicators are new hospitalization and new deaths. NOT new cases because new cases vary greatly depending on the local availability of testing. (Which is why comparing “spikes” in one country or even state to numbers somewhere else, is not productive.)
How Narrow Focus and Tribalism Leads to Bad Decision Making
A special edition of the Choralosophy Podcast. It’s basically not about choir at all… But, it’s short and I hope it’s thought provoking, or even helpful!
We sure are living in a strange time. The mission of the Choralosophy Podcast is to encourage conversation to zoom OUT and see the big picture, whether it be in matters strictly musical, or on any other topic. Please join the conversation.
This special episode is a Podcast exchange with the brand new “Music (ed) Matters” podcast hosted by Dr. Emmy Burch. I invite you to check out her show!
I am excited to welcome Emmy Burch to the Choral Podcast “scene” with this episode. She already has several excellent conversations available on her channel. In this conversation we discuss some mutual concerns about what we see as under-discussed issues in what could be the early stages of a new era of online delivery of large group music instruction.
Do virtual choirs create equity issues?
What are some necessary steps to close the opportunity gaps?
When we see our students again, how can we prepare them for future online learning?
Does grading online work help or hurt?
Dr. Emily Williams Burch is the founder and artistic director of RISE Chorales, a community choir organization in Savannah, GA with a mission of experiencing musical artistry, education, and personal growth through the choral arts and community experiences. Burch received her Doctorate in Conducting with doctoral minors in music history and music theory from the University of South Carolina, during which she taught introduction to music, designed and taught the history of rock, and directed the university women’s chorus. Dr. Burch earned her Masters of Music Education from Florida State University, where she assisted with the Capital Children’s Choir, and a Bachelor of Music Education from Louisiana State University, where she graduated magna cum laude. Prior to that, she served on the podium as Director of Education and Music for the Savannah Children’s Choir for nine years and worked as Department Chair/General Music/Piano Teacher at Garrison School of Visual and Performing Arts.
She continues to have the privilege of traveling the country as a Teacher Trainer and Choral Curriculum Developer for Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music, an interactive K-8 music curriculum. Additionally, she serves as an Artistic Adviser for Perform International, where she helps organizations create and realize their dreams on tours in the US and abroad. Choirs under her direction choirs have performed regionally, nationally, and internationally. Emmy has volunteered in various roles within the American Choral Directors Association, including Repertoire & Resources Chair for Children’s and Youth Community Choirs for the Southern Region. She and her husband live in Savannah, GA where they are members of the Metropolitan Savannah Rotary Club and marathoners who train with the Savannah Striders.
As we all look forward to an uncertain future in our choral rehearsals, we might also turn our attention to what was an already RAPIDLY changing market for choral sheet music. For a conversation on this topic I reached out to Susan LaBarr, composer and editor for Walton Music. Our conversation was wide ranging from the changes that have occurred over the last 10 years, to her prognostications of things to come. We also discussed common myths about copyright law and the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self publishing.
Rules related to performance and recording rights.
Changes in the industry pre-covid
What could the future look like due to increasing use of technology and increased online music learning.
What does “educational use” ACTUALLY mean…
Susan LaBarr (b. 1981) is a composer and choral editor living and working in Springfield, Missouri. Her compositions are published by Walton Music, Morningstar Music, and Santa Barbara Music Publishing. Susan has completed commissions for choirs worldwide, most notably Seraphic Fire, the National ACDA Women’s Choir Consortium, and the Texas Choral Director’s Association’s Director’s Chorus. She served as the Missouri Composer Laureate for 2012 and 2013. Her arrangement of Quem pastores laudavere appeared on New York Polyphony’s 2014 Grammy- nominated album, Sing Thee Nowell. Her work for mezzo soprano and piano, Little Black Book, was premiered at Carnegie Hall in October 2019.
Central to Susan’s musical vocabulary is the knowledge she gained from studying with Alice Parker at her home in Hawley, Massachusetts, where she attended the Composer’s Workshop and Melody Studies Workshop. Susan attended Missouri State University in Springfield, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in music and a Master of Music in music theory. Susan, her husband Cameron, and their son Elliott reside in Springfield, Missouri, where Cameron is the Director of Choral Studies at Missouri State University and Susan works as Editor of Walton Music.
Dr. Adalja is a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. His work is focused on emerging infectious disease, pandemic preparedness, and biosecurity.
I am honored to be able to publish this in a time in which all of the education field is reeling with the possibility that school might be unrecognizable in the fall. From state educational organizations publishing recommendations that look very scary, to “The Webinar” that blew up facebook.
I publish this NOT because this episode provides a solution, (because there is no easy solution) but simply to begin a dialogue on how to assess our own risks. In our current world, this is a skill everyone will need in order to do their work. We cannot farm risk assessment out completely to politicians or to our bosses.
My goal is to help us be self and singer advocates. The parents of many of our student singers who own restaurants are doing this right now. We are next.
Many of these decisions will not be made by us, but we need our voices at the table armed with solid information. Follow Dr. Adalja on Twitter @AmeshAA
Dr. Adalja has served on US government panels tasked with developing guidelines for the treatment of plague, botulism, and anthrax in mass casualty settings and the system of care for infectious disease emergencies, and as an external advisor to the New York City Health and Hospital Emergency Management Highly Infectious Disease training program, as well as on a FEMA working group on nuclear disaster recovery. He is currently a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s (IDSA) Precision Medicine working group and is one of their media spokespersons; he previously served on their public health and diagnostics committees. Dr. Adalja is a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians Pennsylvania Chapter’s EMS & Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness Committee as well as the Allegheny County Medical Reserve Corps. He was formerly a member of the National Quality Forum’s Infectious Disease Standing Committee and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System, with which he was deployed to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake; he was also selected for their mobile acute care strike team. Dr. Adalja’s expertise is frequently sought by international and national media.
Dr. Adalja is an Associate Editor of the journal Health Security. He was a coeditor of the volume Global Catastrophic Biological Risks, a contributing author for the Handbook of Bioterrorism and Disaster Medicine, the Emergency Medicine CorePendium, Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, UpToDate’s section on biological terrorism, and a NATO volume on bioterrorism. He has also published in such journals as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Emerging Infectious Diseases, and the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
Dr. Adalja is a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Emergency Physicians. He is a member of various medical societies, including the American Medical Association, the HIV Medicine Association, and the Society of Critical Care Medicine. He is a board-certified physician in internal medicine, emergency medicine, infectious diseases, and critical care medicine.
Dr. Adalja completed 2 fellowships at the University of Pittsburgh—one in infectious diseases, for which he served as chief fellow, and one in critical care medicine. He completed a combined residency in internal medicine and emergency medicine at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he served as chief resident and as a member of the infection control committee. He was a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine from 2010 through 2017 and is currently an adjunct assistant professor there.
He is a graduate of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, and he obtained a bachelor of science degree in industrial management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Dr. Adalja is a native of Butler, Pennsylvania, and actively practices infectious disease, critical care, and emergency medicine in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, where he also serves on the City of Pittsburgh’s HIV Commission and on the advisory group of AIDS Free Pittsburgh.
Speech Pathologist, Singing Voice Specialist and Classical Soprano
I have notice during my time working from home that my voice felt fresher, freer and more resonant than ever. I immediately began noticing other teachers mentioning this online as well, so I sought out an expert on the physiology and function of the voice who also has an intimate knowledge of the wear and tear that singers and music teachers put on their voices through her clinical practice.
Our conversation is wide ranging from the phenomenon of rest we are all experiencing, to practical tips for staying in shape while not leading choirs, thoughts about how how to “reset” your voice for an even healthier return to school in the fall, as well as common vocal myths or misdiagnoses.
LORI L. SONNENBERG is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Voice Specialist. In her clinical work, she combines her passion for treating injured voices with her extensive background as a singer and voice teacher. She has achieved remarkable results in working with her own students and patients as well as in assisting some of the country’s most respected voice teachers and clinicians. This blend of talents and skills makes Ms. Sonnenberg a formidable asset to the clinical and singing voice worlds.
Ms. Sonnenberg works exclusively with voice and breathing disorders and specializes in helping singers overcome voice injuries, post-operative voice struggles, and problematic technical voice issues. She is a certified member of the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) holding the Certificate of Clinical Competency (CCC-SLP) and is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). She is a former Speech Pathologist with Bastian Voice Institute in Downers Grove, IL, and has been teaching private voice since 1998.
Have you been looking for an excuse to try your hand at composing or creating custom classroom materials for your students? Ryan Main made the switch from teaching to composing full time years ago and has some advice.
Ryan and I had this conversation about a month ago when we were still allowed to have people in our houses… 🙂 It turns out the conversation was very timely, as many of us now have some time on our hands to spend on being creative. In fact, many of us have been forced to create custom materials for our class. Ryan’s story of transitioning from classroom teacher who began to write for his OWN students, to full time composer contains a lot of helpful ideas for those of us having to reinvent the teaching of choral music.
Of course, we all want to go back to normal, but is it possible that we will discover some NEW best practices in the next month that we can carry forward in to the future? I think so!
Composer, director and clinician, Ryan Main writes music for choirs and bands at all levels. An award winning composer, his music has been published and performed internationally. His titles have earned multiple Editor’s Choice distinctions from JW Pepper, and have been performed at honor choir events, honor band events, and conferences around the nation, including the Midwest Band Clinic and the American Choral Director’s Association national conference.
Ryan holds a Master of Music in Music Composition and a Master of Music in Music Education from the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition from the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Ryan is passionate about quality music education for all. He founded and serves as artistic director of the Youth Chorus of Kansas City, a non-profit organization serving youth of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds throughout the Kansas City metro area. He is also the Director of Music at Village Presbyterian Church on Antioch.
Ryan is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, the Missouri Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Education and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
And other musings about my plans to take choir online.
This is a strange time to be posting about choir in a Podcast right now. Considering that choirs are being sidelined all around the world. Of course, we might be the worst kind of activity right now. Sitting in crowded rooms deep breathing… But sadly, we might be one of the most NEEDED activities right now. So how do we keep the social interaction of a choral rehearsal alive and well during this public health crisis?
I will also share my thoughts about how I like to run a “final” rehearsal before a big performance.
Are your final rehearsals before big events frantic and stressful? Does it affect your singers negatively?
How do we spend our final hour with a group before an important performance where the details really matter? I present this to you, not as the CORRECT approach, but as MY approach philosophically. I truly hope it helps.
1. It won’t be perfect. So chill. Instill chill. 2. Your stress will be magnified in your singers. 3. The final rehearsal should be focused on SINGER directed final detail fixes as much as possible. Your ideas are present too, but each singer, if invested has a bunch of things they want to fix. Provide a way for them to voice it. 4. If your demeanor is calm, the singers will bring less nerves into the performance. You can show intensity of purpose while also showing a relaxed sense of calm. 5. Don’t overwhelm them with LONG list of things to fix. If it’s the day before, it’s too late… big picture, big issues only.
If you would like to see the WHOLE one hour rehearsal, I will be posting video and discussion in March on Patreon as the next patron only episode. www.patreon.com/choralosophy
In this fourth and final installment of the first Choralosophy Miniseries, Dr. Christopher Harris and I discuss the potential influence of representation on the choral profession and the next generation of students. However, the conversations was quite wide ranging allow us to touch on other topics like cultural influences on music, the universality of music and even rehearsal strategies, including the strategies involving music literacy as well as rote learning. I found Dr. Harris’ take on all of these topics to be uniquely explained and articulated in a way that helped me grow during our conversation. Tune in and I think it will help you too!
Dr. Christopher H. Harris, native of Fort Worth, Texas, is a music educator, conductor, performer, and choral composer. In August 2017 he joined the faculty at Arkansas Tech University as Director of Choral Studies and Assistant Professor of Music. He received his PhD in Choral Music Education from Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL, his Master’s in Choral Conducting from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, and his Bachelor’s in Music Education from Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. Prior to entering graduate school, Harris enjoyed several years of successful public school teaching in Houston, Texas. His choirs received numerous sweepstakes awards at state UIL competition as well as honors to perform with the Bay Area Chorus and an invitation to perform as a demonstration group at the Texas Choral Directors Association Convention.
Harris is the founder of the Houston Master Singers and has served as the Assistant Director for the Houston Ebony Opera Guild. He is active as an adjudicator and has presented numerous sessions on choral rehearsal techniques at state and regional conventions. He is a published composer with several accolades including winner of both the Eastern and National Divisions of the 2013 National Association for Music Education Composition Competition, and the Grand Prize Winner of the 2016 Ithaca College Choral Composition Competition. His music has been performed internationally by mixed, men’s, and treble choirs of varied ages and abilities. Most recently Harris was honored through the selection of his music for performance by the 2018 Texas All-State Mixed Choir, the 2018 Southwest American Choral Directors Association Men’s Honor Choir, the 2018 Arkansas Intercollegiate Choir, and the 2019 Arkansas All-State Mixed Choir and New York All-State Mixed Choir.
As a performer Christopher has performed as guest baritone soloist for concerts with the Texas Southern University Choir, the Houston Ebony Opera Guild, the Houston Symphony Chorus, the 2013 Owego School District’s Production of Faure’s Requiem, with choirs from Florida State University, and the Tallahassee Community Chorus. Harris was guest soloist with the ATU Symphonic Wind Ensemble for their performance at the Southwestern Division of the College Band Directors National Association Convention in Houston, Texas in March 2018.
In this part of the February series, I invited my friend Jazz Rucker into the studio to discuss a term that has rocketed to the top of education vernacular in recent years. “Equity” is frequently confused with “equality,” but has some very important qualitative differences. Jazz is currently serving as the Equity Chair for the Missouri Music Educators Association, which is a new position in the organization. As a result, Jazz has found himself in a position of inquiry and forging a new path toward an ideal of equity and justice in music education. In this conversation we take a birds eye view of the topic and discuss in depth our thoughts on good ways to get everyone to buy in to this journey.
There is so much great space for this discussion. We have to get out of “this way or that way” mentality. I just want people to agree to go on the journey. Whatever that means for you.
Jazz Rucker He recently joined the faculty at Lee’s Summit North High School. He came to LSN from Columbia Public Schools. He began his career as a middle school vocal specialist. He then opened Muriel Williams Battle High School as the Director of the Vocal Arts program which included the launch of the school’s first competitive show choir. Jazz earned a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the University of Missouri and is pursuing a Masters of Music Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. Jazz is grateful for the support of his wife Tara and their two daughters Brynlynn and Berkley.
In this episode Maria Ellis and I discuss the practical aspects of recruiting across cultural lines for our choirs through the telling of her own story. Maria grew up not knowing that a career as a conductor was possible for her, but through a big dream and a big change of life direction, she began her music degree after 12 years in the business world. Now doing what she loves, she reflects back on the journey and offers us great advice in helping to make sure our students never grow up seeing themselves as limited.
Maria in her own words, “
Music Educator, Choral Conductor, with over 20 years of choral music experience. I have been called a Master Educator and a Force of Nature by Dr. Jim Henry, University of Missouri- St. Louis. I hold a B.M. in Music Education emphasis on Voice (K-12 Certified) Degree from the University of Missouri- St. Louis.
I have served as the Arts and Administrative Fellow for The St. Louis Symphony and I currently serve as the Community Engagement Manager for The St. Louis Children’s Choirs. I am the Founding Conductor of The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries’ newly formed City of Music All-Star Chorus.
Stay tuned throughout February for my first ever Podcast mini series! Choral Music: A Human Art Form
Part 1: Why does representation in Choral Music matter? In this first installment, I address the question “Why Does Representation in Classical Music matter?” (or choral music) My answer to this question, and subsequent defense of that answer got me kicked off of a Facebook page. So in this episode, I tell that story. It’s a doozy. My answer was, “Representation matters because music is for ALL. From all to all. It can and should transcend innate characteristics.” It turns out this put me at odds with the moderator who had a “music is not universal” perspective which I have noticed has become more prevalent in the last five years or so. I have a lot problems with this trend though I see it as well-meaning one.
So, I decided to line up a series of episodes and guests during Black History Month in order to advance the conversations around representation, equity, equality and inclusion of ALL in the most HUMAN of all art forms: Choral Music.
This is a FASCINATING discussion with Donald Brinegar, author of the recently published “Pitch Perfect: a Theory and Practice of Choral Intonation.” Donald and I discuss the sometimes misunderstood concepts related to intonation and what makes something “in tune” or “out of tune.” Is it possible that we our education related to this topic has been lacking? I think it has been lacking for many, which is why I think this episode is so important. The conversation runs mostly along two tracks. The common misconceptions surrounding the mathematics of intonation as well as practical ways to bring concepts of intonation into rehearsals with singers of all levels.
Donald Brinegar is a conductor, tenor soloist, voice instructor, educator and master class clinician. Professor Emeritus of Music at Pasadena City College, Brinegar directed the Choral Studies program at PCC for 36 years. Brinegar also conducts the Donald Brinegar Singers, a community choral ensemble in Pasadena, California, Director of Choruses for the Pasadena Symphony and POPS, . During the summers he co-directs the Cal State Los Angeles masters program in choral conducting.
He has an extensive background as a performer both as a soloist and a conductor having performed throughout the United States, Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Canada. Brinegar has performed as a featured soloist with Robert Shaw, Helmuth Rilling, Roger Wagner, Gerard Swartz, Murray Sidlin, Howard Swan, Charles Hirt, Rod Eichenberger, William Hall, Marvin Hamlisch, Michael Feinstein, and with numerous music festivals, orchestras and opera associations. He has collaborated artistically with Henry Mancini, Barry Manilow, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, John Delancie, and the Chieftains. His choirs have given five performances for the American Choral Directors Association Conferences, California Music Educators (MENC), Choral Conductors Guild, and have performed in Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Music Center, and the Hollywood Bowl. In the Fall of 2017, Brinegar was recognized by the Pasadena Symphony as their Artist of the Year.
The Donald Brinegar Singers, choral ensemble, was founded in the Fall of 1997 as an ensemble of former students and colleagues of Professor Brinegar. Their first concert was given in November of 1997. Their second performance was the premiere of Lauridsen’s organ edition of Lux Aeterna, accompanied by organist James Buonemani. The ensemble presented music of the holiday season and was then invited to perform at The ACDA Western Division Convention in Los Angeles, 2000. Shortly following the convention appearance, the Singers recorded Ubi caritas et amor and Madrigali Six Fire-Songs: for Lauridsen’s compact disc, Northwest Journey. The Singers performed the Chansons des Roses with Lauridsen accompanying at the San Antonio, Texas, ACDA National Conference. The Singers followed with two more performances of Lauridsen’s music in Las Vegas, 2004 ACDA Western Division Conference, and the premiere of Nocturnes (The Brock Memorial Convention Commission) 2005, Los Angeles ACDA National Convention.
Seven important concepts to master to keep your choir moving forward for an ENTIRE academic year.
Sometimes we fall into ruts. Sometimes the singers do… Ultimately, both scenarios are bad and are OUR fault as the director. I have had wildly successful school years and seasons with churches and pro choir. And some that fell flat… In this episode I draw on that experience to come up with list of winning strategies synthesized from my best years on the podium. The list below is NOT ranked in any type of way.
Keep sight reading every day. If they’re bored, then you’re boring them.
Raise the bar. Once a choir thinks they are “good” they will stop working.
Group building is not just for the first day of school. Do more.
Set goals. Communicate them publicly. Don’t assume they know why.
Create engaging rehearsals by BEING engaging. (Hint: learn to be yourself!)
Interpret text. A lot. If you don’t know how, then ask somebody.
If the morale or rehearsal etiquette is not what you want it to be, it’s time to shock the system.
Tune in to this episode to hear the full explanations of each concept!
The Choralosophy Podcast is almost one year old as 2019 comes to a close. I launched the website in mid January of 2019, began production and released 4 episodes in mid February. So, I think now is as good a time as any to look back on the top episodes of 2019, or YEAR ONE of what I hope is many for the Choralosophy podcast. As you look back at the most downloaded, streamed, shared and discussed episodes of 2019, be thinking about guests and topics you would like to see me hit in 2020! I am making more plans for choral director mental health, literacy and voice science episodes now, but I would love to hear your ideas too! Special thanks to all of the show guests who make each episode special!
I am actually really happy this episode, the very FIRST thing I recorded is still getting streamed as new folks come to the show. It has a lot of helpful things in it in terms of building a healthy framework for approaching our job. But more than that, I think it helps listeners to the show get to know the host and where I am coming from. Maybe my motivations behind making this podcast. Highlights include my personal philosophy on setting and maintaining my values hierarchy as well as a segment with my better half, Beth where she keeps me honest. 🙂
In this episode, Dr. Garrett and I discuss the importance of the music of black composers that do NOT fit into categories of idiomatically black music like Gospel, Jazz and Spirituals. And, as many of episodes on this show tend to do, the conversation drifts into the personal and social ways that race affects the interactions of humans and choral directors specifically. I had a lot of fun recording this show and I learned a lot. Conversations like this one can really help us frame the way we learn about and discuss important topics like this.
Now, Choralosophy listeners can use this tool in their classrooms and studios at a 10% discount by going to www.vocevista.com/choralosophy . Chose the version that is right for you enter “Choralosophy” at checkout!
I mentioned when I published this one that it might be the most PHILOSOPHICALLY important episode on the show so far. And four month later, I still think that is true. This topic is a passion of mine for a couple of reasons. First, I think the concept outlined in the episode known as “Anti-Fragility” WORKS when used as a guiding principle in the classroom. (It is not the same as “grit” or “resilience” which are fine concepts or buzzwords, but paint an incomplete picture of the psychology at play.) If you have not listened to this episode yet, be sure to do so before your choirs come back from break!
Why you CAN and SHOULD stop playing notes and making rehearsal tracks for student singers.
Got a lot of blow back from this one… lol. The vast majority was positive. Teachers from everywhere reached out with messages of appreciation for the content and processes outlined in this episode. But, there were a decent number who may have felt, let’s say, challenged by the claims. Looking back now, I still feel good about saying that in ALMOST every case, teaching our singers to be literate, independent and self sufficient musicians is the greatest gift we can give them as teachers. Are there certain choral situations where this won’t work? Like honor choirs, some community choirs or church choirs? Sure. I get that there are exceptions. I do believe that young singers can have the band-aid ripped off on day one and never need the keyboard.
And don’t forget, the show is now on PATREON! Subscribe and receive Patron only content for as little as 3 bucks a month!
Shared over 60 times on Facebook, downloaded or streamed over 3000 times. Each new show launch needs one “choiral” post in its first year, and I think this was it. I think the topic is really important as we move the academic content of choral music fully into the 21st Century. We will need to be literate in the science of what we teach. It is my opinion that being “only” an artist will not qualify us to stay relevant in the education community in the next 100 years. (hmmm, maybe that’s an episode…) Discussions like this are a great start! More to come!
In this episode I asked the expert, Dr. Amanda Quist to chat with me about teaching the concept of vowels, resonance and intonation. Is it possible to measure a vowel scientifically? Or is the purity of a vowel subject to the opinion of the conductor? We discuss what I believe to be a new frontier in choral classrooms by using technology to teach students how visualize and then hear their own resonant singing. One important topic we discuss is the unfortunate practice of “Choral Band-Aid” vowels. I define this as avoiding the teaching of proper anatomy of vowel structures in order to get to a blended sound more quickly.
Dr. Amanda Quist is the Director of Choral Activities for the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. Dr. Quist was previously Chair of the Conducting, Organ, and Sacred Music Department, and Associate Professor of Conducting at Westminster Choir College. Dr. Quist is the recipient of Westminster Choir College of Rider University’s 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award, the 2018 Mazzotti Award for Women’s Leadership, and she is the Carol F. Spinelli Conducting Fellow. Dr. Quist was recently invited to be a conductor for the ACDA International Exchange Program, clinician for the 2019 ASPIRE International Youth Music Festival in Australia, juror for the Penabur International Choir Festival in Indonesia, and clinician for the Interkultur International Choral Festival. Westminster Kantorei, winner of the 2018 American Prize in College & University Choral Performance, has performed at the American Choral Directors Association’s (ACDA) Eastern Division Conference, Boston Early Music Festival, American Handel Festival, and Interkultur.
The choir recently released its first commercial recording, Lumina, distributed by Naxos, which was hailed by infodad.com as a recording “sung with great beauty of sound and excellent articulation … a CD to cherish” and by National Medal of Arts recipient Morten Lauridsen as “superb, a splendid recording, highly recommended.” During her work with the Westminster Symphonic Choir, Dr. Quist collaborated with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Dresden Staatskapelle. She also serves as Chorus Master for the Philadelphia Orchestra Chorus. Dr. Quist’s role as Chorus Master for the premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s opera Matsukaze at the Spoleto Festival USA and the Lincoln Center Festival garnered praise from The New York Times and Charleston City Paper, who described the chorus’ performance as “beautifully prepared, gripping,” a “gossamer web of voices” and “bridging the vocal and instrumental textures with perfect intonation.”
Dr. Quist was Director of the Westminster Vocal Institute, a highly regarded summer program for talented high school students, and Director of Choral Activities at San José State University. Her other honors include the James Mulholland National Choral Award and the Audrey Davidson Early Music Award. An active guest conductor and clinician, her recent and upcoming appearances include the NAfME All National Honor Choir, All State High School & Collegiate Honor Choirs throughout the country, and serving as a headliner for music conferences in the US and abroad. Dr. Quist is the National ACDA Repertoire & Resources Coordinator for Collegiate Activities, and her choral series is published through Walton Music.
In this episode, Beth and I chat with our mutual friend, Dr. Jaclyn Johnson about her choice to step away from the choral classroom and her University teaching post to go to Brazil to teach Yoga. We discuss her goals in embarking on this adventure, and how she is using this time away to reboot her focus as an educator and conductor. I think you will enjoy this chat and the fascinating story behind it! Other topics include mindfulness, and cultural norms dealing with physical touch and materialism.
Described as an energetic firecracker, Dr. Jaclyn Normandie-Johnson’s goal is to share her passion for life and music around the world. Her current areas of research include Latin American music, vocal pedagogy, and music-incorporated yogic philosophy. Johnson is a prolific lecturer, honor choir conductor, and clinician around the country. An avid Wellness Life Coach, she spent the last 6 months living in India and Brazil practicing and teaching yoga.
Johnson earned her doctoral degree from the University of Michigan, and has had a thriving career as a high school, university, and church choral educator. Ensembles under her direction received numerous honors, including performances at the American Choral Directors Association National Conference, Western Division Conference, and Central Division Conference.
“We live in a time where directing choirs for a living is possible. In the broad scope of human history, THAT alone is an amazing luxury.”
I believe that an underlying philosophy is a necessity for each successful professional. Some call this a “why statement.” Have you found your “why?” Is it the same as it was 10 years ago? In this episode, I share my thoughts about practicing gratitude as a life principle, as well as an exercise in class. In order to illustrate this, I enlisted the help of some friends. In addition to my thoughts on gratitude, you will hear “why” statements from Dr. Ryan Board of Pepperdine, Mark Lawley of Willard High School, Robert T. Gibson of Reed Academy, Dr. Giselle Wyers of U of Washington, Dr. Jennaya Robison of Luther College and Ryan Main, composer and director of the Kansas City Youth Choir program and Dr. Andrew Crane of BYU. Special thanks to each of them for sharing with us!
I am beyond excited to show you an amazing tool that I use to introduce my students to the concept of vowels, resonance and formants! And, by extension, the concept of blend. This is a passion for me in the classroom. I love watching the students eyes and ears come alive to the power of an overtone rich sound. To that end, we provide visual aid for them to understand if they are doing it correctly. One thing we know about good teaching is that not all students learn in the same way.What if the visual learners could SEE if their vowel is correct or if the choir is tune?!
No more arguing with kids about their “O” vowel! You don’t have to be the bad guy anymore!
When singers can SEE if they are in tune, if they can SEE that they are singing the right vowel, it creates an amazing path toward being able to HEAR it in context.
In this episode, I have the privilege of chatting with Charles Anthony Silvestri, noted lyricist, about the artistic magic that is possible when music and text are fused. He believes that this intersection is what makes our beloved art form special, and I whole heartedly agree. I pick his brain about his process from idea to final project for a new piece. We talk about his new endeavors as a composer of notes and not just lyrics, as well as some witty banter about Eric Whitacre’s early years and his role in bringing the choral art form into the 21st Century.
Poet, composer, and speaker Charles Anthony Silvestri has worked with composers from all over the world to create texts tailor-made for their commissions and specific artistic needs. He has provided custom poetry, opera libretti, program notes and other writing for composers including Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo, Kim Arnesen, and Dan Forrest, and for ensembles ranging from high schools to the Houston Grand Opera, from the King’s Singers to the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, from Westminster Choir College to Westminster Abbey. As a clinician Silvestri speaks to choirs, classes, and concert audiences about his works, the creative process, the marriage of words and music, and about his collaborative relationships with composers. He is the author of three books, including A Silver Thread (GIA 2019), a retrospective of almost 20 years of his lyric poetry. He teaches Ancient and Medieval History at Washburn University, and lives in Lawrence, Kansas.
For this episode, I sat down (twice… long story) with Paul Smith, co-founder and CEO of VOCES8 and the VOCES8 Foundation while he was in Kansas City. We had a lot of great conversations about the state of music education in the U.K. and the U.S. and the role of VOCES8 and other performing ensembles in sparking a passion for choral music in young singers. The talk ranged from discussions of disparity of music education quality regionally all the way to the interesting differences between the preferred “British” choral sound vs. that preferred by most American Choral Directors.
Paul Smith is an innovative and creative performer, conductor, composer, an inspirational educator and an empowering public speaker. As co-founder of VOCES8, author of The VOCES8 Method and CEO of the VOCES8 Foundation, his annual programme sees him working globally in prestigious concert venues, festivals, schools and universities.
Paul is passionate about the impact singing and the arts can have in the widest possible context – from academic improvement to social skills and building more cohesive communities. He uses that passion to design and deliver unique, inclusive and uplifting performance projects.
In the 2019-20 season, highlights will include: leading the ‘Singing Brussels’ massed choir project with BOZAR in Brussels; touringhis new album and concert programme titled ‘Reflections’; a series of concerts and workshops at the VOCES8 Centre in the City of London; leading his family concert ‘The Winter House’ programme with the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; conducting the Orchestra of Avignon in a series of concerts for families and young people; conducting the Orchestre D’Auvergne in a new concert for students; leading the Israeli Vocal Ensemble for a series of concerts in Israel; leading a series of concerts across France with VOCES8 and Apollo5, supported by Vivendi,and concerts and workshops in Germany, the USA, New Zealand and Japan. Paul will be continuing his work at the University of Cambridge in 2019.
The VOCES8 Method, written by Paul, is published by Edition Peters in four languages, and is now being used in thousands of schools in numerous countries around the world. The Method is designed to link specific music-making activities with academic improvement in numeracy, literacy and linguistics.
Is choir a real class? Can the group goals be balanced with the individual academic accountability that we owe to our students? I think the answer to all of this is yes. You can grade your students INDIVIDUALLY in sight singing to ensure that no one falls through the cracks, and stick to a rehearsal rubric that can nearly eliminate classroom management issues. The secret? It’s how we grade.
Let’s talk about assessment. One of the biggest challenges as I see it facing our field is the fact that many in education don’t see our content as an academic subject. How many of you are governed under the “Activities” umbrella in your school or state? Yet, you can get a PhD in Choral Music, but you can’t get a PhD in Football…Choral music is an academic field of study for good reason. It is rigorous. It requires research, practice, and individual skill development to learn it and understand it. I believe that one of the reasons our Education colleagues don’t see us as a subject on par with theirs is the way that we grade. They see our students getting almost all A’s with very little individual accountability due to the “group” nature of our performance goals.
In this episode, I will walk through some systems that have worked well for me to balance the group performance goals with the educational IMPERATIVE to hold each student accountable as well as to hold ME accountable to teach each student.
We will talk about daily rehearsal grades and why I DON’T grade on participation. We will talk about grading kids on the QUALITY of their singing both alone and in small groups. We will also talk about moving past “showing up is enough” at concerts.
By increasing the rigor, and accountability in your classroom you may experience a backlash at first. It will take time to adjust and you might lose a student who doesn’t want to do the work. However, if you frame it the right way, they will give it a chance. In my experience, this type of rigor only makes kids feel more pride in their work in our classroom. The reality is that a student who is riding on the coattails of stronger singers in the section, but still getting an A, KNOWS they are not earning that grade. Humans will usually accept the unearned, but it takes a toll on the self esteem.
One of the hottest topics of discussion online in the last few weeks in the choral world has been the topic of cultural appropriation. Who should be allowed to perform, compose or arrange which kinds of music? Where do we draw the line? Does intent matter? What should a conductor do if they are worried about how a performance will be interpreted? In our chat, Brandon and I make no attempt to define what is or is not appropriation. That is not our focus. Instead we center on the WAY we should communicate about this important topic as professionals and as fellow human beings.
Dr. Brandon A. Boyd is the Assistant Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education at the University of Missouri, where he conducts the Concert Chorale Men’s Ensemble. In addition to his conducting duties, he teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in conducting, choral arranging, and choral music education. He appears regularly as a conductor, clinician, composer in residence, collaborative pianist, and lecturer for conferences, conventions, collegiate choirs, church choirs, choral festivals, and workshops.
As a proponent of choral singing to help build community, his research interests include organizing choirs for the homeless, social and physical effects of choral singing on seniors and field experience for music therapy and choral music education students. For three years, he co-directed three community choral partnerships: The Tallahassee Senior Choir, RAA Middle School Chorus, and the MTC Women’s Prison Glee Club. He was recently invited by the Santa Fe Desert Chorale to serve as the composer in residence and community engagement lead for their Giving Voice to the Voiceless program. The Chorale premiered his commissioned work, “I Search,” during their 35th Anniversary Summer Justice Concert series where he served as assistant conductor, pre-concert lecturer, and guest pianist. Boyd used a text written by “Poet V,” a participant in the Voces de Libertad program at the Santa Fe County Youth Development Center, to set to music. His duties also included organizing and conducting the Interfaith Community Shelter Street Choir, creating a safe place for men, women, and children experiencing homelessness within the Santa Fe community.
An active composer and arranger, his music is sung regularly by ensembles throughout the United States and abroad. In 2018, the “Brandon Boyd Choral Series” was launched as a division of Hinshaw Publishing Company. His music also appears in GIA Publications’ catalog.
He holds a Ph.D. in choral music education and M.M. in choral conducting from Florida State University, where he studied with Drs. André J. Thomas and Judy S. Bowers. He earned a B.S. in music education (emphasis in piano) from Tennessee State University. He is a proud member of the American Choral Directors’ Association (ACDA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), American Guild of Organists (AGO), and Chorus America.
I feel like this episode might be PHILOSOPHICALLY the most important episode I have published to date. Eric and I pick up right where I left off in Episode 18 when I claimed that students should lose the net when learning to sight read. The psychological principal at play is Nassim Taleb’s coined term, “Anti-Fragility” referring to systems that require stress in order to improve. What processes in the choral rehearsal can apply the right amount of stress on your singers in order to make them stronger, and better.
A conductor and composer, Eric William Barnum continues to passionately seek new ground in the choral field. Working with choirs of all kinds, his collaborative leitmotif endeavors to provide intensely meaningful experiences for singers and audiences.
Barnum is currently the Director of Choral Activities at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and previously, the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. He holds a DMA in Choral Conducting from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA), under the direction of Dr. Geoffrey Boers. He has an advanced degree in conducting from Minnesota State University (Mankato, MN), primary study with Dr. David Dickau, as well as BAs in Composition and Vocal Performance from Bemidji State University (Bemidji, MN). He has appeared as a conductor across the United States and the International stage, and has had the opportunity to work with some of the most innovative minds in the choral field.
His voice and vision continues to gain popularity around the globe with performances from choirs Internationally. He composes for choral ensembles of all types, from professional to youth choirs, and has received numerous awards and prestigious grants such as a Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship and a McKnight Foundation Grant. He has also held residencies with such ensembles as Choral Arts (Seattle, WA), Cantus (Trondheim, Norway), The Rose Ensemble (St. Paul, MN), Kantorei (Denver, CO), Magnum Chorum (Minneapolis, MN), Coro Vocal Artists (Tucson, AZ), as well as with many high schools and collegiate choirs.
Why you CAN and SHOULD stop playing notes and making tracks for kids tomorrow.
In this episode I will take you through a topic that I believe should be CENTRAL to all of our philosophies as choral educators. Should I be the high priest in my classroom or the shepherd? The high priest is the conduit that the masses must pass through in order obtain musical knowledge. Put plainly, the student cannot learn the song without your help. Or do you want to be the shepherd who guides the class to the source of the information and then steps back to allow them to drink it in?
This really is NOT an elitist position. I know many will list the reasons it can’t work in their classrooms. I believe it can happen ANYWHERE at any level. If it CAN happen, then I think it is our job as educators to put a system in place for our students. This episode outlines my system. I hope you find something you like!
Be sure to head to the Patreon Page for the FULL powerpoint for this episode.
In this episode Marques and I discuss importance of the music of black composers that do NOT fit into categories of idiomatically black music like Gospel, Jazz and Spirituals. The conversation ranges from the social aspects at play in spreading the word about this music, all the way to what it’s like to be minority seeking to be seen. Since composers like R. Nathaniel Dett, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and others are gone, Dr. Garrett is fighting for their music to be seen AND heard. You find the Rep list referenced in episode here!
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MUSIC IN CHORAL ACTIVITIES AREA OF FOCUS: CONDUCTING, VOICE PhD, Music Education, Florida State University MM, Choral Conducting, University of North Carolina at Greensboro BA, Music, Hampton University
A Virginia native, Marques L. A. Garrett is an Assistant Professor of Music in Choral Activities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Glenn Korff School of Music. Before earning his PhD in Music Education (Choral Conducting) at Florida State University, he was the Director of Choral Activities at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, he holds an MM from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a BA from Hampton University.
An active conductor, Dr. Garrett has served as a guest conductor or clinician with several church, community, and collegiate choirs throughout the country and served as the festival conductor for the Harry T. Burleigh Spirituals Festival at Tennessee State University. At the Hampton University Choir Directors’ Organists’ Guild Workshop, he has served as the basic conducting workshop clinician. His formal conducting studies were with Dr. Andre J. Thomas, Dr. Carole J. Ott, Dr. Carl G. Harris, Jr., and Mr. Royzell Dillard.
A versatile voice that performs both as a baritone and countertenor, Dr. Garrett has sung with several community, church, and university groups as both a chorister and soloist. He was the baritone soloist for the Germantown Concert Chorus’s performance of Haydn’s Missa in Augustiis. Recently, his premiere as a countertenor in Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo served as the work’s European premiere in Limerick, Ireland. Additionally, he performed the role of Lil Lud in Bernstein’s White House Cantata with the Tallahassee Community Chorus.
Dr. Garrett is an avid composer of choral and solo-vocal music whose compositions have been performed to acclaim by high school all-state, collegiate, and professional choirs including the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Seraphic Fire. His music can be heard on recordings by the National Lutheran Choir, Winston-Salem State University Choir, and Missouri State University Concert Chorale. GIA Publications, Walton Music, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Hinshaw Music, G. Schirmer, Beckenhorst Press, and Carus-Verlag have published several of his compositions.
Dr. Garrett holds membership in the American Choral Directors Association; American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; National Association for Music Education; National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc.; National Collegiate Choral Organization; and Pi Kappa Lambda.
In this episode, I had a blast chatting with Beth Philemon of the Choir Baton Podcast and Instagram Takeover account about MANY concepts related to the business of the choral profession. We hit scarcity mentality and the fixed pie fallacy of economics all the way to being more mindful of the “products” we create with our students. I am also excited to feature the first COMPOSER EXPOSER episode brought to you by Graphite Publishing, featuring composer and cofounder Tim Takach. I hope you enjoy.
Beth Philemon is National Board Certified Teacher and choral conductor based out of Raleigh, NC, where she is currently pursuing her Masters in Business Administration with a focus in marketing and entrepreneurship from North Carolina State University. After ten years of teaching choir in public schools, she found a personal and institutional gap in the understanding of how to run school choir programs like the businesses they are and she hopes to educate others how to effectively promote, manage, and build choral music programs through the art of business. Conversely, Beth believes the world of business has much to learn from choral singing and she is passionate about delivering opportunities for community involvement in choir.
Beth earned an undergraduate music education degree from Trevecca University in Nashville, TN, and a master’s degree in choral conducting from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. At NAU, Beth conducted the Shrine of the Ages choir, Women’s Chorale, Chamber Singers, Northern Voices vocal jazz ensemble, and opera scenes. Beth was Assistant Director for the 100+ member Flagstaff Master Chorale and Arizona Mountain Chorale and currently serves on the choral music faculty of the North Carolina Governor’s School. Beth taught middle and high school choral music in Tennessee and North Carolina (and several other courses along the way like musical theater, fundamentals of music, show choir).
In 2018 she founded CHOIR BATON, a collaborative online community about life and choir. CHOIR BATON seeks to engage others through social media takeovers, the CHOIR BATON podcast, and online resources, under the mission of #morepeoplesinging. CHOIR BATON sends weekly newsletters to the community and information about how to sign-up for an Instagram takeover. Sign up at bit.ly/ChoirBatonEmail or follow along @choirbaton on Instagram. While on Facebook and Twitter, Beth’s main love is Instagram where you can see what shenanigans she’s up to @bethphilemon. And because she’s in business school, know you can also connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/bethphilemon.
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!
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Be sure to take the time to read the whole article here for context discussed in the episode.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is it possible that removing gendered language from our choral rehearsals solves the problem of inclusion? Is it possible that it DOESN’T solve the problem? Is there room for nuance in the conversation? This week, I open up a dialogue with Theo Wren, a freelance musician, multi-instrumentalist, choral singer and Trans Baritone. So far on the show, I have conversed only with Choral Directors. This time, I thought it might be informative to flip that a bit and sit down with someone who has spent many years on the other side of the baton. We in the choral profession have seen a recent wave of cultural shifts related to the use of gendered language in our choral ensembles. So, I sought out the perspective of a singer who, for years felt as if he was in the wrong section.
Greetings, friends and colleagues. As Choral Directors, we stand in front of large diverse groups of people from different backgrounds, races and religions. With that comes a beautiful diversity of opinion. For people in our position, we should be a beacon of peace and reconciliation in a world coming apart at the seams.
Seem dramatic? I don’t think it is. As we all consolidate our time and energy online, it is creating a necessary convergence of many people into public sphere. When that happens, we will come across more people than ever before with whom we disagree. Never before have I seen such aggressive online behavior in my feeds. From COVID-19 all the way to virtual choir question shaming. We can do better.
Why would I need to address this? First, this show, as promised from the beginning, did not set out to be a nuts and bolts focused show. I will occasionally approach the occasional “how to” episode that would be a safe interest session at a convention. But that is not the main mission of this project. I think talking about elephants in the room within the choral profession is important also, and there are very few venues that achieve this in a way that is civil and open conversation. If a discussion topic elicits NO contention at all, then what will anyone learn. I think deep down, no listener want to listen to a bunch of stuff that is so safe that it doesn’t challenge them. That is ultimately what I hope to provide through this platform. My goal is to promote a culture where open inquiry, the pursuit of greater understanding and support for each other as colleagues becomes the norm. I am wary of what I see as a culture of fear on social media and in academia that causes many to just keep their opinions to themselves because they might be accused of Orwellian wrong-think. I think this is dangerous to any field of study. Iron sharpens iron as the saying goes, which means we do NO good when we only smile and nod.
So, in an effort to do this, I will lay out my core principles for this show.
Knowledge and Truth that are shareable by all of us are not only possible, but worthy goals. Some would suggest that we cannot really know anything, and that nothing is really true. Our only way of knowing is through our socialized minds with biases that we cannot escape. This is PARTIALLY true, but NOT because of socialization. Each person holds some part of the story that you don’t know, because no two people look at the world from the same perspective. It is precisely because we all see things differently that we MUST have conversations. It is only through challenging each other’s perceptions can we discover that tiny bit of truth that each person possesses and synthesize it into one BIG axiom or truth. So, we will talk on this show, agree or disagree, and pursue knowledge and truth as an ideal. We will speak as if there is no such thing as a “Two-Sided” issue. All issues have 7+ billion sides and all we need to do today is try to have my perspective and your perspective mingle until we arrive at a truth neither of us had before our conversation.
I believe that people have good intentions and are speaking with me in good faith. I like to avoid assuming the worst about people, and I know that even if someone holds a diametrically opposed position to mine, I know that they are a person who wants what is best for the world. They are a person who loves their children, their spouse, their students etc just like I do. We are fellow humans. Treating people with contempt will have no place on this show. Please hold me to this if I ever slip. This also applies to any online discussions moderated by me on the page.
Since everyone knows something I don’t, I want my guests to be HAPPY with their chance to get their point across. All of my conversations are free form, so there are no timed or “gotcha” questions. If I ask a question, I genuinely want to know what the person thinks about it. That being said, I will rarely do “interviews” and I am not a journalist. My opinions and analysis will be very much a part of each show.
I will strive to avoid logical fallacies but no one is perfect… I will also hold guests to this. The big no-nos will be ad hominem and straw man arguments. I am not interested in this platform being used to impugn anyone’s character, talent or ability. I will also try very hard to understand someone’s position by asking very pointed precise questions when necessary. I don’t want to force someone to defend a claim that they didn’t make, and I would like it to not be done to me… 🙂
One of the things that excites me about this show is it’s potential to be a platform that promotes the profession as an academic discipline, as well as an art form. I seek to promote YOU and what great work you are doing. And if you don’t feel like you are doing great work, I hope these discussions serve as a sharpening tool for you as you listen, and as always keep the feedback coming. Even if you think I’m wrong.
Voice lessons for a fourteen year old, admittedly are not the same as a lesson for a college freshman. In fact, when many high school students begin voice study, they are fresh off of puberty, or at its tail end… For many, learning just get their dang vocal folds to touch is a challenge, let alone singing Lieder in a stylistically accurate way! What then, should be their starting point, or Step 1? Are we happy if they just memorize a song? When we are fortunate enough to get our students to take voice lessons, what do we want them to learn? What is best for them? What is best for our choirs? Are all voice lessons the same? We have so many questions… and, we think, some answers for those questions! We invite you to listen and join the conversation! As always, each episode is just a conversation STARTER, so join the conversation on Facebook in the Choralosophers group!
In this episode we discuss at length the philosophy of healthy singing as a starting place for young singers. We take the position that classical training is THE route to this goal. Classical training is not just a style of repertoire, but a type of instruction. Like classical dance or theater training, it builds fundamentals and technique first. Flare, photo ops, and competition ratings MUST come second.
We are constantly hearing about the value and necessity of sacrifice. You have to do it to get where you want to go… You have to do it for your fellow man… You have to do it if you really love some one…
As you might guess, I reject all of these ideas. I don’t believe in sacrifice…ever. Not because I am cold and heartless, but because I have done some logical and philosophical filtering of what the word ACTUALLY means. Below is what I have come up with. It might challenge you, or you might agree. The Socratic method welcomes discussion! I know that to many, these may seem like semantics… the parsing apart of the word, its parts and its definitions is a silly waste of time. You are free to feel that way. I, on the other hand, find words and the concepts they are attached to, to be VERY powerful tools in the right hands.
Webster defines sacrifice as:
a : destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else
b : something given up or lost <the sacrifices made by parents>
Conventional wisdom would accept these definitions, but they are both logically flawed and they contradict each other… Let’s take “a” first. What if you destroy something bad in favor of something good? According to this definition you have “sacrificed” even though you have yielded a net gain of value. Webster’s definition provides no value judgement and is, therefore, incomplete. For example, if you give up a bad job so you can take a better one is that a sacrifice? Of course not. You cannot have sacrifice without a hierarchy of values in place. The first definition should read: “destruction or surrender of something one values more in favor of something that one values less.” It is not a consistently usable definition without those parameters. It must involve a net loss of value. The contradiction comes in the first definition’s allowance for a net gain vs. the second one’s requirement for a loss.
How would this be applied? How does this understanding change the way we would think of sacrifice, or even better, how we live our lives?
Scenario 1: The Damsel in Distress Archetype
For as long as human’s have told stories, we have loved to hear of the “great sacrifice” of the handsome knight to save the woman he loves. Often risking great peril or even death in order to rescue the “Damsel in Distress.” (How many stories can you name in the comments?) Most would agree that the man dying for the woman is a sacrifice by any definition, and it may be by Webster’s first definition, but not by mine.
To love is to value highly. If the knight loves the woman, then he values her life. If he loves her enough, he may even value her life more than his own. If this is the case, he has not sacrificed. She is his highest value, and he has kept her alive. He is the winner. He has received a net gain.
I am fortunate to have found the love of my life who has given us two amazing children.
All three of them are of higher value to me than me. (I am actually welling up a bit as I type this, I feel so strongly about it.) Let me make this clear; I LOVE myself. My friends and family would agree that my ego is robust and healthy. Yet, I still value my family that highly. It is not out of self-hatred, but of profoundly understood love that I have ranked my values. If I was placed in the position of having to save any of their lives at the expense of my own, it would be the easiest possible choice, and NOT a sacrifice. If I were to die knowing that my family would have a chance at life, I would die feeling like the winner. (I would, of course be sad to go, but I value their lives higher than my own pain or sadness.) This willingness to die for my family is not sacrifice, but a profoundly selfish position that I would not want to live in a world where they were not provided the opportunity to live full lives.
Scenario 2: The “Sacrifices” Made By Parents
Now we will take Webster’s definition “b” and put through our filter.
b : something given up or lost <the sacrifices made by parents>
Here, we finally have a value judgement in the definition. Webster is getting warmer! For this scenario, I will focus on my daughter, Clara, simply because,
of my two children, she has been alive the longest… I love Clara with all my heart, as I explained above. I can’t think of one sacrifice that I have made for her. What kind of monster am I?! Again, consider my improved definition of “sacrifice.” Could I be spending more of the money I work very hard for on other things like cool gadgets, games, trips, wine, clothes, etc if I didn’t have to buy things for Clara? Of course. After all, she hasn’t earned any of that! Is that a sacrifice for my child? No! Clara being fed clothed and cared for is of MUCH higher value to me than those things, however fun they would be to have.
Could I have pursued more illustrious career avenues if I didn’t have two children?(or had remained single for that matter) Probably. Have I sacrificed my career for my family? No! I would not trade them because they are of higher value than any career advancement that I may have missed. I would argue that it is a negative quality for parents who sacrifice (under my definition) for their kids. Sometimes parents give up what they really want out a sense of duty to their offspring, and then make their kids feel guilty about all of their missed opportunities in life. Whether done intentionally or not, kids can absorb this guilt. Happy parents are more likely to raise happy children.
So then, what IS a sacrifice?
“destruction or surrender of something one values more in favor of something that one values less.”
A person who takes on a burden of any kind out of a sense of guilt or duty, instead of an adherence to their values.
Is it a sacrifice if I were to take the life bread from my own child’s mouth to feed my neighbor’s child? Yes. My own children are of higher value to me than my neighbor’s. (I know people don’t normally admit that out loud, but I am unapologetic about it. I think if most people are truly honest with themselves, they would agree.) But sharing my food with a starving neighbor if my children have what they need, is NOT a sacrifice.
I want to help if it is within my power. It is of a high value to me to see my neighbors happy as long as I have met the needs of my children. It furthers my values to live in a happy, healthy community. Giving to charity in general is not a sacrifice if done with this mentality. People tend to contribute to charities that further their own value system or support causes they find important. If you give to a charity because you feel like they are entitled to it, and get no joy from helping, then this is a sacrifice. Maybe find a different charity? There are many that need your help!
What’s the Point?
Having this clarity in my life helps me to live objectively. I try to look at every choice and personal interaction through this filter. Recently achieving this understanding has led to the happiest years of my life. When I have to put down something I enjoy to spend time with my kids, or save money I would like to spend on an iPad app, or give up the remote, so Beth can watch the show she wants, I see the happiness of my family which is my highest value. I am not bound by bitterness that eats me up as I think about what I have given up. I simply think of what I have gained instead of what I have lost. I become emotionally richer knowing that every decision I make, yields me a net gain in value. The opposite side of the coin is constant regret created by a focus on all of the things in my life I have missed out on. If I chose to think about my life that way, I would be filled with resentment. That’s a path we should avoid.
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What can we learn from the philosophies of Leonardo on Art and Music? Does he have anything to say to us in the 21st Century? The host discusses da Vinci’s ideas sourced from “Thoughts on Art and Life” by the great artist himself, then is joined by Jocelyn Hagen to discuss her new multi-media symphony “The Notebooks of Leonardo Davinci” as well as her recent TED talk about the work.
Jocelyn Hagen composes music that has been described as “simply magical” (Fanfare Magazine) and “dramatic and deeply moving” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis/St. Paul). Her first forays into composition were via songwriting, and this is very evident in her work. The majority of her compositional output is for the voice: solo, chamber and choral. Her dance opera collaboration with choreographer Penelope Freeh, titled Test Pilot, received the 2017 American Prize in the musical theater/opera division as well as a Sage Award for “Outstanding Design.” The panel declared the work “a tour de force of originality.” Her melodic music is rhythmically driven, texturally complex, and has recently become more experimental in nature. In 2013 she released an EP entitled MASHUP, in which she performs Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum” while singing Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team.” Jocelyn is also one half of the band Nation, an a cappella duo with composer/performer Timothy C. Takach, and together they perform and clinic choirs from all over the world.
Her commissions include Conspirare, The Minnesota Orchestra, the American Choral Directors Associations of Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut and Texas, the North Dakota Music Teacher’s Association, Cantus, the Boston Brass, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and The Houston Chamber Choir, among many others. She is currently an artist-in-residence at North Dakota State University and regularly composes for their ensembles. For ten years she was a composer-in-residence for the professional choir she also sang in: The Singers, under the direction of Matthew Culloton. Her music has been performed all over the world, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City. Her work is independently published through JH Music, as well as Graphite Publishing, G. Schirmer, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Fred Bock Music Publishing, and Boosey and Hawkes.
“If you are there for the music, you’re in the wrong profession. It has to be student centered, or you will burn out.”
Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country, and serves as the conductor of her local community band. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Elisa has presented at state, national, and international music education conferences. She is the founder of the International Music Education Summit and the author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.
In this episode I share a small part of my “suck list” as well as my “not suck” list to demonstrate the healthy balance we all must have between acknowledging our struggles and giving ourselves credit where credit is due. I will also offer a short reflection on the National ACDA Convention including WHY I MISSED THE AEOLIANS concert at Helzberg Hall and the inspiration of Eph Ehly’s session at the Folly Theater, “What’s Really Important.” Finally, I will be responding to some Choralosopher responses from our Facebook page. Several listeners responded with one item from their “suck” and “not suck” lists.