Episode 128: The Strange Relationship between Choral Music Ed and Vocal Ped with Dr. Sharon Hansen

One of the oddest things about Vocal Music Education as a profession, is how little we are required to learn in our schooling about the voice. Vocal Pedagogy courses are often the purview of voice performance majors, which is very odd considering how many more students will be impacted with vocal instruction by a person with a Music Ed degree. It is also odd considering that in many schools, vocal instruction is a key component of our course descriptions. Despite this seemingly obvious academic connection, a startlingly low number of music educators have taken any Vocal Ped, very little Voice Science is presented at conventions, and myths and misinformation litter the landscape of discussions and instruction about how the voice works. Dr. Sharon Hansen joins me to discuss this issue candidly, as well as a recounting of her battle getting ACDA to include the “On the Voice” column in the Choral Journal. You will be amazed to hear some of the reasons she was given for NOT including Vocal information in a Choral journal. An important episode that no one should miss.


Dr. Sharon A. Hansen is Professor and Director of Choral Studies, Emerita, at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. Widely known as a conductor and master teacher throughout the United States and in Europe, Hansen has conducted the Romanian National Radio Choir (Bucharest), the Gächinger Kantorei and Bach Collegium-Stuttgart (Germany), the Stockholm (Sweden) Conservatory Chamber Choir, the Moldavian and Oltenian Philharmonic Choirs (Iasì and Craiova, Romania), and the University of Regensburg (Germany) Symphony Orchestra. Ensembles under Hansen’s direction have appeared at state, regional, and national ACDA and NAfME Conferences, and she has served as guest conductor and clinician with all-state, all-regional, and select honor choirs in more than forty states.

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Hansen is the Founder and Music Director Emerita of the Milwaukee Choral Artists, a professional women’s vocal ensemble that left a legacy of some fifty commissioned, premiered, and published new works for treble voices. Hansen authored Helmuth Rilling: Conductor – Teacher, the definitive book on renowned conductor Helmuth Rilling, when she spent sixteen months in Germany singing with Rilling and the Gächinger Chorale. As contributing author for the 2009 book Wisdom, Wit, and Will: Women Choral Conductors on their Art, Hansen’s detailed chapter on the status of collegiate women choral conductors, “Women, Conductors, and the Tenure Process: What’s Up in the Academy?”, was the first such in-depth examination since 1988. She served as a member of the Editorial Board of the American Choral Directors’ Association’s Choral Journal from 1993–2018, where she was Founder and Editor Emerita of the Choral Journal article series “On the Voice,” which she curated for eighteen years. Because of her long-time passion for voice and choral music, she examined the history of voice education in the choral classroom in ACDA’s first 50 years, which is Monograph #18 in ACDA’s monograph series.

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Hansen received the Wisconsin Choral Directors Association’s Morris D. Hayes Award, the Milwaukee Civic Music Association’s Excellence in Choral Music Award, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s highest meritorious honors for outstanding contributions to the choral art. Prior to her twenty years in Wisconsin, Hansen was Professor of Choral Music at the University of Northern Iowa, and a vocal music teacher in the public schools near Omaha, Nebraska. Now calling Arizona her home, she recently served as lead writer on the Hal Leonard–McGraw-Hill choral textbook series Voices in Concert, and as full-time Interim Director of Music and Arts at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale. Presently, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Chapter of the American Choral Directors’ Association, and is the Chorus Conductor for the Arizona Musicfest Symphony Orchestra.

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For More on This Topic

Car Thoughts: Thank you for your mistake

In this episode, I reflect on the psychology of gratitude, and on the importance of helping our students develop a healthy relationship with their own mistakes, and even flaws and weaknesses. Not because we don’t care about high achieving ensembles, but precisely for this reason.

Car Thoughts Episode
Thank You for Your Mistake
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Episode 86: All Students DESERVE Music Literacy with Odell Zeigler IV

An Unconventional Approach to the Urban Choral Classroom

I believe one of the biggest goals is getting the students interested in singing choral music before we start trying to operate out of formality. How do we get students interested in something they are not familiar with?

Odell Zeigler IV
Episode 86

Recently, I came across a shining light of logic, compassion and advocacy in the form of a ChoralNet article by Odell Zeigler IV. The article was shared far and wide, and it became clear to me right away that these ideas needed to be amplified on the show. I encourage you to read his short article, linked above, and THEN listen to this episode. I believe that this topic is critically important right now as we continue to grapple with what it really means to move the music education world in a more equitable direction. Are we focused on processes and root causes leading to improved outcomes later? Or are we focused on outcomes now while glossing over the processes? I appreciated Odell’s take as I read with excitement because he brings process solutions to the table, which is what we desperately need. Do you have students that aren’t comfortable using solfege, or singing with certain vowel formants? Don’t give up on them, or worse fall into the trap of “this isn’t for them!” They deserve a rich education, and all of its inherent challenges and opportunities for growth.

Episode 86
Tune in!

He has since dedicated his life to inspiring the next generation of young music educators. As a music teacher himself, he understands the impact his words and actions have on a new class of great musicians and hopes to pass along his empathetic approach to education.

Odell wouldn’t be here if he didn’t live and breathe music, but his true passion lies in building leaders for tomorrow. From every live performance to his work in the classroom, Odell works to move others forward so they can one day do the same.