Episode 103: Finding My Voice with Brittney E. Boykin

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In Collaboration with Oxford University Press to Bring You Great Conversations

B.E. Boykin

In the next edition of the Oxford Series, I am excited to bring you a new voice in their catalog, Brittney E. Boykin. I had an open and refreshing conversation with her about her journey through the choral world as a conductor, teacher and then composer. Navigating life in the choral world as a Black Woman, cultural sharing vs. appropriation, the sea-change that was 2020, work-life balance and more. “When I think of diversity within the classical music world, there is diversity within sound, within ensembles, within colors.” – BE Boykin

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Episode 103

Find Brittney on Graphite Publishing

When I think of diversity within the classical music world, there is diversity within sound, within ensembles, within colors.

B.E. Boykin

Find Brittney’s Publishing Company, Klavia Press

Visit http://www.dciny.org to explore opportunities for your choir today!
The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com

B.E. (Brittney Elizabeth) Boykin is a native of Alexandria, Virginia and comes from a musical family. At the age of 7, she began piano lessons and continued her studies through high school under the tutelage of Mrs. Alma Sanford. Mrs. Sanford guided her through various competitions, such as the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition where she garnered 1st place for 3 consecutive years in the local competition, as well as being awarded The Washington Post “Music and Dance Award” in the spring of 2007.”

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Boykin then pursued her classical piano studies at Spelman College under the leadership of Dr. Rachel Chung. After graduating Spelman College in 2011 with a B.A. in Music, Boykin continued her studies at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey. During her time at Westminster, she was awarded the R and R Young Composition Prize just a few months shy of graduating with her M.M. in Sacred Music with a concentration in choral studies in May, 2013.

Enter Choralosophy at Checkout for a 5% discount when you shop for folders, robes and other gear for your choir program! www.mymusicfolders.com and www.mychoirrobes.com

Boykin’s choral piece, “We Sing as One,” was commissioned to celebrate Spelman College’s 133rd Anniversary of its founding at the 2014 Founders Day Convocation. She has also been featured as the conductor/composer-in-residence for the 2017 Harry T. Burleigh Commemorative Spiritual Festival at Tennessee State University. Boykin has been commissioned and collaborated with several organizations, including a number of ACDA divisions, the Minnesota Opera and the Kennedy Center. She obtained her PhD from Georgia State University with an emphasis in Music Education and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Episode 102: Belonging Isn’t Top-Down

Advertisements A hybrid episode! We run the risk of oversimplifying educational concepts, packaging them in seminars and professional development sessions for sale, and actually HARMING students. Or at least not helping them. Educational theories often carry precious little evidence, but we as educators frequently feel ill equipped to question them. Often times these oversimplifications are …

Episode 101: The Science of Program Building with Dr. Seth Pendergast

Advertisements Dr. Seth Pendergast of Colorado State University joins me to dig through the critical aspects of recruiting and retention. As we are (hopefully) coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, my sense is that many K-12 choral music educators are looking to grow or rebuild their choral programs. The pandemic often limited singing and many …

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Episode 101: The Science of Program Building with Dr. Seth Pendergast

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Dr. Seth Pendergast of Colorado State University joins me to dig through the critical aspects of recruiting and retention. As we are (hopefully) coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, my sense is that many K-12 choral music educators are looking to grow or rebuild their choral programs. The pandemic often limited singing and many choral music educators may have lost students over the past two years as they were limited in their vocal activities. We now enter a time where we have the opportunity to rethink our programs and their priorities. This also means that we have a high stakes need to get it RIGHT. The reasons that students engage in school music programs, or don’t is very complicated and nuanced. It’s more than having a donut party, and letting them sing their favorite music. We also need to explore and be creative with what music programs can look like in different TYPES of school environments. What does one research based approach say about this topic?

Dr. Seth Pendergast

Read Dr. Pendergast’s NAFME Article

Seth Pendergast is an Assistant Professor of Music Education at Colorado State University where he teaches courses in vocal music education, creativity and technology, graduate music education courses, and choral ensembles. He studies motivation and participation in the music classroom and his most recent scholarship includes publications in the Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Educators Journal, Choral Journal, and Update: Applications of Research in Music Education. In addition to his work as a teacher/scholar, Seth is an active clinician, conductor, and adjudicator. He completed his Ph.D. in Music Education at the University of Utah in 2018.

“The person doing the thinking is the person doing the learning.”

Alice Keeler
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Episode 101
Visit http://www.dciny.org to explore opportunities for your choir today!

Find Seth on Twitter

The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com
Enter Choralosophy at Checkout for a 5% discount when you shop for folders, robes and other gear for your choir program! www.mymusicfolders.com and www.mychoirrobes.com

Episode 103: Finding My Voice with Brittney E. Boykin

Advertisements In Collaboration with Oxford University Press to Bring You Great Conversations In the next edition of the Oxford Series, I am excited to bring you a new voice in their catalog, Brittney E. Boykin. I had an open and refreshing conversation with her about her journey through the choral world as a conductor, teacher …

Episode 99: The World Imagined with Gabriel Jackson

Advertisements Part of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast Dig into the mind of Gabriel Jackson, one of my FAVORITE composers. His ability to mix the modern with the ancient really makes my “Spidey Sense” tingle! We discuss his music, and journey to composition, as well his feelings about Orchestral musicians seeming to live …

Episode 98: You Are Your Story with Brent Morden, Michelle Pollino and Angel Eduardo

Advertisements A New Initiative from a New Organization: FAIR in the Arts is a program from the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism We have to think about group identity and immutable characteristics, and how they shape our experience as humans in the world. We can’t ignore those things. But they are not the only things. …

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Episode 100: Sing Softer, You’re Off Key with Beth Munce

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This episode is a milestone. The 100th full length episode of the podcast. Since my wife Beth was the FIRST guest on the show, I thought it would be good to go full circle, and bring her on again!

Being a music teacher is an important job. It is, or should be about SO MUCH more than the “collection and curation of musicians who are already good.” But how often is that our quickest route to career success? In this episode Beth and I take the gloves off and dive into the topic of the ways in which choir directors of all levels, with all of the best intentions, can often say or do things that either do not help singers become better, or even make the singer worse. “Raise the soft palette” when the problem is actually tongue tension. “Blend!
when the result is actually just removing resonance so you can no longer hear the problem. “Open your mouth to the size of the 3 Oreos” when every mouth is a different size, and much more.

Beth Munce

We also go a bit hard on the problems with ranking, or rating competitions for beginning singers. The systems, often governed by the same organization that governs basketball games in many places, can actually disincentivize quality feedback for singers.

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Episode 100

The Unique Nature of Singing by Beth Munce

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While many of my singing and teaching of singing philosophies and approaches have shifted or changed…some I would completely redo differently if I had the chance…one that hasn’t (and this is a hill that I will die on) is that there is a place in music for EVERYONE.

Sorry Trevor

The unique nature of singing is that 1) we all have a different instrument: everyone’s lung capacity, torso length, pharyngeal shape, tongue size, etc…are all different!! So there is not a one size fits all approach to singing. It is different for everyone. And everyone learns differently! Add that into the mix. Plus every person has to learn how to coordinate their muscles, where to feel resonance, how to learn to resonate effectively and efficiently, and how to adjust this approach when their bodies and hormones are changing. It’s a lot! Plus, 2) unlike starting piano or band where the first time you pick up an instrument is with your teacher (where they can tell you “put this hand here, this finger here…”) in choir, EVERY kid has prior experience in singing/phonation whether that be with the radio, with mom, in another choir, etc…some of these habits are good, some detrimental (don’t get me started on some of the bad singing examples on the radio!). The point being, you are having to redirect those already insulated neural pathways. Retrain those muscles. And this takes time and concerted effort. Some kids give up and don’t want to put forth the effort. I tell my students that learning to sing is like you are renovating a home as opposed to building one from scratch. And some houses need more work than others! 

Enter Choralosophy at Checkout for a 5% discount when you shop for folders, robes and other gear for your choir program! www.mymusicfolders.com and www.mychoirrobes.com

Some of my proudest moments in teaching have been the kid whose mom thought he was “tone deaf” and he ended up being able to perform a solo successfully and make concert choir to be with his buddies…the girl who was the only one of her peers who auditioned for an honor choir her sophomore year and didn’t make it, who went on to make All-State choir her senior year…the boy who was so awkward and shy and could barely make a peep who went on to get a full ride scholarship in vocal performance and has had an active adult performance career. Those stories of hard work and perseverance are my favorite. The kid that didn’t think they could or was the underdog who worked their butt off and ended up excelling!!

The best sight singing tool on the market. A must have for any band/choir or orchestra teacher and their students. In class and at home tools to build their literacy at their own pace. Enter “choralosophy” at checkout to get 10% off every time you renew at http://www.sightreadingfactory.com

Beth’s previous appearances on the Podcast

Episode 1: Health Happiness and Balance for the Choral Director

Episode 8: Renovating the Voice

Episode 25: Loving by Letting Go with Jaclyn Johnson (Beth as Co Host)

Episode 90: Sound Before Sight with Carol Krueger

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Teaching students to be literate requires teachers who are trained for it.

The episode you have been asking for for over a year is finally here! It is jam packed full of ideas and solutions. The music literacy guru herself, Carol Krueger and I discuss the crisis facing music education that few are talking about. We have a serious scaffolding problem regarding literacy in music education. Carol calls it a “spiral” of concepts that are not being layered on for students consistently. Students are arriving to study music at the collegiate level in startling numbers deficient in rudiments, like pitch matching, pitch memory, keeping a steady beat, a developed sense of audiation, or ability to write down what they hear. Carol even makes me improvise on solfege!

“Many of our students are arriving in college, illiterate in music. They may have sung a ton of songs, but they can’t hear a sound and tell you what they heard, because we didn’t label it for them.”

Carol Krueger
Episode 90

How do we solve this problem? There is not a quick fix. We must start students at the beginning of their music education, scaffolding sounds and LABELS for the sounds from the elementary level. There are many barriers making this difficult for us. But it is so critical. Neurologically, music literacy is the SAME as linguistic literacy, and developing advancing skills in all types of literacy carry lasting benefits that all of our students deserve.

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Carol Krueger

Dr. Krueger formerly served as the Director of Choral Activities at Valdosta State University, Emporia State University, and Florida Southern.  She also served as the Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of South Carolina and the University of Montevallo.  A native of Wisconsin, Krueger received her bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and both an M.M. and D.M.A. in Choral Conducting from the University of Miami.

YouTube Channel

An active clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor, Krueger has most recently conducted festivals and honor choirs at the collegiate, high school and middle school levels in Maryland, Arkansas, South Dakota, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Kansas, New York, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Washington, Georgia, South Carolina, North Dakota, Indiana [2021] and Kentucky [2021]. In addition, Dr. Krueger served as the guest conductor of the North-North Central ACDA Middle School Treble Choir (Milwaukee, 2020) of Vivaldi’s Gloria in Carnegie Hall (2010), the Adult Chancel Choir and Chamber Singers at Montreat Presbyterian Association of Musicians Conference (2010), and multiple performances of Epcot’s Candlelight Processional and Massed Choir Program (2005). 

Krueger has presented interest sessions at the American Choral Directors National Convention in New York, the OAKE (Kodaly) National Convention in Charlotte, the ACDA Southern Division Conventions in Mobile, Nashville and Louisville, the Southern Division MENC Convention in Charleston, the North Central Division ACDA in Madison, the Eastern Division ACDA in Providence, the Eastern Division NAfME in Hartford, as well as interest sessions or workshops in twenty-eight states (Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas,  Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota,  Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia), Australia and England. Krueger is also widely recognized for her work with music literacy. Oxford University Press publishes her book, Progressive Sight Singing.

More resources Carol has generously shared with the Choralosophy Audience

Episode 88: Music is Inherently Raceless with Theron Jenkins

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Episode 88: Theron Jenkins

When discussing how music and education intersects with race, gender and culture, I find that we are often pretty quick to apply reductionist labels to the idea or concept. For example, phrases I have come across too often include “That’s a boy’s song,” or “Choral Music is an inherently white art form,” or “sight reading is a European value in Music Education.”

If we label these things based on their past origins, are we sending unintentional signals to students about who is welcome NOW?

Now, it’s possible I spend too much time reading through comment threads in Facebook groups, but it raises the issue of the unintended consequences for students and educators when they see or hear such blatant essentialism, though often well intended. In the latest addition to my Choral Music: A Human Art Form thread, Theron Jenkins and I discuss this issue in hopes of bringing some alternative discourses to light for the purpose of making choral music more accessible and inviting to people from every background. After all, Choral Music does not inherently have a race, nor is group singing European. Music is INHERENTLY human. From all to all.

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Episode 88 audio

YOUR 10 Favorite Episodes of 2021

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John Rutter, JD Frizell, Odell Ziegler, a Newsweek writer and an Epidemiologist walk into a bar…

What do all of these people have in common? They, along with several others, have made the Choralosophy TOP 10 of 2021. The episodes and post that created the most buzz this year are listed, linked and reviewed below!

John Rutter, on the Oxford Series, comfortably nailed down the top episode of the year. Shared hundreds of times as thousands tuned in to the choral legend’s wise words and delightful optimism and wisdom.

The rest of the episodes are listed in no particular order, partly because it was difficult to distinguish them, other than the seemed to drum up more interest than a typical episode. One of the many things I love about the Choralosophy audience, is that the diversity of topics on the list doesn’t surprise me at all. Podcast listeners tend to be voracious consumers of thought provoking and wide ranging conversations.

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Top 10 2021 in Review!

Top 10 episodes covered music literacy, the educational/choral community’s bungled response to Covid, crafting a conductor’s credo, political polarization, authentic communication in performance, and the nation’s racial divide.

Click the image below to find the episode!

Other highlights from 2021 included the show cracking half a MILLION downloads and streams as well as inching into the top 1.5% of all global podcasts. Thanks for listening, and keep the conversation going!

YOUR 10 Favorite Episodes of 2021

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John Rutter, JD Frizell, Odell Ziegler, a Newsweek writer and an Epidemiologist walk into a bar…

What do all of these people have in common? They, along with several others, have made the Choralosophy TOP 10 of 2021. The episodes and post that created the most buzz this year are listed, linked and reviewed below!

John Rutter, on the Oxford Series, comfortably nailed down the top episode of the year. Shared hundreds of times as thousands tuned in to the choral legend’s wise words and delightful optimism and wisdom.

The rest of the episodes are listed in no particular order, partly because it was difficult to distinguish them, other than the seemed to drum up more interest than a typical episode. One of the many things I love about the Choralosophy audience, is that the diversity of topics on the list doesn’t surprise me at all. Podcast listeners tend to be voracious consumers of thought provoking and wide ranging conversations.

https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/choralosophy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/2021-Top-10.mp3
Top 10 2021 in Review!

Top 10 episodes covered music literacy, the educational/choral community’s bungled response to Covid, crafting a conductor’s credo, political polarization, authentic communication in performance, and the nation’s racial divide.

Click the image below to find the episode!

Other highlights from 2021 included the show cracking half a MILLION downloads and streams as well as inching into the top 1.5% of all global podcasts. Thanks for listening, and keep the conversation going!

Episode 86: All Students DESERVE Music Literacy with Odell Zeigler IV

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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.

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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.

Episode 84: Exploring the Choirs of Europe with Gary Graden of St. Jacobs Kammerkör

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The Second Installment Betsy Cook Weber’s Sabbatical Series!

In this stop, Betsy visits Stockholm, Sweden to see Gary Graden and the St. Jacobs Kammerkör. Betsy, Gary and I discuss how an American born director ended up learning from Eric Ericsson and never leaving. We also dive into the philosophies, practices and approaches that lead to such a virtuosic sound from this top flight Swedish choir. I was inspired by Gary’s passion for his job, which in his words is to provide his singers a high quality musical experience “interacting with great art.” In Betsy’s words, Gary is “in it to win it, but winning isn’t a trophy.” You won’t want to miss this conversation, or the concert clips!

Episode 84
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Episode 84

GARY GRADEN

was born in the USA and studied at Clark University, the Hartt School of Music, the Aspen Summer Music Festival, and with Eric Ericson at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Gary Graden is a former member and tenor soloist with the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, as well as the vocal ensemble Lamentabile Consort.

Gary Graden is presently Director of Music in the Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan) and S:t Jacob´s church. He has also been on the faculty of  Stockholm´s Musikgymnasium where founded and conducted the Stockholm Musikgymnasium´s Chamber Choir. With this choir and the S:t Jacobs Chamber Choir he has won grand prizes and first prizes in several of Europe´s most prestigious competitions, including the European Grand Prize.

He has also participated in a wide array of national and international festivals including the Tolosa Festival in Spain, the IFCM World Symposia in Minneapolis and Kyoto, Sagra Musicale Umbra in Italy, Debrecen Festival in Hungary,  Koorbiennale in Holland, the ACDA National Convention in USA, and is currently artistic director of the international choral festival La Fabbrica del Canto in Legnano.

Graden has commissioned and premiered more than 90 works by such composers as Sven-David Sandström, Anders Hillborg, Nana Forte, Thomas Jennefelt, Steve Dobrogosz,  Bo Hansson, Agneta Sköld, Gabriel Jackson, Anders Paulsson,  Javier Busto, Vytautas Miškinis, Urmas Sisask, Georg Riedel, Carl Unander-Scharin, Stephen Leek, Damijan Močnik, Corrado Margutti, Giovanni Bonato, and Michael Waldenby.

He has conducted several orchestras including the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra. the Stockholm Royal Opera Orchestra, Stockholm Rebaroque, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Philidor, France, and Camerata Strumentale Città di Prato as well as Orchestra da Camera Perugia in Italy. Above and beyond his specialization in the performance of contemporary music, he has performed such larger works as Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in c-minor, Bach’s passions and Mass in b-minor, as well as the Requiems of Brahms, Duruflé, Fauré and Michael Haydn.

Epiosode 84

Episode 82: Are Merit-BasedStandards Racist? With Angel Eduardo

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Author of the Newsweek article “Why Calling Merit Racist Erases People of Color.”

One of the raging debates today in education centers around the ways in which we can expand access to fruits of high quality education to more students. And that is a wonderful debate to have, and an important one. However, a troubling strain of that song is the tendency to take the easy path toward equality: Attempts to include by EXCLUDING things. Headlines abound about school districts removing or lowering testing standards, or gifted programs citing the lack of equitable outcomes. In the music world, we talk of eliminating blind auditions or auditions all together. There are TONS of fair criticisms of standardized tests, or audition and screening practices for example, but those are problems that could be addressed to simply make a better, fairer, but still rigorous test. Where is that conversation? What if our focus was “how do I raise more people to the bar?” rather than implying without actually saying “we need to lower the bar or remove it?”

I say this is “taking the easy way out” because it absolves the institutions, and even worse, the politicians that oversee the budgets, of doing the HARD work of finding and solving the true barriers of access allowing more students to benefit from these programs. Cancelling the program is simply easier, leading to an appearance of equality, and makes no one actually better off.

Angel Eduardo

“We need to devise and develop other paths to prosperity, more robust social safety nets, and better education systems. We need to talk about solutions that will truly uplift those being harmed by our meritocratic obsession. But calling merit racist is not the way to do it. Meritocracy is a kind of tyranny, but merit still matters.”

Angel Eduardo

In this episode, my guest, Angel Eduardo takes the argument a step further and says the easy way out also erases the talents and merits of students of color. Giving voice to the often unexpressed concern of how young people might interpret hearing the implication that “the standards might be too high for you. So we are lowering them.” What types of long term impact may that have on the psyche?

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Episode 82

Episode 55: Music At the Intersection of Identities with Deborah Stephens

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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!

Episode 55
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Deborah Stephens

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.

Featured Links:

deborahsopranos.wix.com/debyousee

https://www.liftmusicfund.org/

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