As an alumna of Miami University, what were some of your memorable moments as a music student during your undergraduate studies?
Some of my most memorable moments were rooted in the mentorship I received. Miami was home to my first experiences of conducting ensembles. Faculty members Jeremy Jones and Gary Speck gave me opportunities to be up in front of Collegiate Chorale and Wind Ensemble: formative experiences which ultimately led to graduate degrees in conducting. I am so grateful for the generosity of their mentorship and time.
As a pianist, Siok Lian Tan helped me build skills to collaborate musically. Even as a music education major, I never felt a dearth of performance and pedagogical opportunities. I was able to participate in masterclasses with chamber music clinicians and distinguished artists like Malcolm Bilson, compete in multiple concerto competitions, accompany choral ensembles, and play in the rhythm sections of both the MU Jazz Ensemble and trumpet ensemble, Lickety Splits. The rigorous performance standards for music education majors here have served me ever since in terms of musicianship and attaining positions.
The music department also enabled several memorable travel opportunities. I will never forget the experience of traveling with the music department to Carnegie Hall. The trip was a feat: From the logistics of a six or seven-bus caravan making its way through New York City to taking our first steps onto the stage. Through Miami, I had the opportunity to study in India with Srinivas Krishnan, an alumnus who coordinated numerous summer trips to Chennai. We had the opportunity to work with Carnatic music teachers and Bharatnatyam dance teachers, perform, and connect with students at KM Conservatory. It was an enriching whirlwind!
I am incredibly thankful to return to the music department to help provide building blocks for our current and future students.
Can you share with us your work with the Cincinnati-based Martin Luther King Chorale?
Cincinnati’s Martin Luther King Chorale is part of the Martin Luther King Coalition, an organization who promotes Martin Luther King’s tenets of understanding and non-violence through numerous events throughout the year, namely an annual MLK Day Commemorative program. The Martin Luther King Chorale is an arm of the coalition, and the membership of the Chorale consists of passionate community members. Together with artistic director Jason Alexander Holmes and Coordinator Louise Lawarre, we prepare the MLK Chorale for the commemorative program, free and open to the public, at Cincinnati’s Music Hall.
Do you have any areas of special interest within the choral music field?
I am passionate about historically underrepresented composers. They not only provide new repertoire to learn and explore but enlighten societal and historical perspectives which have often been neglected and overlooked. We can learn from these historical perspectives as we grapple with societal issues today - many of them echo current circumstances in one way or another, which make the works of historically underrepresented composers an increasingly relevant aspect of choral music.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to an aspiring choral music educator?
Regardless of how specific or general your passion for choral music is now, go after opportunities which will feed your experience and love for what you do. Whether you are currently a student or working out in the field, consider differentiating and supplementing your instruction with masterclass opportunities and summer programs. This can help you find mentors who expand how you think about the field and connect you to aspiring choral educator peers.
Do not be afraid to continue asking for advice from your trusted mentors even after you graduate. The road to a career in music is rarely a simple path and it can be easy to be discouraged, so it becomes important to surround yourself with the people and experiences who remind you of why we do what we do.