Conducting A More Effective Audition

CONDUCTING A MORE EFFECTIVE AUDITION

The modern choral leader has many irons in the fire.  The dreams we all had in graduate school of long hours studying scores and reading scholarly commentaries have fallen to the reality of constant administrative tasks like raising money, promoting events, raising more money, organizing staff and volunteers, raising even more money, and recruiting and auditioning the chorus membership.

The task of recruitment and appointment of chorus members through the audition process might be the most important work of all for the conductor outside actual rehearsals and performances.  Choosing the best personnel for the ensemble is, indeed, the “coin of the realm.”  Everything in the working life of a choral organization, from the quality of the choral product, to the growth and response of audiences, to the availability of adequate funding, begins with choosing the very best members available.

No matter the level of talent and training that has been achieved on the part of the candidate, and no matter the experience and due diligence of the panel conducting the audition, a choral audition is an intimidating and messy business.  The following thoughts and suggestions are offered to assist those of us who hear auditions as we prioritize our goals for the process and as we design a structure that well serves those goals.

There are as many styles of choral organizations as there are situations and conductors.  The recommendations of this essay are focused on the work of choosing members for a long-term appointment to a professional, semi-professional, or professional-level community ensemble that will give a number of performances over the course of a season or several seasons.

It is important to understand that a fine choral organization is both a company of quality voices and excellent musicianship, but also a tapestry of personalities and inter-personal relationships.  The choral instrument is unique from any other in music, because the instrument itself is comprised of the expressive heart, soul and mind of each and every human thread that forms the tapestry.  Though it may be contrary to conventional wisdom for many, it is the conductor’s responsibility to appoint the best person available to strengthen, diversify, and enrich that choral fabric.  The audition is the process by which he or she works to accomplish that goal.

Understand that the audition is a consideration of the whole person.  The process begins when the first inquiry is received by the choral organization.  The conversation may come in the form of an email, a phone call, or a discussion following an event.  In the course of the interaction it is critically important that the traditions, the goals, the expectations, and the blessings of serving the choral art in this particular ensemble are clearly communicated.  It is equally important that the organization’s representative be trained to listen carefully to the response of the candidate and to consider the compatibility of the individual with the musical family.  It is always best if this important initial screening is conducted by the Music Director, or by the director’s most trusted associates if the director is unavailable.

It is important that the audition candidate be evaluated as to their ability and willingness to follow instructions in the context of the particular organization’s style of communication.  For example, to save rehearsal time, many choral organizations communicate in written form through handbooks, newsletters and/or social media.  If it becomes apparent during the audition that a particular candidate has not carefully read materials assigned to him or her, that fact should be strongly considered in making an appointment decision.

The candidate, the choral organization, and the audition process should be treated with utmost respect.  Both the candidate and the audition panel should honor the process by dressing professionally.  The candidate should be greeted by a well-trained proctor who is prepared to assist with document preparation and ready to answer any questions.  The audition room should be private and well organized.  Communications between the choral ensemble and the candidate should be timely, consistent and professional in presentation.  Likewise, follow-up communication should be gracious, informative and professional.

Solos performed in auditions should be simple.  Many choral organizations assign a complex aria and provide an accompanist to assist in the audition.  In most cases the quality of the voice, the capacity to sing in tune, the understanding and demonstration of expressiveness, and the clarity of enunciation can be heard just as well, if not better, when the candidate sings a simple a cappella hymn or folk song.  Even more, the voice can be heard more clearly, and musicianship can be evaluated more accurately, when the voice is heard alone without piano, and without the distraction of vocal gymnastics.

It is important to determine how the candidate for membership performs in ensemble.
  Placing the candidate in a 4-part or 8-part hymn or chorale will demonstrate how the candidate responds to the presence of other voices.  Does the candidate seek to sing cooperatively with other voices?  How does the candidate nuance intonation when placed in ensemble?  Are there negative changes in vocal timbre that are revealed?

It is critically important that the audition proceed exactly the same, no matter the obvious strength or weakness of a particular singers’ candidacy. Quite frankly, in many cases, within the first few minutes of the audition it is obvious to the panel that a particular candidate is likely to pass or fail the audition. Most importantly, it is a sign of respect to a singer who has submitted themselves to a highly personal and intimidating process.  Though rare, there have been occasions when an audition that began with exceptional strength or exceptional weakness has concluded with an unexpected result.  Finally, when handled properly on the part of the candidate and the panel, every audition is a significant learning experience.

The audition should conclude with sincere expressions of appreciation and with a clear agenda for follow-up.  Each member of the panel should personally thank the prospective chorus member for honoring the ensemble by presenting as a candidate for membership.  It should be clearly stated to the candidate when and by what means the results of the audition will be communicated.  Once stated to the candidate, the process for advisement of the audition results should be followed without fail.  If  the audition was unsuccessful, the organization’s policy for sharing specific comments, scores, and recommendations for additional study should be communicated.  If appropriate, contact information for other choral organizations in the community that are considering new members should be provided.

Every person who interfaces with the staff and culture of a choral ensemble carries the legacy of that ensemble into the wider community.  In most recruitment seasons, significantly more singers who audition for a particular ensemble are turned away than are appointed to chorus membership.  If the process of audition has demonstrated the highest levels of graciousness and professionalism, every area of the choir’s reputation in the community will be enriched.

Article by Special Contributor William O. Baker, DMA

Founder and Music Director of The William Baker Choral Foundation

William Baker Festival Singers

Author, The Leipzig Door 

The Voice of the Very Young Child: Birth to 5 Years Part 2: The Physical Ability to Sing

Anyone who has heard a child improvise melodies from the crib knows it is a precious sound. Little ones can babble repetitive songs with pitch accuracy as early as the age of ten months. It’s likely these children have been sung to and/or have heard singing frequently during the pre-birth and early infant years. What are the basic requirements needed for children to learn to sing?

The physical ability to sing depends on the degree of normal and healthy development of the vocal mechanism (larynx, vocal folds, breathing apparatus), and on one’s neuro-biological ability to process music pitch.

In a 2006 study, a John’s Hopkins team studied marmoset monkeys using a technique that measures the electrical activity of individual neurons in the brain.  The researchers viewed each neuron’s reaction as different notes were played by a computer.  The researchers were able to discern that a majority of pitch-selective neurons are located in a specific region of the monkey’s brain near the primary auditory cortex, a region already known to interpret sounds.

“A tiny primate, the marmoset, appears to process pitch perception the same way we do, implying that the ability evolved in a common ancestor at least 40 million years ago.

60-Second Science

60-Sec Science Link

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/musical-pitch-perception-may-have-long-evolutionary-history/

“The auditory cortex has traditionally been thought to detect the complex spectrum contained within a sound; for example, they thought…one set of neurons responded only to a trumpet and another set to a violin, even if playing the same note,” says Wang.  “But the neurons were found to respond to a single musical note, regardless if played by a trumpet or violin.”

What about pitch matching?

It has been observed there are a set of “pre-skills” a child must learn along the way to her being able to develop the ability to match pitch.  Past research verifies the need for these skills:

  • Children must develop awareness of the sensations of singing.

TO DO: Help discovery of these feelings by directing the child to feel the vibrations in her chest while vocalizing in various registers. Draw attention to the sensations of chanting and of singing. Rather than instructing or telling, discovery is the key here.

  • Children must be able to verbally describe their own vocal sounds and that of others.

TO DO: Encourage children to distinguish between whispering, calling, singing and speaking.

  • Children must be able to produce a variety of vocal registers and voice qualities.

TO DO: Experiment play with making environmental and animal sounds.

Range and Pitch Accuracy

“Children should not be expected to sing in the same ranges, with the same intensity, for the same periods of time as adults.”  (Miller, Page 29)

Songs for children should be pitched to around D Major. Since many music textbooks have lowered the pitches of songs to middle C or below, teachers must re-pitch them to a higher key for vocal health and pitch accuracy reasons. Children age 5 or younger usually cannot sing a middle C without engaging in pressed phonation. Start songs in a narrow range: D4 to A4 is recommended for our youngest students. Assess development and then add B4 and C5. Prior to puberty: B-flat below middle C to E or F at top of treble clef are now the recommended limits for most children.

Kinesthetics and Pitch Accuracy

Many researchers recommend using movement to assist in learning pitch accuracy.

  • TO DO: Use movement to describe high pitch and low pitch.
  • TO DO: Encourage children to follow music contour though dance or movement of the arms and body.
  • TO DO: Curwen Hand Signs can be used to associate movement with pitch.

SingWithMe

Curwen_Hand_Signs_MT

By Scanned and enhanced by Matthew D. Thibeault – (Original text: John Curwen Standard Course (1904 edition, public domain))If the date is 1904, the author may be John Curwen (died 1880) or his son John Spencer Curwen (died 1916)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6874560

Most children are born with the physical ability to sing, and most children innately love playing with their voice. This is most likely true for children have been sung to and/or have heard singing frequently during the pre-birth and early infant years. Use your voice, and watch the precious vocal development of  the  young children you teach.

Article by Author Jamea J. Sale, MME, Education Director:    JSale@ HealthySinging.org Institute for Healthy Singing with the William Baker Choral Foundation; Voice Specialist, Allegro Choirs of Kansas City

REFRENCES:

Bendor, D; Wang, X.(2005). The neuronal representation of pitch in primate auditory cortex.  Nature. Vol. 436. pp. 1161-1165.

Bennett, P. (1986). A responsibility to young voices. Music Educators Journal, 73, 33–38.

Bertaux, B. (1989). Teaching children of all ages to use the singing voice, and how to work with out-of-tune singers. In D. L. Walters & C. C. Taggart (Eds.), Readings in music learning theory (pp. 92–104). Chicago: GIA Publications.

Marra, J. (2018). Research shows where brain interprets “Pitch”. Hopkinsmedicine.org. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2005/09_06_05.html

Miller, R. (2004) Solutions for Singers: Tools for Performers and Teachers. Oxford University Press.

Mina, C. (2009). The Musical Development of the Child.

Mizener, C.P. (2008). Our Singing Children: Developing Singing Accuracy General Music Today, Vol. 21, 3: pp. 18-24.

Philips, K. (1992). Teaching Kids to Sing. Schirmer.

Thurman, L, Grambsch, E. (2002) Foundations for human self-expression during prenate, infant, and early childhood development. Bodymind & Voice, Vol. 3. VoiceCare Network, Collegeville, MN.

Trollinger, V. (2003). Relationships between Pitch-Matching Accuracy, Speech Fundamental Frequency, Speech Range, Age, and Gender in American English-Speaking Preschool Children. Journal of Research in Music Education, 51(1), pp. 78-94.

Voice Anatomy for the Choir Classroom – Demonstrations and Activities

This article submitted by contributing author Jennifer Berroth~

“In chorus, it would probably help a lot if teachers talked about the physiology of the voice . . . I think choral teachers underestimate how much students are able to understand.” Student subject quoted in Freer, P. (2009). Boys’ description of their experiences in choral music.

The kid nailed it. We should never assume students are too young to understand the anatomy and the physiology of the voice. The voice is an instrument, but it’s an instrument that is hidden from the eye. It is an instrument in that it is an extension of our bodies – and thus our identities.

Because of this, singing is an intensely personal activity. When we ask our students to sing, we are asking them to be vulnerable. If, then, they open their mouths and the results don’t match expectations, what supports do we offer to counter this vulnerability? What if we arm them with the tools to recognize, diagnose, and correct missteps? In other words, what if they knew more about the anatomy and physiology of singing?

As teachers of the performing arts, it may seem scary or intimidating to teach a lesson that feels a lot more like science. But why deny young singers the chance to take on more accountability of their voices? Here are a few ideas on how to get started:

1. Present a Basic Voice Anatomy Powerpoint [1] to your classes, which I do at the beginning of the first semester. I credit fellow Developing Voice contributor Jamea Sale, for providing me with the Powerpoint my first year of teaching.

Teach students the correct terms for the larynx and then USE those terms in your daily teaching as well. I tell my students that I don’t expect them to remember every single muscle, bone and cartilage, but it’s important that they hear the words and visually see the anatomy of the larynx.

P R O J E C T S   f o r  t h e  C L A S S R O O M 

credit Dr. Patrick Freer for sharing these activities; original source unknown.

Bernoulli Effect [2]

Younger grade levels:
Take two long, thin strips of paper and put them up beside either corner of your mouth. Then blow air very quickly between them. The strips of paper will be forced
together by the negative pressure created by the airflow. This model demonstrates what happens when air passes through our vocal folds and the pressure causes them to adduct for us to phonate.

IMG_3082-1-410420230-1526127543127.jpgBernoulli 2

Try the same demonstration with a hair dryer:
Tape two pieces of paper to either side of a hair dryer. Again, when you turn the
hair dryer on the negative pressure between the two pieces of paper causes the
papers to adduct together just like the vocal folds.

BUILD A WORKING LUNG AND DIAPHRAGM
For this activity you’ll need:
1. A clean, dry Gatorade bottle
2. Scissors
3. Tape
4. Two balloons
Step 1. Cut 1/4th of the bottom of the bottle with the scissors. I have found through
experience that Gatorade bottles are easiest to cut with scissors. You will still need tohelp young students get the cutting started.

Build a Lung 1.

Step 2a. Tie the end of one balloon into a knot.

Build a lung. 2a.
Step 2b. Then cut off about 1/4th of the larger end of the balloon.

Build a Lung 2b.

Step 3. Wrap the open part of the balloon around the bottom, open end of bottle. This is where you put tape around the circumference of the balloon to make it stay.

Build a Lung 3.
Step 4. Take the second balloon and put the larger part down through the inside of the bottle then wrap the open, small end of the balloon around the lip.

Build a Lung 2b.Build a Lung 3.
You’re finished! You should be able to pull on the end of the “diaphragm” balloon and the “lung” balloon will expand and fill with air.

Build a Lung. 4a.Build a Lung. 5.

STROBOSCOPIC VIDEOS

If you want to really drive home the importance of not smoking show them a picture of laryngeal cancer…but only if your class can handle it! Spoiler alert: It’s pretty gross!

These activities alone won’t improve tone or range, but they provide a foundation of knowledge that students will need in order to address deficiencies in their technique. They represent a starting point on the road to understanding the mechanics of the voice. Future posts will address more specific strategies you can use with your students, but as with anything, start with the basics and keep it simple!

References:

Pro-Singing Voice, LLC. (2012). Images. https://www.google.com/search?q=Bernoulli+Pro+Singing+Voice+2012&newwindow=1&safe=active&rlz=1C1CHZL_enUS761US762&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjtuKy1-IbbAhVHslQKHXOPBY0Q_AUIDCgD&biw=1266&bih=585#imgrc=db7r9VNlHP7Q0M:

Sale, J. (2013). Basic Voice Anatomy.

Freer, P. (2005).  Success for Adolescent Singers~Unlocking the Potential in Middle School Choirs. Choral Excellence.

 

 

Five Steps to Making Every Rehearsal Count

The five steps to making every rehearsal count is designed to help create the mindset that each rehearsal is a special occasion, one that can be likened to a greatly anticipated dinner party.  I don’t think this concept is a stretch at all when one considers that every rehearsal is a gathering at the feast table of musical genius.  Worthwhile choral repertoire, such as the works of Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Vaughan Williams and other masters, is nothing less than a foretaste of Paradise.

Clean the House and Set the Table

If the President of the United States, or the CEO of your organization, were to come to dinner at your home, how would you dress?  Would you consider what might be appropriate dinner conversation? Would you use paper plates and plastic flatware?  Would the napkins be from the paper towel roll?

I believe you would consider every detail, large and small, to prepare for a memorable event.

Consider the guests that attend our rehearsals, including Bach, Tallis, Beethoven, Britten, and Palestrina.  These guests are worthy of our most attendant preparation.  The rehearsal room should be spotless.  There should be a chair for each member perfectly placed, not one too few, not one too many.  Handouts and materials should be printed and readily available.  If recording equipment is needed, it should be set-up in advance and tested.  The rehearsal space should be prepared and set like fine china and depending on your situation at least one hour before the first singer arrives.

Dress for the Occasion

The conductor should dress for the part.  No sensible person would wear jeans with an T-shirt and sneakers when hosting a dinner party for an important business leader community or in the arts.  Neither should the conductor, who is the host leading the rehearsal of a life-changing encounter with extraordinary greatness.

A choral rehearsal of immortal music is not a casual event. Rather, it is critical and urgent work that offers light and hope for all of mankind.  I strongly recommend conductors wear dress slacks, dress shirt or blouse with a tie or vest and even a professional suit with a high shine on the shoes. Yes, there may be some puzzled expressions from chorus members at first, and perhaps some teasing comments, but you will communicate that you value the rehearsal proceedings enough that you are willing to dress properly for the special occasion.  If you don’t believe it will make a difference, try it for a month.

Build Community to Enhance the Experience

The first objective in the work of transforming a number of musicians into an ensemble is the process of creating community.  Whether the project involves a handful of rehearsals and a performance, or whether it involves weekly rehearsals and periodic concerts, it is important for the human connection to be nurtured with intention.

Where possible, it is ideal for singers, arriving early for rehearsal, to have a gathering place where they may interact with one another.  Having coffee and tea readily available, yes -even for evening rehearsals-, and, perhaps, some carefully chosen snack items, helps encourage arriving singers to interact in ways that inspire an emotional and spiritual investment in friendship with each other and, by extension, to the ensemble as a whole.

Manage the Energy Flow of the Rehearsal

Many conductors invest rehearsal preparation time in the anticipation of musical or vocal challenges, but they neglect to consider the impact of the energy flow in the rehearsal as an experience.  All of us have been taught to begin and end rehearsals with confidence-building repertoire and activities, and to save the gravest challenges for the early-middle period of the session.  Managing the flow of human energy requires a deeper consideration of the give and take of the rehearsal process.  For example, conventional wisdom dictates that the most challenging aspects of a musical episode be rehearsed first and longest.  In contrast I suggest that everything that is already confident be reaffirmed, and only then should the challenging episode be addressed.  The most difficult passages are, thus, addressed from a position of greater confidence, making them easier to master, and increasing the likelihood that the instruction will hold from one rehearsal to the next.  Rehearsals should always end with expressions of inspiration, appreciation and wonder.  Though it can seem frantic and overwhelming at times, the opportunity to interact with worthy music is a great blessing that should be approached with nothing less than an overwhelming spirit of humility and thanksgiving.

Evaluate Each Rehearsal Using Recordings

A great cook and a caring host always dedicates time after a dinner party to considering what went well and what could be improved upon the next time.  Choral conductors are very good at measuring and evaluating the progress of their singers during rehearsal, but we are less inclined to evaluate ourselves.

With free decent-quality recording apps available for smart-phones and tablets, there is no reason not to record every minute of every rehearsal.  It is very instructive to evaluate the sound of the ensemble and to identify issues that need to be addressed in subsequent rehearsals.  It is even more beneficial for the conductor to address his or her own performance.  This evaluation can and should include clarity of instruction, wise and efficient use of time, tone of voice -helpful and encouraging, or mocking and edgy-, flow of energy, and effectiveness of rehearsal methods.  It might be a good exercise occasionally to measure how much time the chorus spends singing as opposed to how much time the conductor spends talking.

Though every conductor will adapt these suggestions to his or her own situation, the point of this discussion is to encourage the conductor to consider each and every rehearsal a special event in its own right, not just as a way-station on the journey to performance.  Creative conductors will explore ways to enrich the enjoyment of the rehearsal experience while increasing productivity for chorus members. As the conductor adopts this mindset, each chorus member will follow suit, thus creating a more effective and enjoyable rehearsal experience that will lead to more inspired and memorable concert performances.

William O. Baker, DMA, Founder & Music Director

William Baker Choral Foundation, Roeland Park, Kansas

WBaker@FestivalSingers.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Arietha Lockhart, Award-Winning Soprano ~

“an artist of taste and intelligence with a very beautiful high soprano voice.”                    Robert Shaw

As an active recitalist and concert singer, Arietha is known for her performances of oratorio masterworks and new works by contemporary American composers. She has won numerous awards at various competitions and festivals around the world.

Please enjoy getting to know more about Arietha’s inspiring life ~

DV: First, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where were you born? Is there a story behind your name? Where did you receive your education?

A: Brewton, Alabama. I was named after my Great Grandmother Reathy.  I am a proud graduate of W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton. I hold a Bachelor and a Master degree in Music Education from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. I also have an Education Specialist degree from the University of Georgia.

DV: Tell us something memorable about your family from your childhood.

A: My mother and grandmother sang constantly.  There was a spiritual to get up in the morning Rise, Shine, Give God the Glory, songs while we worked, songs on the way to school, etc…  Mama sang in the church choir so I was there for rehearsals and of course learned all the songs. Even as a little person I sat in the choir each Sunday.

DV: What is your first musical memory?

A: I was four years old and sang It Is No Secret What God Can Do for a church-wide Sunday School program.

DV: Did anyone in your family sing or play an instrument?

A: My father was a tenor with a soloistic voice.  My mother and grandmother were sopranos. I heard singing even before I was born.

DV: How old were you when you began to study privately? What did you study and with whom?

A: I was eight years old when I began studying piano with Mary Hoard.

DV: You have balanced a career as a music educator and as a solo performer? How were you able to navigate through teaching all day and rehearsing/performing at nights and on weekends?

A: I limit my talking during performance weeks. Once I began singing the tiredness faded.  My mantra has always been: Stand erect, hydrate, and rest.

DV: How often do you practice? Do you have a specific basic routine/plan/goals?

A: Depending on what’s coming up, I do lip trills and humming every day for maintenance.  If there are no performances coming up, I rest, listen to the pieces I will be working on and lip trill or hum.

DV: How do you prepare for a performance? I remember when you visited my children’s choirs as Mystery Musician of the Month you told them you began hydrating three months before a performance.

A: When performances are three to six months away, I start by reviewing the music and getting difficult passages in my voice.  I will lip trill the passages, sing legato on vowels, sing staccato and if needed, sing with various rhythms for difficult coloratura passages.

DV: You’ve been able to maintain a healthy and very vibrant voice throughout your career, balancing teaching all day coupled with a busy solo performance schedule. What’s your secret?

A: Almost losing my voice to a vocal node in my first year in Atlanta set me on the path to maintaining vocal gold as Robert Shaw would put it. I began seeing an Ear Nose and Throat Doctor named Dr. Brown.  He said I had the beginnings of a node and that I should maintain silence for six weeks to prevent it from developing.  He told me that the vocal cords vibrate sympathetically. When they are exposed to sounds in my singing range, they will also vibrate. He taught me to value and practice silence.  I worked out a system on my job for non-verbal cues with my classes.  I think this was my secret weapon.  I developed looks (teacher stank eye), lights off for silences, and clapped responses that helped to get the attention of the students. I had a student reader for directions, etc. At home, I turned off all sounds and noises and maintained silence.  When I went back to Dr. Brown for the check up the blister was gone. I haven’t had those issues again.  I kept the idea of limiting my talking during the day and doing lessons that involved listening for the students during performance weeks.   I also have seasonal allergies and like many school teachers have had strep throat a number of times.   I tackled the allergies with medicine for many years noting that even more hydration was needed when I took antihistamines. Now I wash away allergens with saline solution and schedule regular check-ups to ensure my vocal cords are healthy.

DV: How do you manage your nerves just before stepping on stage?

A: I had crippling stage fright in my college years when I was a piano major.  It was very painful to watch and experience.  One day I was assigned to perform a vocal solo on a student recital. That changed everything.  Having only the melody and words to remember was a refreshing change. From then on, my confidence to perform grew.   I believe that it’s important to role play and practice on the stage where the performance will be held.  My experiences over the years with singing Atlanta Symphony Chorus concerts gave me more poise. When I stepped to the front of the stage it didn’t feel strange anymore. Each performance has bolstered my confidence.  For nerves, I do deep breathing. In the preparation process, I mark places in the music where I can find myself if I get lost.

DV: What advice would you give to performers about managing their nerves just before a performance?

A: First, they need to know their characteristics or how nerves affect them.  I have had cotton mouth … too dry, wet mouth… needing to swallow too often…  back spasms from tension, knees knocking, etc….  I found that breathing was the best way to try to keep me calm and I learned to work with the characteristics.   Chewing the tongue gently produces saliva for the dry mouth, taking a hard swallow during a rest wets the mouth, and relaxing the knees and the back to ease spasms are helpful tips.  Wear long skirts or dresses to cover the shaky knees!

Breathing to calm the nerves is great but there is such a thing as over compensating and being too calm. If that’s you, jog in place for a few minutes or take the stairs to the audition or performance hall.

DV: What were the greatest lessons you learned from your teachers?

A: Mary Hoard, elementary teacher: Music is fun.

John Baxter, middle school band director: Playing in the band is a great way to make music.

Bradford Dale, high school piano teacher: Use all of your talents.  He encouraged me to present my senior recital with all my instruments.  I sang and played the flute and piano for the ninety-minute program.

Bradford Gowen:  He taught me to appreciate American Music and composers.  He won an award for his playing of contemporary piano compositions.

Sheryl Cohen: Singing transfers splendidly to the flute. As a result, beauty of tone and musicality happens.

Karen White: “You have facility and colorature!” She encouraged me to continue my studies at the Summer School for the Arts, Chautauqua.

Larry Gerber: “Don’t stop studying voice!  Promise me you will continue.”

Florence Kopleff: She was a task master that held high expectations for performance. I gained confidence knowing that if I could sing for her, I could sing for anyone.

Robert Shaw: “Singing in a chorus can bring the most joy of all and it can offer lasting friendships.” “Amateurs can also be professionals.”

Elizabeth Nohe Colson: “The past should be left in the past or it can steal your future.  Live life for what tomorrow can bring and not for what yesterday has taken away. Every day is a gift.” She taught me to develop an ironclad vocal technique and helped me free my high tones, for which I am known.

DV: Even though I think I know the answer to this, who were your greatest influences in the world of music and what impressions did they make on you?

A: Looking back on my life…  the words “life changing” completely describe my experience when I sang for Robert Shaw. He didn’t care about degrees or titles. He allowed me to be a soloist because he took the time to prepare and coach me on exactly what he wanted out of the music. I was bound and determined to bring all I could to the table.  I believe that my work ethic is what was developed working with him.  If I did not succeed, he would work with me so I might do better the next time.

DV: I know you have been a member of the award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus for more than three decades. Congratulations! We at the Choral Foundation have always called you the Atlanta’s Sweetheart. It has been a pleasure to have you as principal soloist with the Festival Singers and our Summer Choruses. Is there a particular memory(s) about your performance history with the Choral Foundation that you would like to share?

A: First, I am grateful to Dr. William Baker and the Choral Foundation for inviting me to participate in these marvelous masterpieces that I first explored as a chorister with Robert Shaw.  I think our shared experiences of the Shaw Glory color each performance that we share.  I have enjoyed each and every time I have participated in a Choral Foundation performance.   I think performing the Requiem of Brahms is the most memorable piece for me.  When the Festival Singers performed it both here in Atlanta and in Kansas City, it was the four-hand version. That arrangement has a sound of its own that contrasts nicely from the orchestrated setting.

DV: What is your favorite genre of music or role/solo to perform and why?

A: American Music is my favorite. I love all genres of music. I love performing music that has a meaning to me and to my life today.

DV: What’s left on Arietha’s bucket list (life and singing)?

  • Traveling to places in the world where my ancestors went in the African Diaspora
  • Singing a role at the MET
  • Recording an album
  • Teaching teachers about how to be a teacher
  • More voice recitals

Performing: Barber’s Prayers of Kirkegarde; Brentano Songs,  Strauss.                            Roles:  Another opportunity to sing Zerbinetta and Queen of the Night.

Arietha Lockhart: Mozart’s  Exsultate Jubilate, Lynn Swanson, Conductor.

Ms. Lockhart’s recent performances: Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with Summer Singers of Atlanta, William O. Baker, Conductor.

SOLO EXCERPTS: 49:47, 56:30, 1:01:16.

Arietha and pianist Mary Au perform Dr. Sharon Willis’ Love Ritual for the Women’s Work Recital Series in New York.

Arietha and pianist Sunny Knable perform Curtis Bryant’s Laughing Monkeys of Gravity, a realization of the poems of Stephen Bluestone about the Vaudeville characters’ experiences.

Hear Ms. Lockhart’s performances on SoundCloud

Continue reading An Interview with Arietha Lockhart, Award-Winning Soprano ~