Students learn from the masters at the NDSU Choral Symposium
Published May 07, 2013
In the choral rehearsal studio, the NDSU Concert Choir is singing the challenging harmonies of “Carmina mei cordis (Songs of my heart)” by Abbie Betinis. At the podium is famed guest conductor Dale Warland.
His hands clap together. The music suddenly ceases. “Sopranos, tenors and altos, what’s your dynamic?” Warland wants to know.
A wave of his hand and the choir starts again, only to be stopped a few notes later. “This piece is full of beautiful phrases,” Warland says, with his right hand in a fist for emphasis. “Taste every morsel of the text – enjoy spitting it out.”
As a group, the student singers nod and take a breath. They are ready to start again.
This was one of the teaching sessions of the NDSU Choral Symposium 2013: Music of the Americas, which was held May 3-5. Guest conductors and presenters from Canada, Venezuela, Latin America, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Jamaica and the U.S. came to Fargo to share their talents and knowledge of the many choral music forms of the Americas.
Warland is the founder of the Grammy-nominated Dale Warland Singers. Since 2008, he has been the artistic director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale, and for the past two seasons has been music director for the Minnesota Beethoven Music Festival Chorale.
When he and the other guest conductors speak, the students listen. Intently.
“It’s inspiring to work with conductors who have worked with so many amazing choirs. They offer a lot of insight about the music, and that helps us get into the character of the piece,” explains senior Emily Black, a senior music major with piano emphasis from Williston, N.D.
“This is an amazing opportunity to learn from what they know – to see how they interpret the music and how they conduct the choir,” Black says.
“I think it’s incredible that Fargo, for a weekend, is the center of the choral universe, at least in the Americas. It’s exciting,” says graduate student Eric Zinter, who is studying choral conducting. “We are looking through the lens into the music from the perspective of people who specialize in that area. They can make the pieces come alive.”
For Zinter, this learning experience will be cherished for years to come, and may very well impact untold others well into the future. “When I go out to work with other students, I’ll bring this knowledge. It’s like a chain reaction,” he says. “Right now, this experience directly affects current NDSU undergraduate and graduate students, but it will continue as they teach future students. It just multiplies.”
Those sparks of inspiration, creativity and the awakening of understanding are exactly what the guest artists are looking for as they work with the NDSU students and the university’s choral ensembles.
“Part of any conductor’s job is to lead the way and teach. This music is new and often in a different language (“Carmina mei cordis” is in Latin),” Warland explains, noting the symposium is a powerful way to connect with students. “I think NDSU has to be commended for investing so much energy and thought in something that is so valuable for these students. The ripple effect of this symposium will go on and on all over the world. NDSU, you’ve taken on something that will have a huge impact in a universal way.”
Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, NDSU has the only performance and conducting doctoral programs in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and western Minnesota.