Attend the 2018 Choral Institute at Oxford University to hone conducting skills and improve instruction of middle school students at an arts magnet school.
Attending the Choral Institute at Oxford (CIO) increased my knowledge in many ways by exposing me to world-class conductors, performers, and clinicians. I had one-on-one experience conducting a Grammy-nominated choir, the Williamson Voices, while being coached by two exceptional conductors, Doctors James Jordan, Director of Choral Studies at Westminster Choir College, and James Whitbourn, composer and BBC producer.
Watching Stephen Darlington, conductor of the Christ Church boy choir, work with his ensemble gave me new rehearsal techniques that I can apply to my ensemble. Seeing him play the piano while simultaneously conducting the boys showed me what is possible and further encouraged me to be a rigorous and passionate teacher. I will also take the advice of the choir and the conductors to stand firmly as a conductor and to trust the ensemble more, hence improving the overall sound of my ensemble.
My greatest accomplishment of my fellowship is my increased confidence as a conductor and belief in myself. Conducting can be a humbling and vulnerable experience. Getting personalized feedback from the conductors and choir provided me with insight I would never have gotten had it not been for this experience. Standing in front of the ensemble improved my confidence as a conductor and has allowed me to bring this newfound belief in myself back to my school choir.
My students now have secondhand exposure to my experience, and through photographs, recordings, and my recounting what I saw and did will become firsthand exposure. My students will also benefit from my renewed excitement of the content, not to mention new repertoire. I plan on teaching them the same piece I conducted at our final concert, "If Ye Love Me," by Paul Mealor. I will also use methods learned from Dr. Jordan's textbooks in my classes.
My plan is to lead professional development at district-wide professional development, both on how to establish and grow a choral music program as well as to assist my colleagues during the Fund for Teachers application process. Had it not been for colleagues of mine who did the same for me, I may not have had the FFT experience, let alone even applied; they guided me through the process and encouraged me to dream big!
Our celebrations will lie in the performances themselves. We will work diligently, twice a week, to prepare for our performances, during which we will embody the newfound knowledge I gleaned from attending the Choral Institute at Oxford. Students will set quarterly personalized goals, and I will meet with them individually to help them identify the steps necessary to achieve their goals. We will watch recordings of performances so students can witness their own growth.
Using our singing can help to unify those around us. During the holiday season, we participate in public outreach at local nursing homes, train stations, fundraisers, and other events. These events, while meant to bring joy to the community, also help students to understand that they are capable of positively impacting others with their talents. This belief, combined with my new conducting techniques, will make performances more meaningful to everyone involved.
I keep telling anyone who will listen that the best part of my fellowship, aside from gaining knowledge and exposure to the rich choral culture of Oxford, was being surrounded with so many like-minded people. As a result of this fellowship, I now have many new friends who love what I love, and who have introduced me to a great deal of repertoire and resources I did not know existed. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and plan on helping my colleagues with next year's application.