VOLUME 14 ISSUE 1 SPRING 2022
choralnews A COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER FOR THE USC THORNTON SCHOOL OF MUSIC DEPARTMENT OF CHORAL AND SACRED MUSIC
inside USC CHOIRS RETURN TO CAMPUS p. 3–4
REMEMBERING DR. DAVID WILSON p. 10–11
FACULTY, ALUMNI, AND STUDENT UPDATES p. 13–18
DR. CRISTIAN GRASES
Together We Can Do So Much
Dr. Grases chairs the Department of Choral and Sacred Music at USC Thornton, conducts the Thornton Concert Choir, and teaches Choral Literature, Choral Conducting, and Introduction to Choral Music.
often hear the word “collaboration” mentioned as a main value in our field. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as the action of “working with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.” At its core, choral singing requires singers to collaborate to build musical structures that would not be possible otherwise. The art of part-singing can only be achieved through the interaction of multiple people, with the nowadays quite fashionable exception of talented individual vocalists who can sing well in multiple ranges, being able to sing numerous voice parts simultaneously through a masterful use of recording and editing technology. The resulting videos are often musically quite impressive, but at times somehow lacking in spiritual depth. When we come together to sing in person, regardless of the complexity of the song, for a moment we stop being ourselves in order to become something greater. We set aside our unique personal circumstances, joining as one in a beautiful act of synchronicity. “Collaboration” is undoubtedly a core value of what we do, but it is exponentially heightened by a second value: “support.” Communities thrive with encouragement and support, which, in our field,
Contents FROM THE CHAIR.................................................. 2 ENSEMBLE UPDATES.............................................. 4 PILLARS OF LEADERSHIP......................................... 6 GIVING BACK........................................................ 8 REMEMBERING DR. DAVID WILSON......................... 10 FACULTY NEWS.................................................... 12 ALUMNI NEWS..................................................... 14 AWARDS............................................................. 15 STUDENT NEWS................................................... 16 UPCOMING EVENTS.............................................. 19
from the chair
comes in many forms. Choir members encourage peers to sing solos, conductors encourage singers to master challenging repertoire, audiences support ensembles on stage with their presence and their applause, ensembles sharing a concert cheer one another from the audience, peers support other peers by both lending their expertise in a vast professional network and celebrating each other’s accomplishments, administrations and boards of directors offer spaces and resources for ensembles to thrive, and alumni provide financial support while remaining faithful stewards of the history and legacy of ensembles, departments, and arts organizations. At a deeper level, each section of the choir is made up of individual singers that offer their talents and skills for the common good. Each singer in the section relies on the rest of the singers to feel stable and secure while simultaneously supporting everybody else. It is a concurrent act of giving and receiving. In both homophonic and polyphonic singing, perhaps in a more intricate and multifaceted way in the latter, sections rely on one another to be able to succeed as one. There are many examples of this type of support in other human activities, but the one I like the most is found in the wonderful tradition of building Spanish dry-rock walls.
Walls are built to fence off stretches of land, terrace out difficult terrain, and build structures for shelter, and in Spain, this is often done using specifically placed rocks without any adhesive material between them. Each stone is carefully selected so that it can interact with the surrounding stones in an optimal way, depending on their angles, facets, shape, or bulk. The resulting product is a sturdy construction capable of withstanding great weight and pressure,
and one that can last for centuries. I believe that each stone is akin to an ensemble singer. Their uniqueness is celebrated as they are carefully organized into multilayered structures. Their placement allows them to both support others and be supported by others, ultimately coming together to create a unit that is much greater than the simple addition of its parts. Other collaborators such as guests, administrating personnel, guest artists, and alumni are also an intricate part of these structures as they engage in support of one another. Such are the values that our department received from our founding fathers and the distinguished line of chairs and faculty members that have taught here, as exceptionally demonstrated by Dr. David Wilson. Although his passing this past September left a hole in our faculty, it also allowed an opportunity for all of us to celebrate his life and legacy. Dr. Wilson was a beloved member of our community at USC. He was a dedicated advocate to the choral field, and had a terrific and contagious sense of humor. In remembering his life, we observe superb examples of what it means to be both a committed collaborator and an enthusiastic supporter. From meaningful one-on-one interactions with his students to his professional dedication to peer organizations, Dr. Wilson’s life and career serve as a beacon, reminding us of the core values, ethical principles, and more importantly, the joy of what we do. We dedicate this newsletter to his memory, as we continue to draw inspiration from his legacy. During the fall semester, we were granted the superb opportunity to rehearse and perform together on stage once again. The shimmer in our eyes during our very first in-person rehearsal after months of pandemic isolation is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It has brought a new sense of value to what we do. Our concerts in the fall of 2021 were true celebrations of community built through singing. Coming together on stage to tell stories through music had never quite had the emotional intensity our ensembles showed then, and being able to share these stories with audience members in our halls allowed the experience to be complete. We would have never been able to reach these new milestones without the constant support, warm encouragement, and financial pledges of you, our alumni. Our department is lucky to have the support of such a strong and committed collective, through whom we continue to be reminded of the power of community. We look forward to hearing from you, and extend a permanent invitation to visit us. May we always keep Helen Keller’s words in mind: “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
from the chair
The USC Thornton Chamber Singers
In the Spring of 2021, CHAMBER SINGERS both divided into smaller ensembles as well as continued with full ensemble projects on Zoom. Assisted by the hard work of many individuals, most importantly teaching assistant Dr. Micah Bland and assistant conductor and collaborative pianist, So-Mang Jeagal, the Chamber Singers were able to produce fourteen small ensemble videos and three tutti projects. Much of this was made possible through use of JackTrip, a new platform that allows singers to hear each other sing synchronously while on Zoom. Among key projects were “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Margaret Bonds and an SATB arrangement commission of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” by USC Chamber Singers alumnus Dr. Matthew Brown. The ensemble also enjoyed the June release of their critically acclaimed album “Gregorian Meditations: Forgotten French Masterpieces: Desenclos and Langlais” featuring the works of Alfred Desenclos and Jean Langlais.
Fall of 2021 saw the Chamber Singers back to in-person rehearsals and performances on campus. Highlights of the semester included working with Dr. Rodney Eichenberger during his fall residence at USC and three performances with The Eagles at the Forum in Los Angeles. In October, after 20 months, The USC Thornton Chamber Singers performed for an in-person and live streaming audience in the fall concert entitled All of Us. The ensemble eagerly awaits their May 2022 tour to Taiwan.
Spring of 2021 represented the continuation of a demanding year for CONCERT CHOIR. The challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic continued to propel us to find new ways to render choral music. The consequent videos produced for the March and June virtual festivals were a testament to the ensemble’s resilience, commitment, and creativity. Concert Choir was invited to participate in three international festivals for which some of these virtual choir videos were submitted. Festivals in Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, and the United States organized virtual choir events with submissions from all over the world. Concert Choir was honored to represent Thornton in these festivals. The Fall semester brought a new set of challenges, as Concert Choir navigated the rapidlychanging Covid-19 protocols for aerosol-producing events like choral activities. Nevertheless, the joy they felt when they came together to sing in person once again in August and the electricity on stage in October when they were able to present their concert in Newman Hall made it all worthwhile. Currently, Concert Choir is preparing a full recital to be presented in April with a wide variety of repertoire centered on the idea of storytelling. They look forward to the Spring, when they anticipate being allowed to have a full audience with whom to celebrate their art.
4 ensemble updates
The USC Thornton Concert Choir
The USC Thornton Concert Choir
In the Spring of 2021, the APOLLO CHORUS was fortunate to collaborate with several composers while creating additional virtual projects during online instruction. In addition to performing a new work, “Sea Fever” by Daniel Brinsmead, the ensemble sponsored a virtual choir along with composer Mari Esabel Valverde by recording ‘Darest, O Soul” in an effort to promote transgender inclusivity. The collaboration featured both cis- and transgender musicians coming together from across the country to communicate a message of overcoming adversity and embracing oneself. In the Fall, the Apollo Chorus celebrated the joy of singing together again. Their repertoire varies from African-American spirituals to early 17th century music with Baroque guitar. The Chorus will also be performing works from contemporaries like Koppin, exploring the delicate and vulnerable side of masculinity. Advocating musical agency, the chorus will be singing a Quodlibet co-created by its members. For the Winter Gala, the Apollo Chorus performed works by Dan Forrest, Shawn Kirchner, and Joyce Elaine Eiler.
The USC Apollo Chorus
The USC University Chorus
Last Spring, the UNIVERSITY CHORUS was able to continue building community and engaging in the joy of singing even over virtual platforms. The ensemble, under the direction of lead conductor Laura Leigh Spillane, virtually joined together to study and rehearse two diverse and exciting pieces of repertoire: Die Erste Walpurgisnacht by Felix Mendelssohn and Requiem by Gabriel Fauré. DMA student Alex Belohlavek returned to University Chorus as associate conductor this Fall with Stevie J. Hirner as lead conductor and Duncan Tuomi as an MM associate conductor. The ensemble bounced back from the pandemic, returning to in-person rehearsals in Ramo Recital Hall, and preparing a performance entitled On the Shoulders of Giants for their Fall Concert. Featuring works by Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, and Beach, the performance explored those individuals’ undeniable impact on the generations to follow by contrasting their works with compositions by contemporary composers.
Furthering with the idea of creative learning in an online format, in Spring 2021, the ORIANA CHOIR’s directors, Yu Hang Tan, Emily Sung, and Shelby Stroud continued to focus on teaching improvisation and musicianship skills through repertoire and projects that encouraged collaboration between singers. One of the highlight projects was Soleram, an Indonesian folk song in which the singers worked together with Tan, lead conductor of the ensemble, in co-arranging the song, writing a sixteenmeasure long three-part descant, and producing a unique double-exposure virtual choir video featuring projection art made by one of the Oriana members, Irene Chen, which is now on the USChoral YouTube channel. In April 2021, Oriana bid farewell to their graduating MM assistant conductor, Stroud, by premiering Z. Randall Stroope’s How Sweet the Moonlight, a brand new choral work commissioned by Oriana and dedicated to Stroud. In the Fall, Oriana welcomed Tan and Sung back to the conducting team, and their new MM Assistant Conductor, Shijia Ye, joined them at the helm. To celebrate the return to in-person music making, Oriana performed a moving and exciting fall concert, Resounding Bonds, a program centering on the theme of the universality of love, faith, and human emotion that transcends cultural and geographical barriers.
The USC Oriana Choir ensemble updates
Pillars of Leadership REFLECTIONS FROM USC CHORAL AND SACRED MUSIC ALUMNI
DR. IRIS LEVINE, DMA ’90, CHORAL MUSIC • my story •
What makes a good leader? Is it the position or authority one holds or is it the person’s personal qualities? Are people born good leaders or do they become good leaders? Does charisma play a role in good leadership? Well, I’m not going to profess to have the answers to these questions, but I will share my thoughts on leadership and my story of becoming a leader. Thinking back, I remember being selected for “leadership roles” early in my life. I was asked to help tutor students in elementary school, I was asked to be the piano accompanist for my high school choir. I was also selected as the captain of my high school basketball team. Why? What was it that others saw in me that suggested I would be successful in these roles? 6 pillars of leadership
I grew up in a suburb of Boston. In my family, independence, creativity, and excellence were admired. I was guided by strong values and a moral compass that encouraged treating people as you wanted to be treated. In high school, I sang in the choir my sophomore year and then our choir director, who I was sure was at least 100 years old, retired. The administration assigned our guidance counselor to teach choir. When that happened, I knew the choir was in trouble and I offered to be the accompanist. All the music selected by the new choir teacher was pop music and essentially, I taught everything from the piano while he tried to figure out what to do with his arms. I quickly learned how to teach parts, create musical line, give cues, and more (from the piano). Thus started my role as a leader… I went off to college at the University of New Hampshire and in my first semester, I auditioned to sing in the concert choir. Although I had virtually no experience in singing “legit” choral music, I was accepted into the choir. Dr. Cleveland “Buddy” Howard, my very first mentor, was a highly gifted African American conductor and it was then that I embraced the wonders of choral music from various traditions. When I graduated, Dr. Howard suggested I go into the choral library and take a copy of various pieces so that I could start my personal library. I still have music that he gave me and still treasure the lessons that I learned from him. After graduating from college and then taking part in a work study program in Israel, my career led me to teaching in public schools for many years and then to Temple University in Philadelphia where I pursued a master’s degree in choral conducting. While at Temple I had the fantastic experience of working with Alan Harler, my next mentor, and someone with whom I continue to be in touch. He knew exactly how to motivate and challenge me. While I had thought that I would return to high school teaching following my master’s
program, I quickly realized that there was a bigger stage for me. In 1986, I moved to Los Angeles to enter the DMA program in Choral Music at USC. I had visited USC in the spring of ’86 and had the great fortune of meeting Dr. Lynn Bielefelt. We talked for hours and it was Lynn who convinced me to come to USC… “take a leap of faith, Iris,” she said. Even then, from the first time that I met Lynn, I knew that she was special, and that we would become friends. We believed in the same things – from music to wanting to make the world a better place for the next generation. Lynn spoke with love and she touched me with her words and her demeanor. I knew that USC was the right choice for me and for many reasons, I will always be grateful for that “chance” meeting with Lynn Bielefelt. My time at USC was filled with incredible opportunities for learning, experiencing, studying, conducting, and creating music. With Rod Eichenberger, James Vail, David Wilson, and Morten Lauridsen as my primary teachers, I was in heaven. I was surrounded by peers who supported and challenged me. I was given opportunities to teach conducting classes, to prepare the Concert Choir for orchestral collaborations, and to engage in professional development each time a visiting conductor came to work with the graduate students. The experiences and lessons learned at USC and prior institutions prepared me well for my first tenure track teaching position at Cal Poly Pomona University, where I have proudly been since 1990. It is at Cal Poly that I moved through the faculty ranks (Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Full Professor) and served as department chair in the Music Department. When voted in as department chair, I asked why the faculty wanted me as chair… they said that I had exhibited strong leadership skills. After serving as department chair for 15 years, I was selected as the Associate Dean and then the Dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences (CLASS) at Cal Poly Pomona. While serving as Dean of CLASS, I was asked to take on
the additional role as Interim Dean of the College of Education and Integrative Studies. I now serve as the Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs – a post for which I was personally selected by the President of the University. I have had extraordinary experiences in each of these roles and have continued to develop strong leadership skills. I believe that I have been successful as a leader due to meaningful relationships, excellent mentors, and my willingness for ongoing self-assessment.
• what does successful leadership look like? • There are many different kinds of leaders. There are managerial leaders, relational leaders, motivational leaders, inspirational leaders, and transformational leaders to name a few. I feel a successful leader must have all of these varying leadership qualities but context matters. You must assess your own strengths and weaknesses and know how to be the “right leader” at the right time. You must also recognize when your style of leadership is not working and adjust. In my experience, I have found the following qualities and attributes (not shown in any particular order) to have contributed to my success: • Clear vision. A leader should have a clear plan of what can be achieved. Effective leaders adapt to changing situations and circumstances (a pandemic is a perfect example). • Integrity. A good leader must be trustworthy and honest in all dealings. Fairness and consistency are paramount. Check facts before arriving at conclusions. Follow through on commitments and plans. Model excellence in action, work, and attitude. • Seek collaboration. Create and develop relationships with diverse people. Welcome and encourage teamwork while pulling your own weight. Empower others to contribute their best and solicit feedback from team members. Don’t live in a vacuum; consult with others before making important decisions.
• Show appreciation. Give praise in public but critique in private. Show gratitude towards individuals and the team for good work, and reserve criticism for private settings. • Communicate clearly and concisely. Effective written and oral skills are valuable tools coupled with being open to listening. • Inspire. Be positive, especially in the face of challenge. Show personal confidence and competence and make sure the impact of your work is understood. Look for opportunities to motivate and recognize leadership in others. • Generate intellectual stimulation. Question the status quo. Encourage activism, innovation and initiative, and always model intellectual rigor. Cultivate a learning community and align with others who will speak “truth to power.” • Maintain high standards and ethics. Demonstrate a strong moral character and let your personal values shape and guide your actions and decisionmaking. • Value people more than the position. Show a respect for the institution and a sincere desire to serve others. Carry forward what you’ve learned from your mentors and invest in your mentees. Above all else, know and be honest with yourself; utilize your strengths and recognize what you can and cannot do. Be humble in the realization we all must continue to learn and grow. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some books that have influenced me as a leader. I continue to seek new information and self-improvement. I offer the following short list of books as suggested reading for anyone desiring to become a great leader. The lessons learned from these books have been invaluable to me in academic leadership and in non-profit leadership. Academic Administrators Guide to Exemplary Leadership by Kouzes and Posner, published by Jossey-Bass. Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, published by Alfred A. Knopf publishing. Wait, What? And Life’s other Essential
Questions by James E. Ryan, published by Harper One. The Three Box Solution – a Strategy for Leading Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan published by Harvard Business Review Press. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith, published by Hachette Books.
• wrapping up • As conductors, each of us is a leader. Our success depends on our ability to accomplish positive outcomes with individuals, and with the ensemble. It is our responsibility to develop our strengths as directors and identify any areas in which we need to improve. As the Founding Artistic Director of VOX Femina Los Angeles, I have learned that finding honest people who will speak truth to me has provided me opportunity to lift others up, allow them to shine, while accomplishing my goals. Some practices that I have found to be most beneficial include: • seeking guidance and input from trusted colleagues; • pursuing diverse perspectives of musical interpretation; and • being open to evaluation and feedback regarding conducting. I say with pride that these practices have resulted in more successful concerts, performances at ACDA and Chorus America, international festivals, commissions, collaborations, and truly extraordinary participation from hundreds of women who call themselves “Voxxies.” At USC there are extraordinary scholars and practitioners who freely give of their time and energy. My takeaways from USC go far beyond my experience in the classroom. I discovered that each of us offers a unique perspective, a wealth of knowledge, lived experiences, and abundant ideas. We are passionate, daring, curious, generous human beings who inspire and lead. I am proud to have earned my doctoral degree from USC. Fight on, Trojans!
Giving Back DR. COREEN DUFFY “Your degree is as valuable as the reputation of your institution.” This is what I advise my choral students at the University of Montana, when we prepare for tours, invitationals, and other recruiting activities. “We recruit middleand high-school students now to ensure the quality and longevity of our choral program into the future. So that we can make you—our future Alumni—proud.” As an alumna of the USC Thornton DMA program in Choral Music, I know this pride first-hand. I know what it feels like to tell people that I did my doctoral work at USC and see their jaws drop (or, when masked, their eyes pop). I know that my Thornton DMA is a conversation-starter, a door-opener, a point of connection to incredible colleagues, and a linkage to a line of illustrious teachers beginning with Charles Hirt. Our University of Montana School of Music includes two other faculty members with USC Thornton doctorates: Katie Martin (DMA Vocal Performance ‘15) and Bryan Kostors (DMA Composition ‘20). I know how I beam whenever my other colleagues say of the three of us: “You USC folks are just out-of-control good.” I’m part of a continued tradition of excellence —and I feel it.
8 giving back
Because of this, I strive to give back in a variety of ways. I make donations to Choral Music at USC. I program music by Nick Strimple and Cristian Grases, and literature from the Jo-Michael Scheibe series. I publicly credit my USC teachers for ideas, techniques, and lessons that I carry forward in my own work. I brought Mike Scheibe (“Doc”) to be our University of Montana All-Star Honor Choir clinician in January of 2020. While here in Missoula, Doc worked with our collegiate choirs at UM, our Choral Methods students, the Missoula Community Chorus, and the 175 pre-college students who traveled in the snow and ice to work with my incredible teacher from USC. The USC Thornton Choral Program has given me a strong doctorate, a family of colleagues and mentors, and a career jumpstart. My job now is to give back—to climb these Montana mountains and shout “Fight On” from the summits. To learn more about giving to USC Thornton choirs, contact the Thornton Advancement Office at (213) 740-6474 or email@example.com.
Dr. Coreen Duffy (DMA ’14, Choral Music)
Welcome Home. Thank you for your support and unwavering commitment to USC and <School ThorntonName> – it’s because – it’s because of you that USC continues its impressive rise among the ranks of the world’s great research universities. Together we are making a difference. Together we are changing the world.
Fight On! On this day, at this moment we have something big to accomplish together. Help us reach our highest alumni participation level ever. Your gift, no matter the size, has a tremendous impact. Let’s show the world the collective power of the Trojan Family. Text-to-Give today!
Support USC, simply text: 1. Enter Number: ##44 41 ## 4# 2. Text: Ch <Key ora wo l rd> 3. Tap the link 4. Complete the form
Dr. David Wilson
Dr. David Wilson, beloved father, son, brother, husband, scholar, mentor, author, and exceptional human being passed away suddenly late Friday evening, September 17th, 2021 at the age of 82. He had successfully recovered from a covid-19 infection, but in returning to his life’s passion—church music—his dear heart was finally overcome by complications of the virus. He died with a smile on his face, On October 14, 1938 at 11:30 am, a son was born to David Halley Wilson and Marjorie Preshaw Wilson in Merced, CA. They named their boy David James, and noted his unusually active vocal patterns through his first months. His childhood was filled with play in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, California with his older brother, George. Not a tree was left unclimbed. The two cultivated a unique bond and fierce loyalty that continued throughout their lives. George was a mentor in many ways and championed his younger brother’s interest in music, as did his neighbor who would take him to the San Francisco Opera. Clarinet was his first instrument, and he paid for his own lessons. As teenagers, the brothers worked in their Father’s restaurant. “Pop” was a stern, industrious, and very decent man, showing through example how to care for family and face life’s brute challenges. One of David’s first jobs was untangling fishing line on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk—$.05 a knot. He also played with concert bands in the community, and became a top swimmer on his school’s team. Anything to escape manning the hot grill and fryer in Pop’s kitchen. Upon graduating from Willow Glen High School in 1957, David made a crucial decision that continues to reverberate around the world: he decided to pursue a life studying, teaching, and performing music. Through gritty determination, sharp focus, endless curiosity, and above all a deep passion for spreading the joy and redemption of music, David achieved bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of the Pacific, and then his Doctorate of Choral Music and Conducting 10 remembering dr. david wilson
returning to his Creator and the divine light of the universe. David remained intensely engaged with his work as the Music Director at Christ Presbyterian Church in Goodyear, Arizona, right to the last minutes of his life. The long project of rebuilding the main sanctuary had just finished, and preparations were underway for the dedication.
from the highly regarded University of Illinois in 1973. David founded the Santa Clara Chorale and Orchestra, the entire choral music department at Portland State University, the Camerata Singers of Long Beach, and served as Music Director at Westwood Methodist Church, Immanuel Presbyterian Church and Riviera United Methodist Church in the Los Angeles area. A distinct honor and joy was singing with the Los Angeles Master Chorale under the direction of his former student, Grant Gershon. David was Professor Emeritus of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern
Innumerable people across the world are grieving the loss of this great man. From Thailand to Brazil to Samoa to China, former students, colleagues and friends are united in grief and deep appreciation. A Celebration of Life was held on Saturday, October 23 at 3:00 PM at Christ Presbyterian Church in Goodyear, AZ. A full program was planned of music especially close to his heart.
California. In addition, he served as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Long Beach Bach Festival. David adjudicated at many festivals, lectured around the world, and published a book on his doctoral research: “The Dresden Manuscripts”. He was a teacher of teachers. Aside from his many professional accomplishments, you find a person of deep empathy and grace. David believed in people. He believed in the potential inside every person to fully realize their dreams. After all, had he not done that himself? Had he not faced his own doubt, the challenge of being a left-handed conductor, the vagaries of a career
in academia? He was disarming, incredibly warm, and ready to listen, really listen to what was beneath the surface of your life. David believed in people. A proud husband and father, David lived with his family in Palos Verdes, California through the 1980’s and 90’s before moving to Phoenix in 2009, settling in the PebbleCreek community of Goodyear, Arizona. He certainly missed his beach time, but found a new home in the desert, and absolutely adored the sunsets, great neighbors, and walks with his pup Cabo. A loyal Trojan since joining faculty in 1979, USC football games were never missed and often shared with his boys. If you lived within driving range of David, you probably enjoyed his handmade Scottish shortbread every Thanksgiving and Christmas. He was a proud Scotsman and member of Clan Gunn, taking his sons to the “high country” and researching both family and Clan lineage. The Wilson Clan’s motto is Semper Vigilans (Always Watchful). He bore witness to life in all directions, and now we serve as witness to his incredible life. When David’s father was born in 1910, he received his middle name “Halley” from the comet that appeared that year. When it came around again in 1986, David was with his wife and two sons in Los Angeles, marveling at the night display. His memory continues on, sometimes seen, sometimes hidden, but always in motion. David’s surviving family include Mrs. Camilla Wilson Scott, Ken Scott, Gary Dean, sons Scott M. Wilson and Brett M. Wilson, daughter in law Wednesday WildWilson, and granddaughter Emilia R. Wilson.
I first met David Wilson in 1978, when he became a member of the Choral and Sacred Music Department faculty. His duties were many and varied, from developing and conducting new ensembles to teaching church and choral music classes. One of his great achievements was advancing the change in our department’s name from Choral and Church Music to Choral and Sacred Music. To drive this point home, he introduced a new (and immediately popular) course that explored the use of music in religions other than Christianity and Judaism. Simultaneously with his work at USC, Dave served with distinction for many years as Music Director of the Long Beach Bach Festival and Director of Music at Riviera United Methodist Church in Redondo Beach (also serving on numerous denominational music committees). He loved and admired the music of Johann Adolph Hasse, eventually publishing a charming book that described his discovery of Hasse’s seldom performed C Major Requiem in loving detail. The recounting of his professional achievements, however, does not begin to describe his sense of professional responsibility, nor his humanity. He was not a flashy dresser, but his dress and demeanor always reflected the respect he had for music, teaching, USC, his colleagues, and his students. He was thoughtful, kind and always optimistic. He made time for students and faculty alike. I am convinced that, when he retired, his championing of my book on 20th century choral music was instrumental in my being hired into his old position. In short, David Wilson was a Mensch and is missed.
We all learned so much from David Wilson. I remember his Choral Lit III class and still have the copious notes I took on the St. John Passion. I was David’s teaching assistant for Apollo Chorus in the final year of my DMA studies, and I watched as he was able to connect with both the music and the non-music majors in the group. We were a small ensemble, but he treated the singers with the utmost respect. He was an example of an exceptional educator, a fine musician, and most of all, a kind gentleman. Some of my fondest memories include the collaborations on major choral-orchestral works with the Cerritos Symphony and Philip Weston including Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, and Verdi’s Requiem. David provided the opportunity for the Apollo Chorus and Oriana Choir to perform with choral-orchestral forces to ensure that the singers in those ensembles had those important collegiate experiences. Nothing seemed to rattle David. He always had a smile on his face and an open-door policy for all the USC students. Cami, Brett, and Scott, my sincerest thank you for sharing him with all of us at USC.
– nick strimple
✦ My dear friend, David Wilson, passed away Saturday, September 18, 2021, a victim of the scourge of Covid 19. He was an extraordinary man in so many ways. David was always compassionate and kind to all who knew him. He was an exemplary scholar, musician and colleague. David loved his family and was very proud of his sons. He faithfully served his God and his church, leading in worship as the choir director. He held a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Choral Conducting and taught at the University of Southern California where he was beloved by the students and faculty. He directed many choral organizations over his long and productive career, one of which was the Camerata Singers of Long Beach, CA. David served as artistic director of the organization for 20 years and during his tenure the group toured Europe twice. He was the author of “The Dresden Manuscripts: unearthing an 18th century musical genius.” This book chronicles David’s extraordinary journey to unearth a Johann Adolf Hasse masterpiece, the Mass in D Minor, which the Camerata Singers performed on tour in Europe in 1999. To say David will be missed is an understatement. My heart aches today, but his memory will always reside there for me and those of many others who were privileged to know him. Requiem aeternam, David. May eternal rest be granted unto you, and perpetural light shine upon you.
– ginger colla
– jo-michael scheibe
✦ David Wilson died a couple of weeks ago. He was one of my professors in graduate school at the University of Southern California where he taught for over 25 years. He was also graduate school classmates with my undergraduate conductor Jim Marvin—and I applied to USC because Jim thought I should study with Dave. Dave was one of the most relentlessly positive and enthusiastic people I have ever worked with. His joy for choral literature and for music making in general was infectious. He inspired his singers through relentless positivity, and I don’t believe I ever once saw him in a bad mood. Every time our paths crossed at a conference or event, his face lit up with joy. I’d bet every former student of his has the same experience. Blessed are all of us who walk in the way of the divine by choosing to sing and always to rise again.
– ethan sperry
✦ May 23, 2019 I was fortunate to have seen Dr. David Wilson, my professor at USC, in Bangkok. T.J. Harper happened to be there to lead Thailand Youth Choral Camp the next day, so three of us got together. It was a wonderful time. And was the last time I saw him. He was directing us how to sit together so he could take our picture...like a dad. My heart sank when T.J. told me of the news that Dr. Wilson passed away in his sleep. I will always remember this kind professor who never called me by my Christian name. He said Pawasut sounded more beautiful than Jodi. And I refused to call him by his first name after I graduated, so I guess we were even. I explained: to Thai people, once a student, always a student. He was a wonderful person and musician with unfathomable knowledge and passion for sacred choral repertoire. I learned so much from him. Rest In Peace, Dr. Wilson. You will be missed.
– pawasut jodi piriyapongrat
remembering dr. david wilson 11
facultynews Cristian Grases CHAIR
Although in the middle of the pandemic, Dr. Grases was very active teaching online all over the world with presentations in conferences and symposia in New Zealand, Venezuela, Brazil, and Spain; and rehearsals and workshops throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Presentations ranged from lectures on compositional techniques, Latin American choral music performance practice, talks on leadership and the philosophy of communities, to guest appearances to talk about and work on his own compositions. Additionally, the Spring semester continued to challenge Dr. Grases in ways to creatively present Concert Choir’s musical products online. Additionally, Dr. Grases continues his international work as a member of the artistic committee for the World Youth Choir and the artistic committee for the World Symposium in Choral Music. He remains engaged in the international musical life and looks forward to upcoming projects in Taiwan and Germany.
Jo-Michael Scheibe PROFESSOR
Despite a year that started with a continuation of the pandemic, Jo-Michael Scheibe stayed extremely active. He became a board member of the International Federation for Choral Music and a planning member for the 2022 World Choral Expo in Portugal. He also became a member of the Artistic Board of Rezonans in Turkey, and wrote a contribution to a new book, Continuing the Quest: Interviews with Outstanding Choral Conductors. The Chamber Singers’ recording, Gregorian Meditations: Choral Words of Forgotten French Masters: Desenclos and Langlais was released in June of 2021 by Centaur and distributed by NAXOS (see Chamber Singers update). Numerous Zoom sessions were given for universities, including Northern Michigan University where Erin Colwitz is the DCA (DMA ‘07), as well as high schools and international organizations including the Thailand Choral Association with Pawasut Jodi Piriyapongrat (MM Sacred Music ‘96, DMA Choral Music ‘05), Supiticha Kansirisin (MM ‘18) and Yotsawan Meethongkkum (MM ‘20). Scheibe also served as a jury member for the Tokyo International Choral Competition in the Fall.
Nick Strimple PROFESSOR OF PRACTICE In the spring, two of Nick Strimple’s choral compositions, California and Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, were published by Pavane. Two of his Prayers in a Time of Plague, composed earlier in the pandemic, were performed online in June by the Mt. San Antonio College Chamber Choir and later in the summer by the soloists of First Congregational Church, Los Angeles. The “Nunc dimittis” from his
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Little Motets for Compline, also composed early in the pandemic, was premiered in November by the Schola Cantorum of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Los Angeles. Dr. Strimple also completed TopsyTurvy, based on Gibbons’ The Silver Swan, for Suzi Digby and The Golden Bridge. It is scheduled for performance in February 2022.
Tram Sparks ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PRACTICE In the past year, Tram Sparks served on the Board of Directors of Tonality, the professional social justice choral ensemble (Alexander Lloyd Blake, DMA ’19, Artistic Director) and in April 2021, gave a presentation via Zoom for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (Gavin Thrasher, MM ’15, Artistic Director). Sparks also served on several committees at Thornton, including the Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee and a faculty search committee. For the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO), Sparks served on the adjudication panel for the upcoming conference Interest & Literature Sessions and she reviewed book proposals for Oxford University Press.
Ladd Thomas PROFESSOR OF ORGAN AND SACRED MUSIC On July 1, 2021, Ladd Thomas began his 62nd year as organist of Glendale First United Methodist Church, Glendale, California. During the entire year 2021, he was recording music each week as organist/pianist for the church services that were broadcast on the church’s YouTube site. In addition to the recordings each week, organ music was played live for in-person services that were held for several weeks in the patio outside. Starting in June, the services returned to be fully in-person inside the sanctuary with members of the paid octet providing vocal music along with the organ and piano. It has been a great joy for Thomas to be able to provide music during the time of the pandemic for the church services, starting back on June 1, 2020 and continuing to the present.
Donald Brinegar FORMER PROFESSOR Donald Brinegar maintained another active year of teaching, albeit almost exclusively in the digital realm. This summer marked Brinegar’s twenty-first year as Professor of Conducting and Voice at CSULA. With five books already published on intonation practices and conducting pedagogy, he will publish three choral anthologies by the summer of 2022. A full schedule of honor choirs, master classes, voice teaching, and conducting the Donald Brinegar Singers for the Pasadena Symphony will fill the spring of ‘22.
James Vail PROFESSOR EMERITUS
Although James Vail retired 22 years ago, his years as a graduate student, followed by his forty years (1961-1999) of teaching, conducting and advising in our remarkable department are never far from his mind. He is constantly reminded of the founder of our department, Charles Hirt, first his mentor and teacher, then his colleague and friend. He remembers gratefully, too, his three now-departed teaching colleagues, Professors Thomas Somerville, William Dehning and—most recently—David Wilson. It was an honor for him to work for several years with Rodney Eichenberger, and he is immensely proud of the exceptional faculty members who have joined the department since 1999. Additionally, he is proud of our incomparable alumni who, since the department began, have made and continue to make such a powerful musical impact throughout the nation, and, indeed, the world! James Vail continues as organist and choirmaster at St. Mary of the Angels Anglican Church in the Los Feliz area. His choral group, The Laudamus Te Singers, presented a longawaited, “Covid-postponed” all-Beethoven concert, featuring the Mass in C at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, West Los Angeles, in November.
Lisa Sylvester ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
Lisa Sylvester, Chair of Vocal Arts and Opera at the Thornton School of Music, taught a Graduate Special Studies Course in Art Song composed by Black American Composers in the Spring of 2021, which culminated in a film produced by the graduate vocal arts and keyboard collaborative arts majors entitled “Moments in Memories”, directed by second-year Musical Theater major Munachimso Mbaezue. This film was featured as one of the Thornton Live/Virtual Stage Events in May 2021. In July, she participated on the faculty of the “Opera Viva!” online week-long seminar for young singers. As one of the Mentors/Coaches of the Prima Voce Emerging Artist Program, she performed with tenor Edmond Rodriguez (BM ’19) in a recital in October at the Pasadena Conservatory, featuring two world premieres for voice, viola and piano by composers Sophie Mathieu (BM ’20) and Derrick Skye.
Lynn Helding PROFESSOR OF PRACTICE
Lynn Helding, Professor of Practice in Vocal Arts and Opera and Coordinator of the Vocology and Voice Pedagogy program at Thornton, began 2021 with two presentations in January: as a panelist on “Responding to COVID-19: Where Do We Go From Here?” for the National Opera Association and as a speaker, giving three lectures for the Cleveland Institute of Music: “How Learning Works,” “Deliberate Practice,” and “Understanding
Empathy.” In April, she was an invited panelist for Indiana University’s 2021 Art Song Summit discussion: “Attention, Listening, and Empathy,” and in April appeared in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, “Music, Money, and Mindfulness,” panel to discuss her book, The Musician’s Mind: Teaching, Learning, and Performance in the Age of Brain Science. She also co-authored two papers in the Journal of Singing in 2021: “Practical Science in the Voice Studio” and “Reentry Following COVID-19: Concerns for Singers”, the latter of which was also a featured national NATS webinar hosted by Helding.
Suzi Digby ADJUNCT PROFESSOR
Professor Suzi Digby remained exceptionally active during the pandemic. Early in the spring semester she taught several class sessions in Choral Literature II with Dr. Strimple. In London, her performance with ORA Singers of Sir James MacMillan’s 40-voice tribute to Thomas Tallis was given in the Tate Modern’s iconic Turbine Hall to a live, online
audience of 80,000. Since then, the performance has garnered approximately 400,000 views. During quarantine, the ORA Singers also ran a UK nationwide choral composition mentoring program for all State Secondary schools. This was available, free of charge, for every secondary school pupil in the UK. Among professor Digby’s other activities, in addition to leading zoom workshops for several UK choirs (including the legendary Huddersfield Choral Society), was the launching of a female-led tech startup that aims to teach the world to sing via the gaming app, Tchantz.
Congratulations to the 2020 and 2021 Choral and Sacred Music Graduates! See page 18 for details.
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Lila Atchison (BA ‘16) made it through the pandemic and is now the Assistant Personnel Manager of the Houston Symphony. In this position, she has been assisting the CEO, CFO, COO, and her supervisor in Contract Negotiations with the American Federation of Musicians, as well as coordinating auditions, working with the principals on castings and seatings, and much more! Living in Houston has been a great experience for her so far.
Joseph Amante y Zapata
(DMA ‘02) remains professor of music at the Community College of Rhode Island, the largest community college in New England. He is also a violist for the Ocean State Pops Orchestra, as he has been since 2019, an ensemble for which he became the assistant music director in 2021. Also, he became Community Member At-large on the board of the Narragansett Symphony Community Orchestra (NaBSCO) in September of 2021. He is awaiting the publication of two New Spain choral compositions by Evoking Sound. One of these is a large Magnificat for three 4-part choirs by Bernardo de Peralta Escudero.
William Bausano (MM ‘75)
In 2021, William Bausano completed his 40th year as a faculty member at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He serves as the Director of Choral Activities and is the conductor of the Miami University Chamber Singers and the Choraliers, Miami’s treble choir, in addition to teaching conducting and choral methods.
Kate Crellin (BA ‘19) was appointed as Choir Director for the Grammy awardwinning Mira Costa High School and Manhattan Beach Middle School Vocal Music Programs. In Spring of 2021, Kate was selected as a winner of the CCDA/George Heussenstamm Composition Competition with her work “Home - Thoughts, from Abroad.” Coreen Duffy (DMA ‘14) is
Director of Choral Activities at the University of Montana School of Music and Artistic Director of the Missoula Community Chorus, which is now a hybrid collegiatecommunity choir, available as a for-credit evening ensemble as well as a volunteer community choir. The University of Montana Chamber Chorale is scheduled to perform this March at the NW ACDA Conference in Spokane, as well as to serve as the demonstration choir for a
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session on the music of R. Nathaniel Dett, to be presented by Jamie Hillman of the University of Toronto. On the international stage, the UM Chamber Chorale was invited by Vox Anima London to perform at Cadogan Hall and Southwark Cathedral in London, England, in May 2022—the latter as a shared concert with Christopher Haygood (DMA ‘13). In addition, the UM Chamber Chorale plans to compete at the 2022 International Choral Competition Marktoberdorf, and has been asked to serve as the masterclass choir for the International Choral Conducting Masterclass in Marktoberdorf immediately following the competition in June. Dr. Duffy serves as R&S CoChair for World Musics and Cultures for NW ACDA, the NW Division Representative for the NAfME Council for Choral Education, and as an Editorial Board Member for NCCO’s The Choral Scholar.
Daniel Gee (MM ‘15, DMA ‘20) is Assistant Professor of Music (tenure-track) at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA, where his conducting duties include leading the Westmont College Choir, Chamber Singers, and Orchestra. He has also begun work with the Santa Barbara Symphony, serving as Assistant Conductor for their Spring concerts. In October 2021, Daniel’s commissioned work for oboe and marimba, Annunciation at the Scrovegni Chapel, was premiered at the Lilly Fellows Program National Conference in Boston, MA. Daniel’s dissertation, “Osvaldo Golijov’s La Pasión según San Marcos: A Theological Commentary,” was completed in December 2020. The dissertation critiques both positive and negative critical reception of Golijov’s work and argues that a theologically informed analysis of the work, particularly in exploring Latin American Christianity and the liberation theology tradition, is essential for understanding the work. T.J. Harper (DMA ‘08) was honored to be guest editor for May 2021 issue of ACDA’s Choral Journal. He also contributed CD reviews for the IFCM International Choral Bulletin. Harper began his first term as Chair of the LMU Department of Music in 2021, and served as guest clinician for virtual conferences around the world, including those in Argentina, Costa Rica, Italy, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Venezuela. In the US, he was invited to be guest conductor at the University of Southern Mississippi, the New Jersey All State Honor Choir, the SCVA Honor Choir, and at Colorado Mesa University. Due to the pandemic, Nancy Holland (DMA ‘17) retired from the church choir position at the UU Church of Studio City in June, 2020. In 2021, she worked on producing a new
musical, “The Ills We Have,” by Dan Cragan, and performed a staged reading of the work on Nov 13, 2021. The play focuses on the dual transplant of kidney and pancreas that Cragan underwent 26 years ago. Holland hopes to bring awareness to the issue of organ donation, in conjunction with Donate Life Hollywood and One Legacy.
Anna O’Connell (MM ‘14) was awarded the Barbara Thornton Memorial Scholarship from Early Music America. This scholarship will allow Anna to pursue the research and performance of medieval music throughout Europe in the Summer of 2022. In addition, O’Connell and baroque violinist Addi Liu were featured in Early Music America’s Emerging Artist Showcase as duo Time Stands Still, performing vocal and instrumental works. Anna can be heard on the October 2021 Apollo’s Fire “Vivaldi: The Four Seasons” album, performing on the Italian triple harp. Anna is currently a DMA student in Historical Performance Practice at Case Western Reserve University, where she studies many different singing styles with Ellen Hargis and Dina Kuznetsova, and historical harps with Maxine Eilander, who also teaches at USC. She is slated to graduate in the spring of 2022. Milburn Price (DMA ‘67) was able to reflect upon his experiences as a graduate student in music at USC. He considers the years spent in doctoral studies there (1965-1967) to have been foundational for his entire career of thirty-nine years of full-time service as teacher, conductor, and administrator at Furman University (14 years), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (12 years) and Samford University (13 years), as well as five additional years as Senior Professor at Samford and one-year appointments as Visiting Professor at Stetson University, Mercer University, and Mississippi College respectively. Studies with Charles Hirt in choral conducting, Halsey Stevens in choral composition and arranging, Walter DuCloux in orchestral and opera conducting, and William Vennard in voice were of inestimable value in preparing Price for his career and in shaping his own approach to pedagogy and artistic work. He recalls, with gratitude, the camaraderie and mutual supportiveness that existed among the graduate students in the School of Music during those years. He has wondered, at times, what direction his career might have taken had it not been for those experiences at USC. That is, of course, an unanswerable question, but Price suspects that he would not have enjoyed the opportunities that came to him without the strong foundation provided by what he fondly calls “the USC years.”
Troy Quinn (DMA ‘14) is in
his fifth season as Music Director of the Owensboro Symphony in Kentucky. He is also the Music Director of the Venice Symphony in Florida where he conducts both the classical and pops series. Quinn was recently named the Pops Conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic where their summer series was featured on RI PBS. Quinn continues to serve on the conducting faculty at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music where he is a Lecturer in Instrumental Conducting. He continues to be in demand as a session singer for recordings in television, motion pictures, and video games.
Scott Rieker (DMA ’19)
continues his role as Director of Choral Activities and Choral Music Education at Frostburg State University. In the past year, his Chamber Singers were named as finalists for the Ernest Bacon Memorial Prize for the Performance of American Music. His non-auditioned University Chorale was named a finalist for the American Prize in Choral Performance, and his Ted Kooser Suite was named a finalist for the American Prize in Choral Composition, large works. Together with fellow alumni, Irene Apanovitch-Leites (DMA ’19), the article “COVID and the Choral Educator” was published in the February edition of the Choral Journal. They have since presented this research at a number of conferences, including the Duke University Pandemic Pedagogy Research Symposium and the University of Maryland Center for Academic Innovation. Rieker was also named Music Director of Emmanuel Episcopal Parish in Cumberland, Maryland.
Jason Saunders (MM ’14;
Choral Music) is in his eighth year as Director of Choirs at Graham-Kapowsin High School near Tacoma, Washington. The program includes six choral ensembles, two of which are co-taught. The GKHS Chorale recently won 2nd place in The American Prize in Choral Performance, High School division. During remote learning last year, Jason presented several sessions on Virtual Choir Production. He continues as Artistic Director of the Vivace! Choral Program, a local community ensemble comprising students, music teachers, and community members. An active composer, Jason has publications with Walton Music, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and Colla Voce Music. At USC he studied composition with Morten Lauridsen and received the Choral Department Award.
Geetha Somayajula (BA
‘18) is a dedicated arts administrator, singer, conductor, and teacher currently based in Portland, Oregon. In 2021, Geetha amplified her board leadership, serving on the board of directors of Synchromy Music, a new music collective in Los Angeles, and Pacific Youth Choir, a children’s choir in Portland. She has also continued to recruit students and creatives for the Fulbright
program around the country as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador. Additionally, she performs with the Oregon Chorale, which performs with leading organizations in Portland, including the Oregon Symphony. Professionally, Geetha was promoted in her role as a strategist at PricewaterhouseCoopers and provides guidance to Fortune 500 clients to help solve their toughest digital challenges.
Daniel Strychacz (Daniel Strychacz (DMA ’21) began his role as Visiting Professor and Director of Choral Activities at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, TX, where he directs two choirs and teaches Choral Conducting, the Aural Skills curriculum, and voice lessons. Daniel also completed his dissertation, “The Acoustics of Vowel Formants in Choral Blend, Balance, and Homophonic Intonation,” which incorporates voice science research into choral pedagogy and strategizes how targeted vowel modifications can impact choral tone and tuning. In addition to his professional advances, Daniel also celebrated personal joys in 2021, including the birth of his daughter Madeline in April. Maura Tuffy (BA ‘19)
recently graduated with a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the Yale School of Music/Institute of Sacred Music and was a recipient of the 2021 Yale School of Music Alumni Association Prize. During her MM, she served as the Director of Chapel Choir at Marquand Chapel (Yale Divinity School) and the Student Manager of the Yale Schola Cantorum, an ensemble she has sung in for the past two years. Additionally, Maura continued to collaborate with dancers, including USC Kaufman alums Madison Vomastek and Paulo Hernandez-Farella, for various professional and academic choral projects. After attending the Miami Music Festival as a conducting fellow, Jaco Wong (MM Choral Music & MM Composition ‘16) began a Professional Studies Certificate program in Orchestral Conducting at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he is studying conducting with Edwin Outwater and composition with Mason Bates. Concurrently, Wong is the Operation & Artistic Planning Manager at the Oakland Symphony while serving as the coconductor of the Harker Upper School Orchestra. Commissioned by L.A. Choral Lab, Wong’s composition “In Situ” was recorded and premiered in April 2021 for a GPS located Soundwalk app, allowing a socially distanced experience at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park. Featured on SF Classical Voice, Wong’s premiere of “Olēka” was performed by San Jose Chamber Orchestra in October 2021. A finalist of the American Prize 2019, Wong’s choral composition “Psithaura” is now published by See-ADot Music. Wong will make his debut with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra on October 23, 2021 conducting Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3.
Awards National ACDA Award Duncan Tuomi (MM ‘22) Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Competition Winner for “The Rose That Bare Jesu” California CDA Award Kate Crellin (BA ’19) Winner, George Heussenstamm Composition Competition for “Home — Thoughts from Abroad” The American Prize 2021 Dale Warland (DMA ‘65) Recipient of the American Prize National Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement Lisa Evelyn Graham (DMA ‘01) Recipient of the American Prize in Choral Conducting, Community Chorus Division Connor Scott (1st-year DMA student) Recipient of the American Prize in Choral Conducting, High School Division Jason Saunders (MM ‘14) Recipient of the American Prize in Choral Performance, High School Division
Keep Us Up to Date Tell the USC Thornton Choral and Sacred Music Department about your latest activities and accomplishments. We would like to include you in next year’s newsletter. Don’t forget to update your contact information with the USC Alumni Office to stay informed of Department of Choral and Sacred Music happenings. Send your news to the Department of Choral and Sacred Music Newsletter Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org Department of Choral and Sacred Music USC Thornton School of Music 840 West 34th Street, MUS 416 Los Angeles, CA 90089-0851 alumni news 15
studentnews Alex Belohlavek is a third-
year DMA student in Choral Music. He currently serves as the associate conductor of the University Chorus, and conducted their first live concert in two years in November of 2021. The program included Haydn’s The Storm, a scarcelyperformed choral gem. He also sings tenor in the USC Concert Choir. Alex will be presenting his final recital with Repertory Singers in February, finishing coursework in the spring semester, and traveling to Estonia to perform with The Southern Chorale and conduct research for his dissertation.
In September 2021, firstyear DMA student Collin Boothby was appointed Assistant Organist/Choir Director at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. His role includes accompanying and directing the church’s three choirs and sharing service playing with Director of Music, Canon Dr. Craig Phillips. At Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, Texas, Collin continued as Organist/Choirmaster, where he led an 8 voice professional ensemble for High Holy Day services. Collin and his partner Jessica call Santa Monica home, where they enjoy exploring the outdoors with their dog, Finn.
Marcus Desir is a secondyear MM student in choral music at USC. He is the conductor of the recently established Los Angeles based singing group, DeNuance. He previously earned a Master of Music Performance degree in orchestral conducting from Valdosta State University, where he served as the assistant conductor of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Valdosta Symphony Youth Orchestra. He is also an HBCU graduate from Oakwood University, where he sang with the world-renowned Aeolians. Mandi Hakim is a freshman BM Choral Music student. She was born and raised in Pasadena, California, but is originally from Egypt. This fall was her first semester as a Soprano in the USC Thornton Concert Choir. Growing up as a pianist, Mandi’s love
for many different genres grew. She enjoys classical, jazz, and R&B music the most, and is excited to further her talents and get involved in many different groups at Thornton throughout her undergraduate career.
Stevie J. Hirner is a second-year DMA student in Choral Music, and, as a graduate teaching assistant, led the Apollo Chorus last year and the University Chorus during the 2021-22 school year. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Stevie is passionate about providing tools to choir directors that promote transgender inclusivity, and her research while at USC has provided her the opportunity to guest lecture at several universities across the country. Hsin-Yu Hung is a first-
year MM student in choral music. His love for this art form originates from Taiwan, where he has experience in conducting local community and school choirs. Currently, he serves as a seminar lecturer at Taiwan Central Choral Center with his former advisor I-Chen Yang. This fall was the first semester for Hsin-Yu in the U.S. At USC, he anticipates absorbing new knowledge, enjoying music, and meeting new people. He serves the department as the Bass section leader for University Chorus.
Heeseong Lee, a native of South Korea, is a fourth-year DMA student in Choral Music minoring in Instrumental Conducting and Organ. She is currently an instructor of Choral Conducting I, an Academic Assistant for Dr. Nick Strimple, a Choral Music Library Librarian, and an alto section leader in the Chamber Singers. Also, in 2021, she joined Oriana Choir as a collaborative keyboard artist. Outside of her work at USC, Lee was a Finalist of the 2021 ACDA National Student Conducting Masterclass in March. During the summer of 2021, Lee was accepted as a Conducting Fellow for the Orchestra Conducting Symposium at the University of Colorado Boulder and International Conducting Workshop and Festival in Houston. She serves as the director at Korean Central United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
Originally from Taiwan, YenHsiang Nieh is a DMA candidate in the USC Choral and Sacred Music Department. Prior to attending the USC, Nieh won numerous prizes in national and international choir competitions. He is currently the director of the TMC Culture & Arts Foundation in Taiwan. Nieh was the Teaching Assistant of the USC Thornton University Chorus, Apollo Chorus and Concert Choir in the past three years. Nieh’s composition, Ave Maria (2010) was chosen as one of the compulsory pieces for the 2019-2021 Taipei International Choir Competition. Currently, while working on his DMA dissertation about the 21st Century Choral Development in Taiwan, Nieh is also leading the USC Thornton Chamber Singers’ 2022 tour to Taiwan.
Phoebe J. Rosquist is a
first-year MM student, having returned to USC after a twenty-year interval. A graduate of the Early Music program, she has been busy singing early, classical, and contemporary music, and discovered a love of guiding and directing ensembles along the way. She is back at USC to get the best possible training as a budding conductor, while continuing to bloom as a singer. Phoebe and her husband Nathan recently adopted a puppy: Tallulah Cholula (half Catahoula).
Connor Scott is in his first
year of the DMA degree in Choral Music at USC Thornton where he is working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Associate Conductor of the Apollo Chorus. He is also the new Assistant Conductor for Choral Arts Initiative, a professional choral ensemble based in Los Angeles. Connor was formerly the Choir Director at Parkway South High School in St. Louis, Missouri (2018-2021). In 2021, Connor was given the Jeff Sandquist Presidential Award of Excellence by the Missouri Choral Directors Association and he won 3rd Place in the American Prize for Choral Conducting, High School Division.
USC THORNTON CHAMBER SINGERS 16 student news
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Laura Leigh Spillane is a second-year DMA student in Choral Music at USC, minoring in Instrumental Conducting and Vocology. Prior to her studies at USC, Spillane taught secondary choral music and directed church music in Atlanta, Georgia. As a graduate teaching assistant, in the Spring of 2021, she led the University Chorus virtually through their study and rehearsal of two contrasting and exciting works, Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurgisnacht and Fauré’s Requiem. She also gave a lecture recital presenting her research about the music of depression-era American women composers featuring Elinor Remick Warren, Louise Talma, and Ruth Crawford Seeger. In the Fall, she became the Associate Conductor of the USC Thornton Chamber Singers, and was thrilled to conduct them onstage in their fall performances after 20 months without a live choral performance. She looks forward to taking the stage with the Chamber Singers again in the Spring and conducting in their upcoming international performance tour. Kyra Stahr is a first-year MM student in Choral Music from Arlington, Virginia. She earned her B.M. in Music Education and Vocal Performance with a dual minor in Special Education and Musical Theatre from Miami University. At Miami, she led an inclusive choir for adults with and without disabilities and was awarded the 2017 “Outstanding Future Music Educator” honor. Stahr served as choral director at Bishop O’Connell high school for the past three years and directed two local honor choirs. At USC, Kyra is the soprano section leader for the University Chorus and enjoys singing in the USC Chamber Singers. Emily Sung is a third-year
DMA student in choral music from New Jersey. At USC, she is studying jazz theory and analysis, Chinese, and Arts Leadership, alongside choral music. In the spring and fall semesters of 2021, Emily presented a guest lecture in the Musicology Department: “Gender, Cyborgs, and Electronic Dance Music.” In spring of 2021, Emily also presented her graduate lecture recital on Zoom: “Waiting for Your Return: Foundations of Chinese Vocal Jazz.” Emily is currently serving as the associate conductor of Oriana Choir and the Musicology Department teaching assistant for MUSC 210: Electronic Music and Dance Culture.
From Malaysia, Yu Hang Tan is a third-year DMA student in Choral Music, Senior TA, and Festival Coordinator at the Choral Department. Before moving to LA, Yu Hang was an active member of the Atlantic Canada choral scene, where he directed the St. Augustine’s Church Choir, Seniors Folk Gospel Choir, and Suara, a semi-professional choir he founded in 2018; co-directed the Memorial University of Newfoundland Choirs, Atlantic Boy Choir, and Cantus Vocum. Performing nationally and abroad, Yu Hang is an alumnus of the 2018 and 2020 World Youth Choir, 2014 Ontario Youth Choir, and the allprofessional Elora Parish Choir. This year marks Yu Hang’s third year as the lead conductor of the Oriana Choir. Outside of USC, Yu Hang works for the International Federation for Choral Music’s (IFCM) as project manager of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Countries’ Youth Choir.
Nicholas Tham is a
second-year DMA student in choral music. He is originally from Singapore. Currently, Nicholas is the lead conductor for the Apollo Chorus, the head of recruitment for USC Thornton’s DCSM choirs, and the assistant for MUCD 541/641 Conducting III/IV. This year, he sings as a bass with the USC Chamber Singers.
Duncan Tuomi is a second-year MM student in choral music, originally from Portland, Oregon. He currently serves as an Associate Conductor of the USC Thornton University Chorus, and as bass section leader for the USC Thornton Chamber Singers. He also studies composition separately with Dr. Frank Ticheli. This fall, Duncan’s composition “The Rose that Bare Jesu” received first place in the ACDA Raymond W. Brock Student Composition
Competition by unanimous decision of the ACDA Composer Initiatives Committee.
Izzy Woods is a Junior BM Choral Music major with a minor in legal studies. She has grown up all around the world but currently calls New Jersey home. At USC, Izzy is the Vice President of the student chapter of the American Choral Directors Association and serves as a student ambassador for the Thornton School of Music. She is also an associate editor of the USC Journal of Law and Society and is a member of the Society of Women in Law on campus. In her free time, Izzy enjoys doing yoga and working as a barista. Shijia Ye is a second-year MM student in choral music from Shenzhen, Guangdong. Ye received her BM in Choral Conducting from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in China, where she was the Associate Conductor of the Shanghai Conservatory Choir, Shanghai Baige Chamber Singers, and Shenzhen Lily Choir. In addition, she served as a conductor of Shenzhen Concert Hall Multi-Ethnic Children’s Choir. Ye was awarded the First Prize of the 2017 National Choral Conducting Competition in China. At USC, Ye is an assistant conductor in Oriana and serves as the soprano section leader of the USC Chamber Singers. USC students selected as conductors in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Choral Conductors’ Symposium Ann Chen (first-year MM student in Choral Music) Marcus Desir (second-year MM student in Choral Music)
Right: Department of Choral and Sacred Music Department Teaching Assistants, 2021–2022 Back row: Laura Leigh Spillane, Hyejin Jung, Stevie Hirner, Yu Hang Tan, Collin Boothby Front row: Nicholas Tham, Connor Scott, Heeseong Lee student news 17
To the 2021 Choral and Sacred Music Graduates BACM Randi Anderson Jackson Hatawan Colston Rienhoff
MM Brandon DiNoto Brad Parese Yotsawan Meethongkum Shelby Stroud
DMA Micah Bland Sze-Wing Ho Andrew Schultz Daniel Strychacz
NEW APPOINTMENTS Lila Atchison (BA ‘16) Assistant Personnel Manager • Houston Symphony Lance Azusada (BACM ‘20) Choral Director • Eastside HS Micah Bland (DMA ‘21) Director of Choral Activities • Ranger College, TX Daniel Strychacz (DMA ‘21) Interim Director of Choral Activities • Texas Wesleyan University, TX Maura Tuffy (BACM ‘18) Principal Assistant Conductor, Yale Camerata Kate Crellin (BACM ‘19) Choral Director • Mira Costa HS, Manhattan Beach MS Brad Parese (MM ‘21) Music Teacher and Choral Director • Mount Diablo Unified School District, Walnut Creek and Concord, CA Shelby Stroud (MM ‘21) Head Choral Director • O’Banion Middle School in Garland ISD, TX Brandon DiNoto (MM ‘21) Director of Music Ministries • Oceanside First Presbyterian Church Colston Rienhoff (BACM ‘21) Intern for Fundraising and Development • American Youth Symphony
We are grateful to the following individuals who have made contributions to the USC Thornton Department of Choral and Sacred Music since July 1, 2017. Anonymous
Dr. Todd J. Harper and Connie C.
Lisa H. Harrington
Elizabeth Armour and Jonathan
Tamara and Mark Hatwan
Dr. Carl W. Haywood
Kristin and Larry Ball
Dr. Stephanie Henry
Jane and Robin Blomquist
Margaret P. and Guilbert C.
Jennifer and Donald Brinegar
Robert E. Brooks
Barbara A. and Wayne Hirabayashi
Kellie and Aaron Custino
Nancy and James Holland
Dr. Harold A. Daugherty Jr.
Debora Lee Huffman
Elizabeth Molly Flier
Dr. Buddy Oscar James
Joanne and Nathaniel Fryml
Young Lee-Ko and Seungseop Ko
Woody Gatewood and family
The Grases Family
Dr. Yewon Lee
Lisa Hane and Hugh Rienhoff
Dr. Iris Sue Levine
ACDA Western Region Conference Concert Sessions Alexander Lloyd Blake (DMA ‘19): Featured Invited Performance—Tonality Iris Levine (DMA ‘90): Featured Invited Performance—Vox Femina Jo-Michael Scheibe (DMA ‘85): Conducting Masterclass & Conference Conductor Interest Sessions Yu Hang Tan (Third-year DMA student in Choral Music) - “About Gong, Ai, Na: Influences of Gamelan and Kulintang in Southeast Asian Choral Works.” Stevie Hirner (Second-year DMA student in Choral Music) “(Trans)itioning Voices: Inclusivity through Line Recombination” Composer Call for Scores Winner “Cina (Mother’s Eyes)” by Yen-Hsiang Nieh (Fifth-year DMA student in Choral Music) ACDA Eastern Region Conference Conducting Masterclass Kyra Stahr (First-Year MM Student in Choral Music) ACDA Northwestern Region Conference Concert Session Coreen Duffy (DMA ‘14): University of Montana Chamber Chorale
Choral Works of Forgotten French Masters Desenclos and Langlais
ACDA Southwestern Region Conference Interest Session Christopher Haygood (DMA ‘13): “Music That Unites” NCCO Conducting Fellow Heeseong Lee (Fourth-year DMA student in Choral Music) Interest Session Stevie Hirner (Second-year DMA student in Choral Music): “(Trans)itioning Voices: Inclusivity through Line Recombination” 18
University of Southern California Thornton Chamber Singers Jo-Michael Scheibe, conductor Weicheng Zhao, organ
Hazel and James Lord
Mary and Jo-Michael Scheibe
Dr. Marguerite Marsh
Nicole D. Singer
Virginia and Thomas Somerville
Dr. Stanley R. McDaniel
Tram N. Sparks
Patricia and John McIntyre
Christian D. Stendel
Dr. Donald B. and Mary C. Miller
Toni and Nick Strimple
Shirley and John G. Morgan
The Donald and Alice Noble Foundation
Music Celebrations International, LLC
Town and Gown of USC
Mr. David Noble
Leslie J. and Jeffrey B. Unger
Christine Marie Ofiesh
Barbara and James Harold Vail
Peter and Masha Plotkin Memorial
John P. Wiscombe
Pamela and Donald (“Jeff”) Wright
Thomas B. Ringland
Janice Lynn Wyma
Rose F. Sapia
Ruth and David Yoder
Margaret and Christopher Saranec Virginia Sato and Raymond Bates
CHORAL DEPARTMENT COMPACT DISCS The level of musicianship and artistry in USC Thornton’s Department of Choral and Sacred Music continues at an exceptional level and has recently been featured in the release of four compact discs. Legacy: Sixty Years of the USC Chamber Singers features recordings spanning sixty years of the USC Chamber Singers, under the direction of Charles Hirt, Rodney Eichenberger, James Vail, William Dehning, Paul Salamunovich, and Jo-Michael Scheibe. I Have Had Singing presents some of the finest recordings of the Chamber Singers from the past five years. The newest CD, Brightest and Best, A Winter Gala features all of the USC Choral Artists in an array of holiday music. This CD was produced in conjunction with the annual A Winter Gala: Brightest and Best Scholarship Fundraiser concert. Gregorian Meditations: Choral Works of Forgotten French Masters Desenclos and Langlais features sacred French works for chorus and organ with Dr. JoMichael Scheibe, conductor, and Dr. Weicheng Zhao, organist. Gregorian Meditations is available both as a physical CD and in for virtual purchase through iTunes. If you would like your own copy of Legacy or I Have Had Singing, please make a donation to the Department of Choral and Sacred Music. You will be helping to ensure the continued traditional of excellence for future generations and receive a great recording. Brightest and Best, A Winter Gala can be purchased through the USC Bookstore, both in their retail locations and online. Profits go to provide scholarships. For more information, contact department coordinator Woody Gatewood at woodygatewood@ thornton.usc.edu or 213-821-5756. Your legacy awaits.
To demonstrate your support for the Department of Choral and Sacred Music at USC Thornton, you may make your gift through text. (See page 8 for details.) You can also make your gift quickly and easily with a credit card by calling the USC Thornton Advancement office at (213) 740-6474, or by visiting giveto.usc.edu and designating your gift for the USC Thornton Department of Choral and Sacred Music or the Chamber Singers Projects Fund. USC Thornton relies on the support of people like you. Your generosity directly impacts the educational experience of our students. Thank you for your support.
UPCOMING EVENTS CONCERT CHOIR “Sing Me A Story” Friday, April 8, 2022 Newman Hall 8:00 PM APOLLO CHORUS/ORIANA CHOIR “I Can and Will” Sunday, April 10, 2022 Newman Hall 7:00 PM UNIVERSITY CHORUS “Of Beauty” Friday, April 15, 2022 St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral 7:30 PM CHAMBER SINGERS “Bridging the Pacific” Sunday, April 24, 2022 St. Paul the Apostle 7:30 PM
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Department of Choral and Sacred Music Faculty & Staff Cristian Grases, DMA, Associate Professor and Chair of Choral and Sacred Music Jo-Michael Scheibe, DMA, Professor of Choral and Sacred Music Nick Strimple, DMA, Professor of Practice, Choral and Sacred Music Tram Sparks, DMA, Associate Professor of Practice, Choral and Sacred Music Mary Mattei-Scheibe, Adjunct Instructor, Choral and Sacred Music Ladd Thomas, DMA, Professor, Chair of Organ Studies Lisa Sylvester, DMA, Associate Professor of Practice, Vocal Arts and Opera Lynn Helding, Professor of Practice, Vocology and Voice Pedagogy Suzi Digby (Lady Eatwell), OBE, BMUS (Hans), Churchill Fellow, FRSA James Vail, DMA, Professor Emeritus Woody Gatewood, Academic Program Assistant
Laura Leigh Spillane, Newsletter Editor Layout and design by Jason Saunders (MM ‘14)
Flora L. Thornton School of Music University of Southern California Department of Choral and Sacred Music Los Angeles, CA 90089-0851
join us at the
2022 acda western regional conference Lift Every Voice And Sing
Thursday, March 3, 2022 10pm to Midnight Gladstone’s Long Beach 330 S Pine Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802 Please RSVP using the QR code to the right.
USC Choral and Sacred Music Alumni Reception