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ON THE RADAR | The Art Of Honing The Next Great Musical Communicators

By Brian Chang on January 23, 2018

Noel Edison (Photo: Brian Summers)
Noel Edison (Photo: Brian Summers)

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Elora Singers under Artistic Director Noel Edison host Connor Doran (Rochester), Alexandra Grabarchuk (Los Angeles), Trevor Kroeger (Cincinnati), Virginie Pacheco (Montreal), and Daniel Parsley (Cincinnati) for the annual Conductors Symposium January 23-27. Free Concert Saturday, January 27, 3 pm, Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, Toronto.

“Conducting is a lonely profession,“ said Noel Edison, Artistic Director of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Elora Singers, ”[the symposium] is a shot in the arm for conductors.” 2018 marks the 8th year Edison has run this unique conducting program out of Toronto, bringing some of the finest emerging conductors to Toronto from across North America and immersing them in the full artistic and administrative process of successful choral music.

Jennifer Lee, the current Associate Conductor of TMC, is an alumnus of the symposium. “In college programs, you rarely get to work with a choir like TMC, the size, the quality of the (music) reading, the sensitive musicality, and the responsiveness of the musicians.” Part of choral education is continuing education and creation is a process that never ends. Most options out there are masterclasses which, as Lee points out, are “99% focused on score study, rehearsal techniques, and gestures.” The symposium is a different learning experience, one that explores the process of working towards a concert.

Conductors are also uniquely exposed to the administrative might of a fully-functional arts organization like TMC. Cynthia Hawkins, Executive Director of the Choir, presents a session on all the administrative duties of a choir. The singing of the choir can only happen when the real work of the choir is taken care of through careful and diligent administration. Everything from promotion, staffing, grants, donations, donor relations, artistic management, outreach, marketing, budgeting, artistic operations, and library management are covered. As Lee shares, “this knowledge isn’t taught anywhere else, at any other symposium or class.” Matthew Swanson, an alumni from 2017, similarly shares, “one of the great advantages of the TMC Symposium is the chance to hear about the organizational and operational aspects of the TMC,”

Ultimately, Lee says, “it’s a condensed version of real life; preparing for a concert in a short time, with incredible musical detail, and conveying music as fast and as clearly as possible.” The Symposium concert will be the culmination of their week-long exposure to the choirs and the program. The work doesn’t end there as Edison shares, “it’s too much to internalize in one week. They’ll let it sink in over the coming months ahead. This week is inspiring for me. I look forward to it every year.”

Here are the participants:

Connor Doran is completing his Masters of Music in Conducting at Eastman in Rochester. Doran completed his undergraduate studies with Caron Daley, the former Associate Conductor of TMC, at Duquesne University. “The only thing that I am scared of is taking myself too seriously,” he shares. “Often as musicians (and especially conductors), we get too serious, and sometimes forget how beautiful music making is, and in this scenario, how wonderful it is to gather people from different walks of life and create something bigger than anyone could possibly imagine.’”

Dr. Alexandra Grabarchuk joins the symposium from Los Angeles. “My background and education has all been in historical musicology, and I kind of fell into conducting without much training because I was so passionate about it,” she says. Her extensive experience includes serving as Artistic Director of the San Gabriel Valley Choral Company, co-conductor of the Contemporary Choral Collective of Los Angeles, and teaching at many regional colleges.

Trevor Kroeger resides in Cincinnati, is president of the Cincinnati Choral Consortium, and is pursuing his Masters in conducting at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Kroger notes that “making music with strangers in an incredibly uniting human experience.” He’s excited to join TMC with “an open mind and a desire for spontaneity.”

Virginie Pacheco lives in Montreal, via France. “The choral world in Toronto and Ontario seems much bigger than what we have in Quebec,” Virginie shares. “When I moved to Canada, I discovered and admired how proud and encouraging the Canadian singers, musicians and conductors were and are still today when it’s about performing Canadian music or commisioning Canadian works.”

Daniel Parsley Is a DMA candidate specializing in choral conducting at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a Cincinnati native. “We put ourselves in public every day as singers and musicians with our art and our hearts on display,” he says. “We attempt to communicate with our audience, our fellow musicians, and men ourselves through this crazy endeavour called music.”

Disclosure: The author is a singer in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.


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