Co-Founding and directing AMPlify has been a joy for me. A joy that I hope will deepen as the years go by. Wanting the best for our young artists in AMPlify means first wanting the best for myself, so when I made a decision on where to receive some training in choral conducting this summer I went to one of the best: the Westminster Conducting Institute (WCI) held at Westminster Choir College. Being the exemplification of choral excellence that it is, I knew that Westminster Choir College would be the perfect place to sharpen my skills and reignite my fire for conducting. And as always happens with amazing life opportunities, I got what I bargained for and much, much more.
For one week, WCI brought together 61 gifted choral conductors from all parts of the world to learn from each other. And I do mean all parts – in my small conducting class alone there were two conductors who traveled from Asia to attend the institute! The learning experience was facilitated by a dynamic teaching staff, including Simon Carrington, Laura Brooks Rice, Charles Bruffy, and Director of the Institute, the incomparable James Jordan. The week, fueled by lots of hard work (read 12 hour days) brought laughter, love, frustrations and breakthroughs.
You probably understand that a conductor (according to Wikipedia) is responsible for unifying performers, setting tempo, executing clear preparations and beats, shaping the sound of the ensemble, etc. A good conductor goes beyond that to pull out of their performers what they didn’t know they had in them. But last week we went even beyond that! We went beyond beyond. For several hours, every day, we experienced together in our newfound artist community the joy of turning notes into music that creates magic – magic that soothes, transforms and heals all whose ears it falls upon. It was exhilarating. From evening classes exploring overtones and the power of chant, to morning group vocal techniques, I arrived feeling drained after a long week and a seemingly longer drive to New Jersey. But I left renewed, full of energy and ideas for the coming year. So what does this mean for AMPlify? I suppose you will have to stay tuned to my blog to find out.
But what I will tell you now is that I anticipate not just a better sound, but an improved method of ensuring that each young artist under our care is a better person because of their participation in AMPlify. And thanks to the Westminster Conductors Institute, I now have even more tricks and tools under my belt to make that happen for them.