UA a Major Contributor to Regional Choral Conducting

Aug. 21, 2013

As choral groups throughout the region are preparing for the start of the 2013-2014 season, many of them are gaining valuable support from UA students, faculty, staff and alumni.

UA School of Music professor Bruce Chamberlain, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus director, is among many UA affiliates who serve in key positions with choral groups in the region, making a major contribution to southern Arizona's choral community. (Photo courtesy of Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus)

In fact, the University and its School of Music is known as the "bedrock" of the regional choral environment, with UA affiliates serving in key positions with all of Tucson's major choral groups, said Bruce Chamberlain, UA's director of choral music.

UA affiliates serve with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Tucson Chamber Artists, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, Tucson Girls Chorus, Tucson Master Works Chorale, the Arizona Repertory Singers and the University's own University Community Chorus. Chamberlain also directs the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus and, in some cases, UA faculty and staff have founded such choral groups.

"It's a very, very rich choral environment; there is a very strong presence of choral music in Tucson," said Ellen Bussing, senior director of development for the UA College of Fine Arts.

Others include UA doctoral student Scott Douglas Glysson, who previously served as the assistant director for the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus alongside UA alumnus Julian Ackerley, the director. Now, Glysson serves as the artistic director for the Tucson Master Works Chorale.

"At first I was nervous, because I had no experience working with boy choirs," said Glysson, who is in the UA's Doctor of Musical Arts program. "I did however have public school experience as well as supervising a large children's music program at the church I was working at full time before graduate school, so I adjusted quickly."

Glysson also said that the Tucson region and the partnerships between community groups and the UA provides certain opportunities that he would not have been able to gain elsewhere.

"Boy choir is such a great thing to have on your resume, because not many people have significant experience in it. Also, children's music is often overlooked, but it is so important," Glysson said. "I love kids and working with students, it reminds me of what is really important and why I first decided to teach."

Also, current School of Music graduate choral conducting students currently lead 18 Tucson-area church choirs.

Given the history of community-University partnerships and the broad diversity of choral groups in the region, both the UA and regional communities benefit, said Andrew Comrie, UA senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

In particular, students gain value experience in teaching, collaboration and performance while community groups gain greater access to professional resources and support.

Comrie can attest to the benefit directly – he has been a member Tucson Master Works Chorale for years.

"We have a great community of choral directors in Arizona, and there are benefits to the local community in having these great choral conductors here," Comrie said. "It is really pretty cool to be able to build these connections between the community and the program."