Choral Performance & MSU
I am excited to report that I was accepted into the DMA program for Choral Conducting! Thank you not only for your letter, but also for the guidance and support that you have given me since we met. Indeed, I owe much of my life’s journey to you. Your energy and artistry inspired me to rethink my relationship with music, and as a result, this composer-pianist who hated singing in 2003 is now the author of this message.
I promise to thank you by showing your colleagues in Connecticut better than my best performance. While I am not on your course rosters, I recognize that working hard for you is more important now than ever.
With profound gratitude,
DMA Candidate Hartt School of Music
I wanted to make sure that I wrote to you at a time when I didn’t feel rushed and I could take my time in thanking you for the opportunity to sing The Planets in the Newark Voices for the NJSO’s 2019-20 season opening.
Post-graduation life has been truly spectacular! However, after two years of singing and teaching outside of MSU, I have come to grow an even deeper appreciation for my time under your direction. The time that we were able to spend with you, Steven, Professor Mello, and the NJSO truly filled my heart with an immense amount of gratitude.
Thank you for being the teacher that you are and for your ability to display what it truly means to connect with an ensemble. You continue to be my biggest role model and I just wish that there were words to express how full my heart is knowing that I get to do what I love every day, and also knowing that you helped me to prepare for it. Thank you again and I hope that I will get to see you soon!
With much love and appreciation,
As a recent graduate from Montclair State University, I had the wonderful privilege of being able to work with Dr. Heather Buchanan throughout the course of my undergraduate degree. Her expertise in so many subjects and her dedication to her students motivated me to take as many of her courses as I possibly could. She is incredibly intuitive in her teaching and conducting. Her natural ability to inspire passion and creativity in the students is one of her driving forces. No matter what mood I was in beforehand, I always left her classes and rehearsals feeling uplifted.
When it comes to choral rehearsals, I have felt truly blessed. Rarely, is an undergraduate student able to perform grand masterworks such as the Verdi Requiem, Considering Matthew Shepard, and Carmina Burana at a professional level. She gives her students exposure to these works and digs into the music in such a way that every student is motivated to think about its intricacies. I am grateful to have had her as one of my role models, as she constantly strives to put empathy, community, and teamwork first.
She is revolutionary in her ideas and has created a unique and powerful curriculum in Problems of Performance which allows all students to experience Body Mapping and Mindfulness in relation to performance. Dr. Buchanan challenged my learning in the most important ways. She made the music come alive for students in her rehearsals, and through the music and classroom experiences she has led, she has changed my live for the better, in and outside the classroom.
I am more than happy to share my thoughts on the NJSO’s development of the Newark Voices chorus, (Dr. Heather J. Buchanan conductor) and the collaboration of the two entities with the MSU Chorale for the 2018-19 season opening performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. As a retired Prudential employee of 28 years I have always been proud of the ongoing commitment that Pru has demonstrated in support of cultural affairs, community development, employment opportunities and educational initiatives within the boundaries of Newark and beyond. Given that background, I was pleased to learn that Prudential had a big hand in turning the vision of Newark Voices into a reality. After all, it does make a lot of sense in the context of the company’s mission. On a purely personal level, the opportunity to thrice perform this Beethoven masterwork with a massed chorus at NJPAC and the State Theater was a dream fulfilled. The Sunday afternoon finale became my ninth performance of the Beethoven Ninth over a period spanning 32 years, with this experience unsurpassed in terms of the musical quality and professionalism demonstrated throughout by all involved. The opportunity to audition, rehearse, and perform for Dr. Heather J. Buchanan in an engaging environment that was both professional and fun was an unforgettable learning experience. Integrating the Newark Voices with a large chorus of talented and motivated MSU Chorale students was challenging and refreshing. And very few experiences in my lifetime can compare to sharing the stage with the exceptionally talented orchestra that is the NJSO, and of course the extraordinary and inspirational Maestra Xian Zhang. More importantly though, the concept of a chorus of community members comes at a time when it seems to be very much needed, harkening back to the early days in our nation when community choruses sang out in every city and town, bringing citizens together and strengthening bonds through music. To me, Newark Voices has the potential to represent a similar unifying force – across generations, across cultures, across educational and religious backgrounds. A group of potentially very different people, all working very hard together to achieve the common goal of creating something wonderful for others to enjoy and find their own inspiration in. It is very clear that the NJSO aspires to nurture and maintain strong connections with surrounding communities, and Newark Voices seems like it could well be a natural fit within the scope of that mission. After a successful “maiden voyage” with Beethoven, I for one would encourage and embrace the continued development of Newark Voices in a continuing relationship with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. I am a grateful Newark Voice.
I wanted to thank you/NJSO for extending Newark School of the Arts faculty and staff the opportunity to participate in Newark Voices. Working with Heather J. Buchanan, Xiang Zhang and the rest of the members gave me an opportunity to work at a professional level that not too many people get. Being in the same room with the many gifted singers selected reminded me that there is something greater out there that connects us all…. the music; community. It had been at least 20 years since I last sang Beethoven 9th so revisiting it at this level was a very rewarding treat for me. I even came away with a couple more friends. I look forward to participating in any future endeavors as a member of Newark Voices.
Many music educators don’t get to perform. We are given so much to do in so little time, and at the end of the day, we rarely have time for ourselves or the thing that got us to where we are: our love of music.
In my undergrad at Montclair State, I had several incredible experiences. I got to sing for world-renowned conductors. I got to sing choral masterworks on world-famous stages. It was only after I had graduated and those opportunities were gone that I realized how special and exciting they were. I thought that my high-caliber music-making days were over.
I am lucky to be performing as an adult with several community choirs. We sing many of the same pieces by Britten, Beethoven, Mozart, Faure, and Orff, but the experience is simply not the same. These choirs don’t sing for a sold-out crowd of thousands. The rush and joy of performing on the stage at the NJPAC is completely different.
There are few pieces of music that are exciting and bombastic as Beethoven 9. Zhang’s interpretation made it so much more incredible. The energy and expertise she brought to it made it a truly memorable experience. At the end of Sunday’s performance, I was not the only one with tears in my eyes. Others felt the joy and sense of accomplishment, as well as the audience’s appreciation.
I hope to be a part of the Newark Voices again in the future. The experience was unforgettable and truly magical – just like music-making should be.
I was blessed to have a double reunion by singing with the Newark Voices and the NJSO.
I was a student at Montclair State (College) back in the 70s and as a member of the MSU Choir, performed the Beethoven 9th with the College Orchestra under the direction of the late Leon Hyman. After graduating, I worked for a season with the NJSO in their Production Department.
I have done a lot of singing over the last few decades, performing in Church (folk and contemporary worship), a wedding band, and a Christian Rock band. But until last year, had not performed as a Chorister. When my son reached his senior year at Lehigh University as a Music Major, I joined their Choral Union and began singing with him.
Then over the summer I heard about the opportunity to sing Beethoven’s 9th with the NJSO and MSU Chorale as part of a new Community group called Newark Voices (Dr. Heather J. Buchanan, conductor). What an experience to be able to join both my Alma Mater and my former employer as part of this program. Thanks, to Maestra’s Buchanan and Zhang, and to all who worked hard to make this happen.
I look forward to future projects like this. Thanks for the inspiration, mentoring and most of all, the wonderful fellowship!
Dan Furnald – a Second-Chance Chorister
You’ve already summed up this experience perfectly: “transformative.” It was an absolute pleasure to rehearse with you and Steven, and an outright delight to watch and be conducted by Xian and sing with the MSU Chorale. I’m thankful to you personally for reminding me that there is always room for “better,” whether it be better diction (I’ve become a stickler for shadow vowels and travel schwas), better dynamics (I loved what you said about the mark of a great choir being how well they can sing pianissimo), or a better connection to a piece of music so that the intention becomes clear to both the performer and the listener. Every one of your pep talks was inspiring and refreshing, and I truly believe that I am a better choral singer now that I have shared this experience with you. I hope to be a part of future Newark Voices endeavors as long as I can!