Whitney Hale


College: Fine Arts

American Choral Directors Sing UK Choral Program's Praises

Published: Feb 26, 2013


See video

Video by UK Public Relations and Marketing. To view a transcript, click here


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 26, 2013) — From the conductor's podium to the risers, University of Kentucky choral music students and faculty are being recognized for their creativity and excellence March 13-16, at the 2013 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference, in Dallas, Texas.


A nonprofit music education organization, ACDA represents more than one million singers across the United States. During the ACDA National Convention, the association has chosen to spotlight several aspects of UK's Choral Program inviting UK Women's Choir to perform as a demonstration choir, showcasing doctoral student Julian Bryson's Raymond W. Brock Composition Competiton award-winning work, selecting junior Dee Walker to compete in the ACDA Student Conducting Competition, and presenting programs with UK faculty members Lori Hetzel, Elizabeth Arnold and Jefferson Johnson.


Made up of more than 100 women of all ages and academic disciplines, UK Women's Choir has been internationally recognized, traveling to England, Ireland and Wales for their third international tour last summer. Ten years ago, the choir made its debut at the ACDA national convention singing on the Carnegie Hall stage and makes its return this year not only performing but demonstrating the work of a partnership that has made the group's excellence possible, the teamwork of Lori Hetzel, associate director of UK Choral Activities and conductor of UK Women's Choir, and Elizabeth Arnold, assistant professor of voice and choir voice technician.


"They're performing for the most prestigious audience that they could ever be asked to be in front of, which is a bunch of choir directors from around the United States and usually the world as there are many international choirs there as well," Hetzel said. "So it's kind of like the Final Four of the chorale world."


To give her choir an edge, Hetzel works closely with Arnold, a vocal technician, and the two will present on the benefits of their partnership at the conference as well. "It's not often that a choral conductor will share the podium and her (Hetzel's) generosity of spirit to allow me to come in to work with the girls is a great deal of fun for me," said Arnold. "It's challenging. It keeps me on my feet. I come in to help with the resonant vowels and to get them on the breath, if you will, for that energized singing so they can reach their fullest potential. It's such a special relationship that we have that hopefully people will see how well we interact together, how well we meet our goals together, and that would encourage other chorale conductors to seek out their voice teachers."


Doctoral student, choir member and assistant conductor Maggie Blair, of Bowling Green, Ky., also feels the camaraderie between Arnold and Hetzel is a win-win for the ensemble and only adds to the sisterhood of the group. "We're especially blessed at the University of Kentucky to be able to work with such a strong female presence as Dr. Hetzel and Dr. Arnold," Blair said. "Their influence has influenced me beyond measure and I know has influenced all the rest of the women with the UK Women's Choir."


Likewise Blair is excited to return to ACDA and see fellow choir members experience the national conference for the first time. "There's just an energy and a hustle and bustle about these conventions. It's really exciting, and it definitely made me excited to be a music teacher and see the world beyond UK, beyond the state of Kentucky and how exciting the career can be."


Individually, UK students Julian Bryson and Dee Walker's talents will take center stage in the fields of composition and conducting respectively. A composition by Bryson, a doctoral student in choral conducting, will be performed by University of Louisville's Cardinal Singers at the national conference in recognition of Bryson taking first place in the nation's major choral composition competition, the Raymond W. Brock Memorial Student Composition Contest sponsored by ACDA.


Video by UK Public Relations and Marketing. To view a transcript, click here


"When I opened the announcement letter, I had to read it three or four times before I believed what it said. This is obviously the greatest honor of my career, and a tremendous opportunity to share a unique musical experience with so many experts in choral music," said Bryson, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., who studies under Professor Jefferson Johnson, director of UK Choral Activities.


Portions of Bryson’s piece titled “Redemption Mass” were first performed last spring by the UK Chorale, and that recording was submitted to ACDA along with the composer's application. He was named the winner by an independent panel of distinguished choral musicians and/or composers."


Choral music education junior Dee Walker will take the stage in competition. He has been chosen as one of nine semi-finalists in the nation to compete in the ACDA Student Conducting Competition, which will take place during the national conference.  


Video by UK Public Relations and Marketing. To view a transcript, click here


Walker was chosen for the competition based on his outstanding conducting and rehearsal techniques.


"We are really proud to have Dee representing the UK Choirs at this prestigious national competition," Johnson said. "It is an amazing honor to be chosen as a national semi-finalist, as only nine students were selected throughout the country. I am excited to see Dee compete in Dallas."


At ACDA, Walker will have the opportunity to compete among some of the top conductors at the undergraduate level. Previous winners of the competition have gone on to become some of the leading conductors in the field.


To compete, all applicants had to upload an audition video to YouTube displaying their abilities by conducting a choir through two compositions, the first being a sacred 17th or 18th century work, and the second being a secular composition from the 19th, 20th or 21st century.


Walker submitted an audition video of himself conducting the UK Chorale, a mixed choral ensemble. The first work he conducted was “Hallelujah, Amen" from "Judas Maccabeus" by G.F. Handel, and his second work was called “Earth Song” by Frank Ticheli. The two pieces showed different aspects of Walker's conducting talents.


In the semi-final round of the ACDA competition, Walker will be given eight minutes to conduct/rehearse the choir and will be scored on conducting technique, interpretation, and rehearsal technique.


"It feels amazing to be selected as a semi-finalist," said Walker, a native of Franklin, Ky. "To be one of nine people in the whole country is pretty cool."


In addition to the workshop, composition and performance, conference attendees will also have the opportunity to get to know Director of UK Choral Activities Jefferson Johnson. The popular UK Men's Chorus and Lexington Singers conductor will appear at the conference in a special session called "Face to Face" where conference attendees can sign up to personally meet and have a conversation with selected conductors.


UK Choral Activities is part of the UK School of Music at the UK College of Fine Arts. The School of Music has garnered national recognition for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, composition, theory and music history.




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, (859) 257-8716whitney.hale@uky.edu

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