Dr. Amanda Quist takes us through a typical warm-up for the Westminster Choir College freshman choir. You’ll learn how, in just 5-7 minutes, she addresses the building blocks of great sound. Plus, you’ll take some fun detours into topics like cell phone policy and how to classify voices.

Listen:


Highlight to Tweet: “You need to have 3 ways to solve any problem” – Amanda Quist

Show Notes:

  • Amanda directs the (compulsory) freshman choir at WCC, so she is first director students meet. Her goal is to take a group of unfamiliar singers with widely-varying levels of experience and make a unison sound.
  • Day 1: sing and build community (students see how they are connected); talk about music they love, their major, who they are; start with voice building – 5-7 minute warm up; next do something physical
  • Low energy? Have them move…step-touches, or something fast-paced like a call and response.
  • Buy in is tougher for the students without choir experience. Knowing the reason behind the exercises helps them buy in.
  • No cell phone use in rehearsal, no tolerance.
  • Breath – long exhalations on different sounds; must warm up breath, it’s connected to mindfulness
  • Tone – balance between light and dark (chiaroscuro)
  • Intonation – clear and resonant, with clear overtones; begin building triads; build their ears with solfege scales, scales in different modes
  • Sight-reading is the most crucial skill for incoming freshmen to have.

3 Key Takeaways:

  1. Go into rehearsal with a plan, but be willing to change it when you assess the energy level of the students.
  2. The fundamentals are crucial and should be practiced every rehearsal: voice-building, breath, tone, intonation.
  3. The most valuable skill a high school director can give their students is the ability to sight-read.

Resources/links Mentioned:

Bio:

Dr. Amanda Quist is Associate Professor of Conducting at Westminster Choir College, where she conducts the Chapel Choir, Westminster Kantorei, and teaches graduate and undergraduate conducting. Kantorei was selected to perform at the Eastern Division ACDA Conference in February 2014 for her “Building Sound” workshop, was invited to sing at the American Handel Festival the previous year, and was selected as a National Finalist for the American Prize. During her work with the Westminster Symphonic Choir she collaborated with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, and composers Ola Gjeilo and Tarik O’Regan. Dr. Quist recently served as Chorus Master for the North American premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s Matsukaze for Spoleto Festival USA and the Lincoln Center Festival. The New York Times and Charleston Post and Courier reviews described the chorus’ performance as “beautifully prepared,” “gripping,” with a “gossamer web of voices,” and “bridging the vocal and instrumental textures with perfect intonation.”
Dr. Quist is Director of the Westminster Vocal Institute, and she was previously Director of Choral Activities at San José State University. She was selected to be the 2014 recipient of Westminster of Rider University’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and other honors include the prestigious James Mulholland National Choral Fellowship and the Audrey Davidson Early Music Award. Her research focus is voice science and pedagogy in the choral setting, and she recently presented an Interest Session for the National ACDA Conference in Salt Lake City. An active adjudicator and clinician, recent and upcoming appearances include the California All-State, Texas All-State, Delaware All-State, Tennessee All-State, and Vermont All-State honor choirs. She has also conducted honor choirs and served as an adjudicator in Arizona, Michigan, New York, Arkansas, Georgia, and New Jersey. She recently served as the Pennsylvania ACDA Summer Conference headliner, and as summer conducting faculty for Connecticut State University. An active mezzo-soprano, recent solo engagements include performances with the Monmouth Civic Chorus and Orchestra, Symphony Silicon Valley, Fuma Sacra, Princeton Pro Musica, and Princeton University. Dr. Quist serves as the National ACDA R&S Chair for Youth and Student Activities and ACDA Mentorship Co-Chair.

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