Our newest freshman: Andrew Clark discusses his inaugural year as Director of Choral Activities

by Stephanie Troisi

Stephanie Troisi, Program Associate at the OFA, sat down with newly appointed Director of Choral Activities Andrew Clark, to find out a little bit about his own musical experiences and what audiences can expect this year from the Holden Choirs.

Stephanie Troisi (ST): Tell us a little bit about your musical journey before being named Director of Choral Activities

Andrew Clark (AC): I was fortunate to have been raised by a family that considered music to be as essential as oxygen. Through countless experiences with extraordinary teachers, conductors, and artistic peers during my formative years, I knew by my senior year in high school that I wanted to be a choral conductor. As an undergraduate, I benefited greatly from the small, close-knit music community at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. I believe in the liberal arts music department and the integration of extra-musical disciplines into thinking about music and performance preparations. My faculty mentors at Wake Forest provide my inspiration for how I'd like to serve our students at Harvard. Their honesty, generosity, passion, and simple belief in my abilities changed my life.

From there, I returned home to Pittsburgh and completed a Masters degree at Carnegie Mellon University. Three years later, with some helpful arm-twisting and advocacy from my principal teacher Robert Page, I was hired by Jameson Marvin in 2001 to serve as the Assistant Conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum. It was here at Harvard that I learned the important lesson that one does not need to choose between aspiring for artistic excellence and building vibrant, meaningful community of kindred spirits, bound by a love for music and each other.

After two years at Harvard, I moved up a few miles north to Tufts University where I spent the last seven years. It was very difficult to say goodbye to my colleagues and students at Tufts, but comforting to know that we're all still working in the same community. During my time at Tufts, I began work on a doctoral degree at Boston University, and also served as music director of two symphonic choirs, the Worcester Chorus and the Providence Singers. It has been a fortunate and thrilling journey, and I'm looking forward to the adventure ahead here at Harvard.

ST: What excites you about working with Harvard students?

AC: Hopefully I'm not compromising myself to say that it is likely that I will learn more from our students than they will from me. Their experiences, curiosity, and intellectual pursuits will have a remarkable impact on "how" and "why" of music performance and exploration.

There's a unique and unparalleled culture and history of student involvement and commitment to choral music at Harvard. After the announcement of my appointment, I received emails from the network of Harvard choral alums from around the world. The passion and care of our singers, past and present, is a conductor's dream come true. It will be a privilege to work in this dynamic environment.

ST: What are some of your creative aims for your first year, and for the future?

AC: I consider myself to be a freshmen this year - orienting myself to a new place, meeting new people, establishing a rapport. Thanks to my predecessor, Jim Marvin, I inherit a choral program in superb condition; our students, alumni, and audience will expect the same level of performance excellence he cultivated and achieved.

This year, our students and audience will benefit from exciting artistic partnerships with the Handel & Haydn Society, the Harvard-Racliffe Orchestra, and the Boston Children's Chorus among other groups. We will work with internationally renowned conductors in master classes during the year and perform a cappella pieces and choral-orchestral masterworks in Sanders Theatre and in venues around the globe.

My long term goals are ambitious; as we continue to build our program brick by brick, the final structure may not look like our original architectural plans! It's my hope that together we'll explore great music, serve our community, work regularly with living composers and celebrated performing artists, disseminate the Harvard choral sound to the digital world through regular studio recordings and broadcasts, and continue to preserve and expand the special Holden social community.

ST: Can you tell us a bit about plans for the Choirs during the annual ARTS FIRST Festival?

AC: The three Holden choruses (the Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, and Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum) will join forces with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (Federico Cortese, conductor) and the Boston Children's Chorus (Anthony Trecek-King, artistic director) for a performance that I believe will stand out as a highlight of the upcoming Boston music season. Together, we'll perform the most recognizable work in our repertoire, Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony and present the New England premiere of John Adams "On the Transmigration of Souls," a work written in response to the September 11th tragedies that won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. Adams' piece is an emotionally devastating experience that could only be remedied by the incomparable beauty and power of the Ninth Symphony. These performances, in Sanders Theatre on Friday April 29 and Saturday April 30, are not to be missed!

ST: What would you say to undergraduates who are potentially interested in joining a choral group on campus?

AC: Harvard has a place for every choral singer - from the beginner to the most experienced singer. Our choruses provide the artistic nourishment and social community to complement the busy pursuits of your academic work. Singing in our ensembles provides exciting experiences of discovery, opportunities to travel around the world and make lifelong friends, and learn more about yourself. We hope you'll consider joining us and hope to see you at an audition or concert in the near future!

For more information, visit the Holden Choirs website or read the press release on Andrew Clark's appointment or read our previous post.

[Caption: Andrew Clark, newly appointed Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University]

[Caption: Andy Clark conducting]