Choral Conducting Testimonials

Here is what some of our alums have to say about their experience at MSU:

Michigan State University is, in my opinion, the best place in the country to pursue graduate studies in choral conducting.  I think one of its strongest factors is the opportunity to study with a diverse choral faculty, each with his/her own unique strengths and approaches to conducting.  The program strikes a healthy balance between the study of gesture and rehearsal technique.  I received ample podium time, and the choral literature component is unparalleled.  If you receive a degree from MSU, the faculty is also very interested in seeing you succeed even after you have graduated—a mentorship that I still enjoy and appreciate to this day.

R. Andrew Crane, DMA ’05
Associate Professor of Conducting and Director of the BYU Singers
Brigham Young University

In the Michigan State graduate program I found instruction from the top figures in choral music today, invaluable knowledge of choral literature and conducting, amazing podium time, valued colleagues in my fellow students, and support from faculty and staff that continues today. Added bonus: the graduate student seating for football games is fantastic! Go Green!

Kelly A. Miller, DMA ’10
Director of Music Education
University of Central Florida

Graduate study at Michigan State University offered me more than I could have hoped for: three internationally recognized conductor-scholars who challenged my intellect and musicianship while demonstrating genuine compassion and caring for me as an individual; an incredibly talented cohort of graduate students with whom life-long relationships have been forged; and since my graduation, a continued commitment to both career placements and promotion of my success and abilities.  I would not be the musician, man, nor educator I am today were it not for Michigan State University.

Ryan Beeken, DMA ’12
Director of Choral Activities
Wichita State University

The efforts that my professors made to tailor the course work to my musical interests and their guidance during my job search has made studying choral conducting at Michigan State a step above other universities. The monetary and academic support was integral in bringing my interest in African American shape note practices to fruition in my doctoral dissertation. Studying with such excellent musical role models as Dr. Rayl, Dr. Reed and Dr. Snow opened many doors to great job opportunities. I am grateful for their active involvement in helping me secure my position at Ithaca College. 

Derrick Fox, DMA ’13
Director of Choral Activities
University of Nebraska-Omaha

Here at Michigan State University, the professors have taken into consideration who I am as a person.  I have been mentored holistically and in a way specifically tailored toward my strengths, weaknesses and interests.  The choral literature sequence is exhaustive and rich, and the opportunity to study privately with multiple conductors has strengthened my gesture as well as my pedagogy with a diversity of philosophies, techniques, and approaches.  Not only are Drs. Rayl, Reed, and Snow invested, strong teachers, but they also get along with one another and are respectful of each others' differences.  Their wide-reaching network is a huge asset for job placement among MSU choral graduates.  As I prepare to "leave the nest", I know I do so with three "champions for life" who will mentor me out the door, into my first university position and beyond.  They have already done this--leading to more guest conducting opportunities and performances of my music in my time here.  I am so thankful I made the decision to choose Michigan State University.

Andrea Ramsey, PhD ’13 (cognate in choral music)

Michigan State was the perfect choice for graduate work in choral conducting.  The instructors were outstanding, and the coursework was logical and expertly designed to guide me to a new level of scholarship, teaching/conducting skill, and musical insight.  The choral literature and conducting sequence offered opportunities to work with three nationally respected but very different conductors, and I was deeply influenced by all of them.  I thought I knew a great deal about choral music before entering the program, but my coursework connected the compositions and isolated facts I had previously studied into a far more comprehensive and continuous understanding of choral history and its accompanying stylistic trends.  The musicology, theory, and voice faculty were first-rate, and the program was the perfect size to allow for ample podium time while also providing talented peers who supported me and pushed me to be my very best.

I remain impressed by the commitment of several faculty members to my post-MSU life.  With their help and advice, I was able to craft application materials and recordings that landed me several interviews, and they have continued to follow my career and offer timely advice to this day.  Their wisdom, connections, and commitment to helping their students even beyond graduation cannot be underestimated in a field where full-time positions are so difficult to land.

Zachary Durlam, DMA ‘10
Director of Choral Activities
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

As an educator, the opportunity to study conducting with our field’s leaders while maintaining a public school teaching position is unmatched.  The program provides a true synthesis of historical performance practice, conducting technique, and teaching pedagogy. I returned to my classroom each autumn inspired and ready to implement my study.

Kristina Caswell MacMullen, (summer) MM ’09
Associate Professor of Choral Studies
University of North Texas

My time as a graduate student in choral conducting at Michigan State University brought my teaching and conducting to the next level.  Coursework, podium time, and the opportunity to be part of multiple ensembles provided me with invaluable experiences.  Working with a world-class faculty helped me look at my conducting and teaching and make significant and impactful changes that are evident in my effectiveness as a music educator today.  I am not only a better teacher, but a stronger musician and conductor.

Jennifer Burkemper Tompa, MM ’06
Vocal Music Director
Hinsdale Central High School
Hinsdale, Illinois

My time at Michigan State University was ‘life changing.’ The faculty inspired and supported me throughout the course of study, helping shape me into the teacher and conductor I have become. The atmosphere and collegiality that Dr. Ray, Dr. Reed, and Dr. Snow modeled for us became a hallmark of our graduate student community. We not only learned from three of the best minds in the field of choral music, but we were encouraged to gain insight and knowledge from the high caliber graduate students we were surrounded by. My time at MSU provided me with some of the most meaningful educational and musical experiences of my life.

Christopher Thompson, MM ’08
Director of Choirs
Rocky Mountain High School
Fort Collins, Colorado