MSU’s Vocal Arts and Conducting Engages Hundreds

Long-standing choral events connects with high schoolers and teachers from across Michigan.

Jonathan Reed, music professor, conducts members of the audience during the High School Choral Invitational held at the Fairchild Theatre.
Sandra Snow, professor of choral conducting and music education, speaks at one of the Choral Leadership workshops.
David Rayl, music professor and director of choral programs, conducts students in the audience during the High School Choral Invitational.
Anne Nispel, MSU voice professor, conducts a master class.

Every October since 1978, hundreds of high school students from across the state come to Michigan State University to sing and learn from top choral educators through the MSU Choral Invitational and Choral Leadership Workshop. The events, say coordinators, enable students to refine their singing talents and to see what MSU has to offer. Participating choral leaders also get acquainted with MSU, helping to keep the College of Music top-of-mind for choral education.

“Many of our current students in the vocal area were introduced to MSU’s music program through one or both of these events,” says Jonathan Reed, professor of music and associate director of choral programs. “I hear from students all the time who say the reason they decided on MSU was directly related to these activities.”

Vocal Arts Senior Duncan Cooper is among those students. 

“The coolest thing was that MSU brought in top-notch clinicians from across the nation to work with us,” says Cooper. “We got to see how great of a place MSU is.” 

Each year, choral directors from 50 Michigan high schools bring a quartet of advanced students to the Choral Leadership Workshop. Students work on select pieces, participate in master classes, and talk with current MSU faculty and students about the MSU choral program. The day concludes with an informal performance of the pieces the students have rehearsed throughout the day. 

“We spend the day working with students on choral pieces they’ve never seen before,” says Reed. “It’s a way to introduce students to our style here at MSU.”

The Choral Invitational welcomes eight of the best high school choirs in Michigan to campus. About 600 students participate each year in a day of sessions and performances guided by a nationally renowned choral conductor. The choral conductor then stays for a second day of master classes and clinics with MSU choral students.

“It’s a way we can introduce the clinician to our graduate programs,” says Reed. “Our hope is that these professionals go back and recommend MSU as an option for advanced choral studies.”

The Choral Invitational and Choral Leadership Workshop are coordinated by Reed, Professor of Choral Conducting and Music Education Sandra Snow, and Professor of Music and Director of Choral Programs David Rayl.

“One of the great things about this year is we got to hold the events in the newly renovated Fairchild Theatre,” says Reed. “It was so nice to be able to show students the space we now call home.”

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