William & Mary

Deep Think on Women's Chorus: W&M Students Attend Leadership Conference

"It's not enough to sing it right," says Sarah Gallo, director of the William & Mary Women's Chorus. "We want to use our music to do big things."

That just what eight members of the choir considered at the March 2017 "Empowerment Through Music: A Collegiate Women’s Chorus Conference," planned and hosted by choral students at Cornell University. The W&M group's participation was funded in part by the Arts & Sciences Annual Fund.

According to Carley Toney '18, "I learned firsthand what power music, and I believe choral music in particular, has to make us feel deeply and connect with others who feel the same. This is what makes singing such a wonderful part of the shared human experience."

 At the conference: Sarah Miner '19, Sheng Long '20, Holly Carpenter '17, Seema Sethi '18, Carley Toney '18, Lydia Funk '19, Dain "Dianne" Park '20, Clara Kobler '17, Sarah Frook Gallo, chorus director.

So many workshops and presentations were offered, the students split up to cover as many sessions as possible. Here's just a sampling of topics: nonWestern musical traditions, sight-reading, communities within and beyond a women's choir, and the practice of "singing with your body" known as eurhythmics.

Sarah Miner '19 attended the breakout session about community engagement and outreach. "We discussed the potential of choral ensembles to play a role in their campuses and communities, and how that ongoing relationship can be mutually beneficial," Sarah said. "The conference gave us ideas to inspire and create new guiding principles for our chorus, as well as real-world suggestions on how to make those ideas a reality."

At the end of the second day, the group came back together to debrief what they had learned.

"All of us were energized and fully engaged," said Gallo. "We were prompted to some deep thinking about how choirs exist on campus."

On their return to campus, the students and Gallo shared their experiences and thinking with the full chorus.
 
{{youtube:large:center|XNkMz1qGP2M, One of many highlights at the conference: All the participating choruses sing together.}}

The W&M Women’s Chorus formed in the early twentieth century and is one of three  choral ensembles sponsored by the Music Department. Women audition for the chorus and represent a wide variety of majors. Outside of their academic courses, chorus members learn the intentions and meanings of music composed for women’s voices, learn to understand and sing the music correctly, and, with their voices raised together, connect with audiences through their art.