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I’m writing in application for the position of Artistic Director of the Mystic Chorale. Dr. Allegra Martin, an old friend of mine, told me of your search; and I knew I had to reach out. Mystic Chorale’s expressed pride in being a welcoming community where singing is a pleasure not just for its product, but also for its process, is perfectly aligned with my personal and artistic values.
When you Google me, you’ll find out I’m co-author of Burnout, a New York Times bestselling feminist book about stress, along with my twin sister, Dr. Emily Nagoski, who is a TED-talk-and-Netflix-famous sex expert. Our science-based book has twenty-seven pages of references, and uses some salty language to describe the impact of systemic oppression on people’s wellbeing. Brené Brown told us it made her cry. These things make me an unappealing candidate for choirs whose focus is experiencing the classical canon; but even my non-music work mirrors my approach to conducting, which is to make music that nurtures and celebrates the humanity inherent in all singing and all singers.
I’ve taught and conducted all ages and levels of musicians, but here I’ll just tell you about my most recent work as a representation of what matters to me as a teacher and conductor.
I loved teaching at Western New England University, where I was the only full time music faculty member – beholden to no one who had been indoctrinated to The Canon. At WNE, ensembles weren’t mandatory for anyone, and interdisciplinary classes were encouraged. In addition to the interdisciplinary courses I taught, and our book, Burnout, I’ve also written articles and given conference presentations on various interdisciplinary topics connected to typical choral rehearsals, including shape-note singing and tai chi.
At WNE, my choirs sang what my students loved, and I showed them how to love the music I chose. In my classes, I taught students how to listen without judgement, and to see themselves in music beloved by their classmates, as well as repertoire from around the world and through all of Western history. Before I also became the conductor of the Children’s Chorus of Springfield, I hosted CCS and Nick Page at WNE in a collaboration that gave my college students an experience of leadership and artistry that I’m told other area colleges had declined. I understand why other professors couldn’t make space for it – their institutions only support work that builds their prestige on the backs of dead, white, men composers. I was free to prioritize the experience of my singers over the prestige of my program, and the collaboration with CCS and Nick was a pleasure my students talked about for years to follow.
The pandemic came two years year after I was granted tenure, and I developed Long COVID in the summer of 2020. I had to leave WNE because I no longer had the energy to work full time. A forty-hour work week is still too much for me, but I’ve recovered enough to work a few days a week.
Attached is a resume of my teaching and conducting experience. I hope we have the chance to learn more about each other.
Questions for Candidates – taken from conversation about the Mystic questionnaire
Questions in green are for a first interview to see if there is a good match between candidate’s skills, experience, and interests and Mystic’s needs.
The Mystic Chorale Mission
Singing with expressive joy. She is interested in taking us traveling.
As a conductor, teacher and community leader
4 years – Springfield Children’s Chorus
Connecticut Yankee Chorus – adult unauditioned
9 years – church chorus
12 years – college chorus
“enthusiastic”, “energetic”, “cares about who singers are”. She believes singing should be no shame, fun.
She teaches each song in layers; first rhythm, then tempo, then notes, then words.
She believes singers should not have to practice outside of rehearsal. If they have to, she has made the wrong program. She is skilled at creating an arrangement for a hard piece that brings it within the range of the chorale. She has created practice audios where necessary; for example where a chorale really wants to sing s song that is too hard for them.
She works with an accompanist in rehearsals.
Yes, but see above. She hopes singers don’t need practice materials.
She starts with the chorus’ library. I assume this is octavos plus arrangements already made for the chorale. Pick a theme for the season and then find music to fit. She attends ACDA conferences as does Nick.
She does arranging. Has done some impressive adaptions for her chorales. In a season with 12 songs she would expect to arrange 2 or 3.
Working with Guest Artists and Instrumentalists
No, she is new to eastern Mass. Would have to rely on others for intros.
Working with leadership
All of her chorales have a board of directors and some had programming committees. She has a lot of experience.
Diversity and Collaboration
Styles of Music
She has worked with a wide variety, including women composers, POC composers, dead white men composers, folk, Broadway, …
Singers and Soloists
She is thrilled to hear we sing off-book. By teaching the rhythm and tempo first, singers can stay with the song and make productive sound even if they forget the notes or words.
Concerts and Audience Participation
She is trained in and has led orchestras. She is very practiced in this.
Yes, usually does. It has to be planned, have songs in the concert repertoire that work well for this.