Keynote Presenter Abstracts and Bios

Ēriks Ešenvalds: Nordic Light: A multimedia symphony about the Northern Lights with legends from northern nations
Opening Plenary • Thursday, October 1 • 2:00pm
School of Music, D.F. Cook Recital Hall
Since ancient times, the Northern Lights have been the subject of many tales and legends. Some people say that they are gusts of snow stirred up by a fox’s tail. Others call them the gates to heaven for the deceased, or a tireless battle between warriors, or even a ball game in the sky in which the ball is the skull of a walrus. Several years ago, this unique legacy of the Nordic nations inspired Ēriks Ešenvalds to journey across Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and Alaska together with director Renārs Vimba and cameraman Dainis Juraga in order to document these ancient stories and the voices of nature. The expeditions have resulted in new symphony, Nordic Light. The musical message conveyed by the orchestra and the choir is supplemented with video projections featuring the legends as told or sung by various nations and shots of the Northern Lights by the Norwegian photographer Kjetil Skogli who calls himself an ‘Aurora chaser’. (Media release, April 24, 2015, describing the world premiere of Ēriks Ešenvalds’ multimedia symphony Nordic Light. Hosted by the Latvian National Opera in Riga, the work was premiered by Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and the State Choir Latvija under the direction of Māris Sirmais.)

Ēriks Ešenvalds (Latvia) has emerged as one of the most sought-after composers of his generation. Recent commissions include works for the Boston and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras, the Utah Symphony, and a new opera at the Latvian National Opera. The multimedia symphony, Nordic Light, was co-commissioned by orchestras and choirs in Latvia, Canada, the USA, Germany and the UK, for premier in Latvia in April 2015. Particularly well-known for his choral works, Ēriks has written for choirs from the UK to Japan, South Africa to the USA, and Australia to Canada. His music is regularly recorded, with the newest recording coming from the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, following a fruitful time as Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge University from 2011-2013. Ēriks is a popular public speaker, which he often combines with leading workshops on his music. Ēriks’s scores are published by Musica Baltica in partnership with Edition Peters.


Patrick K. Freer: Reclaiming group vocal instruction
Plenary II • Friday, October 2 • 12:45pm
School of Music, Suncor Energy Hall
Vocal music’s influence in music education and society is well documented. General music education began as a singing-based endeavor intended to improve singing in society. It later shifted toward an enterprise predicated on choral performance, particularly at secondary levels. The turn toward choral performance is problematic because it has pushed a large majority of students away from musical activity in school. At the same time, however, high standards of choral performance quality must continue. The question is not “who sings in our choirs” but “who does not sing at all”. A goal of this presentation is to begin a discussion about an approach to group vocal instruction wherein singing reclaims its rightful place in music education.

Patrick K. Freer (USA) is Professor of Music at Georgia State University. He is a former Interim Director of the School of Music. He holds Affiliate Faculty status with the Institute of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His degrees are from Westminster Choir College and Teachers College, Columbia University. He has guest conducted or presented in 36 states and 16 countries. Patrick is academic editor and chair of the editorial board for Music Educators Journal, the oldest and most widely circulated music education journal in the world. His recent books are Getting Started with Middle School Chorus (2nd Edition) and TIPS: The First Weeks of Middle School Chorus. He is the author of the critically acclaimed DVD series Success for Adolescent Singers and his articles are published in most of the field’s leading national and international journals.


Karen Brunssen: Advancing and broadening a 21st-century culture of informed vocal pedagogy
Plenary III • Saturday, October 3 • 8:30am
School of Music, D.F. Cook Recital Hall
The 21st century offers instant and easy access to information about vocal pedagogy practices and research. It is a reasonable requisite that those who work with singers use concepts and phraseology that are more fact-based. Courses, conferences, journals, websites, books, and curriculum in colleges and universities should trend to reach a broader audience that includes singers, educators, collaborative pianists, composers, and conductors.   Generally lacking in our study of the voice is a “lifetime” understanding of how the voice changes over the course of a lifetime. Discussion about differences in vocal function among the different genres of singing, such as classical, musical theater, jazz, gospel, pop, rock, early music, choral tone, and newer uses of the voice in compositions, has begun and needs to continue. “Vocal Pedagogy: Enhanced and Informed” can be a firm foundation for creative efforts as we advance and broaden a 21st century culture of informed vocal pedagogy.

Karen Brunssen (USA), mezzo soprano, Co-Chair of Music Performance, Associate Professor, Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University, and recipient of the Northwestern Alumni Association “Excellence in Teaching Award.” Her singing career has spanned over 30 years with recent performances of Bach Cantatas 94 and 45 at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony, and Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appetit. She has presented at the 2015 ACDA National Conference on “The Evolving Voice: The Senior Years”, in 2014 and 2012 NATS Conference on “A Lifetime of Singing” and “The Aging Voice”, was a featured presenter for NATS National Workshops on “The Evolving Voice: Profound at Every Age”, based on her article in the Choral Journal. She has done unique residencies at Cambridge University teaching lessons and choral master classes, and taught at the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Italy, the Zürcher Sing-Akademie in Switzerland, and the Castleton Festival. She is a member of the distinguished American Academy of Teachers of Singing, was presented the Weston Noble Award from Luther College, and is currently the Governor of NATS Central Region, and Program Chair for the 54th National NATS Conference.


Karmina Šilec: Choregie: New music theatre
Plenary IV • Saturday, October 3 • 2:30pm
School of Music, D.F. Cook Recital Hall
For many years Karmina Šilec has had an intense focus on performing new music in the context of stage productions. She has developed both the artistic concept and the technique of preparing ensembles to perform in music theatre. The Choregie technique is a combination of choir didactics, teambuilding, body and mind laboratory, and, voice exploratorium. It involves creative communication with motion, extended vocal techniques, imaginations, sculpting, and rituals. As a whole, the Choregie technique leads to higher performance abilities for each individual in a group as well as the ensemble itself.

Karmina Šilec (Slovenia) has brought freshness and originality to the world of vocal music and theatre, opening new spaces of expression, persuasiveness, intensity of experience, and communication. Her projects are provocative, daring; her ideas break taboos, both those of the society and music. With her Choregie concept and its innovative interventions, she has opened wider artistic spaces and set trends worldwide. She is an artistic director of Carmina Slovenica and Choregie – New Music Theatre, conductor, stage director, set designer and choreographer. She works with the most prominent festivals and artists worldwide and is considered as an interesting creative phenomenon. Karmina has received more than 20 highest international awards, among them prestigious ITI – Music Theatre Now award in category Music beyond Opera and Robert Edler award for her contribution to the world choir movement.


Julia Davids: Building bridges – Crossing borders
Plenary V • Sunday, October 4 • 11:45am
School of Music, Suncor Energy Hall
Singing can take us to unexpected places in unexpected ways, if we let it. Canadian singer, conductor, author, and educator Julia Davids has forged a career by trying to ‘have it all’ – but it hasn’t been a simple journey. Director of the Canadian Chamber Choir, yet predominantly living and working in Chicago, Illinois, Julia will share her thoughts on the challenges of post-secondary instruction, the joys of connecting singers and conductors, learning from each other, being responsible musical citizens, and making a difference in our communities. How do we see further into the horizon of what it means to sing? How can we nurture and support aspiring singers, conductors, and educators as they try to discern their paths? Successful artists and teachers of the next generations will need to build connections and cross over borders more than ever if the art of singing is to continue to be relevant.

Julia Davids (Canada/USA), DM, enjoys a thriving career as a singer, conductor, and music educator. She is Associate Professor and Stephen J. Hendrickson Director of Choral Activities at North Park University, Chicago where she directs the multiple choirs and teaches music education and conducting. She is co-author with Stephen LaTour of the acclaimed book, Vocal Technique – A Guide for Conductors, Teachers, and Singers, published by Waveland Press, and winner of the 2014 Choral Canada award for Best Choral Publication. Julia is the Artistic Director of the Canadian Chamber Choir, Music Director for the North Shore Choral Society, and Director of Music Ministries at Trinity United Methodist Church. From London, Ontario, Julia has degrees in music education, voice performance, and conducting from the University of Western Ontario, the University of Michigan, and Northwestern University.

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