Master’s program in choral conducting begins this summer


by Jonathan Facio, Layout Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — After five years, Simpson is offering a new opportunity in the world of music: A master’s program in choral conducting will begin this summer.

Tim McMillin, professor of music and department chair of the music program, is one of three primary faculty members. He is joined by Philip Moody, the director of choral studies with CORO.

CORO is a group of 32 young vocal artists who will gain experience in an ensemble.

Matthew Oltman, assistant director of CORO and current professor of choral literature at the University of Nebraska, is also assisting with the summer program.

According to McMillin, the idea to start a master’s program in conducting started with Moody.

“There’s a need for this sort of a summers-only program,” McMillin said.

Oltman, a Simpson alumnus, put Moody in contact with McMillin, and from there the idea developed into the eight week per summer program it is today.

“The more we dug in and looked at it, the more excited we got about the possibilities and eventually, five years later, we have our first cohort arriving this summer,” McMillin said.

As of right now, there are 11 students in the first group, who range in age from their early 20s to their 60s and who are from all over the country. The maximum number of students in this year’s section is 15.

“It should be a really vibrant and exciting group of people,” McMillin said of the incoming group of students.

Senior Felicity Eward, who will participate in the program this summer, said, “I am especially looking forward to meeting new people in the specific field of choral conducting. I think it will be really nice to meet people of various ages and at various places in their lives that are all passionate about choral music.”

The primary audience for this program is music educators, a large majority of whom will be music teachers at middle and high schools. Another main audience is church and community music directors.

The program will consist of a six-week academic session, while the final two weeks will involve a choral festival in Des Moines.

“What differentiates us from a lot of summer-only programs is that we are a master of music and choral conducting program,” he said, compared to a more common Master of Arts in music education.

In the list of benefits, McMillin said, “In designing this program we made it a priority that students are getting tons of podium time.” Students will also improve conducting gesture, further their knowledge in choral literature and develop a community of fellow directors.

McMillin feels Simpson is a good place to prepare students who might pursue their masters in choral conducting.

“I feel really confident encouraging our undergraduates to take a look at this program because it’s not simply a continuation of what they’ve done in their undergraduate with the people they’ve done it with, but it’s actually quite a different experience,” he said.

While McMillin doesn’t regret the path his education took him, he said, “Had it been available, I absolutely would have looked very seriously into this program.”

Eward said she feels Simpson has prepared her well and agreed on the benefits the program offers to teachers by allowing them to continue teaching during the school year and learn through the summer.

“I am more than excited to finally start the journey,” she said.