McDonald’s departure: His musical journey continues


Luke Behaunek

McDonald is set to resign from his position in the music department.

by Ariel Clark, Staff Reporter

Bernard McDonald, Larsen Chair of Opera and Associate Professor of Music, will be resigning from Simpson College to pursue a career as a director of opera at Florida State University. 

McDonald is an active conductor, collaborative pianist, and vocal coach. He will be moving on to perform Puccini’s La Rondine with the Mobile Opera in Alabama before having his debut with Opera Orlando in Florida.

His 12 years of experience at Simpson will not be forgotten anytime soon, as he was responsible for co-founding Simpson Productions. Simpson Productions is a collaborative work of opera, musical theatre, and theatre. McDonald also initiated the Simpson College Opera Endowment Fund. The fund was inaugurated back in 2015 with the support of Nix and Virginia Lauridsen. This endowment continues to provide annual support for Simpson’s operas. 

He was also responsible for helping Simpson grow a more diverse student body. By expanding student recruitment and using his connections in places such as Colorado, Georgia, and Texas, McDonald was able to attract talented music students from all over the country.

McDonald also presided over 23 various opera productions over his years at Simpson. These production styles ranged from the 17th century to the 21st century opera, as well as classic American musical theatre. Some of his favorites include Cavalli’s La Calisto, Massenet’s Cendrillon, and The Magic Flute.

Previously, McDonald had gone to Florida State University to conduct symphony orchestra and help coach students. During his visit, he spent days talking to the various faculty that composed their orchestra and music program. “It was an exhilarating and very affirming experience,” said McDonald. This encounter would leave him with an invitation to become their director of opera.

Florida State University’s College of Music is the third-largest higher-education musical institution in the United States, harboring over 1,100 students and providing around 200 voice majors. This has attracted faculty from around the world, allowing it to grow into one of the most successful opera programs the country has to offer.

McDonald was born in Dumbarton, Scotland and has worked with major opera companies worldwide. From the New National Theatre Tokyo to Opera Kelowna in British Columbia, he has had a very diverse and experienced professional career. 

He got his bachelors in piano performance at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, before getting a Master of Music degree in musicology at the University of Glasgow. McDonald then got a doctorate of music degree for conducting at Indiana University, continuing his studies further. He would then go on to get his artist diploma in opera coaching at the University of Cincinnati before also managing to grab a degree for business management while at Simpson College.

After professional training at San Francisco Opera Merola Program, he was invited to join the staff of the New York City Opera. Afterward, he became the Head of Music and Chorus Master for the Florida Grand Opera down at Miami as well as in Glyndebourne, where he would produce over 25 productions for a group of internationally renowned conductors.

McDonald has had a whirlwind of life experience and will likely continue to do so in the future. His worldwide performances and great renown is something that will be greatly missed by the Simpson community.