Westminster Jubilee Singers, Day 47
Today, I practiced for my upcoming Verdi Requiem in Richland, Washington. I talked with Justin Raffa, my friend and the conductor and Artistic Director of the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, about the details of the week in Richland, including a gala performance featuring myself and the soprano, Molly Holleran for their donors. I emailed Molly to solidify some of the repertoire options for the performance, I applied for an opera soloist audition for the first time in months, and I felt pretty great about actually doing some productive activities for my career today. Then, I read an email about a choir in trouble at my undergraduate alma mater.
Having sung in Jubilee Singers at Westminster Choir College for only one year, one might think I view it as dispensable. Not so. Because my time at Westminster came before a large change in the curriculum allowed more time in the schedules of the student body and especially those of the music education department, I simply couldn’t budget the time after my freshman year for the gospel choir. Thankfully, in that first year, I had already learned so much about rhythm, movement, improvisation, and African American musical history, I still credit Jubilee Singers for a large part of at least my musical skills to this day. Although I haven’t heard all of the current choirs at Westminster, I highly doubt any of them provide quite the same musical education and experience. I can’t imagine my life as a professional chorister without those varied skills and consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to sing with Jubilee under the direction of Donald Dumpson.
Unfortunately, if the administration goes through with their decision to change the class times and requirements for the course (the choirs at Westminster are credited courses), Donald Dumpson could no longer feasibly conduct and teach Jubilee Singers, a group he has faithfully taught for fifteen years. Additionally, the choir would meet at the same time as the other two optional choirs on campus, the Westminster Choir and the Williamson Voices, causing any students otherwise able to perform in both choirs to choose rather than benefiting from a far more well-rounded choral education. Not to mention, this change adds a Friday evening rehearsal. What student wants to give up their Friday nights after a long and packed week for a choir rehearsal?
Granted, I myself have a bit of an overboard passion for choirs and choral education – but so should an institution called Westminster Choir College! So, I heeded the advice of a good friend and wrote an email to President Rozanski expressing my concerns and asking that he help the administration to reconsider this change that would “take away an essential part of the rich and diverse heritage Westminster Choir College has to offer.” I sincerely believe that.
If you do too, please support them in person in Princeton, NJ on April 11, 2010, and follow these steps to add your voice to help save the only gospel choir available to the students at Westminster.
1. Write a letter in support of Jubilee Singers and Mr. Dumpson
2. In your letter, please stress the importance of keeping the Jubilee class on Monday evenings
3. Send the letter via email to: President Rozanski at email@example.com
4. Also send a hard copy to the same people that you email:
Westminster Choir College of Rider University
101 Walnut Lane
Princeton, NJ 08540
2083 Lawrenceville Road
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648-3099