After dinner on Wednesday, a few of my friends and I decided to take advantage of the honor choir rehearsals going on at the Salt Palace Convention Center and obtain some quality observation hours with a brilliant conductor. Dr. Andre Thomas is conducting the ACDA High School Mixed Honor Choir this year, and we were lucky enough to be able to sit in on the group's second rehearsal. Dr. Thomas is extremely accomplished in the field of choral music and has conducted in practically every major performance hall in the world. He is renowned for his charisma, his technique, and his extensive musical knowledge. My friends and I knew we couldn't pass up this opportunity to watch him work.
Dr. Thomas had such demand of the choir during this rehearsal; the students were attentive and respectful at all times. Which is not to say that they weren't having fun! Quite the contrary: they were having a blast, laughing and singing and dancing and communicating with each other. I found myself thinking back fondly to my high school festival experiences, and I was happy to see these students having a rewarding experience as well. There was a strong sense of community in the room, and it was beautiful.
I observed that Dr. Thomas used a lot of hand motions and other movements to help the singers to keep a steady pulse, and I noticed that feeling that sense of motion from one beat to the next seemed to be really helpful for the high schoolers. Dr. Thomas also incorporated lots of repetition of individual sections into the rehearsal, which allowed the students to memorize the music naturally and gradually. After a certain number of repetitions of a passage, he would ask the choir to sing it from memory, and by that point, without fail, the notes would have been engraved in the students' brains without them even realizing it. Dr. Thomas created a rehearsal environment that was both productive and relaxed; the students were clearly learning a lot and enjoying themselves immensely. I am so glad that I was able to see such a prominent leader of the choral world up close and in person!
-Juliana Child, Ithaca College '18
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