Blog Post

Choral Music Experience Institute: A week of professional development and so much more!

Energizing! Inspiring! Affirming!

Those are three words that describe my professional development week this past June 16 – 21 at the Choral Music Experience Institute at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan.

CME Artistic Director, Dr. Sandra Snow, Associate Director, Lee Kesselman, composer-in-residence, Dr. Andrea Ramsey, faculty members Dr. Meredith Bowen and Dr. Jennifer Sengin, comprised the all-star team of master artists/educators. It was a privilege to spend a week with these incredibly skilled, generous, compassionate people. Every session of every day was engaging, informative, joyful and highly valuable!

One of our favourite pieces to learn and share in Cantiamo is Andrea Ramsey’s Letter from a Girl to the World (which the Apprentice and Girls Choirs performed together in our concert this past June with guest speakers from the Training and Primary choirs).

It was great to meet Andrea and learn about her, her family, her inspirations and approaches to composing. We sang a number of Andrea’s pieces during the week and I am excited to program some of these next season! I have found that so much of who a composer is comes through in their music. My experience with Andrea’s music is that it is rich in warmth, empathy, beauty and strength of spirit. My experience meeting Andrea is that these elements in her music are indeed a reflection of these elements in her. I was a pleasure and honour to meet Andrea!

Sandra Snow, Lee Kesselman, Meredith Bowen and Jennifer Sengin are an outstanding team. The level of professionalism combined with the supportive, down-to-earth nature of the entire team created an environment for optimal learning and joyful interactions among all involved. We all sang, conducted, critiqued, discussed, shared, reflected, laughed, danced and had a productive, satisfying week.

We were so fortunate to be able to work with a stellar choir of young women much the same as our own Cantiamo Girls Choir. These singers were mature, well-prepared, engaged, supportive, focused, responsive, patient and very talented. I really enjoyed making music with them and hearing the comments and insights they shared with all of us.

The course had about 20 participants (only two Canadians – me and one other from Hamilton) of varying ages and experience. Everyone was very friendly, open to experimenting with new ideas, and completely supportive of one another. We became a very close group very quickly – but then, that is what happens when people sing together in this excellent environment!

The university campus was so beautiful and the half hour walk from the dorms to the course building passed along a river with ducks, geese, huge trees (I had never seen a Weeping Beech tree before! Spectacular! I had to go and stand underneath it for a few moments – incredible!) and many flowers. Even on the rainy days, it was still a delightful way to start and end the day!

I have come home with lots to reflect upon. I learned new things, revisited past knowledge and refreshed current ways of working. I strongly believe in ongoing learning! We all deserve to keep learning new things, meeting new people, challenging ourselves to move into the “unfamiliar zone” and at the same time, share our knowledge and ideas with others.

We are so fortunate that the choral community is a healthy, collaborative environment with the common goal of sending beauty into the world. I am excited to go into our next choral season and share new ideas, gestures, stories and repertoire with our Cantiamo choristers and I am excited to recommend the CME Institute to my colleagues so they can also feel energized, inspired and affirmed!

Yours in song,

Jackie Hawley
Founding Artistic Director: Cantiamo Choirs of Ottawa

Founding Artistic Director: Nipitt Katittut – Voices United