Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles (2005)
M.A., UCLA (1999)
B.A., UCLA (1997)
A.A., Palomar College (1994)
My Love for Teaching
My teaching philosophy can be summed up into this: Bring all of who you are and actively practice being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
At Lafayette, I teach vocal music ensembles and lecture courses. My classes are very hands-on and discussion-based; it’s hard to be in one of my courses and hide in the background. But that doesn’t mean folks can’t be shy in my courses, either. In the choirs, I believe in taking deliberate low-stakes risks in every rehearsal. These can be as simple as turning to your neighbor and saying hello, answering a question in class, or proposing an idea that nobody else has proposed. I like to mix things up, put students in different places physically, have them meet different people within the ensemble, try different ways of singing or interpreting a song. This is all so that, by the time we get to a performance, the students have already practiced being in new spaces, perhaps feeling nervous, and they also have learned how adaptable and resilient they are in these spaces with these feelings. By the time they perform, they are ready to feel more comfortable in a new environment in front of lights and an audience, and they are ready to sing stories in a way that makes a real impact.
Traditionally, in choirs and other music ensembles, the conductor is the ‘supreme leader,’ and the ensemble does the best they can to replicate and match the sound that’s in the conductor’s mind’s ear. The tradition started in Europe, and it has been done this way for hundreds of years. However, that’s not what I subscribe to in my classes.
I am not about standing up in front and lecturing at the students; I’m all about the collective. Everyone has an empowered place here, and together we are a strong community of storytellers. My goal as a teacher is to help students find where they are comfortable and understand that that comfort zone can be expanded. A mantra in my class is that everything will feel awkward until it is no longer awkward! I believe we have the opportunity to share ideas and perspectives with one another, to share stories with one another, and to get to know each other through the rehearsal process. We decide together: What are the stories we want to tell? How do we want to tell these stories? We have an active practice of lifting marginalized voices through composition and song lyrics. I want my students to know that whatever they bring is enough to get started; and their ideas, backgrounds, and experience are all a part of what we will share with the audience. We decide together where and how we want to go as a group, and my goal is to help them go farther than they think is possible.
It’s about teaching students to value themselves and what they bring, and also recognize that everybody in the class brings value too. Through this, we grow until we all have ownership of the music, and we can collectively share that music with an audience and hopefully make an impact on them with something that is meaningful.
My Artistic Interests
I grew up with music and theater, and I always loved learning. I grew up singing and was always looking for interesting stories to tell in a song. I decided that I didn’t want to be a professional vocalist, but I did want to be a storyteller. When I was in college, I realized that, in the choir that I was in, not only did the conductor have to know everything about the music, but they had to love being with people and telling stories. They got people excited and made an impact. Every time they walked into a rehearsal room, I as a student was impacted. I would leave rehearsal with more energy than I came in with, no matter how tired I was. And I realized that being a conductor was something that combines everything I love to do. So now I get to find interesting stories to tell, help students learn how to tell a really expressive story, help them tell their own stories, and lift up my students. I absolutely love how, in music and art, everybody wins all the time.
I love teaching at Lafayette because the students here are curious, interested, and want to be challenged. I love helping students here recognize how much creative potential they have, beyond just their brain. Everybody here already knows they’re smart, but there’s so much that they can do with that. I like that I get to work with students who want to jump in, mess things up, and create turbulence so that they can bring new things to life and bring about change.
I’ve been at Lafayette for 17 years now, and something that I learned a long time ago is that you can do almost anything you want here. If you have an idea, if you want to do something that’s new, different, innovative, or experimental, Lafayette offers you the freedom to be able to try that. Lafayette trusts me as a teacher to take my students wherever they can go, whether that’s trying an innovative approach to rehearsals or a concert, trying new kinds of music, or using new technology. As a teacher, I can create anything—I just have to dream big enough to know what that is, be strategic and figure out how to make it happen, and then be willing to put in the work. That is something worth modeling for students. That is a wonderful place to be.
Awards and Honors
Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, Lafayette College (2023)
Daniel H. Weiss Award for Leadership and Vision, Lafayette College (2022)
Lafayette Alumni Association Award (2017)
Daniel H. Weiss Award for Leadership and Vision, Lafayette College (2015)
James Crawford Teaching Award, Lafayette College (2014)
Conducting Fellowship, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Yale School of Music (2009)
Outstanding Woman in Education Award, Los Angeles Valley College (2004)
Undergraduate Academic Achievement Award, School of Arts and Architecture, UCLA (1997)
Grants and Endowments
Sherman Fairchild Foundation, Arts & Technology grant (2022) ($500,000)
The Presser Foundation, Williams Center for the Arts Renovations grant (2020) ($50,000)
Andrew W. Mellon, Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium grant (2018) ($17,500)
Kern Family Foundation, Explore, Test, and Strengthen the Meta-Mindset Model as the Process of Entrepreneurial Thinking (2017-2018) ($425,000)
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grants (2018, 2016)
Sheng Family Music Endowment (2017)
Association of Performing Arts Professionals/Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Islamic Studies Building Bridges grant (2016-2018) ($204,000)
The Hearst Foundations, for commissions and residencies associated with my book In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States (2014-2019) ($50,000)
In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States. University of Illinois Press, July 2013; paperback 2014
My Personal Interests/Community Work
I’m a cabaret singer, I’m a folk singer, and I play guitar. I also love to travel. I teach a class called Road Trip Mixtape, which looks at historic roads around the country and delves into the music along those roads, and the people who created that music. We look at Indigenous populations, African American populations, and immigrants, and we piece together the soundscape of the United States from its origins to contemporary music, one road at a time. The reason I started that class is because I’ve done a lot of traveling around this country, up into Canada, and on backroads. It’s one of my real loves to see how people live, what makes people tick, what’s important to them, and what their stories are. And so I bring those experiences into my classroom.
Concert Performance Tours to Portugal, Costa Rica, Italy, and California
At the Forks by Libby Larsen. Commissioned major work and conducted world premiere for chorus, orchestra, soloists, and folk instruments with Emmet Cahill, tenor, Concord Chamber Singers, Lafayette Chamber Singers, and professional orchestra. First Presbyterian Church, Easton, Pa., 2019
Mass of the Children by John Rutter. Performed with Concord Chamber Singers, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, and professional orchestra. Foy Hall, Bethlehem, Pa., 2018
Swara Leela (Divine Play of Notes) by Hasu Patel. Commissioned major work and world premiere for sitar, tabla, orchestra, and chorus. This is the first composed work of its genre in the world. Mainstage, Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College, 2017
The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass by Carol Barnett. Performed with Concord Chamber Singers and instrumentalists, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem, Pa., 2015
Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea by Gabriela Lena Frank. Commissioned major work and conducted world premiere with Andrew Garland and Susanna Eyton-Jones soloists, Molly Morkoski and Holly Roadfeldt pianists, Chiara String Quartet, Lafayette Choirs and Concord Chamber Singers. Mainstage, Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College, 2014
“With a Song in Her Heart,” presenting several composers from my book In Her Own Words, including Emma Lou Diemer’s Mass, Jennifer Higdon’s somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond, Shulamit Ran’s Shirim L’Yom Tov, and featuring Joan Tower’s No longer very clear. Performed with Concord Chamber Singers, Holly Roadfeldt and Anna Maria Marzullo, piano, Larry Stockton, percussion, Foy Hall Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pa., 2013
“Acoustic Voice / Digital Blend,” presenting the premiere Back to the Heart-Planet by Svjetlana Bukvich-Nichols for acoustic voice and electronics; and original modern arrangements of Renaissance madrigals and chansons in collaboration with members of the Lafayette Computer Science Department. Performed with Lafayette College Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, live computer, amplified trio. Mainstage, Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College, 2012
Mulgrew Miller Commissions: Second Thoughts, Bop Line, Tomorrow, Affirmation, Frozen Rivers, and What Did You Do Today, commissioned works by jazz pianist/composer Mulgrew Miller. The conducted world premiere concert was performed with the Lafayette Concert Choir and jazz combo including Miller on piano. Mainstage, Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College, 2009