Carry a Tune for ESU’s Choral Program

By Eric Baum
SC Contributing Writer

The ESU choral program is open to new members.

There are three choral groups available for students to join: A Capella Ensemble, University Singer, and Concert Choir. All three groups are unique in their own way.

Choral Director Dr. James Maroney said, “Each choral group rehearses in their own two-hour period every week.

For the auditioned groups, A Cappella Ensemble and University Singers, there are several additional ‘sectional’ rehearsals in which the singers from each section meet at a convenient time for them.”

Maroney then explained how all the practice time is used: “Most importantly, we work on perfecting all the notes and rhythms for each song. Also very important are blend, style, and the fundamentals of good singing, such as breath, posture and tone. All of this helps us to achieve a real sense of ‘ensemble.’ In A Cappella Ensemble, if a song is in a foreign language, we learn proper pronunciation.”

Many things taught through the choral groups translate to practical life skills.

“It’s well-known,” said Maroney, “that those who make music tend to possess the qualities and skills that are often considered essential to employers. Music requires discipline, creativity, intelligence, and flexibility. It teaches patience and perseverance, as one can get better only though methodical work over a period of time – there are no shortcuts.”

Maroney continued, “Chorus singing is one of the best examples of true teamwork; in a performance, everyone works together in such a way that no one can tell who the better or worse singer is, yet everyone’s contribution is invaluable and helps to make up each group’s unique quality. Music creates very high standards of expectation, as any performance with an accuracy rating of, say, 90% would be considered a major failure.”

According to Maroney, despite the small size of the group, ESU’s choral program has accomplished great things.

Maroney spoke about the choral program’s past achievements, saying, “Each group has had a number of notable accomplishments, which I believe are even more impressive given that we have always had very few or no music majors in the groups. Non-majors have always made up the vast majority of the membership in every ensemble, yet we put on performances that could easily rival other colleges with a sizable number of music majors.”

A Cappella Ensemble was invited, by audition, to perform at the White House last December. This was a most distinctive honor, and believed the first time ever that ESU has been represented there by anyone.

The group was also invited, through blind audition, to perform at the PA state conference for the American Choral Directors Association in October 2011. This was the first time any ESU choral group was invited to perform at a professional music conference. Since the conference’s inception, ESU A Cappella Ensemble has been the only college choir ever invited whose membership did not consist almost entirely of music majors.

University Singers were honored a few years ago when international jazz singer Bob Dorough received his honorary doctorate at ESU. Dorough specifically requested that University Singers perform with him at the ceremony, and he arranged several of his songs just for the occasion.

Concert Choir has performed a wide array of music, and every three to four semesters the group does a major work with professional orchestra such as Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and ‘Requiem’ by Mozart.

Yet other semesters they mix it up, or concentrate on a particular style, such as when they performed a program that consisted mostly of African-American spirituals. The choral program is always changing and is always looking to the future.

Maroney said that, in the future he would like “to explore more performance opportunities on and off campus, and to keep standards as high as possible. I believe that all three choral groups represent some of the very finest student accomplishments on campus, and have done so consistently over many years. I’m grateful for the students’ hard work and commitment to excellence, and wish that students, faculty, and staff will attend our performances regularly in a show of support for artistic excellence at ESU.”

“There’s no better way to understand music than to make it,” said Maroney. “Just listening to music is usually very passive, often requiring no thought, and trying to learn about it in a book or a lecture is like learning about cooking without ever doing it!”

Maroney continued, “The great thing about choral singing is that it allows for a wide variety of talent and experience, yet we can still accomplish wonderful things. Some singers in the group have had years of significant experience, while others haven’t sung since sixth grade and want to get back into it. Yet it all works out – everyone helps each other, and the results are always very satisfying.”

For more information about the choral program, visit their website:

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