‘Inspire The Choir’ workshop to feature Grammy winner and composer

The Oakland University School of Music, Theater and Dance (SMTD) will host the “Inspire The Choir” workshop on Saturday, Feb. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free and held over Zoom, Grammy Award winner Eric Whitacre and accomplished composer Stacey Gibbs will feature at the workshop.

Open to singers and music educators of all levels, the event will feature lessons and seminars from OU professors and faculty, such as Alta Boover and John-Paul White’s “Working Together While Apart” and Drake Dantzler’s “Voice Building for Young Men.”

According to Bover, the isolation of COVID-19 was the driving factor behind organizing “Inspire the Choir.”

“I think we all, in every aspect of life, have a real feeling of some fatigue,” Boover said. “Even in fields where you imagine inspiration is plentiful like the arts. We do not have a lot of our traditional ways of connecting with other musicians, with each other and with audiences. This was intended to get everybody together and talk about things that are inspiring us even when we are by ourselves in our living room.”

Since event planners expect both students and music educators in attendance, there are points in the workshop where people will have a choice between what event to attend. One such choice comes at 11 a.m. where attendees will choose between Boover and White’s or Datzler’s presentations. Events for educators count toward State Continuing Education Clock Hours.

Gibbs has spoken to OU students in the past, and Boover was particularly interested in how he can help the SMTD with introducing historically Black music into the curriculum. 

“One of the many things [Gibbs] does is he arranges and sets American spirituals,” Boover said. “This is a kind of American music where I think some people are hesitant to take ownership of it because it comes from a tradition of slavery … This is something that he has been talking about for years, so we wanted to bring him in to talk to our students and say ‘This is what this music means to us as Americans and here is how we sing it.’”

Along with Gibbs’ discussion, Whitacre will hold a question and answer session. 

Angela Bonello, an SMTD student and student ambassador for the event, is anticipated for the event.

“[It is] the kind of opportunity we are probably never going to have again,” Bonello, said. “It is just so valuable because they have experienced so much and for a lot of us, they have done what we are striving to do. It is just going to be a really valuable experience to hear what they have to say.”

Whitacre has composed and conducted performances around the world, including virtual choirs utilizing the talents of singers from over 145 countries. Gibbs has composed works for myriad performers and choirs, including the United States Air Force, the Stellenbosch Choir of Africa, the University of Southern California Chamber Singers and the Winston-Salem State University Singing Rams.

While the event is free to attend, those interested in going must RSVP to receive the Zoom links.