Q: How did you become a musician? What is your background?
A: My professional biography has to start with supportive parents (thank you Mother and Dad!) and teachers and mentors in my home town. Though small, Pensacola Florida really had a surprising number of fine professional musicians, who taught me and gave me opportunities to perform with the Pensacola Symphony and the New Orleans Philharmonic.
My degree work was mostly in piano: a Bachelor’s in performance at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the Master’s in performance at the Juilliard School in New York, and then back to Catholic University for a DMA in pedagogy. Piano never was my only instrument, though: I played cello for regional symphony orchestras and contracted engagements, and studied cello with Joel Krosnick and Shirley Tabachnick.
I was encouraged to try organ by a Juilliard friend, Lisa Mitchell, and then later by Mary Ann Willow who directs music at Silver Spring United Methodist and is one of my most-admired musicians. I studied organ for several years with Dale Krider. He helped me earn my service playing and colleague certifications from the American Guild of Organists. I’ve enjoyed 20 years’ experience in the Washington D. C. area serving churches as organist and then as choir and music director, most recently at Good Shepherd United Methodist in Silver Spring, and at Ashton United Methodist Church.
Q: What is your favorite music?
A: I have a deep affection for sacred choral works, and I have performed in so many of these that it almost amounts to a specialization . . . Requiems by Mozart – Verdi – Faure – Durufle – Brahms, Rutter – Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and cantatas. It’s a long list including Christmas works, Glorias for the Easter season, and Mass settings which have been features of my professional life. I have engaged these works as either organist, piano accompanist, or orchestral cello player.
Q: What is your favorite organ repertoire?
A: I am organist at the University of Maryland Chapel. There I often play classical music for audiences who’ve never heard an organ, but they enjoy high energy and accessible works like toccatas, Bach’s Little Fugue in G minor, and Handel’s Water Music.
When I play for a worship service the needs are different: selections can unify the pastor’s theme or coordinate with hymns in the service. I also enjoy playing transcriptions of music that people know and love: Vivaldi Seasons and other concerti, arias from Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and Mozart and Faure choral works can be a great fit with either the season or the liturgical year.
Q: What is your perspective as a choir director?
A: My approach to choir directing is influenced by my instrumentalist background in terms of techniques. I must recognize, though, that a choir is so much more than a collective instrument. Church choirs are a joy because the singers truly have as much invested as the director, they know it is a privilege to be up there leading liturgy and encouraging congregational song.
A good team can bring out the best in one another, and in me.
The variety of choral music out there is incredible, but a choir needs a core repertoire, fitting the church calendar, which can be rotated on a regular basis. This rotation, once established, be it a 2-year plan or some other outline, gives the choir freedom to undertake new projects, engage new styles and skills and enjoy their work on a deeper level.
Q: Do you teach, or hold positions besides your work in church music?
A: My husband and I help teach and co-direct the Maryland Christian Youth Band and Orchestra. Our partner and dear friend, Robert Fogleman, administers and conducts the bands. The MCYBO has about 130 students now, and is one of the premier Christian instrumental programs in Maryland. Ashton United Methodist Church graciously allows us use of its classrooms to teach and rehearse. This really has become a fulfilling development for us, professionally and as parents ourselves, and we are grateful to have all these students and their families supporting our efforts and seeing our kids make progress.
Q: Would you still choose music if you started over?
A: Well, they say it chooses you! It can be a difficult career path, and requires a lot of faith. Some musicians become frustrated by competition for opportunities, or economics, or popular culture. But I have no regrets about choosing music. I get rewards every day seeing a child learning to play an instrument, or a random group of folks becoming a choir. The tools of my trade are suited to serve the very purpose of life: to glorify God and enjoy the gifts He created.
Whether I am teaching lessons or leading worship, performing at the Maryland Chapel or just singing in my home church congregation, music is food for my spirit every day of my life. The texts of hymns and oratorios have actually sunk more deeply into my memories than the Bible verses which inspired them. Who has ever heard Handel’s Messiah and then can read the prophet Isaiah or Luke’s nativity story without hearing Handel’s melodies? That might be an inversion, but it’s apparent that God created music as a very mysterious bridge between our minds and our hearts. So, yes, I’d do it again.