October 11, 2016
Wanda: I understand you recently completed all the requirements for a degree. What is the degree, and where did you study?
Sari: It’s a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from California State University Los Angeles.
W: Tell us a little about your work for this degree.
S: The program covered all areas of conducting, including vocal pedagogy, music history, music theory, conducting lessons, research, etc. There is a final project and recital required, and my project was titled “Intergenerational Family Choir: A New Idea In Choral Singing.”
W: What prompted you to pursue this area of study?
S: I conduct a community family chorus, consisting of parents, kids, grandparents and neighbors called Singing in the Rain in the Madrona neighborhood. We've been around for 12 years and are up to 70 members. It's been tremendously successful and has brought all sorts of new singers to choral music. We use a different model than any other community chorus in Seattle, and after witnessing our success, I thought it would be a good idea to document it, research what other family singing opportunities exist in the United States and share the findings with other conductors. My research was chosen to be presented at the National American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) conference in Chicago a few years ago, and five conductors from my program started family choruses of their own in their home states.
W: What did you enjoy most about working on this project?
S: I love my choir! I also really loved discovering other people doing something similar across the country. In Boston there is a Family Chorus that has had such success that they have a waiting list of over 40 families, causing other family choruses formed from people on the waiting list, to pop up all around the Boston area.
W: Was there anything that surprised you as you were working on your project?
S: I really enjoyed reading research about how American culture treats singing as something done by “singers” who have training and special knowledge, while many other cultures treat it as a human birthright, just like walking and talking, and everyone participates, building strong community and cultural identity. I believe in this second approach, that anyone can do it, and that there are big benefits to changing our views about who can and can't sing.
W: Wow – that’s great! Thank you so much for telling us about your important work!
–Wanda Griffiths, Transitional Director of Music & Organist