LOS ANGELES (February 15, 2017) – The National Children’s Chorus (NCC), America's leading treble chorus, proudly announces an exciting and unique educational partnership with the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC). Designed to further train select young conductors in its graduate program in choral conducting, the new initiative will provide USC students with two positions annually on the NCC's artistic staff. In the 2016/17 season, USC doctoral student Alexander Lloyd Blake has been appointed the NCC's first assistant conductor, and later this spring, a second assistant conductor will be named to begin in the fall.
USC is very pleased with the new partnership forged with the NCC," said Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe, Chair of Choral and Sacred Music at USC. "It will provide an exceptional opportunity for the finest of our doctoral students to work with an outstanding organization under the guidance of a wonderful staff. Our students, our department and USC look forward to working with the NCC to continue developing the choral culture throughout the Southern California region, and beyond."
In the midst of remarkable growth and expansion, NCC leadership has long realized the need for top-level professional talent in ensuring the finest training for its young singers, who now number more than 600 nationwide. NCC Artistic Director Luke McEndarfer views this partnership as an opportunity to provide key learnings for aspiring graduate level conductors to work in a professional organization and see everything that is involved from a unique behind-the-scenes perspective.
“As a strong supporter of the NCC, I was happy to facilitate this special collaboration that equally benefits both organizations in a substantial way,” said USC/Thornton Board Councilor Michael L. Tenzer. “The USC Thornton/NCC partnership will foster talent from all ages and further encourage development of the next generation, who stand to make an impact on the world.”
In his role as assistant conductor, Blake works alongside McEndarfer overseeing and executing rehearsals of the Premier Ensemble and Scholars, NCC's acclaimed college-prep SATB choir. Blake will be present at all sessions, facilitating a superlative rehearsal experience for the students, providing musical assistance to the director, while at the same time being available to step in and conduct if required. As part of the partnership, Blake will take the stage for the first time at Royce Hall, conducting two pieces in what will be his debut performance. The second assistant conductor joining the team later this year will be assigned to work with Associate Artistic Director Dr. Pamela Blackstone and the two choruses she directs.
The educational alliance was formed last summer among Dean of the USC/Thornton School of Music Robert Cutietta, USC Board Councilor Michael L. Tenzer, former NCC Director of Development Vanessa Butler and Thornton School of Music's choral department, led by Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe. Tenzer also played an integral role introducing the NCC to its first assistant conductor, Blake.
“While most graduate school programs shape students’ musical sensibilities and conducting abilities, there are a vast number of skills that can only be taught on the job. I have found that many choral conductors are given the daunting task of successfully leading organizations, which requires an entirely different skill set that goes far beyond the baton,” said McEndarfer. “The NCC is a wonderful place to observe the building of a world-class performing arts program from the ground up and we are elated to be working with USC. We want to share that knowledge by empowering the brightest and most promising graduate students who will go out into the world and achieve their dreams."
The National Children’s Chorus is designed to help children discover their musical ability and creativity by supporting healthy vocal development within a comprehensive curriculum. Through intensive choral training and high-profile performance experiences in some of the nation's premier venues, students learn discipline and leadership skills while developing their passion for music.
“One of NCC’s main goals is to expose young singers to as many great musical minds as possible, while maintaining a consistent approach to their vocal training," said Cristina Demiany NCC’s Executive Director. "By the time a student graduates from the NCC, the collective knowledge they have gained from a wide range of instructors covering vast areas of expertise is simply extraordinary. Each year, we enrich the program and are thrilled to have formed a relationship with USC. The new partnership will prove beneficial not only to our students in the present moment, but also build the choral community into which they are growing."
With NCC steadily developing in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C, the program will continue investing in high-level talent to help run its growing organization. This January, the NCC appointed Tucker Wheatley as its first assistant conductor in New York. Wheatley, a conducting graduate from the Manhattan School of Music, will be performing the same rehearsal duties as Blake in Los Angeles, and looks forward to working with the Premier Ensemble's gifted students.
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The National Children’s Chorus, under the leadership of Artistic Director Luke McEndarfer and Associate Artistic Director Dr. Pamela Blackstone, is quickly establishing itself as America’s leading treble chorus, with a set of ensembles based in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Performing locally and abroad, the National Children’s Chorus is one of few youth arts organizations in the world to have its concert series presented by professional music halls.