Texas Tech University

Student Highlight: David Warren

Master of Music - Choral Conducting, TTU School of Music

David Warren

“Home away from home” is how David Warren, a native of London, England, describes his experience as graduate student in Texas Tech School of Music. David, who did his undergraduate studies at Cambridge, is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Choral Conducting and holds a teaching assistantship with the Matador singers and University singers. David is also the Assistant Organist at First Methodist Church.

What brought you to Texas Tech?

“I have had a passion for choral music since my middle school years as a cathedral chorister at Westminster Abbey. Accompanying choirs from the organ bench then drove me to and through undergraduate music, at the end of which - as part of something of a tradition from my alma mater dating to the 1980s - I found myself applying both to study conducting at Tech, and to play the organ at First United Methodist Church (FUMC) on Broadway. Whilst working as an organist is the traditional route in the UK toward choir directorship, it is widely recognized that US collegiate programs offer a better codified training, with Texas as a capital. Importantly, the Red Raiders got the seal of approval from a friend back home who follows American sport!”

What has been your favourite experience of your teaching and professional career so far?

“The University Choir toured to Midland, Odessa and Dallas last year. At the end of each concert, the choir, and those of several local high schools, joined together to sing the last piece together. It was a privilege to sit at the piano and see the inspiration on the faces of the students, some of whom thanked us for reshaping their aspirations.

My favourite aspect of teaching in the TTU choral program has been the rich diversity of music - the first two days of this week offer just one example:

  • On Monday, I sang with the University Choir, directed the University Singers, accompanied the Matador Singers and lead a rehearsal with the opera chorus.
  • On Tuesday, after more University Choir, I co-directed the Lubbock Chorale. Each group has a different sound, dynamic and choice of music, so I really enjoy putting on different hats.

Each group has a different sound, dynamic and choice of music, so I really enjoy putting on different hats.

Perhaps my fondest musical memory was touring to the Sidney Opera House when I was 11; it was part of the experience that inspired me to be where I am today.”

Talk about your involvement with both the TTU Music Program and the FUMC Music program.

“During semester, I juggle studying for my MM in conducting, a choral area Teaching Assistantship, and working as the Assistant Director of Music at First United Methodist Church. This means my days can be a little full, with a minimum of 18 weekly rehearsals, not including weekend retreats, concerts, conducting seminars or solo recitals… or classes. In some, I just sing or play piano, so I have a great opportunity to learn from other directors. There are some extraordinary role models both at TTU and FUMC. The two environments really complement each other both as learning resources and as a ‘home from home.”

Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing an advanced degree abroad.

“Perhaps this is particularly stark in music, but I doubt that it is: one of the main advantages is seeing a very different perspective in some very basic elements of my field. Whilst the content is largely the same, the pedagogical method and research choices can be arrestingly different, profoundly changing ones outlook. Similarly, American or other international colleagues may be just as interested in your perspective, sparking a debate!

This applies to culture too; it's fascinating and fun to talk about sports, for example, in a different way. (I'd never even heard of tailgating back home where collegiate sport never gets televised, and wearing university branded clothing is almost frowned upon.) Not to mention Texmex, barbeque, (which back home means an outside ‘grill,') Chiltons and many other West Texan delicacies.

The difference in time-zone can however, be disheartening, especially when in need of a spontaneous chat with a high-school friend, for example; they may well be asleep! The various pieces of documentation that needed setting up upon arrival in the US could be time-consuming and frustrating, too, but once set up, required little attention.”

What advice can you give to other international graduate students?

“Take the time to call home- be it to parents, family or friends; there should always be a way to prioritise oneself and one's wellbeing, even in the weeks that feel like there is not a second to spare, especially with a heavy teaching schedule.

Bury your roots deep- be it through a society, classmates or fellow internationals you really engage with – and get involved. The graduate centre is a truly welcoming environment, and the events they hold are great ice-breakers. It can feel isolating to be starting out abroad, especially coming straight from undergraduate study, so finding your place is important.”