This past weekend Texas Tech’s University Choir under the direction of Dr. Alan Zabriskie delighted and dazzled Dallas audiences during their first choir tour of the academic year.
This trip had two main goals: to recruit future undergraduate music students and increase visibility for Texas Tech. During this trip the choir sang for nine high schools—between 500-600 students—and answered questions about what it means to be a music major or a non-music major in a university-level choir. Rami O'Brien, a fourth-year baritone, said, “The opportunity to share our passion with one another and with high school students in such an intimate way is invaluable to me. I can't pinpoint a best moment from the trip because the entire trip was filled with precious memories that will stay with me for my whole life. We also just sounded sublime in those cathedrals.” UChoir also performed three evening concerts that were free and open to the general public and gave some of the high school choruses the opportunity to share the stage with them. In anticipation of the concerts, third-year soprano Erin Miller said, “I am most looking forward to sharing our music and inspiring students to become involved in music and in choir.”
Recruitment tours are not new to TTU's UChoir. In 2018, they traveled to the Dallas area for performances and, last academic year, the tour took them to Amarillo, Midland, and Odessa. Trips like this can help choir members get to know one another, which creates more unity among the singers. Addison Acosta, a fourth-year soprano in UChoir, shared that her favorite moment on this recruiting trip came during the song, “Morgen,” a piece arranged for mixed voices by Patrick Vu, a TTU graduate student in conducting. She expressed that during a particular moment in this song she experienced catharsis and a closeness with the other singers around her.
There are several factors that go into planning a trip of this size. The biggest difficulty is finding venues where the choir can sing while keeping in mind the availability of high schools in the area. While on this trip, UChoir visited two high schools during the school day, with an additional seven high schools joining UChoir at their evening concerts. The high school choirs were given a 15-minute window in which to perform a few pieces before joining the audience to listen to UChoir's presentation of its program “The Sea is Calm Tonight.” Following the concerts, audience members, including all of the high schoolers, had the opportunity to interact further with choir members, which Dr. Zabriskie stated was his favorite moment of the experience.
Another challenge in a tour like this is planning and choosing the program. “I work to make sure that the music showcases the amazing talent of the singers in the University Choir. Additionally, I work to create a program that follows a story or thematic arc so that the concert is cohesive. An added level of excitement this year is that we get to feature three pieces composed by Dr. Fischer – another great way to showcase the talent of Texas Tech,” said Dr. Zabriskie. And it seems that the tour was a success. Dr. Zabriskie said, “I don't have any specific numbers. However, several prospective students that we met while on the tour have already contacted me to find out more about majoring in music!”
Tours of this kind are vital to the continued growth of the choral department at TTU. Christopher Markgraf, a third-year bass, illustrated the importance of choral music: “Singing in the University Choir at Texas Tech has been one of the biggest privileges I've experienced since my arrival in the fall of 2021. In the short amount of time I have been here I feel that I've made strong, life-long relationships. These experiences and relationships are thanks to opportunities like this tour, and the unique wonder of choral music-making that forms cohesiveness and unity through song.”
UChoir will be performing their Dallas Tour program “The Sea is Calm Tonight” on Sunday, October 29 at 7:30 in the Crickets Theater at the Buddy Holly Performing Arts Complex. Please come support UChoir and treat yourself to an evening of celestial music!