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SUNY to bring acclaimed conductor to campus

Dr. Stephen Gusukuma

Dr. Stephen Gusukuma, who conducts ensembles across the U.S. and around the world and is known as “very inspiring,” will be the guest clinician at the annual Choral Music Festival at the State University of New York at Fredonia in late February.

During the School of Music’s two-day festival, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 24, Dr. Gusukuma will work with members of three choirs in a master class on Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., and an open rehearsal, from 1 to 3 p.m. Both sessions will be held in the Juliet J. Rosch Recital Hall, and are free and open to the public.

The Fredonia High School chorus, which is under the direction of 2015 SUNY Fredonia graduate Ryan Shanahan, will join the festival for the second year in a row.

Students who comprise the Chamber Choir, College Choir and Camerata, along with the high school chorus, will experience different pedagogical techniques, voice building and interpersonal communication skills during workshop, master class and rehearsal sessions led by Gusukuma, Huff explained.

Each ensemble will receive exclusive rehearsal time with Gusukuma on repertoire he has chosen.

A highlight and clear audience favorite of the festival, now in its 14th year, is a joint concert featuring all four ensembles on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Harry A. King Concert Hall. Each School of Music ensemble will perform three selections led by its respective conductor: Associate Professor Huff (Chamber Choir); Assistant Professor Adam Luebke (College Choir) and Camerata (Lecturer Brent Weber).

The high school chorus will sing three selections, one each by Wolfgang Mozart, Aaron Copland and Eric Whitacre.

With Gusukuma at the podium, each ensemble will perform a selection: “To Sit and Dream,” by the Chamber Choir; “Come to Me, My Love,” by the College Choir; and “Love Arrives,” by the Camerata. All four ensembles, numbering approximately 170 total students that will fill the King stage, will be directed by Gusukuma in the concert’s final selection, “You Do Not Walk Alone,” by Elaine Hagenberg.

Tickets for the afternoon concert are $8 general admission, and free to SUNY Fredonia students, and can be purchased at the Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center and also at the door the day of the concert.

Before becoming the director of choral activities at Furman University, Gusukuma led numerous choral ensembles and taught almost the full gamut of vocal ensembles, choral conducting, methods and literature at undergraduate and graduate levels at Baylor University. He is the Bingham L. Vick Jr. and Judith S. Vick Assistant Professor of Music at Furman.

“I’ve heard he’s a brilliant conductor, one that many of my colleagues say is very inspiring to students. They have seen him and I’ve heard wonderful things about him, so I couldn’t wait to get him here,” said School of Music Director of Choral Activities Vernon Huff. Huff earned his baccalaureate degree in Music Education at Furman.

Gusukuma has conducted at top tier venues that include the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and was a conducting fellow at the Lisbon Summer Choir Fest. He holds a D.M.A. in Choral Conducting from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and M.M. and B.M. degrees, both in Music Education, from Baylor. He is an active conductor, clinician and adjudicator.

Not only do the high school students learn from the guest clinician and interact with him in a rehearsal setting, they can also interact with undergraduate students, experience a collegiate rehearsal and learn more about the School of Music and the campus, Huff said.

Opportunities for high school students to collaborate with college musicians at a festival level and sing under the direction of an established guest clinician are rare, Mr. Shanahan said. Music festivals are usually reserved for only county and statewide organizations or are extracurricular summer festivals.

“Our high school students cherished last year’s participation, and are excited to return. As an alumnus of SUNY Fredonia’s music program, it is a personal point-of-pride for my students to learn and grow from the high caliber student musicians and faculty at SUNY Fredonia’s School of Music,” Shanahan said.

Funding support of the festival is provided by the Carnahan Jackson Fund for the Humanities through the Fredonia College Foundation, the School of Music and the American Choral Directors Association.

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