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UB Choir and Chorus under new management

New choir director Claudia Brown brings world of experience to Buffalo

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The UB choral program is under new direction for the first time in 20 years.

Claudia Brown, a clinical assistant professor of voice and choral music, began directing the program this semester after the previous director, Harold Rosenbaum, stepped down from the role. The program consists of UB Choir and UB Chorus and ­­explores a myriad of choral works both new and old, sharing their musical conversations in rehearsal and on-stage.

Brown hopes to expand her students’ soul and spirit beyond the classroom.

“They’re meeting other students, making friends in the class and they’re becoming immersed into a musical world that works in a high standard of repertoire in their first semester here, which is really exciting,” Brown said.

As a full-time and residential choral instructor, Brown got into conducting through a volunteer program in India in 2011-12. There, Brown began travelling around South India doing choral retreats, mostly for church choirs.

“I think the experience fed into my interest in choral music; the many ways it has the ability to bring people together from different cultures,” Brown said. “When I was in a place where people weren’t speaking the same language as myself, I was still able to coach them musically.”
Brown informally directed the choir at Robinson College at the University of Cambridge before taking her position at UB.

UB Choir, an auditioned group that meets four hours a week, is separate from the chorus. The chorus is composed of roughly 80 members and open to anyone including professors and community members. In the spring, Brown will add a third collective to the program: a chamber choir focused on early music, something she’s passionate about.

John Podvezko, choir president and a second year graduate student in business administration and public health, is in his sixth year with the group. Podvezko is looking forward to the direction Brown is taking the program.
“The first time I met her was at her audition, where I was part of a quartet she conducted in front of the staff of the music program,” Podvezko said. “What first struck me about her and what continues to impress me is her energy and passion for music. She's here at all hours of the day, giving her all, both in and out of rehearsal. And it pays off. We're held to a higher standard, and the choir sounds fantastic.”

Some members of UB Choir like William Zino, a second year Ph.D. candidate in musicology, sees the commonality in Rosenbaum and Brown’s approaches to making their choirs work hard.

Zino thinks some students may underestimate what the choir can accomplish during the semester and sees the rewards and out-of-class commitment as paramount to the group.

“I treat UB Choir as my detox throughout the course of the week,” Zino said. “I do a lot of academic reading and writing, so this just gives me about four hours every week –– twice during the week –– sitting in a room with my friends, making music, gradually working together as a group to get better.”

On Friday night, UB Chorus and Choir will perform contemporary and early liturgical music from the eighth and ninth century in Slee Hall.

In addition to their performance this weekend, UB Choir and Chamber Ensemble will perform on Dec. 8 at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and on Dec. 10 at St. Joseph University Parish. UB Choir will also open for Kenny Rogers on Dec. 16 at the Center for the Arts (CFA).

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior arts editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com.


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