Author: Kristina Lazdauskas, junior
With support from the Honors Program, I participated in the Choral Institute at Oxford this summer. The ten-day program consisted of lectures on the philosophy of music-making, masterclasses in conducting technique and culminated with a final performance in which I conducted in concert for the first time.
I applied for the Ambassadorial Grant to help me with this opportunity because I knew that it would prepare me to apply for a graduate degree in Choral Conducting in the future. My studies as a music major have focused primarily on music history and theory rather than performance. I knew that the practical experience I would gain at the Choral Institute at Oxford would complement the academic side of my major and help me put what I’ve learned in my classes at Fordham into practice.
The immersive nature of this institute was invaluable. Though I arrived having had virtually no experience, conducting daily in the masterclasses and receiving real-time critiques from conductors Dr. James Jordan and Dr. James Whitbourn helped me to improve my technique and musicianship quickly. Daily lectures on conducting delivered by music faculty from Westminster Choir College and Oxford University also helped me to gain a deeper appreciation for the philosophy behind conducting. These talks encouraged me to think critically about the way in which the conductor’s performance is influenced by their self-perception, which aligned well with the ideas about the self which I had begun exploring in my Honors Early Modern Philosophy course and which I continue to explore in the Honors’ Religion in the Modern World course. Now, I am expanding on this question of the role of the artist’s self and its impact on conducting in an independent study, and it’s one that I hope to investigate further in my research as I progress through the major.
Studying in Oxford also afforded me opportunities I couldn’t have had elsewhere. I was able to sing mass with the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church Cathedral, view original medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, and observe featured conductors in rehearsals with the Institute’s choir-in-residence. Furthermore, the program opened up to me an amazing support network of fellow conductors and singers equally interested in fostering human connection through the collaborative art of choral singing.
My experience at the Choral Institute at Oxford has been a shaping force in my studies. I’ve narrowed my research interests to the history and philosophy of conducting, and I am more confident now that I want to pursue choral conducting in graduate school. I am extremely grateful to the Honors Program for supporting me in this endeavor.