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First Choristers Guild Institute is taking place at Louisville Seminary

Jul 11, 2009
The three-year certification course is being directed by Rebecca Thompson and will be hosted through Louisville Seminary’s Lifelong Learning program.

By Toya Richards Hill

Choral directors of young singers in churches and church schools will have an opportunity, for the first time, to earn certification specific to their craft at the Choristers Guild Institute taking place at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The Seminary, through their Lifelong Learning and Advanced Degrees program headed by Rev. Dr. David R. Sawyer, will host the first of a three-summer certification program of the Choristers Guild, a Christian organization for leaders of children's choirs and youth choirs. The Choristers Guild Institute will take place July 26-31 on the Seminary campus.

Although various certification programs exist for musicians serving in public schools, “there is no such program for those who direct children’s choirs in the church,” said Rebecca Thompson, Director of the Institute.

Thompson is also Founding Director of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, past Children's Chorus Mistress for the Los Angeles Music Center Opera Company, and former Associate Director of the Appalachian Children’s Chorus in West Virginia. Her community based choirs have toured internationally, won national competitions, been honored to sing at Kodaly and American Choral Director's Association National Conventions, and appeared in films and commercials. She has conducted festivals and workshops in more than 30 states.

With more than 30 years experience in choral arts, Thompson has helped shape the Institute’s three-year curriculum, which will give participants an understanding of how to help children and young singers enhance worship in their congregations. Participating directors will acquire knowledge of the child’s voice and the adolescent’s changing voice, and the curriculum will help directors improve choral rehearsal and conducting techniques and expand their understanding of global music and of various worship styles.

The certification program was designed and is being implemented with the assistance of funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. through a Worship Renewal Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Rebecca Thompson, who also is the spouse of Louisville Seminary President Rev. Dr. Dean K. Thompson, said the Institute already is booked to capacity.

“We have a long waiting list, which proves that there is a need,” she said.

World-class faculty will provide instruction for the Institute, including Dr. Anton Armstrong, the Harry R. and Thora H. Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College; Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Professor of Church Music at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University; Madeline Bridges of Belmont University; and the Rev. Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes, Assistant Professor of Worship and Preaching at Louisville Seminary.

Dr. Helen Kemp, founding member of the Choristers Guild and Professor Emerita of Voice and Church Music at Westminster Choir College, also will present the inaugural address of the Helen Kemp Lecture Series.

“At Louisville Seminary, we are trying to create partnerships, expand our dialogue, and practice what we preach,” said Carvalhaes, who is also co-organizer of “Borders and Beyond: Worship & the Arts Conference 2009,” taking place July 22-25 at Louisville Seminary.

“By hosting the … Choristers Institute for this first time, we believe that we can expand our thinking and practices by learning with them how to worship God and serve better the church of Christ,” he said.

The Choristers Guild, formed in 1949 in Los Angeles, Calif., provides direct assistance to children’s choir and youth choir directors through such things as training and educational opportunities, published resources, and national office support.

This new Institute program is “part of the growth process” of the Choristers Guild, said Jim Rindelaub, Guild executive director. Coming to Louisville Seminary provides a spiritual element and the warmth of a Christian seminary campus, enabling “a deeper experience” than what might take place in a more generic location, he said.

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