ChoralNotes, September 2018

In this issue…

  • You’re Invited! Find out more about our first annual Season Kick-Off Party, coming up this Sunday, September 16! RSVP up until Friday!

  • We’re just $1,592 away from reaching our $30,000 fundraising goal!

  • Meet our newest addition, Conducting Intern Brian Cook!

  • Announcing: Houston Chamber Choir Youth Ambassadors, a new experience for students!

  • Coming up… A preview of our opening concert, This Is Why I Sing!

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Meet Conducting Intern, Brian Cook

This season the Chamber Choir is introducing a conducting internship for graduate and doctoral level students that will provide hands-on training in nonprofit administration and executive management, as well as the opportunity to conduct and learn under the leadership of Houston Chamber Choir Founder and Artistic Director, Robert Simpson. Interns will spend time with Houston Chamber Choir staff and artists and will conduct select pieces at ticketed performances. University of Houston doctoral student, Brian Cook, is our first conducting intern! We are absolutely thrilled to work with him. Get to know him a little better below!

Grace Roman: Brian, we're so excited to have you as our new conducting intern! Can you tell us a little more about your background and your journey to Houston?

Brian Cook: Well, sure! First, may I just say what an honor it is to be associated with this fantastic organization. This is my second stint in the Houston area, and when we first moved here nearly ten years ago, it wasn’t long before I heard about the Houston Chamber Choir and I have been a fan ever since! That was during the time I was working on a master’s degree at the University of Houston. When I graduated from UH, I taught public school in Cy-Fair and Klein. I took a position in my home state of Colorado for three years, but now I’m back at UH pursing a Doctorate degree and trying to make the most of the fantastic arts and music culture of the Bayou City.

GR: You have such a passion for the choral arts! What initially drew you to this art form and what made you want to pursue conducting as your career?

BC: I’ve been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. My mom taught me piano at a young age and my dad directed a healthy community choir in Denver for the first 14 years of my life. I was a soprano in the Colorado Children’s Chorale through middle school, and I can’t say enough about what that organization did to expose me to quality music and, really, quality conductors. In middle school, I was regularly singing with the Colorado Symphony (Marin Alsop was the conductor at the time), Opera Colorado, and touring extensively with the Children’s Chorale throughout the US and abroad. So it’s really written into my DNA. In my undergrad, I knew I wanted to be a conductor when I consistently caught myself walking around campus, waving my arms in front of some imaginary choir. I got more than a few funny looks from passersby!

GR: You'll be conducting a couple pieces on the Chamber Choir's opening concert this season, This Is Why I Sing! We can't wait! Can you tell us a little more about these pieces and what makes them special?

BC: I have to say I am eagerly looking forward to this first concert! We will be presenting some of the most beloved, all-time favorite pieces. We may as well rename the concert: This is Why I Conduct! As for the repertoire I’ll be conducting, the Choir will sing Morten Lauridsen’s setting of Dirait-on with text by Rainer Maria Rilke, surely a favorite of audience member and singer alike. Another piece I get to conduct is the 1983 Billy Joel tune, And So It Goes, a piece full of emotion. Every piece on this concert is like that, though. Each one has its own story, its own special history in the repertoire.

GR: Having already attended a couple Houston Chamber Choir rehearsals, what are you the most excited about for our upcoming season, Art & Soul?

BC: Well, these are the finest singers in the city. They are so committed to the music, to each other, and to this art form. I think we’re in for a real tour-de-force with each and every concert. I am particularly looking forward to our collaboration with METdance in November. Later in the season, the concert highlighting the work of UH Professor Jeff Sposato (Leipzig After Bach) promises to be a distinctive opportunity to experience the fruits of current musicological research.

GR: In addition to assisting with rehearsals, you are also working with us here in the office during the week! Can you tell us a little more about the projects you're working on? Is there anything our patrons should know as we enter our 23rd season?

BC: Right now, I’m focusing administratively on ways we can connect with local high school singers to engage them further in the choral art. This is actually part of a larger educational initiative we are undertaking, and as we move forward, we can expect to see a maintained focus on high-quality music while we broaden our outreach.

GR: As a doctoral student at University of Houston and a father of three, you are busy! What do you like to do when you have some free time? Any hobbies?

BC: I’m pretty lucky that my career is my hobby. I do have four children—ages 9 to 18 months—and they are all boys. So, my free time is spent with them and my supportive wife, Kayla. We love to play sports, make music, and work together. When I get a moment to myself, I usually find myself at the piano bench, usually with a toddler on my lap!

GR: What was the best vacation or trip you have ever taken?

BC: When I taught high school in Colorado, our select mixed ensemble traveled to perform in Germany, just outside of Hamburg. That was a special group of singers and they sang so well in some beautiful spaces. We had left our kids at home with family, so my wife and I were able to stay a little longer in Germany and we met some lovely people and saw so many beautiful sights.

GR: Houston is a big city and naturally, all of us spend a lot of time in our cars! What do you like to listen to in the car?

BC: You know, in the morning, I typically have the news on. But going home, I love to get my loved ones on the speakerphone because it’s a great time to catch up on everything that’s going on.

GR: Anything else our patrons should know about you?

BC: Again, I’m just so honored to work with the fantastic musicians and dedicated staff at the Houston Chamber Choir. I look forward to meeting our supporters and working to advance the mission of the Choir.