Importance of a Choir Director in Music Making

Introduction

Choir directors possess the relevant skills in playing musical, pedagogical, liturgical, and administrative roles. In performing their functions, choir directors influence their participants in several ways as they embark on music-making sessions and other choral activities. Mantie (2012) emphasizes that the ways in which the choir directors undertake their roles create different perceptions among the participants thus influencing their attitude towards musical activities. In this case, the continued engagement of the participants depicts the positive implications that choir directors put on the partakers of the music-making endeavors. Conversely, the choir directors’ impacts could draw limitations whereby the participants’ sustained engagement is undermined (Heo, Stebbins, Kim, & Lee, 2013).

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Augusto A. Rodríguez Amador is regarded as a great composer, arranger, and chorus director. He founded and directed various choral groups in Puerto Rico. His legacy is worth analyzing due to his influential character despite his temperamental attribute. Mostly, Augusto’s directorship roles at the Chorus of the University of Puerto Rico depict impactful aspects of his insights to the members in the music-making activities. The Coral de Cámara Exalumnos entails the older generation members of the Chorus, and thus it would provide relevant information regarding their engagements with the director. For this reason, evaluating the impacts of Augusto on the participants of the Chorus of the University of Puerto Rico choir suits the essence of this study.

Purpose and aims

A chorus director’s role could evoke different results from the participants in choral and musical issues, and thus carrying out a study to evaluate a particular leader would create new insights and perspectives. In essence, this paper seeks to assess the impacts of Augusto on the participants of the Chorus of the University of Puerto Rico choir in its music-making undertakings. The paper will delve into the relevant aspects that show the effects of Augusto’s directorship endeavors to achieve its aims. Thus, pointing to the importance of the choir to the lives of the members is vital for making inferences that support the arguments of the quality of life theory. In so doing, the inquiry’s framework would consider the elements that Augusto used to bring about the goodness or the alternative to the choir.

Furthermore, the study aims at analyzing the memorable moments experienced by the choir led by Augusto. The worthwhile experiences would help in gauging the accomplishments of the Chorus of UPR through the performances and events that depict the maturity of the director’s role in composing music. In this perspective, the study would apply the leisure theory to evaluate how Augusto’s insights made the choir regard choral activities as both professional and leisure experiences.

Additionally, the relationship between Augusto and the members of the Chorus of UPR would add up to the aim of the paper before embarking on the sustainability of the group in the future. In this regard, the application of theoretical frameworks to analyze and evaluate Augusto’s impacts on the choir members would be considered to put the subject matter of this paper in the right context.

Theoretical framework

Specific theories have been developed to describe the dynamic and unique aspects of the music industry. Therefore, reflecting on models and concepts like the leisure theory, quality life theory, and situational learning would be critical for this paper. The leisure theory could provide a framework for the analysis of learning activities that are acquired as leisure aspects of an individual’s life course (Cuenca, Kleiber, Monteagudo, Linde, & Jaumot-Pascual, 2014). In this case, the participants of the Chorus of the University of Puerto Rico could regard music as their leisure activity owing to the motivation from their chorus director. Therefore, this aspect facilitated the production of quality music as seen in some of his cappella compositions thereby not only making it a leisure activity to the participants but also to the public who enjoy it.

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Furthermore, the quality of the life theory facilitates the identification of the link between choral activities and the good that it brings to the participants in their lives. In this case, the impacts of the director’s engagement with the team would necessitate analysis to identify the extent to which Augusto facilitated an improvement or deterioration of the participants’ wellbeing. Therefore, the integration of the quality of life theory in this study would enhance the evaluation of Augusto’s undertakings in his role as a choir director.

Similarly, the situational learning theory would foster the assessment of the pedagogical aspect of Augusto’s impactful roles whereby the dynamics of the communities of practice within the Chorus would be checked. In this regard, Augusto’s musical endeavors, especially at the University of Puerto Rico, would guide the implications concerning the learning experiences of various music scholars that he has taught. Additionally, the issue regarding his relationship with the Chorus of UPR members should be considered since situational learning entails beneficial interactions among individuals of the same communities of practice.

The theoretical framework embraced by the study provides a complementary structure for the research design. This assertion implies that the discussions would reflect on the theories as mentioned above and other relevant postulations. Likewise, the theoretical framework enhances the scientific approach that the study would uphold to attain objectivity. In this regard, fostering the validity and reliability of the results obtained would facilitate drawing meaningful conclusions to the audience.

Methodology

The participants for the study comprised the members of the Chorus of the University of Puerto Rico. Ten members of the Chorus were sampled through the simple random technique to attain representativeness of the selected population. The sample population mainly constituted individuals of the Puerto Rican culture tracing their ancestry from the European, African, and Taino backgrounds. The study was carried out at the University of Puerto Rico where the choir is based thus enhancing the assessment of the musical and pedagogical aspects of Augusto’s impacts as the choir director.

The research design applied a qualitative methodology that sought the participants’ views on the implications of the efforts by Augusto in the music-making endeavors at the Chorus of the University of Puerto Rico. In this case, the design facilitated the collection of data through interviews that were structured to gain an in-depth view of the director’s roles in fostering the skills and knowledge regarding choral and music creation activities. Besides, the approach would also incorporate the observation technique to read the respondents’ attitudes and expressions regarding the changes that Augusto imparted on them. Thus, the respondents were approached professionally to ensure adherence to the ethical requirements of scientific inquiry.

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The summarization and classification of the collected data considered the variations of the respondents’ views regarding the choral experiences under the guidance of the director. Additionally, percentages would be used to summarize the classified data collected to enhance the comprehensiveness of the results and discussions.

Results

The findings were based on the thematic aspects of the study that mainly focused on the issues regarding the importance of the choir, significant moments, Augusto’s relationship with the participants, and the future of the choir. All the themes received relatively equal documentation underscoring the cooperativeness of the respondents in the data collection process.

On the issue of the importance of the Chorus of UPR to the members’ life, 100% of the respondents could identify the positive implications of the Augusto-led choral and musical experiences. The 10 Chorus of UPR members under the study reflected the aspects of teamwork, appreciating diversity, character building, skills development, and acting as a fulfilling leisure activity.

The respondents showed a variety of significant developments that were triggered by the music director’s directorship. One of the respondents identified the essence of teamwork as a necessary requirement for goal realization. Particularly, the exposure to a selection of quality music instilled the essence of perseverance, discipline, and concentration, which are required for tackling life challenges. For this reason, the choir was regarded as a group that fostered skills development through the sound directorship of Augusto.

Additionally, the members of the Chorus of UPR attributed the choir as an important cohort that developed the passion for music in their lives. Besides, one of the respondents tied the learning experiences at the choir as critical for the build-up of their character that expedited both their personal and professional growth. The aspects of growth were associated with the embedding of values that upheld the vitality of responsibility, respect, music appreciation, confidence, and embracing cultural diversity.

The respondents identified various memorable events that the Chorus of UPR experienced. Nine respondents noted that moments, which were worth cherishing, mainly involved events and festivals that they performed their musical compositions.

The echoes of enthusiastic applause from the 1957 experience while singing at the Carnegie Hall are considered as part of memorable experiences. Furthermore, unforgettable experiences at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and Fiesta de la Lengua Española remain valuable memories among the choir members. Augusto’s choice of according a member of the choir to perform the high note at the La Comparsa performance was viewed as a surprising experience.

The relationship with Augusto elicited various reactions regarding the time the participants spent interacting with him. Reflecting on the impacts of the relationship with the director, nine respondents revealed their relationship with the director from the personal and professional levels. The relationship with Augusto was described by one of the respondents as one that was characterized by admiration, affection, and the infliction of fear in some instances. Augusto could contain the fear build up among the members of the Choir of UPR through charm, humor, and fascinating stories.

Besides, Augusto’s role as a director, a member of the Choir acknowledged him as a great mentor that encouraged them to respect each musical instrument, the composer, and the audience. Further, the demanding character focused on music perfection that was depicted by Augusto equally allowed room for accessibility and a humane approach to the choir members. The honest, professional, and true friendship aspect of Augusto assured his deference and esteem during music-making engagements.

According to one of the respondents, the respectful relationship with Augusto cultivated a sense of reliability. The supportive attribute of Augusto would be depicted in problem-solving situations as they interacted with him for several hours moving from one office to another. In this case, they built an emotional connection with the director resulting from the time spent with him in the choral endeavors.

The sustainability of Augusto’s choral prowess prompted mixed reactions when the question regarding the future of the choir emerged. Some of the Coral de Cámara Exalumnos members highlighted the end of the choir due to the age of its members. Additionally, members insisted that the current generation ought to learn Augusto’s choral style to ensure its continuity in the ever-changing music industry. The Coral de Cámara Exalumnos members revealed sentimental thoughts regarding the future of the Chorus of UPR in a relatively similar tone.

One of the respondents valued the musical works of Augusto but feared the end of his stylistic approach due to the age factor among the members of the Coral de Cámara Exalumnos. In this regard, teaching the younger generations about the harmonic works created by Augusto was regarded as essential for keeping his style alive in modern society. Therefore, fostering his legacy would require the use of recordings and videos to enlighten the younger generations about the legacy of Augusto.

The data collected shows that Augusto could be regarded as a good example of how music-making could be a wonderful and everlasting experience. Further, a choir member underscored the relevance of disseminating Augusto’s choral arrangements through the creation of a website that would contain information about the director and his engagements. Additionally, the Chorale was regarded as a reliable source of information that would assist the current generation in defining choral music and its significance to the musical arts. In this regard, the current fellows of the Coral de Camara Exalumnos exemplify the consequences of discipline and effort in musical endeavors.

Discussion

The findings obtained from the qualitative techniques of data collection and analysis give relevant insights that connect with the purpose of this study. The small sample size used to evaluate Augusto’s impacts on the choir reveals that the choir was indeed vital to the wellbeing of its members in various ways. Whiteley (2002) argues that choir directors ought to foster motivation among the members intrinsically and extrinsically, and thus Augusto fulfills this aspect by making some of his students develop a great love for music. It can be seen that in spite of the temperamental attitude of the director, the choir benefited greatly from the acquisition of skills that are requisite to the musical, human, and cultural aspects of their lives. Importantly, the choir director’s role is focused on the development of skills that improve both the personal and professional aspects of life.

The optimization of the choir’s performance is usually attained through processes that embrace cultural diversity. In this case, choral engagements should foster the development of values that are compatible with the potentially diverse members of the participants in the music-making processes (Pierce, Cameron, Banko, & So, 2003). In this light, Augusto’s role as a composer, arranger, and director not only focused on the musical aspect of his profession but also the cultural aspect since his works also appreciated the Puerto Rican culture. Therefore, the situated learning theory comes to play in this case whereby the new entrants into the choir experienced cultural inculcation along with the choral skills induced during music-making activities. The learning context, culture, and the functions of the choral activities are vital for integrating the required skills for desirable choral music.

In this light, the learning processes that saw the integration of new members into the group ensure the creation of relationships that uphold mutual benefit. In so doing, integrating the different students from varying ethnic backgrounds to learn collectively the choral skills that are essential in the music industry enhances the relationships among the members thus making the learning experiences highly enjoyable. Furthermore, Stebbins (2013) argues that directors ought to embrace a paradigm shift that embraces the humanistic approach to the mechanistic strategy. Since the mechanistic approach was characterized by passive engagement of the choristers, worthwhile learning experiences were necessary for improved performance. Thus, the director’s instructions are not enough for the learning process to be effective due to low levels of involvement (Heo, Lee, McCormick, & Pedersen, 2010). Reflecting on Augusto’s roles at the Chorus of UPR, it is evident that he strived to engage the audience constantly to gain maximum output from the choir’s engagements.

Augusto’s role created new opportunities for the Chorus of the UPR cohort through exposure to rich experiences that necessitated seizure. Tsugawa (2009) posits that leaders in the music fraternity should create consistent opportunities for the growth of their followers to promote motivation among them. In this respect, the results of this study show that the choir engagements opened new doors to its members whereby some of them managed to sing together with other professional choral groups. Applying the quality life theory, in this case, reveals that the director’s role was valuable to the professional engagements of the choral group since it resulted in desirable life experiences that motivated them to continue singing even at old age as seen in the Coral de Cámara Exalumnos choral endeavors.

Heo et al. (2013) perceive teamwork as an important element of the choral group’s success since it creates a synergy that drives the team towards the attainment of its success. This assertion implies that Augusto developed a coral cohort that upholds the vitality of collaborative efforts that sing the same song at a given time before embarking on a new activity. Members of the Coral de Cámara Exalumnos attested that a sense of responsibility, discipline, and appreciation was acquired from the collective efforts that were inculcated by Augusto in his directorship. In this regard, the theoretical framework that supports this study verifies the situational learning concepts whereby leaders create an environment that promotes teamwork on the grounds of the established communities of practice. Therefore, over the years of choral practice, Augusto has integrated new students into the Chorus of UPR by facilitating the learning processes that drill the values and skills required for the success of the unit.

The importance of the choral group is further denoted by the character-building efforts by Augusto. McGregor (2006) insists that the communication process in music-making should also consider building the characters of the choir members through motivating them to approach new tasks with positivity. Therefore, the Chorus of UPR depicted maturity of the personality attributes of its members as seen by the responses of the Coral de Cámara Exalumnos members. In this essence, the director should create an environment that curtails conflicts by promoting harmonious relationships that trigger character building.

The success of a choral unit is depicted by the impressive outcomes to the audience on various occasions that are characterized by memorable experiences. The results in this context show that the significant moments kept the group motivated throughout its activities under the sound leadership of Augusto. It should be noted that the music aspect of living is highly connected with leisure activities. Besides, for both the audience and the performers to regard it as a satisfying leisure activity, it should evoke experiences worth cherishing (Stebbins, 2001). Moreover, Rohwer and Rohwer (2009) identify the leisure derived from good music among community choral groups as critical for improving the quality of life. Augusto was in a position to cultivate memorable experiences through festival performances that awed the audiences. For instance, one of the respondents valued the concerts by likening them to magic moments that generated invaluable joy. In this case, the director’s role proved its significance by ensuring that all the stakeholders in the engagements of the Chorus of the UPR benefitted optimally.

The theme of memorable experiences derived from the choral implications of Augusto’s legacy upheld by the Coral de Cámara Exalumnos underscores the essence of viewing the choral profession as a leisure activity. Heo et al. (2010) argue that the new generation choirs out to embrace the leisure motive of music creation and performance for both the listeners and the audience to enjoy. Therefore, the form of wellness that the participants reaped from the director’s roles signified the leisure motive that is necessary for music to be preferred as an activity that evokes occasions that are worth reminiscence. Additionally, Arai and Pedlar (2003) underscore the detrimental aspects of globalization that have seen the diminishing consideration of music as a leisure activity.

The relationship between Augusto and the individuals in the choir depicted temperamental situations, which fostered positivity in the end. In this respect, the emerging scenario questions whether the choral leaders undertake their roles to maintain equilibrium between the realization of organizational goals and the ends of the engaged participants. Thus, Stebbins (2013) identifies conflicts emerging from emotional imbalances based on perceived incompatible goals as hindrances to individual and group success. Conversely, Augusto inculcated the necessary skills even when in temper due to the imperfect nature of human beings. Therefore, the temperamental and demanding personalities portrayed in Augusto’s pedagogical roles at the University of Puerto Rico were not only instrumental in boosting the scholars’ success, but also their approaches to interpersonal relationships.

The relationship between Augusto and the Chorus of UPR is impactful in almost every aspect of the choir. In the first place, the relationship was beyond the professional relationship, thus making Augusto and the Chorus of UPR united towards the achievement of the goals of the choir. For instance, one of the members of the Chorus of UPR indicated that the relationship between themselves and Augusto was of admiration and affection. The choristers had high regard for Augusto and showed affection designates that Augusto mentored the members of the choir. Pierce et al. (2003) associate the casual relationships between choristers and their leaders with the motivation levels of the members. For this reason, the casual interactions intentionally aimed at cultivating motivation engagements that would improve both personal relationships and the development of the choral practice (Gallant, Arai, & Smale 2013). Consequently, Augusto was not only being the professional choir director of the Chorus of UPR, but also a mentor to the members of the choir, which created space and conditions for progression.

The similarity in liking music characterized the association or connection between Augusto and the Chorus of UPR. Together with the choir, Augusto openly showed his liking for music. In fact, one of the members of the Chorus of UPR points out that Augusto showed them to respect musical pieces and their composer. The choir had clear objectives concerning the aspect of music development. From several members of the Chorus of UPR, it is clear that Augusto was serious and strict in choir directing. The serious and rigorous nature of Augusto propounded the easy undertaking of the job and efficient learning of the members of the Chorus of UPR.

The relationship between Augusto and the Chorus of UPR could also be termed as unpredictable. A member of the Chorus of UPR indicated that whenever the choir practices were not up to the standards of expectation, Augusto would throw his glasses on the floor. The temperamental nature of Augusto helped to keep the members of the Chorus of UPR keen and ready to replicate what Augusto taught. Besides, the unpredictable nature of Augusto helped the choir members to work hard to prove themselves to him and at the same time not make him angry since his course of action was erratic.

The future of the Chorus of UPR is uncertain. Many members of the choir interviewed were worried about who would keep the music going when they were gone due to their advanced ages. The future of Augusto’s music is also indeterminate since there is nobody to teach young individuals such kind of euphony. However, the preservation of Augusto’s music through recording videos will be impactful in the future. The message passed in the music as well as the style employed by Augusto’s music is conserved through younger generations. The future of the UPR can only be impactful if Augusto’s music is preserved through younger generations via the recording of videos. With this move, the situated learning theory would be applied because the ideas and style of the director are critical for desirable choral performances (Geisler & Johansson, 2014).

Conclusion

Augusto’s legacy in the music industry, especially in his choir directorship roles at the Chorus of UPR, is noticeable owing to his influence on the choir. In this case, the theoretical frameworks that should be applied in his situation suggest that his role as a director focused on improving the choir members’ quality of life. He achieved this goal by creating an environment that supports personality and professional development. Therefore, beneficial relationships, skills development, and performing alongside other experienced choral groups among other opportunities provided life-changing experiences to the choir members. Additionally, the leisure aspect of the director’s role ensured that the choir experienced memorable moments that denoted the group’s excellence in music composition and performance (Emmons & Chase, 2006). Thus, the paper’s theoretical framework was synthesized by the results as seen by the continued efforts of the Coral de Cámara Exalumnos to foster the sustainability of Augusto’s choral style. Moreover, it is essential for the current generations interested in choral music engagements to embrace the rich music arrangement, composition, and directorship fostered by Augusto. This way, his legacy would linger on for several generations.

References

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