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Andrew Withington in the USA

One of NZ’s leading choral practitioners, Dr Andrew Withington, has recently taken up the position of Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Westminster College in Pennsylvania. Andrew has been a regular adjudicator and workshop presenter for NZCF, so we were keen to find out how he is settling into his new life in New Wilmington.

Tell us about your new role.
This semester the position entails teaching the Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, Men’s Chorus, and Choral Conducting Class; hosting an Honors Chorus festival for high schools in the district; and running choral masterclasses at high schools.

What does your “day to day” look like at Westminster College?
I have a really wonderful week – it looks like this:

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays:
8:30-11:00 AM – Administration, recruitment, community outreach (masterclasses, etc.)
11:40 AM-12:40 PM – Chamber Singers’ Rehearsal
1:00-5:30 PM – Preparation, research, meetings and administration

Tuesdays and Thursdays
8:00-8:30 AM – Administration
8:30-9:10 AM – Choral Conducting Class
9:15-10:05 AM – Music Faculty Meeting
10:30-11:30 AM – Office hour
11:30 AM-12:30 PM – Research and/or preparation
12:40-1:50 PM – Men’s Chorus
2:00-3:30 PM – Colloquium, Masterclasses and Voice Juries
3:40-5:10 PM – Concert Choir
5:10-5:30 PM – Administration

How has life changed for you since leaving NZ?
After completing my PhD in early 2017, I freelanced in a number of part-time roles which included Artistic Director of the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir, relief teaching, choral consultancy, choral adjudication and supervision of student teachers. While I loved the work I was doing, it is nice to now be in one place doing the things I love to do.

Leaving family, friends and communities in New Zealand was hard, but I have made lots of friends in New Wilmington and have been welcomed with open arms into the college and the community.

What are some of the differences between choral programmes in New Zealand and the USA?
Choir can be taken as a school subject and there is more than one rehearsal per week, which is fantastic. Also, choristers sight-read music using solfeggio (do, re, mi, fa, so etc.) and it is impressive!

What’s your first big event coming up?
Westminster College is hosting a High School Honors Chorus very soon. Around 300 students come to Westminster College to audition for approximately 100 places in the choir (very similar to NZSSC). Then, the Honors Chorus rehearses for two days with a guest conductor and presents a concert. It’s going to be very exciting!

Are you coming home for the World Symposium on Choral Music in July 2020?
Yes, I intend to visit New Zealand for WSCM2020. It will be great to reconnect with family, friends and colleagues. I’m also keen to offer some choral clinics and conducting masterclasses while I am back home.

Andrew was recently interviewed on Westminster College’s campus radio station WCN24/7. You can hear the interview here.