By J. Ferguson
JACOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Lee Nelson, choral conducting doctoral student in the School of Music and Dance, took the graduate division top prize in the American Choral Directors Association National Conducting competition.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, February 21, 2005
For a choral conducting doctoral student, a national conducting award was the apex of why he fell in love with conducting choirs - the ability to teach the teachers.
Two weeks ago, Lee Nelson, a choral conducting doctoral student in the School of Music and Dance, won the graduate division top prize in the American Choral Directors Association National Conducting competition.
For Nelson, just joining the competition was something he has been looking forward to for years.
"I watched (the ACDA competition) six years ago - I was really intrigued," Nelson said.
Nelson said one of the reasons he chose to submit an audition tape was the ability to conduct the Arizona choir, the UA's top choir.
"I didn't think I had a shot (at winning)," Nelson said, laughing.
But Nelson's tape was selected to be part of the semifinals, and his tape was not alone. Joni Jensen, a choral conducting doctoral student, was also selected by the ACDA to be one of the seven national semi-finalists.
In the semi-finals, candidates were given two scores to practice months in advance. At the competition, each candidate would be assigned one of the two pieces and briefly introduced to a professional choir they would conduct.
Competitors were given eight minutes to conduct and instruct the choir. Judges graded the semi-finalists on their quality of conducting based on the quality of the performance from the choir.
Nelson felt really good after the semifinals, and said he accomplished all of his goals.
"But I had no idea what they were looking for," Nelson said.
After being selected as one of the four finalists, Nelson said he had a day and a half to prepare.
"It really ups the nerves," Nelson said.
The finalist competition was identical to the semifinal round, with each conductor getting eight minutes to perform one of two pre-selected pieces.
Elizabeth Schauer, an associate professor and associate director of choral activities, said both Nelson and Jensen represented the UA program in an outstanding fashion.
Schauer, who attended the competition, said during the final round of the competition the choir was extremely responsive to Nelson.
"At the end of his performance, he got a standing ovation for the choir," Schauer said.
Jensen, who watched the final performances, agrees that the choir reacted very well to Nelson's conducting.
"He really got his due (from the choir)," Jensen said.
Nelson said he was touched by the ovation.
"It was a pretty amazing feeling," Nelson said. "I had only seen them for a few minutes, to see them stand meant a lot to me."
Nelson said after graduating in May, he wants use his skills to build a first-rate choir at a college or university.