Every year, in the past four years, Penelope Hough ’17 has studied voice under a different choral director.
When Hough entered the school as a 9th grader, she began her Deerfield choral career with Mr. Dan Roihl, who was on his fourth year as the department’s director. When Mr. Roihl left at the end of the school year in 2014, Ms. Maaja Roos served as interim director for a year while the administration searched for a permanent replacement for Mr. Roihl. Therefore, last year, Hough sang with Mr. Daniel Jackson. When Mr. Jackson decided that he would not return for a second year, the community welcomed Dr. Thomas Pousont this fall, who is serving as Hough’s current and final choral director at Deerfield.
The reason behind so much turnover in choral directors is unknown. Dean of Faculty Mr. John Taylor noted that the turnover is “unusual,” as “there has been a lot of stability in instrumental music” due to the efforts of Orchestral Director Dr. Peter Warsaw, Music Teacher Mr. John Van Eps, and Ensemble Coaches Ms. Lynn Sussman and Mr. Anthony Berner.
Mr. Taylor conveyed that the administration is very aware of and worried about teacher movement in chorus.
“[The administration] really cares and are trying to do everything possible to nurture [the vocal program] and make sure that it grows and blossoms,” Mr. Taylor said. “We are dedicated towards ensuring that the choral program continues to be characterized by excellence.”
Although it had not been easy for Hough to have four different directors in four years, she has made the most of the situation. She took on the responsibility to be an effective liaison between each new director and the students and was able to grow as an artist in the meantime.
At the end of the day, Hough concluded, “all the directors have been experts at different things” and have been able to expand the choral program in various ways.
“Mr. Roihl is a great vocal technician, Ms. Roos is a brilliant pianist, Mr. Jackson is excellent at building ensembles, and Dr. Pousont is an incredible musician in general,” she said.
Hough acknowledged that she has improved as a singer over the past couple years and is appreciative of the mentoring of her multiple directors. In particular, she noted that Mr. Jackson has “given [her] the tools to develop [her] own solo voice without sticking out in the choir,” and that Dr. Pousont has “helped her take on more rhythmically challenging pieces.”
As she leaves Deerfield in the spring, Hough remains optimistic about the future of the choral program. She noted that the chorus has improved immensely since her first year at Deerfield: “We now have two different vocal classes: chorus and the Advanced Vocal Ensemble, and Tuesdays are now an arts night for choir and orchestra.”
“The chorus currently has very strong and talented singers that will continue to bring the program to the next level,” she said.
“It is encouraging that our Valentine’s Day concert got a full house,” she added. “I am glad that students and faculty alike are interested in hearing what we do and I hope that many of them will want to be part of the chorus too!”