EDITOR’S NOTE: Jordan Saul, last year’s blogger has enrolled in a doctoral program at Florida State University. Welcome to Shane Thomas, the 2013-2014 Westminster Choir blogger. You can read a profile of Shane here.
——————————————————————————————————————It is such a thrill to be writing for this blessed school, incredible audience, and a choir that’s held a special place in my heart since before I knew my life’s calling. A special thanks goes out the Jordan Saul for her kind recommendation for me to become the next blogger and to Anne Sears for continuing this memory-inducing tradition. I’m looking forward to sharing my Westminster experience with many for the next year.
I believe it is necessary to share my experiences thus far and what led my coming to Westminster Choir College to pursue choral studies. I grew up in a small town in Florida named DeLand, where I went to elementary, middle, high school and completed my undergraduate work (my house was anywhere from a one-to-five mile radius from these chapters in my life). My musical training began as a boy chorister in the Stetson University Children’s Choirs, then under the tutelage of Melinda O’Neill and Dr. Ann Small. I spent 10 years making beautiful music and learning to become a holistic person through these once-a-week rehearsals. Choirs in middle and high school also pushed my musical boundaries and inspired me toward my chosen career path: music education. I’m forever indebted to teachers like Dalys Parkhurst, Carissa Helle, Anne-Marie Cummings and Melinda O’Neill for teaching me that the sky was the limit.
I pursued my undergraduate degree at Stetson University because it felt right. I had spent 10 years getting to know the school through children’s choir performances and the faculty already felt like my family. A small private school nestled along the main roadway in DeLand, Stetson houses approximately 200 music students among its 2,500 undergraduate student population. The music program is conservatory-based with an incredibly enriching curriculum. The university boasts the expression: “Dare to be significant.” Stetson offers endless opportunities to those who wish to seize them. My four years were spent actively pursuing vocal studies, conducting studies, and developing a familial network that’s only second to my Westminster family. Like my pre-college years, I’m also forever indebted to my many professors, especially Dr. Craig Maddox and Dr. Andrew Larson, for opening significant doors of opportunity and reminding me of the majesty of music.
To make a rather long story shorter, I applied to Westminster’s graduate program in choral conducting on a whim. I was accepted at Westminster Choir College, jumped in a moving truck with my mother and left Florida in August 2012, and I’ve relished every moment of my time since I’ve stepped on campus. The musical experiences have been inescapably captivating, each with something new to learn about humanity and music alike. The education has been eye opening and, dare I say it, life-changing. Every day I’m in Bristol Chapel on Westminster’s campus, my path crosses a striking portrait of Leonard Bernstein and his quote, which continues to pierce my heart:
“Westminster Choir College provides a great measure of beauty to a world that needs it badly.”
There aren’t enough lucky stars to thank for the experiences at Westminster Choir College. As the new blogger, I can only hope the experiences I share with my readers will continue to touch the hearts of many and remind everyone of the beauty this place exerts every waking moment.