Chuck France/University Relations

Paul Tucker directs choral activities at KU.

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Paul Tucker, director of choral activities, School of Music

Years at current job: I have been at KU since fall 2004. I served as associate director of choral activities until spring 2008, after which I assumed the position of director. So, I’m completing my sixth year at KU.

Job duties: Apart from administering the day-to-day operations of the choral program, a program that includes 10 choral ensembles and eight graduate teaching assistants, I teach private conducting to graduate students and teach two choral ensembles. Additionally, I teach seminars in conducting and orchestral bowing for conductors. I also spend a great deal of time conducting clinics and workshops at various schools in and outside the state of Kansas. I also am frequently invited to lecture at other colleges. My work as a clinician provides opportunities for recruiting students, both undergraduate and graduate, to the music program at KU.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about your work? Although I spend a great deal of my time preparing choirs for performance, my principal task is to educate the students with whom I come in contact. Many of the students in choir at KU are preparing to teach after graduation. I know that many of these students will be influenced by what they experience in my class. The way my choir performs in concert is a direct reflection of what each student has learned in these choral classes.

What do you enjoy most about choral music, and what sets it apart, for you, from other kinds of music? The first thing I would say is that a choral ensemble is the most mobile musical group that exists. It only takes a group of singers to provide a performance. There is no need to transport any other instruments or equipment. Secondly, the beauty of the choral ensemble is that it can involve just about anyone interested. Many of the skills needed to participate can be learned within the group. This can be an advantage and a liability. Singers in a group sometimes neglect to invest the private practice necessary to help the ensemble improve, but overall, choral music has the potential to involve many more individuals within any community.

On the more technical side, the combination of words and music can have a powerful impact on the listeners and the performers. The spoken language also adds another level of expression, which, when combined with music, amplifies the effect.

How has your background in Jamaica informed your teaching at KU? When I grew up in Jamaica, there was a small community, one in which it seemed that everyone in music knew each other and worked with each other. There seemed to be an appreciation for the discipline that was shared by everyone. For instance, although I was studying classical music, I spent a significant amount of time with those who were studying pop and jazz. I spent some time with the members of Bob Marley’s band, for instance. The members of the band Third World were also students at the same school.

I try to encourage the students here at KU to spend time with their classmates in the various disciplines. Not only are they building the relationships that will prove valuable to them in the future, but they will also benefit from the sharing of the details of each specialty. For instance, a classical vocalist has the opportunity to gain expertise in area of jazz. This experience can increase the student’s value as a performer or a teacher.

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Paul Tucker, director of choral activities, School of Music
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