HOLDEN VOICE PROGRAM: RISING TO EVER-HIGHER NOTES
For sixty years, Harvard Glee Club alumni (and, more recently, former members of the Radcliffe Choral Society and Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum) have provided singers from the Harvard Choruses with the unique opportunity to take private voice lessons at significantly reduced cost.
Last year, nearly forty undergraduates from the Harvard Choruses participated in the Holden Voice Program. Each semester, students had ten 45-minute sessions with one of five master teacher-artists from whom students learned proper vocal technique, gained familiarity with vocal repertoire, and developed their personal musicianship. Between 50 and 70 percent of the $720 per person cost for a semester of lessons (based largely on financial need) was covered by funding provided by the three Harvard Chorus Foundations (as well as Harvard’s Office for the Arts) with annual support from the Glee Club Foundation alone covering upwards of 55% of the total program costs.
Since 2015, the Holden Voice Program has been ably-led by Elizabeth Eschen. A graduate of Providence College (B.A. in Vocal Performance and English) and Boston University (M.M. in Choral Conducting), Eschen is not only a vocal pedagogue but also an active singer and vocal soloist who performs regularly with groups such as Boston Baroque, Music at Marsh Chapel, the Cantata Singers, and Bach Akademie Charlotte. She is also a founding member of the Lorelei Ensemble, the Boston-based choir committed to advancing and elevating women’s vocal ensembles and enriching the repertoire through forward-thinking and co-creative collaboration.
Under Eschen’s leadership, the Holden Voice Program has expanded beyond private voice lessons to now provide students with a host of other opportunities to practice and perform. In addition to the traditional spring recital, student performers can now share the fruits of their labors with friends and family at a fall recital and a spring senior showcase and with their peers at studio classes led by each of the Program’s instructors. In addition, Eschen has sought out a diverse range of collaborators across the Harvard campus to host student performances. Last fall, for example, Program participants performed Edward Killenyi’s Mexican Folk Song Settings at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology as part of the museum’s Day of the Dead celebration.
For participating students, the Voice Program is an indispensable resource. Several recent graduates of the Program have gone on to sing professionally or semi-professionally. Among these is Billy Gardner ’17, former Glee Club Manager, who studied with Harris Ipock, past Resident Conductor of the Glee Club, for four years. Of his time in the Program, Gardner notes how the Voice Program was “an integral part of my singing experience at Harvard and participation in the Harvard Choruses.” He goes on to state: “because of the Program, I was able to receive voice lessons from high-quality teachers at an affordable cost, something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if not for the financial support.”
While Program participation led Gardner to a desire to sing professionally, other Glee Club members have taken lessons to feed their strong avocations. Current Glee Club Financial Manager Michael Horton ’20 started in the Program in his freshman year, having never taken vocal lessons before. He notes: “While I have been singing in a chorus for most of my life, taking lessons has allowed me to hone my ability as a soloist. The lessons remind me how I often get complacent when singing. Things like breath control and timbre were always at the back of my mind before, but I have now started to understand the juggling act required for great singing.” While not aspiring to a career at the Met, voice lessons and participation in studio classes and recitals have nonetheless made Horton “much more confident in controlling how my voice sounds which has not only impacted my solo performances but also helps me sing in any setting.”
Asked about what the future holds for the Holden Voice Program, Eschen expresses the hope that the Program will soon accommodate upwards of sixty participants each semester. In her ideal Harvard, students would have the opportunity to concentrate in Voice and even audition for vocal masters’ programs. Her more immediate goals, however, include building the Program into a more integrative academic framework, suffusing students’ total singing lives with an appreciation for technique and an expanded vocal repertoire. Eschen regards Dr. Andrew Clark, Harvard’s Director of Choral Activities, as an ideal partner in striving to reach these goals in that both come from a similar foundation of, as she puts it, “believing in healthy vocalization,” both being teachers at heart, passionate about both vocal music and vocal pedagogy.
As the Holden Voice Program has continued to push the boundaries and challenge student performers, the Harvard Glee Club Foundation has likewise challenged itself to increase its support for this worthwhile endeavor. We welcome more alumni to help us continue to serve Harvard’s singers so well.
HOLDEN VOICE PROGRAM - PROGRAM OF EVENTS FOR 2018-2019
Nov. 1, 2018 - Day of the Dead Performance
4-5:30 PM - Peabody Museum of Archeology & Ethnology, Harvard University
Dec. 10, 2018 - Fall Recital
7 PM - Holden Chapel, Harvard University
April 26, 2019 - Master Class (with members of Calliope’s Call)
7PM - Holden Chapel, Harvard University
May 5, 2019 - Spring Recital
2 PM - Holden Chapel, Harvard University
May 7, 2019 - Senior Showcase
7 PM - Holden Chapel, Harvard University
Posted on September 18, 2018