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Conducting with the Brain in Mind:
Techniques to Increase Singer Engagement in Rehearsal 

In the last twenty years, scientists from around the world have made great strides in unraveling the mysteries of the brain, in particular how people learn, retain, and recall information. At the same time, in our increasingly connected digital age, the demands for our singers’ attention have grown, challenging a conductor’s ability to maintain singer focus during rehearsal. Fortunately, the field of cognitive neuroscience has provided educators with excellent tools for increasing student engagement in the classroom. Using the University of Oregon Chamber Choir as a demonstration group, this session will explore how to adapt these techniques for conductors to use in a rehearsal setting. Utilizing these brain-compatible techniques will assist conductors in leading well-paced, efficient, engaging, and enjoyable rehearsals, where singers remain focused and active throughout, and better able to retain what they have learned between practices.

Sharon J. Paul is Professor of Choral Conducting, Director of Choral Activities, and Chair of Vocal and Choral Studies at the University of Oregon, where she teaches graduate courses in choral conducting, repertoire, and pedagogy, and conducts the University Singers and the internationally award-winning Chamber Choir. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting from Stanford University, a Master of Fine Arts in conducting from UCLA, and a Bachelor of Arts in music from Pomona College. Dr. Paul served as Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) and conductor of Chorissima and Virtuose, the organization’s acclaimed performance ensembles, from 1992 to July 2000. Under her leadership, the chorus released four compact discs, premiered major works by composers such as Chen Yi and Jake Heggie, represented the United States at four international festivals, and performed at the California Music Educators’ state conference, the American Choral Directors’ Western Division conference, and the International Society for Music Education’s international conference. In June 2000 the SFGC was the first youth chorus to win the Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence, a national honor presented by Chorus America. In the same year they were also awarded an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. Dr. Paul has prepared singers for performances under world-class conductors such as Helmuth Rilling, Matthew Halls, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Herbert Blomstedt. She has presented interest sessions at regional, state, division, national, and international music conferences and appears frequently as adjudicator, clinician, and honor choir director throughout the United States, with recent engagements in Utah, Nevada, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia, and Washington. In the fall of 2014 she received the University of Oregon’s Fund for Faculty Excellence Award, and in 2015 she was named the Robert M. Trotter Chair of Music, one of only three endowed chairs at the University of Oregon’s School of Music and Dance.

Bio en CAT

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