How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Through Mayflower Hill and the Colby College Chamber Choir.
Eighteen students under the direction of choral director Nicolás Alberto Dosman will perform in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall at 8 p.m. Monday, March 9. It’s the only ensemble on the bill.
So how big a deal is that? Replied Dosman: “As Ray Charles said, ‘You’ve made it when you’ve gone to Carnegie Hall.’” For Colby students, most of whom don’t go into professional music careers, “it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ll remember forever,” he said. And they earned it.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Jack Walpuck ’17, who sings bass in the chamber choir.
“I submitted an audition tape to the production company,” Dosman said. “They liked it. They gave me some feedback, and they said, ‘Yeah! We’ll put your group on the chamber music series.’”
Walpuck, a computer science major who sings in four ensembles, credits Dosman. “He has a big vision for Colby’s choral program, and he backs it with action,” Walpuck said. “Nic is an intense person, but you get to see his soft side when you start to make great music with him.” He also credited Dosman’s ability to program challenging but accessible music, citing the enthusiastic reception from a standing-room-only audience on campus last fall as evidence.
The choir, accompanied by a string quartet and a French horn, is part of the regular Weill Recital Hall concert series, which is mostly performed by professional ensembles or groups from big universities or conservatories, such as Juilliard or the music school at Montclair State. “It’s a unique opportunity that Colby, a liberal arts college, has an opportunity to participate in this kind of series,” Dosman said.
They’ll perform challenging contemporary art music in a program titled Between Heaven and Hell: The Human Experience and the Journey of the Soul. “Everybody, in my opinion, experiences heaven and hell in this lifetime,” Dosman said, and the first half of the performance portrays that through emotions of anger, temptation, suffering, and relief.
The second part plumbs the unknown of mysteries of the soul with works by Paul Leary (a faculty fellow at Colby in 2012-13) and Robert Young, concluding with the ambitious, extended work “Luminous Night of the Soul” by Ola Gjeilo. Six students will play instruments.
“I could have hired all professionals to come in and play the string quartet, but we have students here who are very capable, so I’d rather use Colby’s talents and feature all Colby students,” Dosman said. “With Stan [Renard, orchestra director] generating such a great string program, we have the luxury of having students who are really capable as string players to do this.”
Dosman praised student vocalists as well. “I could have the best singers with the best voices, but if they cannot read music quickly and learn quickly, then this program would be absolutely impossible in the amount of time we have to do it. That’s because of the level of music—it’s very difficult music, and it’s compressed time. We rehearse once a week for an hour and a half, and they’re singing extremely difficult music. … It’s not how well they can sing, it’s their musical skills.”
Though it will be Dosman’s Carnegie Hall debut as a conductor, he sang there in 2009, while he was earning his doctorate at Columbia Teachers College in New York. Asked how he feels about students not pursuing professional music careers, Dosman said, “To me that’s not the point of teaching music. I don’t teach music to make clones of myself, I teach music because it enriches their lives. If they carry a love for music for the rest of their lives and it’s meaningful for them, that’s the most important thing.”