All-National Honor Ensembles Conductor Spotlight: Dr. Amanda Quist

The 2018 All-National Honor Ensembles Conductor Spotlight:
Dr. Amanda Quist

Throughout the month of March, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) will be sharing profiles of the 2018 All-National Honor Ensembles (ANHE) conductors, who will lead the nation’s most elite high school musicians in Orlando, Florida, November 25-28. These exceptional musicians will gather at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort to showcase their expert musicianship and perform a gala concert celebrating music education and the arts.

Amanda Quist

Dr. Amanda Quist is Associate Professor and Chair of the Conducting, Organ, and Sacred Music Department at Westminster Choir College. Dr. Quist will lead the 2018 All-National Mixed Choir. She conducts the Westminster Chapel Choir and Westminster Kantorei, and teaches graduate and undergraduate conducting. She is the recipient of Westminster Choir College of Rider University’s 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award, and the 2018 Mazzotti Award for Women’s Leadership. Westminster Kantorei, an award-winning early music ensemble, has performed at the American Choral Directors Association’s (ACDA) Eastern Division Conference, Boston Early Music Festival, the American Handel Festival, and the choir just released its first commercial recording, Lumina, distributed by Naxos. During her work with the Westminster Symphonic Choir, Dr. Quist collaborated with the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, and composers Ola Gjeilo and Tarik O’Regan. Dr. Quist is also the Director of the Westminster Vocal Institute, and was previously Director of Choral Activities at San José State University. Read more about Dr. Amanda Quist here.

When did you first fall in love with music?

When I was born, I think! My father is an organist, and used to play the piano constantly as I was growing up. I took ballet, modern, and tap dancing, and danced a great deal as a child. As I grew older, I fell in love with singing and being in choir. My favorite singers as a little girl included Whitney Houston and Cecilia Bartoli! 

Challenges include trying to reach every single person in the choir with a large group- I want to be sure every singer knows they matter.

What inspired you to become a conductor? Describe the process in getting to where you are today.

I originally wanted to be a Psychologist, and a Music minor. When I started attending college, I found myself spending all of my free time in the music building—and realized that is where I belonged. In my senior year of high school, I sang in an All-State Honor Choir in Michigan, and that was life-changing for me in terms of my love of choral music. One afternoon my conductor stepped away from teaching to pick up some materials, and asked me to conduct the choir. I felt as if I had stepped into myself in that moment.

What are some of the greatest accomplishments, and challenges, you face as a conductor of a large ensemble?

I just conducted 250 college and high school singers at a major festival on the Lincoln Center stage in Manhattan, and those types of events are always wonderful for bringing people together in one strong and passionate purpose. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of conducting over 700 students at a major festival in Colorado—what a thrill to stand in front of that many people, who are all working toward the same artistic goal.

Challenges include trying to reach every single person in the choir with a large group—I want to be sure every singer knows they matter.

What factors do you consider when programming music for a concert or honors ensemble? What are some of your favorite pieces of repertoire?

I like to choose pieces that will stretch the singers in terms of style, musicianship, and skills. I also want to choose pieces that will inspire us and the audience, and that will pull on our greatest strengths as a choir. I believe students should sing in a variety of styles of music, and it’s important not to ignore the great composers of choral music. I personally love J. S. Bach’s music, if I had to choose a favorite. I also love Benjamin Britten, Brahms, and some more modern composers such as Abbie Betinis and Carol Barnett. I recently spoke with Morten Lauridsen and was reminded how much I also love his style of choral writing. I have commissioned works from Ola Gjeilo and also have enjoyed working with his music.

What excites you the most about the ANHE program? What do you hope your young musicians who attend will take away from their experience?

The opportunity to work with students from across the country. I hope we will all come away with a deepened sense of musicianship, vocal technique, our collective humanity, and the inspiration to last us a lifetime. I know these singers will be incredible!

I believe students should sing in a variety of styles of music, and it’s important not to ignore the great composers of choral music.

Why do you think music education is so important for all students?

Music education is a reflection of who we are. All people need love, safety, community, and support. We all experience pain, death, joy, transcendence; these are the things that bind us, that are bigger than any one society, any one person. The collective expression of these human experiences helps us to grow from the inside out, and arts/music education provides this opportunity for growth better than any other discipline. To ignore music education is to ignore who we are, and what we need to become complete as people. I believe that everyone can sing and has the right to be given that opportunity.

Visit every Friday throughout the month of March to meet the next ANHE Conductor! 

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Elizabeth Baker, Social Media Coordinator and Copywriter. March 2, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (