The Conservatory Choir (MUEN 311) is Shenandoah University’s premier chamber choral ensemble, specializing in vocal music encompassing everything from historical repertoire to the most cutting-edge contemporary choral compositions. Emphasis is placed on programming music inspired by a wide variety of world cultures and from a broad spectrum of composers. Ensemble members have the opportunity to refine their aural and sight-reading skills, apply their knowledge of music theory and history, and develop their voices in pedagogically sound ways.
The Conservatory Choir performs frequently on Shenandoah’s main campus as well as throughout the region and abroad. The ensemble regularly collaborates with other areas in the conservatory including composition, opera, theatre, dance and more. As ambassadors of the university, the ensemble is regularly asked to perform on campus at school-wide cultural and religious events as well as off-campus where the ensemble has forged relationships with local high schools, churches and communities. Additionally, the Conservatory Choir was featured on the Grammy award-winning recording for Best Choral Performance of the Year, given in the year 2000.
Membership in this choir is open by audition to both music majors and non-majors. By focusing attention on historically and culturally informed performance practice, advanced musicianship, diction, stage deportment and ensemble cohesion, the Conservatory Choir prepares singers for careers in vocal performance, choral music education, church music and the professional choral job market.
Meet the Director
Conductor and scholar Richard W. Robbins has garnered high praise for his work, with the press describing his choruses as “moving” (Houston Chronicle) and “powerful” (Duluth News Tribune). He is a sought-after clinician, adjudicator and director for choral festivals and honor choirs across the United States, having conducted in cities such as New York City; Chicago; Los Angeles; Houston; Orlando; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; and Miami. His choral performances have been featured on television and on nationally syndicated radio programs, including American Public Media’s “Pipedreams.”
A published scholar, Robbins' editions of Italian sacred music of the early Baroque are available internationally. In addition, his research on Marc Blitzstein's lost choral opera, “The Condemned,” has been published in the Choral Journal, and he has been invited to present on a range of topics for conducting and music education organizations, including the American Choral Directors Association, the International Federation of Choral Musicians, the College Music Society and the National Catholic Educational Association. He has conducted and lectured internationally at Warsaw’s Chopin Conservatory of Music, the John Paul II Liturgical Institute, Krakow’s Academy of Music and with the Fayha National Choir of Lebanon. He continues to inspire through mentoring and teaching emerging conductors and choral directors.
Robbins has a wealth of experience in preparing choral-orchestral repertoire. He has served as chorus master of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and assistant director of the Houston Symphony Chorus and has prepared choruses for major conductors such as Ermanno Florio, Hans Graf, Christoph Eschenbach, Joan Glover, Stephen Cleobury, Robert Franz and Dirk Meyer. His choral collaborations include work with the Houston Ballet, ARENA DANCES, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, Lyric Opera of the North, Moores Opera Center, Houston Boychoir, American Festival for the Arts, Lake Superior Youth Chorus and the Houston Symphony Family Series. Performances of note include principal choral preparation for a two-week run of Bohuslav Martinu’s “Field Mass” with the Houston Ballet and for the regional televised premiere of Michael Tippett’s “A Child of Our Time” for Minnesota PBS North, featuring the Duluth Superior Symphony Chorus and the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) University Singers. He has also served as conductor for the first performances of several choral works by the contemporary American composer Daniel Knaggs and is featured on the 2013 recording of his compositions, “A New Springtime.”
Ensembles under Robbins’ direction have performed at choral conferences and earned awards at numerous festivals. He has also collaborated with a wide range of classical and pop artists, such as the Grammy award-winning group Paramore. He also taught choral music in the Texas public schools for several years, including Houston’s famed High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where he was named Teacher of the Year. Robbins continues his work with youth choirs as a festival conductor for the American Federation Pueri Cantores, a chapter of the Vatican’s student choral organization.
Robbins is a member of several choral organizations, including ACDA (previously serving on the executive boards of Minnesota ACDA and the Southwestern Division), Chorus America and the National Collegiate Choral Organization. Prior academic positions include the University of Minnesota Duluth (director of choral activities), the University of Wisconsin-Superior (director of choral activities) and the University of Houston (director of Concert Women’s Chorus and University Men’s Chorus).
Shenandoah Conservatory is committed to providing exceptional opportunities for our students aligned with preparation for 21st century careers in the arts. This commitment begins with your audition! As the arts industry has responded to our current reality by modifying rehearsal and audition practices, Shenandoah Conservatory has also adopted the most recent industry standards, while maintaining a commitment to innovation and collaboration. Visit the Ensemble & Production Auditions webpage for the most up-to-date information about auditioning for our music, theatre and dance ensembles and productions.