The Conservatory Choir is Shenandoah University’s premier chamber choral ensemble, specializing in a cappella vocal music from the Golden Age of the European Renaissance to the most cutting-edge contemporary choral compositions. Emphasis is placed on programming music inspired by a wide variety of world cultures and that represents composers from a broad spectrum of ethnicities, backgrounds, mother tongues and religions. In fast-paced, cooperatively-led rehearsals, 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 flexibly healthy 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, church music, opera, theatre, dance and more. Recently, the Conservatory Choir collaborated with the Wind Ensemble on programs such as “Winchester at 275,” celebrating the bicenterquasquigenary of the founding of our hometown and “Breath” which celebrated both ensembles’ return to the performance hall after a year and a half without indoor performances. The ensemble collaborated with the dance department an al fresco performance of “With Our Last Breath” which featured the music of Orlando di Lasso and with the saxophone and trombone studios for a recording of Giovanni Gabrieli’s “Gloria à 8” which was released as part of Shenandoah University’s 2020 virtual Holiday Gala. 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.
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 ever-growing professional choral job market.
The four ensembles comprising the choral family at Shenandoah University—the Conservatory Choir, Cantus Singers, Shenandoah Chorus and Shenandoah Singers—celebrate Shenandoah by performing the folk song “Oh Shenandoah” on campus.
Meet the Director
Dr. Austin Thorpe is the Choral Artist-in-Residence at Shenandoah Conservatory where he leads the Conservatory Choir and teaches conducting. In September 2022, he will conduct a choral ensemble from Shenandoah at the Venice, Italy Biennale Contemporary Music Festival, featuring the program “Native American Inspirations” with a world premiere by Mohican composer Brent Michael Davids.
For the 2021/22 school year, Dr. Thorpe was the Visiting Director of Choirs at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where he conducted the Chamber and A Cappella Choir. He is a believer in commissioning new works by historically excluded composers, and while at the University of Utah commissioned and premiered “The 42 Project” by Chicago composer Adrian Dunn. This work honors the legacy of civil rights icon Jackie Robinson and the 75th anniversary of his integration into Major League Baseball. From 2011 to 2017, Dr. Thorpe taught choral music in Utah at Herriman High School, garnering a reputation for those ensembles’ signature sound.
He received his Ph.D. in Choral Conducting and Music Education from Florida State University (FSU) where he studied with Drs. André Thomas, Kevin Fenton, Michael Hanawalt, Judy Arthur and Clifford Madsen. While at FSU, he wrote the dissertation, “Ronald J Staheli and the Choral Art: Risking Total Commitment for an “‘Achingly Glorious Beauty.’” He earned both his Master of Music in Choral Conducting and Bachelor of Music Education degrees from the University of Utah, studying with Drs. Barlow Bradford and Jessica Nápoles. Austin and his partner Nicole reside in Winchester, Virginia, and have four wonderful children: Calvin (10), Deric (9), Anne (7) and Graham (5).
Shenandoah Conservatory is committed to fostering a safe environment for our students and faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are equally 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.