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Q & A: Tom Lloyd

Associate Professor of Music Tom Lloyd recently chaired a panel discussion at Yale University entitled “Unique Challenges and Opportunities: Choral Programs at Liberal Arts Colleges.” The discussion was part of the annual conference of the National Collegiate Choral Association, attended by college and university choral directors from across the country.

Here, Lloyd discusses the experience of teaching music and directing choruses at small colleges like Haverford.

Haverford College: What are some of the challenges faced by choral programs at liberal arts colleges?

Tom Lloyd: One of the biggest challenges is to straddle the line between the curricular and the extra-curricular, both in the minds of students and faculty colleagues.  All six of the panelists spoke about the different ways they struggled to maintain high standards of preparation and attendance in their rehearsals while faced with the necessity of frequently excusing students for extended labs, review sessions, guest speakers and other academic priorities.  At the same time, competition from time-consuming extracurricular arts activities such as a cappella groups and musical theater productions draw on the same limited pool of student performers. The panelists also spoke of how in their colleges, unlike in university programs or colleges with large music education programs, they are one of only a handful of faculty whose primary focus is performance.  As a result it can be harder to persuade their faculty colleagues of the academic value and rigor of artistic performance compared to work in the lab or the library.

HC: What are the benefits of teaching and directing music at these schools?

TL: There’s an opportunity to connect with a much broader range of students, and to place musical performance more fully within its historical and social context. What you teach can be connected to other disciplines, and it’s easier to collaborate with other faculty members on a small campus.

For example: When the Haverford-Bryn Mawr Chorale traveled to Ghana a couple of years ago, we involved faculty members from religion, history, and Africana studies, who led discussions about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, both in response to readings before the trip itself and in reflections on the experience of visiting the sites, both during and after the trip.

The students themselves also bring a refreshing perspective. They don’t feel the need to be a part of the competitive aspects of music-making in our culture; they’re interested in being challenged by compelling repertoire in a variety of musical styles—and in sharing concerts with their peers in cultures they’ve not encountered before, such as we have done here in cultural exchange tours to Poland, Ghana, and next spring in Turkey.

Interview conducted by Brenna McBride

Students cross in front of Founders Hall.

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