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The Carletonian

’Tonian article causes stir for choir

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At the end of winter term, Choir Director Lawrence Burnett responded to dissatisfaction among certain choir members due to the article in The Carletonian’s Winter Issue 8. Burnett invited the Choir and the Singers to a discussion luncheon to address the issues, and later reacted to the criticisms and challenges during an interview.

During the luncheon, Burnett maintained he “was glad that all of this came to light.” While it was “disappointing” that choir members failed to directly address the issues with him, “one of the things that struck me was that every criticism was right on the mark, and every compliment was right on the mark.” To facilitate better communication among the choir, Burnett asked for specific feedback and “constructive criticism on how things might be different,” but also highlighted the necessity of members’ physical and mental commitment to rehearsals.

Members expressed concern over several issues, including moving too quickly during rehearsals. Burnett attributed this to rehearsal constraints, and proposed altering the rehearsal schedule to better fit choir needs. “If we want a quality ensemble, we have to have quality rehearsals, and two rehearsals a week is not a lot of rehearsal time at all.”

Burnett acknowledged the choir’s recent dilemmas, and maintained that the disadvantageous conditions of the choral practice room significantly contributed to the problems. Currently located in the basement of the Concert Hall, the choral rehearsal room is a temporary space for the choir. Due to its original design as a gallery, the room poses acoustic challenges for large choral practices. “If you can’t hear each other well, if you cannot see, then you’re not going to have a good experience,” Burnett said.

To resolve this issue, Burnett repeatedly rearranged the room’s configuration and is working with the administration to improve the situation. However, in addition to frequent illness last term, Burnett says that this was the cause of his perceived disorganization. “This is the kind of thing that happens in the background and until its in place, there’s that frustration. We have to work hard under adverse conditions, and sometimes students don’t understand that.” Asserting that he is committed to providing a quality experience for students, he said, “I don’t care how disorganized I may look; the people in front of me will find out that I have worked in their best interest.” The practice room’s recent re-configuration has improved the rehearsal quality, according to Burnett, and there is a tentative plan for new rehearsal space in a future construction expansion of the Weitz.

Burnett addressed the dissatisfied students, saying that “a person who is disgruntled or simply anxious is disappointing. They are not willing to be patient and trust.” He noted that in order to succeed, “everyone really needs to be on board and a team player,” and to provide input. The people who left the choir “obviously were not.”

If students did not feel comfortable approaching Burnett, “there is an infrastructure called the choral council, for students to go to about anything that concerns them. But that was not utilized,” according to Burnett. Choral Council member, Patrick Stephen ’15, noted that the council “hasn’t done anything of substance this year. The only thing that we had a hand in was setting up a group Bon Appetit lunch for the choir and singers fall term.”

Burnett stressed his dedication to students, and said “I am trying to prepare them for the rest of their lives. Music is the vehicle.”

Current choir and Singers member, Anne Guttridge ’18, contradicted former members’ complaints, saying “Lawrence definitely knows what he’s doing in terms of music. We do get things done, we do learn, we do gain experience and knowledge in music.”

Caroline Bolster ’15, a member of both the choir and Singers, echoed Guttridge’s feelings. “I’ve had a very positive experience. He’s been very helpful in my musical growth.”

Pledging to continue to provide meaningful experiences for students and choir members, Burnett said “I feel badly for the students who are disgruntled or dismayed [and those that have quit], because ten to twenty years from now, they will not have a choral experience, good or bad, to look back on.”

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