Collaboration in music inspires new choral director

When the Ripon College choirs present fall semester concerts, no one will be more eagerly anticipating the performances than new College conductor John Hughes, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities.

Collegium Musicum will perform Nov. 21; Choral Union, Dec. 5; and all musical ensembles at the Holiday Concert Dec. 14.

“Performing music at a high level with other people is one of the riches human experiences,” Hughes says.

He especially is enjoying work with Choral Union. “This ensemble is a mix of students, faculty, staff and community members,” he says. “It is great making music with such a cross-section of the town and getting to know even more people in the area.”

Hughes received a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College, a master’s of music from Northern Illinois University and a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Iowa.

Ripon College reflects his undergraduate school, Augustana College, with its small class sizes and opportunities to truly grow both in and outside the classroom. “I knew I wanted to join a similar learning community,” Hughes says.

Hughes feels that students should consider participating in music, regardless of their major. “We’re very fortunate at this school to have a variety of bands, choirs and orchestras,” he says. “By joining an ensemble, students get to interact with people with whom they might not normally meet and employ parts of their brains and bodies that might not get used in their other classes.”

Music requires interactions between the brain and the body, he says. “It encompasses so much of our brains. Music requires high levels of technicality (theory, rhythm, harmony) physicality (playing/singing technique, breath support, body alignment) and emotional sophistication (expression and in choral music, poetic texts).”

In his teaching, Hughes wants to explore the interdisciplinary connections of music. “The study of music intersects with so much else – art, text, language, history, culture,” he says. “I like pieces of great depth, regardless of time period, country or language.”

He enjoys choosing enchanting music that crosses cultures, time and place. “I don’t know if I have a favorite style of music, per se,” he says. “When I am evaluating music to conduct, I’m looking for pieces that are aesthetically substantive, musically unique and emotionally captivating.”

Kaylie Longley ’15
Saint Francis, Wisconsin


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