‘Possibly more volatile’: Rice Chorale finds joy in music

Photo courtesy of Pippa Jarvis

By Shreya Challa 11/8/22 11:53 PM

Every Monday and Wednesday, Music Director Tom Jaber sends the Rice Chorale, a group of students from different majors and years, into a practice room to sing choral music. The choir is currently preparing for their upcoming show on November 15th at 7:30pm in the Edythe Bates Old Organ Hall at the Shepherd School of Music. This is Jaber’s 35th year as professor and director of choral music at the Shepherd School of Music. Over the years, he has led the Chorale through numerous changes in the vocal department and revitalized the group after its disbandment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Chorale is a required course for some students at Shepherd, Jaber said it is open to people of all skill levels and no auditions are required to join. Except for semesters during the pandemic, the course is offered each semester for one credit hour.

“I hear from prospective students who won’t go into music but want to continue singing,” Jaber said. “The most important trait they can have is just the desire to want to be there, to find some joy and satisfaction in singing beautiful music.”

Taylor Stowers, one of the Chorale members, said being in the Chorale is her way of keeping in touch with different types of music without making a big commitment. She said that although she is a psychology major, she is passionate about singing.

“There aren’t that many music opportunities created for non-music majors in any meaningful way,” said Stowers, a sophomore at Duncan College. “It’s one of the easiest and most fun ways to keep doing music… To be able to maintain my technique and sing in a band like I did in high school is nostalgic and it’s fun.”

The Chorale also includes other members of the Rice community, including professors, staff and alumni. Mars Steyer, a Rice graduate, is one such member of the Chorale. Steyer said participating in the choir is a way for her to learn new pieces of music.

“It’s a way for me to stretch myself and learn different languages,” Steyer said. “I mean, we’re singing in Latin, we’re singing in German, we’re singing in Spanish… I have no idea what I’m singing. I like to study different composers, study different types and styles of music.

Jaber says that because the Chorale brings together a diverse group of people, it’s like a microcosm of the university.

“I think the Rice Chorale looks like the face of the university,” Jaber said. “We’re certainly diverse in the schools and the different departments and age groups and all that. We are as unstable as can be. I love him like that.”

Stayer said one of the reasons she still participates in Chorale is that she enjoys meeting new people and still feels involved in the Rice community.

“I’m not a superstar singer by any means, but I fit in pretty well in a band,” Steyer said. “One of my favorite things is watching the kids grow up over the years. I see them coming in as freshmen and really blossoming. They are just such a joy to listen to.”

Hannah Frampton, a vocal performance student at Shepherd who is pursuing chorale for her second semester, emphasized Jaber’s love for the band.

“I feel like Chorale is his baby at Shepherd — he’s had it since he first came to Shepherd … It’s filled with joy,” Frampton said. “He does everything because he loves it. He cracks jokes all the time and demands the best from us like a good teacher does.

Jaber also insists that the band have opportunities to showcase their talents. For example, they played at the inauguration of President Reginald DeRoche on October 22. Their upcoming performance will include two works by French composer Maurice Duruflet: “Requiem” and “Messe Cum Jubilo.” Jaber, who has been the Chorale’s backbone during their challenges, said he hopes the singers find their Choral experience as meaningful as he did.

“He’s really talking to me, and I think if he’s talking to me, there’s a chance he’s talking to them,” Jaber said. “These are the kinds of pieces that bring people comfort in the face of adversity.”

Frampton echoed Jaber and said the Chorale is made up mostly of non-music majors.

“Just a bunch of people who really like to sing, get together and make music,” Frampton said. “We feel like there’s a different energy because they’re just doing it for the joy of making music. It’s not part of the requirement for them, so it was really fun.”

Above all, Jaber encourages all interested students to join the Chorale, regardless of experience level.

“The Rice Chorale, I tell them every semester and I mean it sincerely, is my favorite thing to do at Rice University,” Jaber said. “I want everyone to know they are welcome. If they want to sing, for heaven’s sake, they’re welcome to come.

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