Clark Named Choir Director

Prof. Tom ClarkCentral Methodist University’s incoming director of choral activities is bringing a wealth of passion, energy, and experience to the Swinney Conservatory of Music in the coming year, as Buffalo, N.Y. native Tom Clark will begin work in the role in July.

“Tom is ready to hit the ground running. His energy, commitment, and enthusiasm for choral music are contagious,” said Dr. Melissa Simons, the new dean of the Conservatory. “To bring that into our community is going to be very healthy and very exciting.”

Coming from a family of band directors and instrumentalists, Clark has always been at home in the music community, but he says his passion for vocal music didn’t begin blossoming until he was in college at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania.

“It wasn’t until college that I ever sang a note,” he said. “But with that experience of being in my first college choir, I quickly decided this is what I wanted to teach, and I began my journey into directing choral music.”

And what a journey it’s been. Since earning his bachelor’s degree in 1989, Clark has taught music at every level from middle school up to community college and university level. He’s taught in four different states already – Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, and Illinois – and is now excited to be “across the Mississippi” adding Missouri to the list.

“An exciting prospect here at CMU is the pride and tradition that the choral program has on campus, and I’m looking forward to carrying on those traditions and making some new traditions,” said Clark. “I’ve heard the choir, and they are wonderful. I feel very blessed to be able to work with them.”

Clark is expected to bring a high level of passion and energy to his job, an expectation backed up by his reputation among his previous students.

“My past students would describe my teaching style as ‘passionate,’ and I’m proud of that,” he said. “I am very much in love with what I do, and I hope that that transmits to my students.”

Another unique aspect of Clark’s teaching and directing style is to amplify underrepresented voices. He strives to choose pieces for his choirs that reflect the importance of looking at all aspects of choral music, bringing multicultural voices and voices of different genders to the table.

He is currently finishing his doctoral thesis on vocal pedagogy for the 21st century music educator, specializing in transgender and non-binary voices. He believes it essential to helping each of his students find their own authentic voice.

“My philosophy of teaching is that every voice is unique, and I would like to help students find their authentic voice, whatever that may be,” said Clark. “And through the journey together, we can help each other grow.”

Capitalizing on his ability to encourage authenticity with the individual voices in his choirs, Clark will be able to explore a broad and varied repertoire for his ensembles. He has experience teaching many different styles as well, from the traditional bel canto style to non-classical styles, including “jazz, Broadway, pop, and other influences.”

For the longtime teacher – whose wife is also a professor of music and concert pianist – the most important part of the job is helping every singer find their path and their authentic voice. And the way to get there is by being passionate as a teacher.

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