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Q&A with Dr. Alyssa Cossey about the UCC webinar series

The Fred Fox School of Music’s University Community Chorus launched an interactive, eight-part virtual Webinar Series earlier this fall. Led by Dr. Alyssa Cossey, this series aims to maintain community, allow people to make music together in a safe manner, introduce new types of music and genres, and more importantly highlight underperformed and underappreciated choral music.

Photo of Alyssa CosseyWhat was your inspiration behind the webinar series?

As a Community Chorus, a lot of our singers are at a higher risk due to their age, so I was focused on allowing our members to create music and remain a community without meeting in- person. In addition, a lot of events happened over the summer, in particularly our country’s reckoning with racial inequity. Choir, in particularly, claims to be a space for everybody, yet we still tend to program and prioritize Western classics. I felt that this was an opportunity to bridge these aspects and to create a meaningful series for the community.

How have the webinars been going?

It is going really well; we are intermixing webinars with online rehearsals to allow us to still create music together. The great thing about these webinars is that so many people can attend, and since it’s free, it has become accessible to a lot of people. The problem, however, is that the panels can be particularly isolating as we can’t see any of the attendees. It’s difficult for me as a conductor as I’m so used to being in a rehearsal space with over 100 singers responding, so I make sure to ask many questions on the webinar to create that line of communication. So far, the webinars have been well received and I’m very excited for the upcoming ones.

What is the planning process behind the series?

It was really important that the series itself was diverse, not only from diverse genres and representation, but having different types of webinars. We offer sing-alongs, which are more participatory, as well as panels and presentations; it was crucial in finding the correct balance. In terms of the planning process, I wrote down a list of ideas that I personally wanted to cover and evaluated if they would be a good fit and, more importantly, interest people.

What insights can you give about the remaining series?

I’m honestly excited about all the webinars! I’m definitely looking forward to the upcoming “Gospel Choir Night” on Oct. 13, as we have two fantastic experts coming in that we can learn so much from. I’m also super excited about the “Sacred Harp/Shape-Note Sing-along” on Nov. 24. It’s actually an American tradition that has an active chapter in Tucson, but it is not super well-known. The series finale, “Messiah Sing-along,” on Dec. 9 will also be great, it’s a collaboration between the University of Arizona and my alma mater, Michigan State University. I am excited to work alongside my mentor, Dr. David Rayl, for that special event.

Is there anything you would like to say to prospective attendees?

I know that is really hard right now to try new things and if anyone thinks that it’s not for them, I would just tell them to attend one and try it out! I know we are all missing making music in our traditional way but there is still a lot to be learnt from these experiences and many cool collaborations to come out from this. I want to encourage anybody and everybody to come to a session!

REMAINING SCHEDULE

“Gospel Choir Night”

Oct. 13, 2020 – 6p MT. Register Now.

Celebrate the rich traditions of gospel music in America. Led by Jason Thompson and Chase Moore, learn the diverse history of this music and participate in our first-ever Gospel Choir Sing-along.

“This Is What Democracy Looks Like”

Oct. 27, 2020 – 6p MT. Register Now.

A pre-election special, featuring music directly related to the democratic process. Plus, composer Andrea Ramsey will answer questions about her newly completed “Suffrage Cantata,” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

“Music of Hawaii”

Nov. 10, 2020 – 6p MT. Register Now.

Guest presenter Dr. Jace Saplan, a native Hawaiian, will introduce us to the diverse and complex history of Hawaiian choral music with an interactive discussion about the decolonization of choral music in the 21st century.

“Sacred Harp/Shape-Note Sing-along”

Nov. 24, 2020 – 6p MT. Register Now.

Abigail Sorg and other guests will share a brief history of Shape-Note Singing, as well as a tutorial, and lead a virtual sing-along.

“Messiah Sing-along (Special Night)”

Dec. 9, 2020 – 6p MT. Register Now.

Join us for a National Messiah Sing-along co-hosted by Dr. David Rayl from Michigan State University! This exciting holiday event will include a “pre-concert” lecture, performances by guest soloists, and a sing-along concluding with Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus. A PDF doc of the choral score will be provided to all registrants.

The webinar series is open to the public. For more detailed information about the series or questions about how to register, please contact Dr. Alyssa Cossey at ajcossey@arizona.edu.

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