Arreon Harley's (MM Choral Conducting and Vocal Performance, 2012) first encounter with Dr. Paul Head and the UD Chorale was during 2010 at a performance in Philadelphia. He didn't know then how the lessons he learned at UD would impact his career path, but he's incredibly grateful for the time he spent here, and students at the Cathedral Choir School of Delaware, where Harley has been director of music and operations since 2013, reap the benefits as well.
Harley values the hands-on experience he had here, with opportunities to fully run rehearsals and podium time with our choirs, but he says the best lesson was actually as much psychological as musical. Working with Dr. Head, Harley learned that, "Getting people to buy in and understand that the reason people want to join choirs is more than music." The communal experience of choral singing is a vital aspect to Harley's work at the Choir School.
The Cathedral Choir School of Delaware began in 1883 in the tradition of Anglican choir schools: a choir of prepubescent boys singing sacred choral works for services at the Cathedral Church of St. John. Eventually, the choir expanded to include adult men and women as well as girls, and in the 1990s the directors began reaching out to the local community, inviting neighborhood kids to join the choir and offering them music lessons. In 2007, they implemented the Mentoring Academy, enriching the whole child through homework help in math, reading and study skills.
In 2012, the Choir School moved to the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, and when Harley came on board in 2013 he began expanding the programming and more fully integrating the music, academic support and mentoring. Currently, more than 100 students receive support in lessons, tutoring and even transportation, and about 50 of them sing regularly with the choir, which still includes adult members. Prior to the 2012 move, the choir sang exclusively for church services. Under Harley's leadership, the choir now performs every week at venues throughout the area and has expanded their repertoire to include secular works and pieces from diverse cultures and traditions.
These weekly performances have increased the Choir School's visibility, but also serve as an additional growth opportunity for the students. "You only know what you know," Harley says. "Travel is transformative. I want the students to see what is possible for them outside of their own neighborhood." Some of the choir students have never left Wilmington, and Harley has taken them on their first visit to Philadelphia, or the beach – an experience they would never have had if not for the Cathedral Choir School.
Find out more and see the <a href="http://www.ccsde.org" target="_blank">performance schedule</a>.