In episode 008, Dr. Andrew Megill, of The University of Illinois and Montreal Symphony Chorus, sits down with Ryan for a talk on empowering musicians to ask the right questions to deeply discover music and learn about who they are or who they can be.
Andrew Megill is recognized as one the leading choral conductors of his generation, known for his passionate artistry and unusually wide-ranging repertoire, extending from early music to newly composed works.
In fall 2014, Dr. Megill joined the faculty of the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) School of Music as Professor of Conducting and Director of Choral Activities. Upon learning of the appointment, he said “I am thrilled to contribute to the University’s extraordinary legacy as one of the nation’s most important centers for the study of the choral art.”
School of Music Director Jeffrey Magee noted that “Andrew Megill has all the right tools: extensive experience in professional and academic worlds, capacious knowledge of six centuries of choral music repertoire, impeccable rehearsal and conducting technique, and a gift for bringing out the best in the musicians with whom he works. He is a perfect match for the School of Music’s choral program, which was the first in the country to offer the doctorate in choral conducting and whose alumni are in leadership positions all over the country.”
Dr. Megill currently leads three of North America’s finest professional vocal ensembles: the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the Carmel Bach Festival Chorale, and Fuma Sacra. He frequently prepares choirs for performances with the world’s leading orchestras, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonie, Montreal Symphony, National Symphony, and New York Philharmonic, collaborating with conductors such as Boulez, Dutoit, Frühbeck du Burgos, Gilbert, Neeme Järvi, Masur, Nagano, and Rudel. He will make his debut conducting the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in December of 2014.
Dr. Megill is particularly admired for his performances of Baroque choral works. He regularly collaborates with pioneers in the field of historically-informed performance and has conducted many leading period-instrument orchestras.
Dr. Megill has previously served as Music Director of the Masterwork Chorus and Orchestra, Chorusmaster for the Spoleto Festival USA, and Associate Professor at Westminster Choir College. He has been a guest conductor for the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, TENET vocal ensemble, the Juilliard Opera Center, and Emmanuel Music (Boston), and served as interim choirmaster for Trinity Church (Wall Street) in Manhattan.
He has collaborated with the Mark Morris Dance Company, folk singer Judy Collins, puppeteer Basil Twist, and filmmaker Ridley Scott. Recordings of choirs conducted or prepared by Dr. Megill may be heard on the EMI, Canteloupe, Naxos, Albany, and CBC labels.
The moment you knew you’d dedicate your life to music
When Dr. Megill was 5 years old, he was moved by a recording of the Skye Boat Song. Upon looking around he noticed that none of his friends felt the way he did. So he’s felt this connection with music since as early as he can remember!
Worst musical moment
In his first year of his masters, Dr. Megill was hired by a church in NJ to conduct some Messiah and the Bach Christmas Oratorio. He went in under-prepared to the first and only rehearsal, and noticed his score and the instrumentalist’s score were different, likely a 19th century edition, so what he saw and what he heard were a LOT different. It was also a Korean church and no one in the room spoke English. He took away lessons on how detailed one can be in terms of preparation. He also realized that he needed to study the score enough to gain perspective on what the instrumentalists needed from him.
The proudest musical moment
Most recently, Dr. Megill debuted with the Montreal Symphony, but that wasn’t what he remembers with the most fondness or pride. It’s the smaller things, like making music with close friends, such as his group Fuma Sacra. What the world thinks of as “success” isn’t always what feeds us. The work is the reward. Even after his Carnegie Hall debut, the connection with the choir was what was most important.
Dr. Megill’s strength is his musical curiosity (asking the right questions) and empowering others to “go deeper than they know”, unlocking their true potential, artistry, and self-sufficiency.
Most excited about right now
Two things: Bringing the conducting program (the oldest in the US) at the University of Illinois into a new era, and a commission for the Montreal Symphony Chorus from Christoph Penderecki.
Advice for your younger self
Care less about what other people think, do what you think is right, and listen. We waste too much time worrying about what others think about us and getting them to like us.
What makes a great conductor?
In order to be a great music educator, you need to be a great musician. But overall, a sense of generosity for those you serve.