Angela Broeker is Director of Choral Activities at the University of St. Thomas where she conducts the Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, and Festival Choir and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in choral conducting, choral literature and choral pedagogy. Since arriving at the University of St. Thomas in 1999, Dr. Broeker’s choirs have performed at national, regional, and state conventions of the American Choral Director’s Association and have toured extensively in Europe and South America.
In addition to her university responsibilities, Dr. Broeker presents for national, regional, and state conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Education, the Organization of American Kodály Educators, and the American Orff-Schulwerk Association. She serves as guest conductor for numerous honor choirs including the ACDA National Children’s Honor Choir in 2015, honor choirs at the Eastern, Southern, Southwest, North Central and Central Division ACDA regional conferences, National Honor Choirs at numerous OAKE conferences, and all-state choirs in more than 40 states. International conducting engagements include honor choirs in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, and the United Arab Emirates.
Dr. Broeker received her D.M.A. degree from the University of Oklahoma and her M.M. and B.M.E. degrees from Indiana University. Her research interests include authentic, respectful performance of music from diverse cultures as well as the exploration of varied vocal colors that are possible with this repertoire. Recently, she’s presented keynote speeches around the themes of community and inclusion within the choral experience. She served as guest editor of the April 2006 Choral Journal and has written articles for the Choral Journal in 2011, 2008, and 2006. Other publications include the July 2000 Music Educators Journal, the NAfME Spotlight on Teaching Chorus, as well as many local and regional music publications. The book she coauthored with Mary Goetze and Ruth Boshkoff, Educating Young Singers, is published with GIA. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA with her dog and her husband-composer, Jay.
Today, you’ll hear my interview with Angela (Angie) Broeker, Director or Choral Activities at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
If someone were to ask Angie to describe what it is she “does”, she’d say “I walk into a room of people and we use music to express our commonality.”
“I view the choral experience as one of expressing our humanity together,” she adds.
Musical upbringing –
Angie started playing the organ at 9 years old. While accompanying the choir in middle school, she developed a love for choral singing and began to really think about the particulars of choral music. After high school, she decided to major in music education. She auditioned for the organ department at Indiana University but didn’t get accepted. (Listen to hear more about what happened next in Angie’s college journey.)
A moment in time when things didn’t go as planned for Angie
At age 29, Angie left her doctoral program because she didn’t think she wanted to “do music” anymore. She had earned her bachelor’s degree and taught at a middle school in Houston, Texas. She then got her masters and started her doctoral work, but it was at this point in life that she began to search for other things and question her path. So she took a step back and worked at United Way for a year and spent her days with others who spent time trying to come up with creative ways to help people. But she missed making music. (Listen to hear more about Angie’s journey back to music.)
What advice would Angie give someone who would like to create a more inclusive program for their next concert?
Angie strives to include everyone and everyone’s music into her choral repertoire. “I focus on the students who are in my choral rehearsal,” she explains. “I hope to educate them musically, socially, and as human beings.”
In creating a program, Angie says that she sets her intentions and then starts looking at YouTube clips, searches choral competitions and festivals, etc. to locate interesting new repertoire. While searching, she considers what it is that she wants to bring to her students, and then her creative muses lead to pieces that work well together. It’s that “aha! experience” that she loves, Angie explains.
What is Angie most excited about now?
“I’m excited about bringing love into a world that feels really divided. It’s about providing experiences to students that will give them an opportunity to connect with others that don’t look like themselves or believe the same things as they do.”
Angie’s advice to her younger self
Throughout your life, there will be nothing more important than your spiritual journey. That has to stay on your front burner. And remember that “you are totally okay.” Don’t be concerned about so many things.
What makes an outstanding conductor or educator?
Angie believes that the ability to connect with your learners where they are in order to take them forward in their journey is most important. You also need the ability to filter out what works and throw out the stuff that didn’t. Furthermore, you should always go into a teaching situation with an attitude of service.
Favorite personal growth book
Words of encouragement from Angie
Take risks, and realize that nobody has this figured out, Angie says. People who act like they have it figured out really don’t. We’re all in this together! No one is above anyone else on some proverbial choral hierarchy. Remember to also share your vulnerabilities – it makes the music come alive in a different way.
Connecting with Angie Broeker