Choral Music Brings Generations Together


Courtesy of Leann Conley-Holcom

Among the diverse choral ensembles of Seattle University Choirs, University Singers has its own unique allure. Unlike other Seattle U choirs, University Singers is a combination of current students, alumni, faculty and Seattle community members.

The choir itself was a creation of Leann Conley-Holcom, director of choral and vocal activities and assistant teaching professor. Conley-Holcom felt that University Singers was the solution to an existing void in the choral programs at Seattle U that helps community members stay connected in a welcoming atmosphere.

“Many were looking for a choral experience that offered them a place for community and an artistic outlet, with less time commitment than the choirs that meet during the day, and this ensemble (which meets just once a week in the evening) offers that,” Conley-Holcom said. 

Lee Peterson, pianist-in-residence at Seattle U, believes that University Singers is an unparalleled opportunity to make lasting connections.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to come to campus once a week and hobnob with a whole bunch of different people. The age range is really encouraging. We have first-years…we’ve had much older folk, like 70s and 80s. It spans a wide range of people who are united by their love of music and their love of singing together,” Peterson said. “It’s the most diverse choir, I believe, that we have ever had.”

It’s rare to see music made by groups of different generations, which makes University Singers stand out. Giancarlo Agogliati, a third-year finance major at Seattle U, weighed in on the lack of intergenerational music-making in society and what can often cause rifts in musical relations.

“I make music, I’ve been in a couple bands and I make solo music,” Agogliati said. “Because the rock sounds I make are very 90s and after, sometimes when I show somebody who is a baby boomer or Gen X…they just don’t get it.” 

As Redhawks of all ages join together in University Singers to create music, it begs the question: what is it about choral music that brings diverse communities together in such a rich way?

“Looking at music by diverse composers, with different cultural contexts–they are simply for everyone,” Peterson said.. 

It isn’t only the variety within choral perspectives that can be attributed to the unity it encourages. Liz Budd Ellmann, who graduated from Seattle University in 1998 with a master’s degree in divinity, described the effect of choral music on the individual. 

“[Choral music] is so intimate, fun and challenging…and it’s a growth opportunity. It’s a spiritual experience in its own way. When you feel the harmony with other people, musical harmony, there is something quite spiritual about that,” Ellmann said.

Many members of University Singers commented on the evocative nature of singing within a group. Agogliati mentioned otherworldly emotions that can be sparked by a shared experience.

“Learning parts with people in the same room, especially people from different generations, is something I’ve never done before…Once we all click together, in those rare moments when we are all ringing together, it’s kind of magical,”  Agogliati said. 

University Singers will be performing their Holiday Concert, along with Chamber Singers and University Chorale, on Dec. 2. The concert will take place at Seattle First Baptist Church at 8 p.m. Peterson encourages all who can make it to attend.

“For the price of a latte, which only lasts a moment, you can come and listen to music that feeds your soul,” Peterson said.