Watkins Succeeds Schwartzhoff at Podium for Master Singers
new artistic director and conductor also leads choral studies at UWEC
A new era of The Master Singers begins this year, as Dr. Frank Watkins has taken the position of artistic director and conductor for the ensemble’s 31st season. Watkins – the Director of Choral Studies and an Associate Professor of Choral Music Education at UW-Eau Claire – succeeds Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff, the only director in the history of the choir.
Dr. Watkins describes himself as “a very eclectic musician – I truly love all types and styles of choral music – particularly folk music.” He first fell in love with the sacred music of Tomás Luis de Victoria, and the “Requiem” of Johannes Brahms. “ ‘Requiem’ opened my eyes to beauty and majesty of choral-orchestral music, while the sanctity and mystical quality of de Victoria’s work made me realize the power the choral music and how it touches the listener’s soul,” he said.
I work for a full, healthy sound. I want all singers to sing with their full technique with a richness of tone.
INCOMING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AND CONDUCTOR, THE MASTER SINGERS
The pedigree of The Master Singers is what made Dr. Watkins want to apply for leadership of the group: “I was drawn to the rich tradition of musical artistry and excellence that aptly describe The Master Singers.”
Each choir director brings their own approach to an ensemble of singers. What does Dr. Watkins favor in terms of choral philosophy? “I work for a full, healthy sound. I want all singers to sing with their full technique with a richness of tone.”
Since arriving in the Chippewa Valley almost a decade ago, Dr. Watkins has experienced the wide variety of musical opportunities (including serving as conductor and music director of the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra). Specifically for vocalists, he observes that choral options abound. “Anyone who wants to sing, can sing,” he said. “There are choirs for all ages and levels of ability. We are truly fortunate to be part of a such a musically diverse region. Singing is alive and well here in the Chippewa Valley.” Dr. Watkins has a vision for The Master Singers as he takes the reins of the high-profile musical ensemble: “To be the standard bearer for musical excellence and creativity in the Chippewa Valley; to make music, and to sing!”
The choir is currently open to auditions for the 2023-24 choral season. Those interested can find more information at TheMasterSingers.net.