Meet the newVoices Section Leaders

Posted on Oct 26, 2018 by

by Kat Boogaard, Alto

There are plenty of people involved in ensuring that newVoices makes beautiful music for each and every concert. There’s our phenomenal artistic director and conductor, our amazing associate conductor, our astounding accompanist, and of course, our talented singers.

But, that’s not the whole picture. In fact, there are a few key players at our rehearsals that you might not know very much about: our section leaders.

What Do Section Leaders Do?

Each our our vocal sections (sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses) have an assigned section leader. Because newVoices is large group that tackles ambitious music for each and every concert, these section leaders work with their assigned voice parts in section rehearsals to refine challenging parts of the music, answer questions, and provide musical guidance.

“My role as a section leader is primarily to help my section’s singers learn their music,” explains Dean Niquette, Tenor Section Leader, “We spend a fair amount of time in the first few rehearsals of each concert cycle breaking down and practicing our tenor part separate from the other sections.”

In addition to leading these smaller rehearsals, section leaders also act as a point person when it comes to providing feedback about what areas singers should focus on during their individual practice that week, as well as answering questions that come up during group rehearsals.

“Each week after rehearsal, I send a ‘Bass Notes’ email to the members of the ensemble detailing practice spots and other rehearsal advice,” adds Dan Van Sickle, Bass Section Leader.

How Are Section Leaders Selected?

When being a section leader requires so much musical knowledge and leadership, each of newVoices’ section leaders either have experience or currently work professionally as music educators in some capacity.

“It’s important for these leaders to have the vocal, piano, musical, and pedagogical skills necessary to properly teach the music,” says Van Sickle.

With so many talented musicians in the choir, our artistic director and conductor, Dr. Philip Swan, and our associate conductor, Dan Van Sickle (who also serves as our bass section leader), take the job of choosing section leaders very seriously.

Dan Van Sickle

“Dr. Swan and I work to identify qualified members of the ensemble that could take on the responsibility of section leading and then ask those singers if they are able to fulfill the duties of the position,” Van Sickle explains, “While there is no official ‘application’ process, we know there are a number of qualified people in our ensemble who could take on this role.”

Being selected as a section leader is an incredible honor, but it also comes with a heavy amount of responsibility in ensuring that each of our vocal sections are polished up and ready for each concert.

“I was thoroughly intimidated by this position when I started,” says Christina Conn, soprano section leader, “There are so many talented musicians and teachers in the ensemble and I felt like, ‘Who am I to be named section leader?’ In reality, we all play an important role in the section, whether it is playing piano for sectionals, having a great ear for balance and intonation, or being a strong music reader. We tackle tough music together in sectionals and my role in the choir is to facilitate that work.”

Meet Our Amazing Section Leaders

Needless to say, each of our section leaders are incredibly talented musicians and strong musical advocates within the choir. So, who exactly are they? Meet each of our section leaders in the short interviews below!

Soprano Section Leader: Christina Conn

Christina Conn

1. How long have you been a member of newVoices?
This is my seventh season.

2. How long have you been a section leader?
I think this is my third year? Time flies when you’re having fun!

3. When you aren’t singing with NewVocies, what do you do for work?
I teach choir at Appleton East High School and Madison Middle School. I still can’t believe I get paid to sing all day!

4. What’s your favorite thing about being a part of newVoices?
Can I only have one favorite thing? The music we sing and the way it is positively impacting our community, the camaraderie and friendships, the incredible partnership with the symphony, watching our accompanist ROCK at the piano, the passion and energy of our director and assistant director, sitting behind Mary Schmidt during rehearsals and trying not to snort when I laugh at her antics…my favorite thing about newVoices is the sum of all its parts!

Alto Section Leader: Melissa Fields

Melissa Fields

1. How long have you been a member of newVoices?
This is my thirteenth year with the group!

2. How long have you been a section leader?
This year is my first time as section leader.

3. When you aren’t singing with newVoices, what do you do for work?
I am an elementary general music teacher.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being a part of newVoices?
I love the music and the friendships I have built over the years.

Tenor Section Leader: Dean Niquette

Dean Niquette

1. How long have you been a member of newVoices?
I believe I first joined in 2003, so 15 years this season!

2. How long have you been a section leader?
I took over for Mike Hodges somewhere around 2005 or so, when he stepped down from the position.

3. When you aren’t singing with newVoices, what do you do for work?
I’m an IT guy, working as a network/systems consultant for a local Microsoft consulting company. I learned quickly after college that trying to be a full-time church musician without strong keyboard skills was not going to pay the bills. My IT vocation truly allows me to enjoy music as an avocation.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being a part of newVoices?
I have to sing to be happy, and newVoices is a quality ensemble with quality people. Before I joined newVoices, I took a year off from singing in a choir—the first such break since I started singing in elementary school—and it actually made me miserable and irritable. Besides offering amazing musical experiences, choirs are like families, providing a unique and satisfying social outlet.

Bass Section Leader: Dan Van Sickle

1. How long have you been a member of newVoices?
Not sure exactly, but it’s coming up on 15 years or so!

2. How long have you been a section leader?
I took over for the wonderful Jim Miller when he retired from the group a couple years ago. 

3. When you aren’t singing with newVoices, what do you do for work?
I am a Choral Educator at Appleton East High School.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being a part of newVoices?
Making quality music with fellow humans. Singing just makes me happy, but singing alone doesn’t provide the same “buzz” as joining your voice with 80 others. I like to explain it like a conversation: You could talk to yourself all day, but you wouldn’t learn much. Singing with others is like a great conversation. You get to use your voice to express yourself, and—if you’re really listening—you’ll get a chance to connect with others.

See Us in Action

Our section leaders, conductors, accompanist, volunteers, and our singers invest tons of time, energy, and effort into making beautiful music. Want to experience it for yourself? Take a look at our upcoming concertsand get your tickets now. We’ll see you there!

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