Daniel Bara, the John D. Boyd UGA Foundation Professor of Choral Music in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, cultivates an outlook among students where great accomplishment, artistry and talent are never divorced from a sense of humility, joy and gratitude.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I hold a bachelor of music degree in organ from the University of Michigan as well as two master of music degrees in organ and conducting. My doctorate is from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I am the John D. Boyd UGA Foundation Professor of Choral Music and the director of choral activities in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, which is part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Basically, I provide administrative oversight for all of the choirs at UGA (though I share conducting responsibilities with my amazing colleague, Dr. J.D. Burnett, and my graduate conducting students), and teach conducting to undergraduate and graduate students in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came in fall of 2010. The UGA program is larger than the program I left at East Carolina University and offers the doctorate in conducting, which ECU didn’t. However, the main reason for my move was to be closer to my then-future wife, Dr. Deanna Joseph, who landed the position of director of choral activities at Georgia State University that same year.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I love making music. So, my favorite class tends to be with the UGA Hodgson Singers, which is UGA’s most selective choral ensemble and one of the choirs that I conduct. I also love teaching conducting, so my undergraduate choral conducting class and my graduate conducting seminar are great fun for me, too. I love how the art of leading an ensemble forces a musician to be able to articulate and show (gesturally) a vision for a piece of music. We can’t get on the podium without distinct ideas (and feelings) about the music.
What interests you about your field?
A million things …! but, the nature of artistry, leadership, motivational skills, vocal sound, language, poetry, stylistic and cultural diversity in music, dramatic communication with an audience … on and on.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I have so many reasons to be proud of our choirs and graduate conductors at UGA, but the UGA Hodgson Singers’ performances at the American Choral Directors Association Southern Division Convention in 2014 and at the International Choral Competition Ave Verum in Austria that same spring were both truly memorable. And, our recent performance (spring 2017) of Craig Hella Johnson’s oratorio, Considering Matthew Shepard, with Dr. Johnson conducting was truly wonderful and in many ways transformative.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I think of myself as a practicing clinician/musician first and foremost. So, my work with choirs of all types is in many ways a large part of my research, which is about choral pedagogy and the cultivation of fine choirs. So, my work with the choirs at UGA and elsewhere is my creative output as an artist-conductor and my research as a teacher who is preoccupied with trying to become a better teacher and conductor.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I hope that students who sing in my choirs become better musicians who are better equipped to practice and interpret music on their own as solo musicians. I also hope to cultivate an outlook among my students where great accomplishment, artistry and talent are never divorced from a sense of humility, joy and gratitude that must be shared with others. And, I hope that students who are in my classes/ensembles will risk becoming unabashedly and demonstrably passionate about whatever they are doing.
Describe your ideal student.
Hardworking, motivated, open, intelligent and who comes to class with questions and ideas and passions. And, a good sense of humor. Someone who takes the music seriously as well as the art of music-making, but doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Someone who thrives on the responsibility and accountability of being a great musician, but does so without letting ego get in the way of growth or the serendipity of musical collaboration.
Favorite places to be/thing to do on campus is…
Choral rehearsal room, and Hodgson Hall! Music lives there!
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Spend time with my wife and baby daughter … walking, cooking, relaxing on the back porch.
Community/civic involvement includes….
Work as choir and orchestra director at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, and outreach performances with various university ensembles within churches, schools, etc.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
Book: John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” I love and admire Owen Meany’s profound sense of proud individuality and self, despite being so different from his peers. And his faith that his life has an important purpose.
Movie: “Dead Poet’s Society.” A movie that relishes an exploration of poetry, individuality and one’s ability to think for him/herself.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Join a choir at UGA! We have choirs for all schedules and levels of experience. And, even a choir that faculty, staff and community members can join.