Choral Conductor Rodney Eichenberger visits The Bear Creek School & The Overlake School

  • Written by Sini Fernandez and Natalie Higashiyama of The Bear Creek School
Courtesy photo.
The Upper School Choir at Bear Creek spent Thursday morning, October 6 working with a master. Choral director Rodney Eichenberger is a legend in choral circles, having taught for over 50 years throughout the United States at three Universities and as a frequent guest artist at seminars and workshops on choral conducting. Mr. Eichenberger brought his passion and energy to Bear Creek as he worked closely with Judy Loudenback, Upper School choir director and the choir on the music from Handel’s Messiah, Susan Brumfeld’s No Time, and Henry Davies’ God Be in my Head.

Eichenberger demonstrated how movement can improve pitch, tone and rhythm. He instructed the singers to hold their hands open, as if holding a ball, and lift them up on Brumfeld’s line, “Rise, O Fathers, Rise.” Throughout the morning, students learned to hear and change pitch more accurately through a simple finger gesture, pointing upward while singing a note instead of pointing downward.

In unrehearsed, spontaneous demonstrations, singers internalized musical concepts aurally, visually, and kinesthetically. During a line from Handel’s For Unto Us a Child Is Born, he remarked, “Don’t be vague when you sing that part.” By listening to each section of the choir individually and then changing the individual order, spacing and number of rows, conductor Eichenberger improved the entire production and vocal tone of the choir. Among his memorable pieces of advice, “Never sing the same word the same way.”

Eichenberger’s philosophy that musicality is enhanced through movement extended to Judy Loudenback, Bear Creek Upper School choir director. He encouraged her to move with “purpose or intention” while conducting. Loudenback especially appreciated that “Rod was able to take music to a deeper level. He is a master at understanding the small nuances of choral music and helping students understand how to bring their music to the next level.” Choral students remarked throughout the day how Eichenberger made them sound so incredible in such a short time.

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