Longtime singer to head Chandler Children’s Choir SanTan Sun News

Longtime singer to head Chandler Children’s Choir

Longtime singer to head Chandler Children’s Choir
Arts
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By COLLEEN SPARKS
Managing Editor

A Wisconsin native and former high school choral director who toured the Baltics as a teenager is eager to help young singers when she takes the reins as the new director of Chandler Children’s Choir’s Encore Choir.

Kiernan Steiner, 26, of Ahwatukee was recently selected for the role to guide boys and girls ages 10 to 15 in the Encore Choir.

While she heads the choir, she will also continue working on her doctorate of musical arts in choral conducting from Arizona State University.

Growing up in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Steiner caught the musical bug at a young age.

She performed her first solo singing in church around age 3 as her mother is a Presbyterian pastor. Steiner said she has seen pictures of herself at 3 or 4 singing while her mother played guitar in church.

“It’s just such a human experience and I’ve sang my entire life,” she said. “I grew up singing for her sermons.”

In high school Steiner started singing at weddings, funerals, baptisms and other events through the church.

“I just started to see a much bigger purpose for what music can do,” she said. “It helps people work through their emotions.”

Steiner sang in her high school’s choirs and was accepted her junior year to participate in the Wisconsin All-State Treble Choir.

In her senior year of high school, she was chosen to take part in the Wisconsin All State Mixed Choir.

The best high school students are selected for the All State choirs to participate in a four-day summer camp and perform at the Wisconsin School Music Association conference held in Madison each October.

During her junior year while taking part in Wisconsin All-State Treble Choir, Steiner met Beth Holmes, an Arizona State University alumna who was the guest conductor for that choir and a professor of music at Millikin University. Holmes greatly inspired Steiner.

“She was really the person that changed my perspective on choral music and what that rehearsal process looked like,” Steiner said, recalling:

“She helped us interpret text. Her interactive, kinesthetic type of teaching was really attractive to me. It was so meaningful that I reached out to her in an email and asked her, ‘How are you where you’re at?’”

Later, Steiner, who also played violin and clarinet in her schools’ orchestras and bands from sixth through 12th grades, went to Millikin University. While earning her bachelor’s of music degree in vocal music education at Millikin, she sang in a choir that Holmes conducted.

Steiner also sang in the University Choir, the top mixed choral ensemble, directed by Beth Holmes’ husband, Brad Holmes, her junior and senior years at Millikin.

Steiner and the other members of that choir performed at the Grand Canyon and throughout Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in 2013.

After graduating in May of 2014, Steiner and the rest of the University Choir traveled to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to perform and collaborate with other choirs and conductors.

Steiner then returned and taught private lessons while directing the choral program at Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua.

She worked with students performing in musicals, directed an a cappella choir and conducted a jazz choir and another choir. She spearheaded a concert where students sang carols around the winter holidays as culinary students served appetizers for the audience at the high school. Steiner enjoyed teaching in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

Two years after starting her job teaching at the high school, she headed back to a university. This time she earned her master’s of music in choral conducting from University of Missouri – Columbia. While there, she worked as a teaching assistant and directed a vocal jazz ensemble.

Steiner has performed and taught all different genres of music including bluegrass/country, jazz, pop, R&B, gospel, classical and musical theater.

“I love the variety,” she said. “I would say through school I’ve really started to fall in love with Renaissance and Baroque music. My grandfather introduced me to bluegrass. I love bluegrass, folk music, as well as R and B, Motown.”

Steiner said she is excited to work with children in her new position at Chandler Children’s Choir.

“It’s been in the last couple years I’ve worked mostly with college students but I’ve always loved working with kids,” she said. “Adolescence is a really interesting time for them to navigate all these different avenues as they’re growing up. It will be very cool to work with them.”

Steiner will officially start her job as the Encore Choir director July 15, though the choir’s season will start Aug. 15 and the first concert will be in September.

She was impressed with the choir’s last concert, where audience members could choose songs.

“It’s really creative,” Steiner said. “I love how experimental they seem to be and willing to take chances on new ideas and be a part of something like that is really exciting. Also just the many opportunities that all the choirs have, just to see that students from 7 to 18 years old can be a part of something that’s really in their backyard and something that’s so easy and accessible.

“I just wish there was something like that when I was growing up, but it’s so cool to be a part of it on this side of things. They’re so organized and they’re so kind. So many people have reached out to me already welcoming me to the team. I’m so excited to take on this responsibility of leading this group and seeing where this will take all of us.”

She will replace Herbert Washington, who is leaving at the end of the season to become artistic director of Phoenix Boys Choir.

Aimee Stewart, founder and artistic director of Chandler Children’s Choir, sang Steiner’s praises. She said a professor at ASU recommended Steiner for the position and Steiner has “really worked hard to achieve artistic excellence in her field of conducting.”

Stewart said she was especially impressed when she heard Steiner’s answer when she asked her why she wanted the job.

“She said that ‘in society, choir can help you find out who you are as a young person, when you find out how valuable your voice is, it affects all other areas of your life,’” Stewart said. “She talked about how choir gives these young people a platform to be who they want to be. She’s very articulate.

“She’ll be able to relate with them,” Stewart added. “I think what she will do is she’ll continue to build that community and really bring the choir together as one choir with one vision, one goal and also helping them to really feel that their individuality is important to contributing to that whole. She will be a fabulous teacher too.”

She said she watched Steiner conducting college students in a choir prior to hiring her and liked what she witnessed.

“She has a very clear instruction style, which is very positive and open and yet still has an expectation of excellence,” Stewart said.

She said the Encore Choir provides a vital artistic outlet for youths at a formative time.

“I think it’s absolutely critical because we have a lot of young people who come and they’ve never really sung before and then we have some with a lot of experience, a broad range of ages, maturity,” Stewart said.

“It really bridges that adolescent gap. I think it’s absolutely a critical age when those young people are deciding what their identity is. Choir is such a great place to build that character and team building.”

Encore Choir, in addition to singing at local concerts, also travels out of state and has visited Santa Fe and Los Angeles with plans to visit San Diego in the future. Chandler Children’s Choir has different levels of choirs including Junior for those ages 7 to 19 and Cantus for youths ages 13 to 18.

Information: chandlerchildrenschoir.org

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