Everyone has a voice, so let it be heard, says Dr. Frank Watkins, assistant professor and director of choral activities in the music and theatre arts department at UW-Eau Claire.
"Choral music is that one medium that we all can find a universal spot and spirit in," Watkins says. "Choral music has been a part of our lives since we were children. It’s a place where everyone can feel at home. It’s a place where everyone can find their voice. It’s a place where everyone can contribute as one whole.
"There’s nothing better than a community of singers singing together," he says. “That spirit of excellence and community and singing together — that can change the world.”
Watkins, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, joined the UW-Eau Claire faculty in 2014. His passion for choral music sprouted at an early age, as he played piano for the youth and adult choirs at a Baptist church in his hometown.
In addition to conducting his ensembles, including Concert Choir, Women’s Concert Chorale and Novum Voce, Watkins enjoys elevating other conductors on the platform.
“I really enjoy the intersection of race, class and gender — to really promote composers of diverse backgrounds and underrepresented populations; thus, women composers, composers of color — it is important to give these composers a platform to really prepare our students for the diverse world they will encounter.”
UW-Eau Claire has one of the largest undergraduate music programs in the UW System, Watkins says. With more than 400 students singing in choir, UW-Eau Claire is known as "Wisconsin’s Singing University."
“We have a healthy mix of students. Most of the students are actually non-music majors. We have a small contingent of students who are majors; however, the majority of the choir is composed of students from all backgrounds and disciplines from across our campus.”
For anyone who wants to pursue choral music education, Watkins advises that they learn how to play piano.
“Piano is the foundation of your educational career; and from that standpoint you can then sing and do everything else. The piano is the bedrock of our education.”
A conductor with a strong passion for teaching, Watkins believes that in order to educate, one must first inspire. He says it’s his goal to make an impact on those who follow his baton.
“I love the students. I love seeing the ‘ah-ha’ moment when the students finally get it, and they figure out how things work. It’s finding out when the students really get the concept — and then can replicate it — that really makes me happy and excited.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Dr. Frank Watkins.