UM Chorale, a break from routine

Remember back in elementary school, or maybe even in middle school, when they made you take chorus class? For many, it may have seemed like another mundane and mandatory class, one in which you half-heartedly mumbled out words to songs that only your parents could truly love to hear.

But for others, chorus class gave them a chance to indulge in one of their true passions, singing; a passion that some University of Miami students have been cultivating and have been continuing here in one of the many chorale groups offered in the Frost School of Music.

Tristan Montaque, a junior majoring in international studies and English literature, started singing church and gospel choir from a young age.

“Actually, when I was about four,” said Tristan. “I only started singing chorale music in high school, my junior and senior year, and when I got to UM I realized that I liked it a lot and I chose it as a minor.”

Fifth year student Steven Stuts, currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in vocal performance with a minor in sports administration, began singing at an even younger age.

“I started singing when I was two years old, as soon as I could speak, and I’ve been singing ever since,” said Stutts.

Joseph Pak, a sophomore majoring in math with a minor in vocal performance, learned how to sing from his mom when he lived in Korea as a child.

“My mom was a musician who specialized in teaching the blind back in Korea, so I learned from my mom at an early age,” said Pak. “I didn’t start pursuing music until high school, and have enjoyed it so much that I chose it as a minor here.”

Despite each of their unique musical upbringings and age differences, the one thing these students all have in common, their love of music, has brought them together.

Pak, Stutts and Montaque are each in the men’s Maelstrom choir class, which is one of the five choir ensembles offered in the Frost School of Music.

Stutts cites the diversity of the students that participate in Maelstrom as one of the major differences from his previous singing experiences in high school.

“One thing that’s different in an ensemble like this is that you get people from all different majors, not just music majors, and you get to meet people that you wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said.

Senior Thomas Cochran, a member of the UM chorale, added, “The friendships that I’ve formed with the other members of the choir are some of the strongest friendships I have developed during college.”

According to Stutts, the men’s Maelstrom choir meets twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday’s from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m., where they “practice their repertoire, tonal quality and everything to ensure that we get the best sound possible.”

Tristan Montaque added that, “Maelstrom usually has three performances a semester, along with a holiday dinner performance.”

The Maelstrom and Cantellina (female) choirs do not require auditions, but the Symphonic, UM Chorale and Chamber singers all do require an audition.

According to Cochran, every year the singers must partake in a singer’s skill test as a sort of re-audition to get back into the group.

“The auditions consist of a few pitch memory tests, singing various scales such as major or whole tone scales, and finally singing a few sight singing exercises a capella,” said Cochran.

According to Cochran, one of the major differences between Maelstrom and Symphonic chorale is that the UM Chorale is a smaller group of about 35 people while Symphonic choir is a larger group.

“The repertoire of the two groups is also different. Symphonic choir focuses mostly on symphonic choral pieces while UM Chorale has a wider scope of repertoire that not only includes symphonic works but also chamber music and contemporary a capella pieces,” said Chocran.

Montaque, Stutts, Pak and Chocran all look forward to chorus class as a breather from their otherwise hectic schedule.

“I look forward to class as a time where I can focus on creating beautiful music and forget all the other worries in the day,” said Cochran.
“Maelstrom is a relaxation for me,” said Montaque. “I just love singing.”

Pak added, “My day is filled with physics and other hardcore classes, so Maelstrom is just a nice break and breather for me.”

Interested in joining one of the choirs next semester? For Maelstrom and Cantellina, all you have to do is join it as a class while making your schedule online for next semester. Symphonic, UM Chorale and chamber singers all require auditions.

Anthony Scarpulla may be contacted at

Upcoming Performances:

Spring Choral Invitational
Friday, Feb. 25, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
Miami Children’s Chorus, Coral Reef Select Choir, Symphonic Choir, Frost Chorale

Music’s Empire
Friday, March 4, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Chamber Singers, Cantilena, Maelstrom

A Musical Journey
Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. , St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 4:00 p.m., Lakeside Presbyterian, West Palm Beach
Symphonic Choir, Frost Chorale

Hope, Faith, Love
Friday, April 15, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Chamber Singers, Cantilena, Maelstrom