Newly appointed choir professor at UCSB aims to form a community
Renowned choral director and voice instructor Nicole Lamartine has been appointed as teaching professor and Sorensen Director of Choral Music starting this fall at UCSB.
She comes to UCSB after 12 years as director of choral activities at the University of Wyoming, where she put the program on the map. Her choirs sang at several national and regional conferences, and she was awarded the university’s highest teaching award, the Ellbogen Award for Meritorious Classroom Teaching.
Dr. Lamartine has headlined music conferences in the U.S. and Hong Kong and sung professionally with Conspirare, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Colorado Bach Ensemble. In addition, she has given masterclasses across the U.S., among many other accomplishments within choral instruction and performance.
Dr. Lamartine holds a doctorate of musical arts in choral conducting and a master of music in voice from the University of Arizona, along with a bachelor of music in voice from New Mexico State University.
“I’m excited to breathe some new life into the program,” Dr. Lamartine told the News-Press. “My predecessor retired four years ago, so the program has been without consistent leadership for four years.”
The seasoned singer and instructor said her go-to genre of music is ’60s soul, highlighting Otis Redding. She said there’s something about his singing that is “so honest” and has a “tangible humanness.”
The humanity of choral music is Dr. Lamartine’s main focus for her instruction at UCSB. However, she said in the event of online or hybrid teaching, it’s going to be a challenge.
“Teaching online holds some very deep challenges in terms of technology and sound delay. Singing together online is absolutely no substitute for the connection of human beings we feel when we sing in person,” she said. “In any case, my goal is to provide actual singing experiences that are meaningful and impactful for my students. I’m trying to develop some curriculum where we can actually create some human connection.”
Dr. Lamartine’s sights extend beyond the students’ music making. She wants singers to get to know each other as people and musicians, and “encourage each other in this unprecedented time.”
Her rough plan is to hold auditions as normal in the fall and come together in a variety of experiences, including singing and research experiences along with learning from composers and other conductors and genres of repertoire.
“It’s important to develop the listening ear when we can’t be listening to each other,” Dr. Lamartine said. “I’m not a big fan of the virtual choir experience because that is not a substitute for singing together. It’s an exercise in technology where we can edit together and record video and make it look like we’re singing together at the same time, but it’s not a live, singing together experience.”
That being said, the experienced professor is optimistic for the new opportunities virtual choir instruction can bring.
“I really do believe that this pandemic is paving the way for many genres of the performing arts in how we create it and how we consume it,” Dr. Lamartine said. “I do want the students to feel like they are engaging in a community that is supportive of what they’re doing in their music making. That’s a priority for me.”
In addition to changing instruction tactics, the professor said she sees this pandemic as leading to “the great exit of the concert hall.” With social distancing guidelines and the discouragement of gatherings, she predicts performances may no longer be in enclosed environments.
“I envision a future where choral performances are everywhere — on the street corners, in parks, on the beaches, so that choral music can be a more integral part of the everyday experience,” Dr. Lamartine said.
A positive amid the negative effects of COVID-19 on choral singing is that the six-foot spatial requirement is actually good for choirs, according to the professor.
Alongside creating more of a community within the UCSB choral program, Mrs. Lamartine wants to reinstate the men’s choir, add a faculty/staff choir and create collaborations and partnerships with the community of Santa Barbara “so that we as choral musicians get the music out of the bubble of campus and into the community in new and innovative ways.”