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One Voice at a Time: An Interview with Choral Instructor Wendy Landon

When I was in grade 5, my schedule was always packed on Tuesdays. I had school choir at 8:30 before school, orchestra for an hour after school until 5, and then I would head to yet another choir that began at 6:20, and ended at 8:40. And yet it was all so rewarding. Every evening when I would head out to choir, I knew that yes, it was going to be tiring. Yes, I was going to be stressed about the lack of time to do homework afterwards. And yes, I was going to be with my people, doing something I love. My people included not only the other amazing singers that were with me, but also my incredible conductors, one of which I had the pleasure of interviewing lately.

Wendy Landon is an active member of the music community in London, Ontario. She is a graduate from Western University where she received her Bachelor of Music and her Bachelor of Education. She has been teaching music in elementary schools for thirty years, and is one of the choral instructors at Amabile Choirs of London. In schools, Wendy is a music specialist that teaches grades 4-6 vocal music and grades 4-8 keyboard music at Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts. She is also physically active, as she enjoys camping, biking, and hiking in the great outdoors with her husband in her spare time.

Amabile Choirs of London is a non-profit organization based in London, Ontario. It is dedicated to educational programming in choral music. As serious and professional as it may sound, it is also an incredible honour to be a part of and overall, it’s a great time. There are nine choirs in total, with members from ages 8 through adulthood. There are four girls and women’s choirs, four boys and men’s choirs, and one chamber choir. Amabile is an award-winning organization, and their choirs tour either nationally and internationally.

“When I studied music education and I actually got the chance to start working with students, I knew that I’d started down the right path”

Wendy has been involved with music since the very beginning. She’d started violin and piano lessons as a young girl and was active musically throughout her high school years. After she began university, she found that musical performance was not what she wanted to do, but looking into musical education sparked a light within her. “When I studied music education and I actually got the chance to start working with students, I knew that I’d started down the right path,” she commented.

After she graduated from teacher’s college and began her teaching career, Wendy started attending Amabile concerts and became interested in what they did. “I wanted to know more about the choral world, and Amabile was already known nationally and internationally at that point for its excellence in choral performance,” she explained. In 2000, Wendy was invited to join the organization as a co-conductor. After completing a trial season with their choirs, she was welcomed permanently as a part of the Amabile family.

Wendy has now been with Amabile as a conductor for twenty years, working with two of its choirs on the girls side, with mostly elementary-aged students. The youngest choir is for girls aged 8-11, called Da Capo, and it serves as a training choir with basic choral training for the next choir that Wendy works with: the Junior Amabile Singers (JAS). JAS is composed of girls aged 9-14 and has its focus surrounding musical expression.

I think perhaps the one that I cherish most is the connections that are made both musically and through friendships.”

“Amabile” is an Italian word that means pleasant, sweet, and friendly. When asked what the choirs meant to her, Wendy responded that Amabile meant her “musical friends”, as she put it. She explained that many of those she’d gotten to know through the organization—whether as the singers she’d conducted or the colleagues she’d worked with—remain connected and as friends to this day through a special bond that is fostered through choral music and interactions.

Wendy hopes that being in Amabile gives its choristers “a sense of wellbeing”. As well, she hopes it inspires them in a way that helps build self confidence and self esteem. “Ideally, it helps to foster some positive mental health,” she told me. Discipline is developed through participating in professional choirs, as well as commitment and pride for what the singers do both by themselves, but also with the group. A positive, group-based, collaborative environment where the choristers can join together to do something they all love is what she hopes Amabile to be.

When I asked her what the most rewarding part about conducting at Amabile was, Wendy struggled to pinpoint a single aspect. “There are so many rewarding aspects to teaching and conducting,” she answered. “I think perhaps the one that I cherish most is the connections that are made both musically and through friendships.” It’s not hard to imagine how much she loves doing what she does, as she’s dedicated so much of her life to music and choral instruction. Being able to watch the students she teaches and the girls she works with grow as people throughout the years, as well as seeing Amabile grow as an organization must be an incredible thing to witness.

“Those magical, special moments that transpire when the performance goes beyond what’s on the page”

But what she loves is when music becomes more than just what’s written on the page. “Those magical, special moments that transpire when the performance goes beyond what’s on the page,” she expressed with fondness. “In other words, beyond the notes and the rhythms and the words.” What she’s talking about are those moments when the singers, the conductors, and even the audience are so engulfed and bewitched by the music and so connected to the point of tears. “I’ve had those special moments with a variety of choirs over the years and I still remember those beautiful moments that were created.”

And it’s true; those moments do exist. During the summer before my sixth grade, JAS traveled to England and France on a tour which I was delighted to be a part of. In England, we performed at the Canterbury Cathedral with a few other choirs that traveled there, also internationally. During that performance, there was that connection. A sensation that linked us all in the room of that cathedral, something that felt so overwhelmingly powerful and joyous. And although it likely wasn’t on Wendy’s radar of empowering choral moments throughout her lengthy career, it truly reflects the organization’s mission.

My evenings with the other singers at JAS started in grade 5, and ended when I began my final year of elementary school due to other commitments. However, through my time with the choir, it fostered my appreciation for choral music and singing. Wendy has done amazing things with Amabile, and continues to inspire girls and promote their choral passion and drive through the work she does. What she provides and exercises through her dedication and love for choral music is truly a testament to Amabile’s mission: “enriching and celebrating our community one voice at a time”.

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