Title: Professor Music; Director of Choral Activities
Expertise: Teaching the world to sing - through applied, voice, and ear training and sight singing
Music professor Mark Conley’s passion for encouraging musical talent and teaching people to sing has taken him to Carnegie Hall and stages nationwide. But this summer, his passion took him to the far reaches of Africa where the internet is solar powered, his accommodations consisted of a pup tent, and he walked about 40 miles a week.
For three months, this distinguished conductor, composer, and singer traveled through Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, as guest choir director for the Manda Wilderness Choral Festival, showcasing the region’s talent. His journey started in Malawi on the Mozambique border, and he captured his introduction to this new world in his blog.
“Words and pictures cannot convey how alive the whole scene was. The traffic, the honking, the shouts, the markets, farm stands, roosters crowing, minibuses packed to the gills with people. I loved the bewildering, foreign and absolutely vital scene passing before me,” he wrote.
Traveling by foot through tall grass, he visited small villages throughout the country and taught people how to sing, focusing on breathing, posture, and pitch. He videotaped images of their singing on his cell phone and played it back to them, the first time many have seen themselves on video.
The Manda Wilderness Choral Festival rings together the 16 communities of the Manda Wilderness region with 12 choirs of 20 voices each competing for prizes. The competition aspect of the festival is important and the singers take it seriously. Professor Conley respects their passion and blogged that he’s impressed with the talent and dedication of the villagers.
On the Festival’s Facebook page, an entry states: “Choirs have benefited from his (Conley’s) insight, experience, and enthusiasm as he shares his love of music throughout the Manda Wilderness region. Thank you, Mark, for the impact you’ve made in our region!”