This man needs no introduction! Read on to get a little insight into his past and learn what Daniel has been up to this summer. And for more about Daniel, be sure to check out first episode of The Choral Project’s No Baton Needed podcast, now available on all podcast streaming services; click here to listen on SoundCloud.
What was the last thing you did in the real world that we can’t do today because of the pandemic?
The last real thing I did was attend the American Choral Director’s Association Convention in Salt Lake City at the end of February. It was wonderful to see all my colleagues, friends, and musical family. I am happy I had the chance to be there before we went into lockdown.
Did you create any new music this summer, and if so, it been performed or is it in the works to debut in the real world once we’re able to reconvene in concerts?
I have been composing quite a bit during the lockdown. Oddly, being sequestered has made my creative juices really flow. I have written about nine pieces, all around seven to ten minutes in length. It is surreal to compose a work of music that may never get performed. Nonetheless, I feel like the muse is sated, regardless of whether or not the new music gets performed. And of course, I very much hope to have them performed!
What is the most rewarding and uplifting thing about being the artistic director of The Choral Project?
The sense of community within the group amongst the singers, and in our world with those in the South Bay and beyond. Our interconnectedness is a powerful thing. We can move mountains, change hearts, and transform ourselves and the world by creating music as a group. The love that flows forth when we make music together is tremendous.
Does your family have a lineage of musicianship?
Yes! I am proud to say that I inherited some wonderful musical genes! It all comes through my Chilean relatives on my mother’s side. My maternal grandmother studied voice and piano from an early age and was a beautiful spinto soprano. Her mother played classical guitar very well, and her uncle was the world-class pianist, Federico Guzmán, and he was a protégé of the pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
My maternal grandfather was an amateur cellist. For many years he was an ambassador to Chile, serving in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panamá. When he finished his diplomatic service and returned to Chile, he wanted a career change. He was very good friends with composer and Dean of Santiago Conservatory of Music, Domingo Santa Cruz, who formed the Instituto de Extención Musical, which was the premier concert hall and was connected to the conservatory. My grandfather became the finance manager of the institute. As a result, my mother grew up meeting some of the world’s leading musicians including Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Arrau, Jascha Heiftiz, and many more. Additionally, my mother’s grandfather was a composer and wrote a tonada called “Así Es Mi Suerte” which is a standard in Chilean repertoire.
Who has had the most profound impact on your journey as a musician?
Three teachers and one colleague in my life have greatly influenced my musical path. The first is Joanne McNiell, my piano teacher growing up. She guided my technique to always be a means toward expression. While pyrotechnics are thrilling, it is color, nuance, and phrasing that make person hold their breath in ecstasy during music making. The second is Jeanne Garson, my primary voice teacher at San José State University. She had a stunning mind, knew nearly every art song ever written, and was fluent in half a dozen languages. I learned how the breath spins into sound and how the balanced proportion of all of the parts of the body make for an efficient but mighty instrument. I also became a passionate linguaphile from my work with her. Third is Dr. Charlene Archibeque, my conducting teacher at San José State University. From her I learned how to effectively rehearse and how gestures can affect everything a conductor does. Hand position, arm height, and flow of the beat pattern all change the way the musician responds to the music. Lastly is Barbara Day Turner, Music Director of the San José Chamber Orchestra. Barbara is not only an incredibly generous colleague with impeccable taste, but is unflappable. From her I have learned how to relax more into the music making process. Watching her prepare and lead with such ease is a revelation.
What is the most significant difference between The Choral Project of today with The Choral Project that was founded in 1996?
There are a few big differences. One is the size of the group. We were about 32 singers when we began but have now plateaued to about 50 singers. Beyond that, I would say the biggest difference is the way we have adapted with life changes in the world. The way work affects a person’s schedule—especially work in Silicon Valley—directly affects how much bandwidth and time a singer may or may not have. The choir has evolved to accommodate time constraints making the group more “doable” for advanced singers that may have a demanding job, and the spiritual, mental, and emotional nourishment the singers receive from being part of the organization. When we began, we were a choir that wanted to heal the world through song. Now, we are a choir that wants to heal the world as we allow it to heal us.
Assuming the world is “right-side up” again, where do you see The Choral Project in ten years?
My hope is that we will still be making music as potently as we have, but on a larger scale, such as reaching more people through tours, larger concerts, more recordings, and continuing to add production value to our musical offerings.
Photos were taken by The Choral Project Board Member, Nada Marriott, who observed all rules of social distancing while using a long-distance camera lens. | © 2020 Nada Marriott