Conductor J. Edmund Hughes on the Confidence-Boosting Power of Performing in Carnegie Hall

Conductor J. Edmund Hughes on the Confidence-Boosting Power of Performing in Carnegie Hall

Edmund Hughes, Adjunct Professor at the University of Puget Sound, retired from the Chandler-Gilbert Community College Music Faculty in 2011 after a 40-year teaching career. He has been awarded the Arizona Outstanding Choral Educator Award (ACDA), Arizona Music Educator of the Year (AMEA), Lifetime Achievement Award (AMEA) and the first Lifetime Achievement Award granted by the University of Arizona’s Choral Music Department. A part-time composer, Ed has several choral compositions in print, published by Santa Barbara Music, Colla Voce Music, and Walton Music. We asked Dr. Hughes to share a little bit about his experience at Carnegie Hall and with MidAmerica Productions.

MAP: Why do you think the MidAmerica Experience is important?

Ed: It gives students the opportunity to perform on the grandest stage in the world, and to work/learn/sing with outstanding choral directors from around the country. Within the MAP structure, it gives choirs/singers that may not be of the elite level the opportunity to collaborate with other choirs to create an elite-sounding ensemble.  It also gives the outstanding choirs the opportunity to give solo performances.  From my experience, and in speaking with other directors and students, when the choirs return home from this experience, their confidence, levels of expectations, and skill levels have been lifted and enriched.

MAP: If you have performed previously with MidAmerica, when was that?

Ed: I initially heard about MidAmerica Productions through Choral Journal, after which I prepared two choirs to sing in Carnegie Hall (Phoenix College and Chandler Gilbert Community College).

Conductor J. Edmund Hughes performing in Carnegie Hall

MAP: What was the main musical experience that your performers took way from their residency in NYC which culminated in their Carnegie Hall performance?

Ed: Since our performance, I have heard and received so many wonderful comments from students and directors.  The words that keep appearing are: inspiring, life-changing, educational, emotional, incredible, once-in-a lifetime experience, enriching.  I have also received many comments regarding how quickly and efficiently our HUGE choir came together in such a short amount of time. The teacher in me likes to focus on the rehearsals and giving the students more musical/vocal tools, ideas, concepts and the communal attitude of working together so that what they experienced in NY doesn’t stay in NY — unlike Las Vegas 🙂 — but they can continue to apply what they learned at home with their own choirs.

MAP: As music director, what was the most memorable personal experience you took away after this residency?
Ed: What immediately popped into my head was what happened at end of our final rehearsal before the dress rehearsal. I asked the students to make a big circle in our rehearsal room, close their eyes and sing one of the powerful, dramatic and transforming sections of the Requiem…”I am the resurrection and the life….” It was truly a stunning moment to observe as they sang a cappella non-directed.  I get goose bumps as I write.  Other moments were in the last movement when the sopranos entered with “Lux aeterna” — it was “what heaven sounds like.”  During the concert, I was looking into the eyes of the singers, many of whom sang from memory.  At the end of their performance, I had the opportunity to meet every student as they left the stage and exchange a high five, hand shake, hug, whatever. The overriding experience was to watch and hear the students from their first rehearsal to final concert work so well together, continue to grow, open up themselves and become much more vulnerable and expressive during our time together. After over 45 years of teaching, I continue to be amazed and believe in the power of music and how it brings us together as singers, but even more as people.

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Over the past 34 years, MidAmerica Productions has produced over 1300 concerts in Carnegie Hall and at historic halls all over the world. To have your ensemble perform in Carnegie Hall or internationally, call us at 212-239-0205 or visit us at

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