Austin McWilliams | WMUK

Austin McWilliams

WMU School of Music

They auditioned from their bedrooms, basements, and backyards to join the WMU School of Music as choral students this year. Dr. Kimberly Dunn Adams, the director of Choral Activities, says she is moved by their tenacity and talent, saying there are reasons for singing that transcend any moment in history and the challenges they represent.


Choral conductor Nick Sienkiewicz graduated in April from Western Michigan University with degrees in music and biochemistry. He also helmed the Unitarian Universalist Community Church choir and was working with the Kalamazoo Children's Chorus. But the pandemic changed all that. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, Sienkiewicz shares his science-oriented perspective on how choral activity was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and why it's important to use current research to find ways to continue singing. 

Sienkiewicz summarizes some of the recent developments in our understanding of the transmission of the virus, and vaccine development. He says that even with his background in biochemistry, it's still a challenge to read and absorb the latest research published in different science journals. That contributes to laypeople's confusion about COVID-19. It doesn't help that official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control  is being contradicted, questioned and even changed by the current administration. But, he says, the efforts of scientists working around the clock to combat COVID-19 is a beacon of hope.

Sienkiewicz will attend Indiana University-Bloomington this fall to pursue a Master's degree in Choral Conducting.


Ad Astra Music Festival

Austin McWilliams had recently earned his master's degree in choral conducting from Western Michigan University and was working for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra when COVID-19 abruptly ended all musical activity within a few days. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, McWilliams remembers getting the news that other schools were shutting rehearsals down, and after one final choral rehearsal, so were his. It was quite a blow. The much-anticipated performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion was going to bring together hundreds professional and student performers just before Easter for a work which hadn't been presented in decades. 


Elvert Jones, via Flickr, all creative commons

Austin McWilliams, a candidate for a masters degree in choral conducting from Western Michigan University, has turned his master's recital into a musical event with a message: HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Along with Dave Watt of CARES - Community AIDS Resource and Education Service - McWilliams discusses how he put the program together to highlight different aspects of the HIV story, with John Corigliano's Of Rage And Remembrance serving as the centerpiece. During the program, speakers from CARES will share information and poetry between musical selections. Panels from the AIDS Quilt will be on display at the concert, which begins at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, April 17 in the Dalton Center Recital Hall at Western Michigan University.


Three Western Michigan University School of Music choirs - the Collegiate Singers, Cantus Femina, and the University Chorale - will perform Sunday, Feb 24 at 3 pm in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Graduate assistant conductor Austin McWilliams previewed the works on the program with Cara Lieurance.


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