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Visit the Westminster Choir Blog

Two Westminster Choir members have volunteered to share their experiences through the Westminster Choir Blog this season.  Welcome Claire and Scott!  Here are some fast facts about them both.

Claire Hughes

Name: Claire Hughes
Hometown: Sussex in the South of England, UK 
Major: Choral Conducting
Teachers: James Jordan and Joe Miller
Voice part: Alto 1
Class Year: 2nd year grad 


Professional plans after graduation

I don’t have it all planned out yet… real life is next. I came to this program straight from undergrad, so it’s time venture away from student life, at least for a while.

Composers I admire

I heard David Lang talking about how he approaches composition recently. His answer was that he looks for what might be missing in the world, which he can provide with the skills he has. This answer has stuck with me because it is both selfless and innovative. I would like to approach my own career as a musician in the same way, finding what it is I personally can give.

Other than that, my current top 10 are Josquin, Lassus, Monteverdi, Schütz, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Poulenc, Britten and MacMillan. There are so many more I could mention. So many…

Why Westminster

I was interested in studying choral conducting and my director of choral activities back home, Simon Halsey, told me all about here. Studying outside of Europe had not crossed my mind before then. I applied with no expectations of getting an audition, let alone a place on the course. It’s great how life proves you wrong sometimes. 

Life outside of class

With the amount I take on at school, free time is a precious commodity. It’s great when there is time to socialize with the friends I’ve made here away from school, and I try to stay in touch with people back in the UK as well. In terms of hobbies outside of music, I enjoy a bit of baking, I like fiction and creative writing, and I do like a good museum or art gallery.  A project I was involved with recently away from Westminster was a piece written by David Lang for 1000 voices. I was one of 25 conductors required, and the premiere took place in the middle of a packed Lincoln Center plaza, surrounded by New York rush hour madness. It was an experience I shall never forget.

Also take me to a good coffee shop and I’m happy. 

What's on my iPod

I’m more of a Spotify person, but naturally choral music and more broadly classical music feature heavily. There’s also a bit of jazz, folk, acoustic stuff, some musical theatre. After my year as musical director for the Gilbert & Sullivan society during my undergrad, there’s also a ton of G&S on there. 

Favorite apps 

Google maps. I have a terrible sense of direction. BBC news is another regular; I like to stay connected with what’s happening in the world. YouTube and Spotify receive honourable mentions. 

Favorite food

That’s tough… I have a sweet tooth, and chocolate deserts (let’s not get into the European vs. American chocolate situation) or cheesecake will make my day. I’ve also got more into Mexican food lately.  Breakfast food any time of day is the best. Thai green curry is definitely one of my favourites. And from home I miss classics such as a roast dinner or a good fry up. 

Last book read

I’ll take this as school work aside. For fiction, it was The Circle by David Eggers. For non-fiction, I’m dipping in and out of Letters from a Life, Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten, Volume Two 1939-45. As for plays, I recently read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I have mixed but mostly positive opinions. I’m a Gryffindor in case you were wondering. Clearly you were.  

If you were trapped on a desert island, who/what would you like to have with you?

I’d go with fresh water, a good book, a plane and a pilot. 
 


Scott Koven

Name: Scott Koven
Hometown: Burke, VA
Major: Choral Conducting
Teacher: Joe Miller
Voice part: Bass 1
Class Year: 1st year graduate student


Professional plans after graduation

Well, I’m open to anything. I would love to sing at the professional level in some capacity, and of course I hope to teach and conduct in any number of contexts. My biggest goal is to maximize the impact of my artistic endeavors on a community and to innovate in the process.

Composers I admire

There are so many, but as a pianist, singer, and choral musician, Brahms has been one of the more significant. His music is rich, creamy, emotionally charged, textually sensitive, not to mention technically masterful and clever. What I most love is the way he viewed himself as an artist -- he truly believed that it was his duty to God and the world to compose to the best of his ability, and to that end he was endlessly self-critical and emotionally invested. I’m no Brahms, but I can relate to that sentiment. 

Why Westminster

So many potential opportunities and wonderful people influenced the decision, but the most impactful thing was probably the sheer quality of performance. I had the opportunity to see the Westminster Choir on their tour last year, and I was absolutely blown away both by the sound and the meaning of the program. Very thankful to be here!

Life outside of class

I love to be outside, whether it’s just relaxing with a cup of coffee or hiking back in the Shenandoah Valley. I also love to explore art in my community and read. Typically I’ll go for news, a variety of fiction, and any solid book about Colonial America and the American Revolution. 

What's on my iPod

Like most musicians, I find this extremely difficult to answer. A few highlights: choirs like Tenebrae, Cantus, Gabrieli Consort; pianists like Barenboim, Bezuidenhout, and Kissin; Winterreise with Bostridge/Andsnes; 70’s/80’s Rock; obviously PTX.

Favorite apps 

My favorite games are Tiny Wings and Tetris. I also find myself on the ESPN and NPR apps quite a bit. 

Favorite food

Food is too hard for me to pick, so my favorite drink is a well-crafted Mocha. 

Last book read

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel 

If you were trapped on a desert island, who/what would you like to have with you?

If I had the Harry Potter books and an unlimited supply of iced lattes I would be just fine.