Jason Vodicka will lead Westminster’s Summer High School Vocal Institute
When Jason Vodicka traveled from his home in Raleigh, N.C., to participate in Westminster Choir College’s Summer High School Vocal Institute (VI) as a high school junior in 1998, little did he know that 22 years later he’d be its director. Recognized as one of the nation’s leading summer music programs for high school students, VI was established by John Finley Williamson, founder of Westminster Choir College, in the 1960s.
“VI was my first introduction to Westminster. I knew immediately that I was in ‘the right place,’" Vodicka recalls. “Well, I was actually a little homesick and nervous, but that only lasted for about two hours. As soon as we started singing, I was hooked and didn't want to leave.” In fact, he returned later that summer to participate in Westminster’s High School Musical Theatre Camp.
Reflecting on the impact VI made on him as a musician, he says, “I had never been taught that music is something that happens inside a person. Before, I only understood music as making the right sounds at the right time. I never considered that music is more about listening than it is about putting out sound. That realization immediately changed my approach to everything I do as a musician — singing, playing the piano, conducting. It was a significant life-changing event, and I remember it happening during a VI choral rehearsal.
“The other thing I learned that summer was the power of the breath in music-making,” he continues. “Of course, breathing is important for singers, but the idea of using breath as a time of centering and of accessing one's inner artistry, was revolutionary. Learning that artistry, technical precision, vulnerability, connection and humanity are all accessed via the breath turned my musical world upside down. I went back home to North Carolina completely different from when I came.”
He says that participating in VI encouraged him to apply to Westminster the following year. “Experiencing Westminster's world-class faculty first hand, meeting and interacting with current Westminster students and hearing about opportunities like singing with the world's major orchestras as an undergraduate student... you just don't get that anywhere else.”
After graduating from high school, he applied to Westminster and enrolled as a music education major. He went on to earn bachelor's and master’s degrees in music education ('03, '09) and accepted a position teaching music at Pennsbury High School in Bucks County, Pa. After nine years, he left his teaching position to earn a doctorate in conducting from the University of Georgia. In 2017, he was appointed assistant professor Music Education at Westminster, after serving on the faculty at Susquehanna University for several years.
In addition to his work at the Choir College, he conducts the Westminster Conservatory's Youth Chorale, based at Westminster's community music school. The Chorale, a program open to students in grades 9 through 12, hosts an event one weekend in the fall and in the spring to explore and perform a major choral work. March 27 and 28 the Youth Chorale's Spring Sing 2020 will focus on Schubert's Mass in G and other works. Follow this link to learn more.
“I take my role as the director of Vocal Institute incredibly seriously and with great humility,” he says. “I meet people all the time who attended VI as a high school student, some with John Finley Williamson. Some of these people went on to major in music, others have just enjoyed singing in their church and community choirs, but the experience made a deep impression on each person who attended.”
Learn more about Jason Vodicka.