Growing the seeds: New director has new vision for Claflin concert choir

By: OLANMA HAZEL MANG
Sep 11, 2018

Dr. Jason Dungee had his debut performance as director of the concert choir during Claflin’s Sept. 6 Matriculation Day ceremony. (Panther photo by Olanma Hazel Mang)

 

The new director of Claflin University’s concert choir made his debut at the 150th Matriculation Day ceremony on Sept. 6.

Dr. Jason Dungee directed the choir through a rendition of “Psalm 150,” a piece by Nathan Carter, at the Tullis Arena. The performance earned a standing ovation.

“It feels great to have worked as hard as these students have worked and be able to get that immediate feedback,” Dungee said.

He took over from Dr. Isaiah McGee, who directed the choir for 18 years. McGee said he enjoyed the piece and had high expectations of Dungee.

“He's full of energy. He's got a lot that he brings to the table, and so I'm expecting him to really take the reins and lead the choir to new heights,” McGee said.

“Dr. McGee set a course, planted seeds,” Dungee said. “My goal is to grow them.”

After the performance, Provost Dr. Karl Wright, introduced him to the audience. Wright said choosing Dungee was the right decision.

In an interview before his debut, Dungee said his goals for the choir will focus on growing its popularity through establishing a stronger social media presence and performing more international concerts.

“As good as the choir is, there was not very much presence on YouTube,” he said. “That’s got to change.”

It has been 10 years since the choir traveled to China in 2008. Dungee said it was time the choir leave the country again to do major conferences.

“This choir should be in conversations with some of those bigger, more prestigious PWIs, ResearchOne programs just because of the level of talent we attract here,” he said.

Dungee brings with him a new style of teaching and directing that he said the choir appreciates because it still functions. He said the reception has been great.

“Dr. Dungee respects us as a group, and he respects us as individuals,” said Anissa Jackson, president of the concert choir, said. “He has a vision for us and he knows where he wants us to go.”

Choir member Christoph McFadden said, “He’s really skillful in his pedagogical approach and how he teaches the music.”

“After this performance, it just proves that there’s a lot of great things coming for us,” Allegra Portee said. She is a senior and has been part of the choir since her freshman year.

Her colleagues echoed her excitement. McFadden said the experience had been remarkable so far.

Kimberly King, another choir member, said, “I was really excited to see how the audience would receive us because everyone is so used to Dr. McGee directing us. They took it really well and I had a good time.”

Although McGee enjoyed the performance, he said it was a different experience for him. “It was a tough situation in that it was the first time I hadn’t conducted matriculation in 18 years.”

Echoing the matriculation address by Dr. Henry Tisdale, the president of Claflin University, McGee said the university is in a peculiar transitionary period and the changes should be embraced.

He said he would continue to support the choir and hopes that everyone will support Dungee as well.

Before coming to Claflin, Dungee was a visiting director of choral studies at the University of South Florida for two years.

He said he was amazed at the reception from students and faculty. “I see how important the choir program and the choral position is here vs. at a larger university like the University of South Florida.”

He said that he will work hard to ensure the choir’s continued success. “We’re still going to go forth and carry on what Dr. McGee has started, and we’re going to carry it on with power,” Dungee said.

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