With poised expression and stature, graduate student Victoria Pitre takes to the conducting podium, lifting her arms as the choir waits in anticipation for her instructive cue. With that initial downbeat, she takes command of the sound and the ensemble.
Pitre is no stranger to such a prominent position and the responsibility of leading a choir – or orchestra, for which she also has experience conducting – through the notes, tempo markings, and dynamics. Now, she also has the prestige of being one of only eight semi-finalists nationwide invited to the biennial American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Graduate Student Conducting Competition - the first graduate student from Houghton to attend as a competitor. Pitre travelled to Minneapolis for the 2017 competition, which served as part of the National ACDA Conference.
She conducted the 100-person Luther College Collegiate Chorale from Deborah, Iowa, through the “Gloria” section of J.S. Bach’s challenging 27-movement Mass in B Minor, as well as the “Kyrie” portion of Maurice Duruflé’s nine-movement Requiem. Conductors were graded on various criteria, including important elements like cues, clarity of technique, musicianship and musicality, tempo, facial expression, physical communication, singing diction, and more.
Six of the eight contestants in this year’s competition were women – a notable feat in a field still largely void of female conductors – and the countries of Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Korea, United Kingdom, and the United States were represented. Pitre and three others completed the first round, while the remaining four continued to the semi-finals.
Such an unforgettable experience was a confidence builder and confirmation of Pitre’s choice of study. “Representing Houghton at the national ACDA conference was a privilege and honor,” Pitre noted. “I competed alongside outstanding conductors at the master’s and doctoral levels from top music schools, and was thrilled to connect with them as colleagues and stand in front of a top choir to shape my vision of the music.”
Pitre will graduate this May with a Master of Music degree, with concentrations in choral conducting and vocal performance. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL.