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We asked Professor Gary Seighman 10 questions in an effort to get to know him a little better
by Susie P. Gonzalez
Gary Seighman is director of choral activities at Trinity University. He has been singing for as long as he can remember and says that "group singing" is deeply embedded in the human experience.
1. How do you motivate your students?
I like to think that my students and I develop a shared sense of trust. In music-making, this is essential because we must be allowed to feel vulnerable when conveying emotions in performance. It really is something that is built up over time and especially in rehearsals. I may tend to crack a (really) bad joke here and there, but if something isn't going right musically, I usually don't sugarcoat it because I respect our students and know they are capable of so much. At the same time, I think they know that my compliments are genuine.
2. What are some of your pre-concert rituals?
I like to go for a run before a concert to loosen up. It also helps me to focus on my own breathing - sort of an important thing for singers and conductors!
3. How did you get involved in your area of expertise?
I've been singing as long as I can remember. But even before I knew I wanted to be a conductor (I was originally going to study engineering), I used to goof around and "conduct" Beethoven symphonies while standing on my bed and holding a kitchen spatula as a baton. Wow, that made for a fun Friday night at the Seighman home!
4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching?
Seeing students from all different walks of life sharing a passion for choral music. Group singing is deeply embedded in the human experience - you see it take an important role in every culture. I always walk out recharged after each rehearsal and it is especially awesome to feel that connection with your singers after a particularly moving performance.
5. Who inspires you?
My grandparents lived only a few minutes away when I was growing up. My Grandpa Leo was the hardest working person I ever knew. He was a WWII veteran, but as a kid I remember him putting in well over 80 hours a week of intense labor in the Philadelphia shipyards, with calloused hands and all. Despite this, he always had tons of energy for his grandchildren. Our son's middle name is after him.
6. Favorite color?
7. Favorite sports team?
Duh, the Spurs! Our choir had the opportunity to sing for Tony Parker's private wedding ceremony a couple of years ago, and most of the team and coaches were there. I could see Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich) intently focused on our Trinity students as they sang (almost like he was studying the whole "teamwork" element). Players Boris Diaw and Tony both attended the pre-wedding music rehearsal in its entirety and had very good musical ears. At one point, Tony leaned over to me and made the comment that he thought the percussion was covering up the bass part in one spot - which it was! It gave me an even greater respect for them.
8. What sound do you love?
Hearing my 9-month-old son giggle and squeak his beautiful high notes when he's happy.
9. What is your favorite expression? Least favorite expression?
My favorite expression is, "I'm a guy, and I want to join choir!" My least favorite is, "You can't do that."
10. If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be and why?
I'd like to be a hamster. I've read that they can almost double or triple the size of their head to fit extra food inside their cheeks. I REALLY like food.