Choral Podcasts

Podcasts: They seem to be sprouting up everywhere these days. Similar to social media and the smartphone, the rise of podcasts—audio programs released as a series of episodes that you can subscribe to and download onto your device—has brought significant changes to the way we consume our media today. In 2013, Apple’s podcasts hit the one billion subscriber mark.

The choral community has seen its own surge in podcasts. We talked to the audiophiles behind the most prominent podcasts in the choral world currently—all of which launched in 2015 or more recently—and let them tell us in their own words what their programs are about.

“Choir Chat” with John C. Hughes

John C. Hughes
John C. Hughes of “Choir Chat.”

Our tag for the podcast is "ChoirChat is a weekly conversation with conductors, composers, and anyone else in the choral world." I think about how to provide variety in our guests, including geographic locations, avenues in the choral world (such as authors, composers, conductors), and a variety of career phases—people at the beginning, people who are very established, and everything in between. I think they offer different perspectives on the many paths in the choral world, and how to get from Point A to Point B—or from Point A to Point P, or wherever—and let people see the breadth of our field.

The reason I started the podcast is that I wanted to keep my finger on the pulse of the choral community. I went from graduate school—at a large school of music with many other graduate conductors—to my first job in higher education as the lone choral faculty member at Ripon College, a small liberal arts college in semi-rural Wisconsin. I wanted to stay connected, and I'm also an avid podcast listener.

Favorite Podcasts
During election season I was listening to the Five Thirty-Eight podcast with Nate Silver, and Keepin' it 1600. Other favorites are The New Yorker Radio Hour, The New York Times Book Review, and NPR's Fresh Air.

Link to Podcast Site: Choir Chat

“Real Talk With Tesfa” with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

Tesfa Wondemagegnehu of “Real Talk With Tesfa."

"Real Talk with Tesfa" is the name of the podcast, and it's part of our media company Choir Buzz, which will launch our website in early 2017. It's going to be a more expansive look at what choral music is and can be. It won't be centered around what we think of as traditional choral music, though that will be included. You probably rarely hear barbershop quartets sing on the radio, or rarely see a gospel choir performing, and I think it's time to reach out to everybody. We have to look at choral music from a lot of different angles and realize that this art form has to become more inclusive to survive.

The thing I'm most intrigued by with Real Talk and with ChoirBuzz is to spur dialogue, where we can hear from people who are actively out making music, who can speak to what their communities are feeling and are looking to unite people through song. There's something that happens when people come together and they sing, when they drop their beliefs for a moment and go after the singular goal of making music. I believe that people are more likely to have conversations, and really listen to one another.

Favorite Podcasts
I'm a podcast junkie - I listen to a bunch of them. I love Stuff You Missed in History Class, and I am a huge fan of New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher—I think she's the best in the business when it comes to interviewing people.

Link to Podcast Site: Real Talk With Tesfa

"Find Your Forte” with Ryan Guth

Ryan Guth
Ryan Guth of "Find Your Forte."

“Find Your Forte” is focused on the high-level middle school and high school choral director niche, but relevant to anyone trying to be their best self as a musician. We have two episodes every week:

Technique Tuesday (15 - 20 mins)
This is where I share my “forte.” I talk about tips on working smarter (not harder) to build your program, get your choir singing pretty, become a better human, and build your brand as a professional in the choral world.

Wednesday Interview (45 mins - 1+ hour)
In this series we have interviews with renowned conductors, composers, and as I call them, “in-the-trenches choral educators who are crushing it.” The focus is on the journey to success. I would describe the questions that we ask as similar to those of NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, but for choir directors.

Favorite podcasts
My favorite podcasts are the Tim Ferriss Show, followed by NPR's Planet Money, and Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn. But I also listen to about 10 more.

Link to Podcast Site: Find Your Forte

“Living With A Genius” with Omar Crook

Omar Crook
Omar Crook of "Living With A Genius." Photo by Marc Royce.

"Living With A Genius" is a podcast featuring artists and creators at the highest levels from various fields. As a vocalist at the Los Angeles Opera and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, I’ve started within my own circle, which has given me the opportunity to chat with some of the real stars in classical music. James Conlon, Eric Whitacre, Grant Gershon, Jonathan Talberg and Robert Istad are a few of the terrific guests I’ve had on the show. My next goal is to begin interviewing folks in other fields that interest me—from science and industry to mainstream entertainers, actors, directors and musicians.

Favorite podcasts
I was turned on to podcasts by Eric Whitacre and his wife, Hila Plitmann, who are podcast fanatics. Marc Maron’s WTF podcast is my go-to, followed by Radiolab and then Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.

Link to Podcast Site: Living With A Genius

Where can I listen to podcasts?

Most podcasts will have a website that you can visit to download episodes directly. There are also several sites where you can search for the podcast you’re looking for and subscribe to new episodes. A few of these include iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Soundcloud.

Have another favorite choral podcast that we didn’t mention? Send us an email to let us know at [email protected].

Mike Rowan is communications manager at Chorus America.