Members of the Walla Walla Choral Society Board named Jenelle Westerbeck Anderson as the group’s next artistic director. Her tenure begins Aug. 1, in time to welcome singers back to in-person rehearsals starting Aug. 30.
“After a rigorous screening process that included responding to a written questionnaire and preparing a sample concert program, we invited several candidates to formally interview for the position,” WWCS board president Bob Schumacher said. “Though all candidates were impressive, our board decided unanimously that Jenelle would be the best fit to help lift our voices out of the pandemic and onto our path forward for years to come.”
Anderson has more than 30 years’ experience as a musician, music educator and director. She served most recently as an instructor/director at Walla Walla University. She was previously an assistant professor of music at Pacific Union College and an instructor/lecturer at the University of Southern California, and led several church and community choirs.
“Group singing is a passion of mine and collaborating with a group of volunteers who are there for the love of the music is an exciting opportunity,” Anderson said.
She started her musical career as an instrumentalist concentrating on violin and piano, but expanded her academic knowledge and experience in music education and choral music, receiving a master’s in music in choral music from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a doctor of musical arts-choral conducting from USC.
She has been a longtime member of the American Choral Directors Association and Choristers and Conductors guilds.
Anderson grew up in Walla Walla and attended Walla Walla College before finishing her bachelor’s degree at Atlantic Union College. Returning to Walla Walla brings her closer to her sister, Cynthia, and her parents.
The choral society’s first post-pandemic concerts will be “Our Songs of Joy” Nov. 28-29, 2021, at Gesa Power House Theatre. The group will also perform “Good Vibrations” March 13-14, 2022. This revue of 1960s classics was concert-ready in March 2020 when COVID-19 pandemic shut down performances.
“The singers can’t wait to dust off the music to perform this music next spring,” Schumacher said.
“I’m delighted to join this wonderful organization of dedicated singers and lovers of choral music,” Anderson said. “I look forward to working with members of the Choral Society and helping to shape the course of the organization going forward.”
WWCS has delivered music here for more than 116 years. In late 2019, the WWCS Board completed a new strategic plan that included the creation of a children’s chorus, and plans to build enhanced collaborations and mutual support throughout the local performing-arts community.
As was the case with many organizations and businesses, the pandemic postponed and canceled in-person rehearsals and concerts for the choral society. Nevertheless, many of the group’s 60-plus singers stayed connected throughout 2020 via video rehearsals. This was in anticipation that conditions would improve to allow for in-person rehearsals and concerts, and because they enjoy each other’s company.
Despite losing expected revenue from ticket sales and concert sponsors, the choral society has received continued financial support from businesses, grants and individual donors.
“We are truly grateful and humbled by the generosity of our community, especially from our member singers and many businesses that continued or increased their financial support as we had to postpone and cancel performances,” Schumacher said. “We are confident that we have found a fantastic new artistic director, and we can’t wait to see everyone at our upcoming performances.”
“I hope to continue the group’s recent success in expanding its connections to the community and to pursue the board’s vision of starting an ensemble for young people,” Anderson said.
For more details about WWCS and to join the group for the 2021-22 season or make a donation, see wwchoralsociety.org.