Musicianship is a life skill one can enjoy forever, says Barnard’s Director of Music Gail Archer, a choral performer and a professional organist as well as a conductor. Making her way in fields largely dominated by men, she describes herself as “determined, but joyful,” and has high praise for the “energizing camaraderie of music.” The departmental photograph, shot after the annual holiday Candlelight Concert with the Barnard/Columbia Chorus, attests to Archer’s strong belief in the notions of music’s joy and sense of family; it includes current chorus members as well as former students and colleagues. Archer (with a blue necklace and glasses) is seated at the piano; on her left is accompanist Daniel Goltz.
Archer came to Barnard in l988 as an adjunct leading the choir and chamber choir. She became director in 1994, and has strengthened the vocal program for both Barnard and Columbia students since that time. (Those students majoring in instrumental performance take most of their courses at Columbia.) In May 2010, she was promoted to professor of professional practice.
Music of the Broadway theatre, art song, and opera are the chief areas of study. Students study diction, technique, and expression; there are at least three vocal classes each semester and private voice lessons are available. There are also joint programs with the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music, and two opera companies in residence: Opera Hispánica and Brooklyn Opera Theatre.
The last several years have seen greater emphasis on more culturally diverse traditions, with training in such languages as Czech and Spanish. There has also been greater interest in ethnomusicology, that is, the socio-cultural study of music outside the European art tradition. Accordingly, the vocal program’s focus has expanded to include Eastern music.
- Annette Kahn