Student Profile: Andrew Major

Double majoring in cell biology and neuroscience and music, Andrew Major has a wide range of interests. The junior began his education at MSU in 2012 after receiving the Presidential Scholarship, one of the university’s most distinguished academic awards, recognizing scholastic achievement, leadership and unique qualities. Major, who was raised in Belgrade, grew up as the sole musician in his family. His interest began at a young age when his neighbor, a piano teacher, noticed his enthusiasm for music. She encouraged his mother to provide him with an opportunity to learn to play the piano, and Major began playing at the age of eight. He looked forward to waking up each morning and practicing piano for a couple of hours before school and he began singing in fourth grade.

Though Major initially began college studying psychology and cell biology and neuroscience, he eventually switched from psychology to music: “I think I knew that I would be a choral director. It was just a matter of accepting it,” Major said. Soon after he formed a choral ensemble, The Aoide Chamber Singers. The ensemble started with seven members, some of whom Major had worked with in high school, others he met after coming to MSU. Since the first semester the group has grown to include 19 members from a wide background of majors. The membership has remained stable, allowing the ensemble to grow in proficiency, working towards a goal to balance precision and passion in their music. Though the ensemble prefers to focus on the work of living composers, they perform a wide variety of music from “gregorian chants to music written a month ago.”

As artistic director of the group, Major chooses, teaches and conducts the music and looks for new members to join the ensemble. He described the experience of working as artistic director as “wonderful” and believes the greatest challenge of his position is balancing the social aspects of his work with his leadership role. As a leader and a teacher, his goal is for all the singers to have the same level of understanding and proficiency that he has. In his effort to find a balance of technical skill and warmth, he draws inspiration from the London based choral group Tenebrae.

The Aoide Chamber Singers keep a busy schedule, often holding 10 or more performances each semester. This year they opened for the President’s Homecoming Blue and Gold Banquet, sang mass at the Helena Cathedral and performed in high schools across western Montana last May. This winter they will be holding a Christmas concert at Holy Rosary Church Rectory in Bozeman.

As the Aoide Chamber Singers become increasingly recognized, Major points out that many of the members of the ensemble are not music majors yet they perform at the highest level of choral singing in the state. He believes that this is an example of how American universities allow everyone to participate and excel in programs unrelated to their majors. He explained that this principle has been key to the successes of music programs in universities across the country and that as people recognize this, it will benefit campus programs as students take opportunities to become experts in fields other than in their major.

After earning his undergraduate degree, Major intends to continue his education by applying to Cambridge University and eventually returning to Bozeman as a choral director. Discussing his passion for his chosen career, he described how choral music, a synergy of instrumental music, vocals and poetry, is better able to express the real intended meaning of the artist. “To me, choral music really is the ultimate form of artistic expression that humans have to offer,” Major said.

For more information on the Aoide Chamber Singers email aoidechambersingers@gmail.com or upcoming events on their Facebook page at facebook.com/aoidechambersingers.