New Crown Choir Director Uses Age-Old Teaching Technique

New Crown Choir Director Uses Age-Old Teaching Technique


For anyone joining a new choir for the first time, it can be a thrilling experience. You’re connecting with a group of fellow students, learning the ropes, and you know the practice sessions will one day lead to a public performance. At the same time, there’s a hint of fear involved. What if you sing the wrong note? How do you match voices with students you just met at breakfast?

That’s what makes this year’s Crown College choir so interesting. Led by their new director Alessio Tranchell, the group–which will be performing at the annual Christmas at Crown concert on December 1 and 2, 2017–is using an age-old technique called solfege to teach new students how to match notes and stay in key.

“Solfege is a bridge for the non-musician into the musical world,” says Tranchell. “The best college choirs in Minnesota–such as Luther, St. Olaf, and Concordia–began with a solfege system, and avidly use solfege today. It is a learning curve for the first few weeks, but once it clicks with students it makes the learning notes process of choir much more efficient. Then making music out of those notes can begin sooner. [Solfege] is essential to building a great choral program.”

Tranchell certainly knows the process. He has a master’s degree from Houghton College in New York, where he double-majored in Voice and Conducting. While teaching middle school and high school choirs in New York, he performed in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and at local theater companies. Tranchell has also performed with the opera in Chicago, Geneseo (a city in New York), and Philadelphia.

That extensive background gave him a lot of empathy for what it is like to join a choir, and how the process of learning to sing together can be a little daunting.

“Singing in a choir is a unique gift, as many different voices join together for one goal,” he says. “Singing is a vulnerable task, and choir is no substitute; each member has to offer a piece of themselves in order to create a beautiful sound. I am a firm believer that a choral ensemble–especially at a Christian school–is called to join together in worship, whether that is worshiping on behalf of a congregation or leading a congregation in joyful singing.”

The students are excited about the possibilities. The new direction–using the solfege technique–is a good match for a choir that has almost all new members (only four returned from last year, and a few have been in a college choir in the past). For now, the main goal is to focus on the Christmas at Crown concert on December 1st and 2nd, to be held in the chapel.

“Right now we’re still learning notes, but I’m excited for once we get those down and are able to start making music,” says junior Megan Kesler, a Music and Psychology major. “We’re starting out on a fresh slate. I am most excited to see how Christmas at Crown turns out this year.”

If you are interested in joining us for Christmas at Crown, visit crown.edu/christmas!