As a high school student, Sharon Paul loved everything about choral music: the community, the teamwork, the discipline, and how the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts. But when she told her teacher that she aspired to teach music at the college level, he said she might be able to teach elementary school, but that college was beyond her scope as a musician. “He was right—at the time,” says Paul, now professor of music, chair of vocal and choral studies, and director of choral activities at the University of Oregon. “I was a late bloomer.” Paul teaches graduate courses in choral conducting, repertoire, and pedagogy. She also directs and conducts the UO Chamber Choir and the University Singers. Under her direction, the Chamber Choir took top honors in two categories at the 2011 International Choir Festival Tallinn in Estonia. In 2013, the group won the prestigious Fleischmann International Trophy at the Cork International Choral Festival. This year, the choir placed second in the International Chamber Choir Competition Marktoberdorf, held in Bavaria, and received recognition for best interpretation of the compulsory work sung by all participating choirs. Interpretation is key, Paul says. “Their music is not just a Xerox copy. They bring themselves to the music in a way that audiences really respond to.”
The old model for choirs, Paul says, was to carefully follow the maestro’s orders, but she believes in empowering her students to be active interpreters of the music. “They have to be engaged in the process, I want them to be thinking, literate musicians.”
After earning her doctorate in choral conducting at Stanford University, Paul joined the faculty at California State University at Chico, serving as professor of music and director of choral activities from 1984 to 1992. She then served as artistic director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, where she conducted the organization’s acclaimed performance ensembles, Chorissima and Virtuose, until joining the UO faculty in 2000.
On the Big Screen
Paul appeared in the 1998 movie What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr., as conductor of the choral group Chorissima. She also conducted the San Francisco Girls Chorus for the soundtrack of the 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley.
—By Rosemary Howe Camozzi, BA ’96