Charissa Chiaravalloti, assistant professor of Music, leads several FLC choirs and performs in a quartet herself. Yet she makes some of her greatest impacts by bringing other artists to campus, where they teach students and perform for the community.
“The Artists in Residence program was developed to support the Music Department in bringing in guest artists throughout the year,” she explains. “I think that the program elevates our department, to the point where we really match with other colleges that are in bigger areas, more metropolitan areas. That experience? Yeah, we have that too.”
Throughout each academic year, the Music Department welcomes about eight visiting musicians and music groups. These artists in residence typically host master classes, where students receive intensive small-group instruction and insight into a particular instrument or technique. The artists also perform free, public concerts on the FLC campus.
As the conductor for four—soon to be five—student choirs, Chiaravalloti thrives on guiding students through the whole process of creating music, from introducing a new piece through performance. Having the Artists in Residence program as a regular occurrence on campus helps her students relate to the outcomes of that professional process. And all these endeavors stem from her true passion for bringing music to the Durango area.
“It’s really helpful for us to be able to bring people so that our students are exposed to other opinions and skill sets,” she says. “It’s nice to supplement what we have to offer here with different points of view.”
The Artists in Residence committee, on which Chiaravalloti serves as the faculty representative, is made up of community and campus volunteers. The committee strives to invite a diverse range of musicians each year. The specialties of typical artists in residence range from strings to piano, voice, percussion, woodwinds, and brass.
And each year, some of the visitors bring unique specialties, as well. For instance, this year’s schedule includes Richard Leigh-Nilsen and Peter Nilsen hosting a two-day musical theater clinic culminating in a student showcase performance, and Andrew Tarr conducting a Feldenkrais Method workshop for bringing mindful movement to musical performance.
“Any master class is going to have important information, whatever your instrument,” Chiaravalloti says. “These people are professionals. They are working in the real world. They have a lot of different insights into how to market themselves, the kinds of connections you need to make to be a professional musician. That insight is so important to our students, because it shows them possibilities for careers.”
The intimacy of these master classes enables her students not only to glean valuable information, but also to build personal connections with these visiting professionals.
“The connections you make are invaluable,” she says. “Students become Facebook friends with the artists in residence. They graduate from here, and they have somebody they can call and say ‘Hey, I was in your master class. Do you have any information for me?’ It happens all the time with our students.”
One of the Artists in Residence committee’s goals, Chiaravalloti says, is to continue increasing community participation in the Artist in Residence program. After all, a music student’s future career depends on community involvement with the arts.
“We have world-class musicians coming in here and doing these intimate concerts in Roshong Recital Hall, and, oh my goodness, this wonderful thing is happening right here in front of me,” she says of the experience.
And participating in these concerts goes beyond helping students to, simply put, a pure enjoyment of music. “Why does anybody ever go to a concert?” Chiaravalloti asks. “It’s fun, and it enhances your life. It helps you to maybe see things in a little different way. It’s a valuable cultural enhancement. The fact that we're in this little town and we have so much wonderful music happening is really awesome.”