Hitting High Notes with Houston Symphony Chorus Member Kat White, alto

From Mozart’s Requiem and Verdi’s Requiem, to our Mahler 3 season finale, the Houston Symphony Chorus has played an integral role in many of our 2014-15 Season concerts. This coming Sunday, May 31, the Chorus will shine on its own—they will be featured without the orchestra, and will perform works by Handel, J. S. Bach, Brahms, and others. The concert is FREE and open to all. Learn more about the concert here.

We sat down with one of our Chorus members, Kat White, alto, who discussed what led her to audition for the Chorus, her most memorable performances, and what life is like when she’s not on stage singing. 

Beginnings: I grew up in Trinity, Texas, a town of about 2,500 residents, northeast of Houston. I received my BA in media studies from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, where I also studied voice. My prior choral experience is all over the map, literally, and also in terms of musical styles. During my San Francisco years, I sang with the San Francisco Lyric Chorus, a classical ensemble that focuses on rarely-performed works, and

Kat White, alto, backstage at Jones Hall

Kat White, alto (right), backstage at Jones Hall

also with friends in an a cappella quartet. We sang everything from early music to barbershop to Gnarls Barkley, but we mostly performed in BART stations; when we’d collected enough change, we’d go out for Indian food. Prior to that, I sang with the Stanford University Symphonic Chorus and the Pomona College Chorus and Glee Club, which were my first classical ensembles. Before that, I was in my high school’s show choir, the Sandpipers of Chesterton, Indiana.

With the Houston Symphony Chorus: I joined Houston Symphony Chorus in January 2012, and I also joined the University of Houston Choral Artists at that time.

Inspiration for auditioning for the Chorus: It has always been important  to me to have a place to make music. I auditioned for the Chorus six days after I moved to Houston. I didn’t yet have a car or an apartment of my own, but I had a choir, and a pretty great one at that! It’s an incredible privilege to sing with these musicians and maestros and to perform for this audience in Jones Hall.

Most fulfilling moments with the Chorus: There were a lot of fulfilling moments last

The Houston Symphony Chorus performing in Mahler's Symphony No. 8, Symphony of a Thousand, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach

The Houston Symphony Chorus performing in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Symphony of a Thousand, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach

spring and summer, including sharing the stage with 436 fellow musicians for the indescribably glorious waterfall of sound that is the finale of Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand. I also learned a few choice words of Klingon to perform the Star Trek double feature! It’s fulfilling to serve as section leader for the altos, supporting them during the director transition and helping them feel prepared and confident in their auditions and performances. Singing with the Houston Symphony Chorus has been such a rich experience.

Importance of music education: Once while singing in a BART station with my a cappella group, a shy young woman lingered to hear our whole set—unusual, because most people rushed past. We waved her over to chat, and she told us that she loved to sing, but her school had no music program. My heart broke for her. School music programs are the reason I have music in my life. They’re the reason I was singing in that BART station and the reason I now sing at Jones Hall. My life is richer for it. One of many reasons I am proud to be affiliated with the Houston Symphony is its commitment to music education and outreach. This orchestra is among the best in the country in terms of how much it does in public schools. I hope Symphony patrons continue to support this work, and even more than that, I hope they are doing all they can to ensure the schools in their community—and in rural and low income communities like where I grew up—have music programs.

Outside of the Chorus: I am director of communications for Houston A+ Challenge, a local nonprofit that is doing really interesting work in schools and in the community to make public education stronger. I also serve on the board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Houston (YNPN), which is a great resource for people building careers in Houston’s vast field of nonprofit organizations. Outside of work, music and YNPN, I like to explore central Houston on my bike, try new bars and restaurants, swim and travel.

Life in Houston: I’ve lived here three years now, most of it in Montrose, and I love it! I especially love the diverse and thriving arts scene. Houston is home to four professional performing arts ensembles, the MFAH and the Menil, but it is also home to the Art Car Parade and the Orange Show. What don’t I love? The humidity. Look at these curls, y’all. I can’t deal.

Currently listening to: Taylor Swift. Maybe don’t print that.

Houston Symphony Chorus In Concert—FREE Performance
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
3471 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77027
Sunday, May 31, 2015 @ 4:00 pm
Betsy Cook Weber, conductor
Houston Symphony Chorus
Houston Symphony Chorus Chamber Ensemble
Daryl Robinson, organ
Scott Holshouser, piano

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