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Senior music major’s education opens door for conducting, composing

Cannon McClain conducts the Max Noah Singers during rehearsal.Cannon McClain has always had a passion for music. He began performing duets with his father at their church as a child and from there his passion blossomed.

“It wasn’t until junior year of high school that I realized I wanted to do something more with music after graduation,” said the senior. “I came to Georgia College as a music education major, and after a year, I realized that I was more interested in music itself rather than education, so I made the switch to a general music major.”

That slight change in focus opened many doors for him including collaborating with fellow students, faculty members and internationally recognized composer Dr. Frank Ticheli.

“I have a philosophy that if something seems mildly interesting—then I’m going to do it. Good things will always come if I make that leap of faith,” said McClain. “I would never have had the opportunity I did with Dr. Ticheli if I hadn’t expressed an interest in composing to Dr. Jennifer Flory, director of choral activities.”

Since his freshman year, he has been a member of the Max Noah Singers. He is an accomplished composer and arranger, having original works premiered by Max Noah Singers and Milledgeville First Presbyterian Church Choir and an arrangement premiered by the university’s Women’s Ensemble.

“One of the great things about the Georgia College environment is the level of encouragement that professors give students when it comes to interdisciplinary collaboration,” he said. “I was able to compose a piece for the Max Noah Singers New York tour and worked with Bri Neves, a creative writing major, for the composition.”

After graduation in May 2016, McClain plans to attend graduate school to pursue choral conducting so he can help others explore the endless possibilities of music.

“I’m not sure of the professional setting I want to end up at right now, but I do know the type of conductor I want to be. I want to provide opportunities to young and adult musicians to pursue music, who might not have had the venue to do so,” said McClain. “So many people shy away from music because they believe it might not be marketable or employable—but I want to be the person that says ‘it is possible, opportunities are out there, and music can be a very fulfilling and reasonable career.’ I want to provide the same opportunities that I received here at Georgia College.”

Right now though, he’s focused on making the most of his opportunities while at GC. This fall he wrote an arrangement for Max Noah Singers tour. It is a combination of the carols, “Lo, How a Rose” and “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” and features new GC Assistant Professor of Music and Director of String Activities Dr. William McClain on the viola.

“I have worked quite closely in a variety of ways with Cannon, first as a choral council officer, then as a tenor section leader, then as a choral librarian, then as a composer and arranger, and most recently as an assistant director,” said Flory. “I first heard Cannon’s arrangement of these two carols when we sang it at my church on Christmas Eve last year. I decided then that I wanted Max Noah Singers to perform it this year on our December tour. Since we were going to a number of high schools with string programs, I knew I wanted to have Dr. McClain come with us to meet string teachers in the area. What better way to introduce him than to have him solo on his viola.”

The theme of this year’s Max Noah Singers tour concert is Joy to the Earth. The concert takes the audience on a journey around the world with a combination of international carols and readings, and it ends with the singers surrounding the audience for a performance of  “Silent Night.” The tour begins Sunday, Dec. 13, with performances across the state, and culminates Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. with a performance at First Presbyterian Church in Milledgeville.

With his last tour just around the corner, McClain knows that Georgia College has not only been the perfect place to develop his talents, but also to allow him to grow as a person.

“I knew I wanted to go to a college that let me have the opportunity to explore different areas other than music and Georgia College has provided me that opportunity,” said McClain.

For more information on the Department of Music, please visit music.gcsu.edu.

 

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