Establishing a human connection through music

Establishing a human connection through music

F or nearly three decades, David White, ’89, shaped boys into responsible men through song. His candor and passion for encouraging others to love music has turned boys into better students, employees and fathers.

David’s the founder, artistic director and conductor of the Georgia Boy Choir, which is in its 13th season. As director, he oversees the organization’s artistic direction. As the conductor, he facilitates that mission.

“It's the connection I'm able to make with the boys, who range in age from five to 18 years old, so they're at the most impressionable time of their lives,” David said. “They’re becoming the human beings and the men, husbands and fathers that they’ll be.” 

The Georgia Boy Choir performs Ave Maria at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela during the Spain/Portugal international concert tour in 2016.

He teaches boys, who sometimes are known for their fidgetiness, mischievousness and/or lack of ability to pay attention for long periods of time.

“I dealt with those challenges significantly when I was young,” David said. “And yet to achieve the level of artistry we strive for requires a tremendous amount of focus, discipline and self-control qualities, which are generally lacking in most boys of that age. There’s a considerable amount of psychology involved and understanding of how they operate, what they need and how to channel that energy.”

The instruction he received in voice at Georgia College is instrumental to him. David uses the techniques he learned daily.

“As a choral conductor of young boys, they’re not coming to me with really any understanding of how to use their voices properly as a musical instrument,” said David. “So, I teach the basics of vocal production—much of what I was taught at Georgia College from a point of expressive, witty and artistic merit.” 

“When people come to me after a concert nearly or literally in tears, talking about how the music reached inside them and touched their souls in a healing way or tell me the singing moved them in ways they didn't know that they could be moved, that’s the ultimate reward. When I conduct the choir and turn around to acknowledge the audience to receive their acknowledgement, and I see grown men with tears on their faces, it's just amazing.”
– David White

His voice professor, Julie Morgan, made a particular impact on him. 

“She was willing to spend a great deal of extra time with me when I was at a really impressionable age, so her teaching really influences my teaching,” he said. 

David’s wife, Rosemary, plays piano accompaniment for the Georgia Boy Choir. When David was a college student, she was working on her Master of Piano degree in South Carolina. He wanted to do an extra recital, with his wife as the pianist, which was unprecedented. 

David White conducts the Georgia Boy Choir.
David White conducts the Georgia Boy Choir.

“Julie Morgan helped us with a series of 16 songs that collectively was one big piece by Robert Schumann,” he said. “She took the time to collaborate with us as musicians.”

Associate Professor of Music Clyde Tipton, who taught music theory, was also one of David’s favorites. Although music theory wasn’t his favorite subject, he thought of Tipton as a great human being and a fine composer. He wrote the voice and flute piece David used for his voice class recital. A flute player performed half the recital, and he sang for the other half.

“I still perform that piece,” David said. “The text we chose was from my father, Associate Professor of music Dr. A. Duane White. The professor who made the most significant impact on me was my father.”

He grew up hearing people tell him that his father was the best teacher they had in college. This made him want to have his father as his music history professor. His mother, Frances White, was musical, as well. She was an adjunct lecturer of voice at Georgia College at that time.

“My father was a great teacher, not just because of how much he knew about Mozart, Beethoven or Bach, but because of how much he loved his students, material and subject matter,” David said. “He lived it. My father believed that by knowing not just the facts, but the music, could impact students’ lives in ways that would make them better human beings. When he taught music history, it was really just a platform for him to teach them about life.”

His father’s love for his students made a great impression on David.

“He was there for me too, thankfully, not just in college, but for the rest of his life,” David said. “Even though he passed away, the lessons he taught me continue to impact the way I teach.”

Like his parents, David’s objective has been to involve himself in music to the fullest extent possible.

Prior to forming the Georgia Boy Choir, David’s career path took him to Greenville, South Carolina, where he founded the Boy Choir of the Carolinas. He served as conductor for the Greenville Symphony Orchestra Chorus and director of music at the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville. There, he also founded an annual Summer Music Camp for children and adults.

Later, David became music director of Florida’s Singing Sons Boy Choir in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He’s also been a conductor for the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan and the Atlanta Boy Choir prior to the Georgia Boy Choir.

David and his choirs have traveled throughout the U.S. and to approximately 20 countries including Belgium, England, France, Russia and Scotland. A tour to Austria, Germany and Switzerland is now planned for the Georgia Boy Choir. 

The Georgia Boys Choir perform at the Highland Cathedral during the Scotland and Ireland Tour in 2017.

“These are such fantastic, life-changing experiences for these boys,” he said. “It's phenomenal to sing in magnificent places around the world like in St. Paul's Cathedral in England, the incredible Sagrada Família Church in Barcelona or Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris the summer before it burned.”

Other sites the boys performed at include the Hill of Slane in Ireland, Great Wall of China, Culloden Battlefield in Scotland, as well as the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France on the 74th anniversary of D-Day.

While David’s had several pinnacle moments in conducting in the U.S. and abroad, it’s the magic that happens when he conducts and hears the boys sing that he treasures most.

“When people come to me after a concert nearly or literally in tears, talking about how the music reached inside them and touched their souls in a healing way or tell me the singing moved them in ways they didn't know that they could be moved, that’s the ultimate reward,” he said. “When I conduct the choir and turn around to acknowledge the audience to receive their acknowledgement, and I see grown men with tears on their faces, it's just amazing.”

He also enjoys making that connection with the boys too.

“As a conductor, making music and connecting with the audience is a great thing, but it's also amazing to conduct and see the impact it has on the boys,” David said. “They’ve told me, ‘I had a hard time making it through that song because it was so beautiful’ or ‘this might be the last time I sing that song, so I always want to remember this moment.’”

David uses the boys’ personalities so they become conduits of the music and learn to love and express emotions through music. He also cross-trains his pupils for life, so they become disciplined.

“Some of these boys will go into professional music,” he said. “However, some will become elementary teachers, attorneys, doctors, mechanics, etc. I hope whatever they do, they do so with integrity, and they’ll continue to have a love of great music, and that it broadens their minds and hearts as a result of the time they've spent in the Georgia Boy Choir.”

David still tries to keep up with his former students supporting the relationships he built with them when they were children.

“When I have the opportunity, I talk with some of these men who were under my tutelage as boys,” he said. “They talk about how their experiences in the boy choir make them better at their jobs and better fathers and husbands. That truly is the ultimate gratification.”