Westminster College’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Music is not so “visiting” anymore. Professor from abroad, Dr. Andrew Withington was approved to stay at WC on track for tenure the week of Feb. 3.
Withington, originally hailing from New Zealand, is Motherfair’s Director of Choral Activities. Withington arrived at WC at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year after interviewing for the position summer 2020. After one and a half semesters of successful choir concerts, fruitful recruitment efforts, and community involvement, Withington was approved by Westminster executives to stay on as a professor.
Withington selects arrangements for and directs WC’s Choir Concert, Chamber Singers, Men’s Choir.
Among his change in title, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities, Withington’s responsibilities will expand to teach courses other than choir ensembles. Withington taught Choral Conducting during Fall 2019 and currently teaches Advanced Conducting and individual voice lessons to vocal studies students. Spring 2021, he will add Choral Literature to his portfolio of courses.
Withington has numerous goals for the WC choral ensembles which he is determined to accomplish in the coming years.
Both Chamber and Concert Choirs go on trips each year, often performing along the east coast and across Pennsylvania. In the next few years, Withington hopes to tour internationally.
Withington stated his biggest goal is to increase the size of each choral ensemble. A successful recruitment campaign would be marked by nearly doubling the size of Chamber, Concert, Men’s and Women’s Choirs, which currently boast 15, 39, 20 and 16 members, respectively.
Withington plans to accomplish his goal of increasing the breadth of WC choral ensembles by recruiting both on- and off-campus.
On-campus, Withington has sent emails to students who indicate potential interest in choir. He juggles scheduling conflicts, sometimes allowing students to attend choir rehearsals once per week if they have conflicts on other days. He even launched a “Sing in the Spring” campaign at the end of the Fall 2019 semester to gain interest of students during the time of course registration.
In addition to paper and virtual efforts, Withington arranged “Guy for a Pie” within each ensemble. If choir members brought a friend (currently not enrolled in choir) to a choir rehearsal, Withington would give a pie to both the choir member and the friend.
“I want to break down barriers that people have about choir, notions that choir only does high-brow, classical music. We do a full range [of genres],” Withington said.
Exemplifying the range of genres they can perform, WC choral ensembles are rehearsing to perform with the Neil Diamond tribute Celebrity Series event, WC’s Jazz Band Ensemble and for a Gaelic concert with pieces traditional to the culture.
Off-campus, Withington has been a guest conductor for various Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) functions. His presence at such events allows him to promote not only the music department, but also Motherfair as the future home for high schoolers. Withington is also organizing and conducting choral workshops at various high schools.
Withington has utilized his time at Westminster thus far to become engrossed in WC culture. Withington’s presence is a staple at campus and community events, as he attends as much as he can.
“It’s very important – and this is the teaching side of me – in terms of making learning happen and facilitating learning with students, it’s very important to be connected,” Withington said.
Withington works to create a classroom environment that is safe, comfortable, and conducive to learning. He does so by staying connected to his students through being involved on campus. Withington attends sports competitions, concerts by music ensembles other than choir and other special events on campus to support his students outside of the classroom.
Withington also spends time singing in the chancel choir at New Wilmington Presbyterian Church, the body of faith across the street from WC.
“[I sing] to stay in the game, to understand what my students go through when they are singing in class,” Withington said.
The newly-titled Assistant Professor of Music has many ideas to increase the profile of choral ensembles on campus. He is passionate about Westminster culture and about the wellbeing of his students. Withington is implementing many new ideas throughout campus and reinvesting interest in choir. He will continue to do so in his now long-term stint at Westminster.