By Elizabeth Strauch '04
Xiaosha Lin, Whitworth's new director of choral activities, grew up feeling certain that she never wanted to be a teacher. She discovered, however, that there was something powerful about connecting with college students and participating in their transition to adulthood. "I met different professors at different stages of my life," Lin says, "and I realized how important that was for me and how much that shaped me."
Today, this dynamic conductor is committed to motivating Whitworth Choir students to achieve the highest standard and best versions of themselves while fostering an environment built on connection and openness. Just after auditioning 83 singers for this year's ensemble (whew!), Lin explained how the collective experience of choir shapes lives.
Each day, choir members write anonymous notes of affirmation for fellow choir members and Lin reads the notes aloud. "It could just be someone holding the door for you earlier in the day or someone saying, 'I'm here for you.' These are the moments that help us get to know each other's names, help us open up to each other and appreciate each other. Sometimes a slip of paper can really make someone's day."
"Choir music is so different from other ensembles because you have no instrument to hide behind. It is a very vulnerable moment when you need to use yourself as an instrument. So, a comfortable environment really helps students feel able to open themselves, not just to the music but to their fellow singers who are standing right next to them, to build a bond and to not feel intimidated to sing softer or louder."
"Another beautiful thing about choir music is that you have lyrics, text. And those are the moments when you can connect with a student on faith – what’s behind these words? What does it mean? There's always a moment to have a discussion, to connect with the student, and deepen communication on faith and societal issues."
On performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Westminster Symphonic Choir accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in New York: "It was my first year, first semester in the U.S. When I applied to school and flew across the world [from Hong Kong], I never imagined that would happen to me. I was like, is this a dream? I just couldn't believe it."
"The stereotype of classical musicians is true... we don't listen to pop music that much. In my car, I'm listening to Bach. Something about baroque music just really excites me, especially in the mornings. Also, Disney music. I love Disney music."
"I LOVE DISNEY MUSIC."
This story appears in the fall 2021 issue of Whitworth Today magazine.