Grammy-Winning Composer Eric Whitacre Visits The Hun School
On Monday, February 2nd, students, faculty, and guests at The Hun School heard from Grammy-winning composer, conductor, and innovator, Eric Whitacre, about how he turned his creativity and determination into a music career and worldwide phenomenon called the Virtual Choir. Mr. Whitacre is widely regarded as the most popular choral composer in the world today.
Mr. Whitacre began his talk with a catalogue of his failures rather than his successes. “I was in my … ahem … seventh year of college when I determined this was what I wanted to do with my life. Yeah, I took a few victory laps,” he joked. “Even my advisor said there wasn’t a graduate school in the country who would accept my grades. So I applied at the only school I could find that would accept a portfolio on merit alone – Julliard.”
Persistence and thick skin were reoccurring themes throughout the morning. Mr. Whitacre described the years he spent sending his work out into the world. “I sent out hundreds of letters, pages and pages of music … It would be years before any of the many lines I threw out here came back to me in the form of a compliment or a check.”
Then, in 2009, Mr. Whitacre received a YouTube clip from a young soprano who was singing one of his pieces. She simply sang into a webcam and uploaded it in tribute to his work. He described it as the most beautiful thing he had ever scene. It became the inspiration or the Virtual Choir.
The Virtual Choir digitally combines the voices of singers from around the world into a stunning visual and auditory experience that that transcends geography, nationality, economics, and language. Mr. Whitacre described how the idea and process evolved, drawing similarities between the choirs and Wikipedia - both phenomena having mushroomed through the excitement and work of volunteers.
To date, there have been four Virtual Choirs and a Virtual Youth Choir. Virtual Choir 4, the most recent installment, featured 8,400 voices from 101 countries. It premiered in July of 2013 at Buckingham Palace in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II.
Today, Mr. Whitacre writes for the BBC Proms, the London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Chanticleer, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Rundfunkchor, The King’s Singers, and Disney, among others. He has composed music for thePirates of the Caribbean films and tours regularly around the world. Mr. Whitacre’s album Light & Gold won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance. His album, Water Night went straight to No. 1 in the classical iTunes chart on the day of release. He spoke at the World Economic Forum and was the closing keynote speaker at TED Global. In addition, he is also a composer-in-residence at Cambridge University in the UK.
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school. Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.