Weekly Faculty Interview: Dr. Rhonda Hackworth

This week, we will be interviewing one of our most beloved instructors at the Extension Division, the director of the Rutgers Children’s Choir & Scarlet Singers program, Dr. Rhonda Hackworth.

We are especially excited to celebrate the tenure of Dr. Rhonda Hackworth as the artistic director of the Rutgers Children’s Choir & Scarlet Singers (RCC & SS), during their spring concert on Saturday, May 7, 2016, 2 p.m., at the Nicholas Music Center.  This concert will feature the world premiere of We Stand and Sing – music by Thomas Juneau, lyrics by Matt Hackworth (Rhonda’s husband).  The work was commissioned by the Mason Gross Extension Division to commemorate Dr. Hackworth’s excellent work and commitment to the ensemble over many years.  Sadly, Dr. Hackworth leaves us for her new home in North Carolina after this summer.  Longtime associate conductor, Rebekah Sterlacci, will step in as the new artistic director of the ensemble. We wish all the luck in the world to Dr. Hackworth!

art-classes-december-2010-421Dr. Rhonda S. Hackworth  is an associate professor of music at Mason Gross School of the Arts, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in music education and serves as the artistic director of the Rutgers Children’s Choir. She received her PhD in music education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and also holds an MM in vocal performance. Her primary research interest is vocal health for music teachers. Her published articles can be found in Journal of Research in Music Education, International Journal of Music EducationJournal of Music Teacher Education, UPDATE: Applications of Research in Music Education, and Missouri Journal of Research in Music Education. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Music Teacher Education.

What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
The feeling that I could excel in music.  I initially wanted to go into business, but it was so boring to me that I had to choose music instead! I could never love business the way I love music!


Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher? 
There are several teachers who inspired me! If I had to pick just one, I would say my choir teacher in college. Dr. Edgerton was talented and demanded excellence, but he was very lovable and always made sure to let us know how proud he was of our work. He inspired me to become a choral conductor.


What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
When students begin to learn how to self-instruct; that means they’ve been paying attention to what I’m saying and are able to apply the knowledge.



In all your years of conducting the Rutgers Children’s Choir, what has been your favorite moment or performance?
Wow – you want me to name one thing? Impossible.  I loved it when we sang the Charlie Brown Christmas pieces. I loved performing with American Ballet Theatre in the Nutcracker at the State Theater. I loved collaborating with other choirs. I loved when we formed the Chamber Singers and the Scarlet Singers. I loved when we got to have a Skype conversation with a girl for whom one of our pieces was written (a girl who survived the Rwandan genocide). And I love that this spring we have a piece commissioned just for us!


How does a child or teenager benefit from joining a choir?
Choir is a terrific place to learn about healthy singing and gives children a sense of being part of something larger than just themselves. It’s really not safe for children to start private voice lessons until they are about 13, so choir is the best choice for singing when they are young!


What are some of your personal favorite pieces for choir?
We Sing for the Children, Beneath the African Sky, Christmas Time is Here, and many, many others.

Thank you so much for your time and all the work you have done at the Extension Division, Dr. Hackworth! 

The Rutgers Children’s Choir will be performing at Rutgers Day on April 30, 2016 at the Zimmerli Art Museum from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Come join us for the festivities, as well as music, dance, hands-on activities, games, and demonstrations hosted by accomplished professors, students, and staff. And, it’s also Alumni Weekend so it’s the perfect time to celebrate your scarlet pride!

And join us for the Rutgers Children’s Choir Spring Concert, featuring performances from our Choristers (3rd-5th grade), Chorale & Chamber Singers (5th-8th grade), and our Scarlet Singers (high school)! This is sure to be a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of spring with your family!The concert will take place at 2 p.m. at the Nicholas Music Center on the Mason Gross School of the Arts campus. The concert is free to the public will feature the world premiere of We Stand and Sing by Thomas Juneau!


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