While it is common for NAU professors to spend summer months conducting research, Edith Copley’s investigations look very different from those of her peers.
Copley is in high demand.
She is the director of NAU’s choral studies, full-time teacher of undergraduate and graduate students, conductor of the acclaimed Shrine of the Ages Choir, Flagstaff’s Master Chorale, and headliner or guest conductor at multiple events each year.
Copley spends the entire month of June each year researching and evaluating music for the upcoming year’s scheduled events. “Years ago, I learned that choosing the right combination of repertoire is everything, so I go through hundreds of pieces of music before I select approximately 100 for the various choirs that I will conduct during the course of the year,” Copley said.
“In essence, every semester I have a new textbook of music that must be selected, ordered and studied for rehearsal and performance,” Copley said. Beyond selecting the repertoire for her multiple ensembles and engagements, she continually hones her teaching skills. “I also teach conducting and graduate choral literature, so I constantly look for new methods and materials to teach the art of conducting and how gesture can affect sound.”
At a recent conference, Copley attended a session on older singers who are often affected by reduced vocal strength and flexibility. She learned new vocal exercises and plans to incorporate them with members of the Flagstaff Master Choral, while continuing to research the topic.
Copley has a bright colorful office with small stacks of sheet music atop a piano, a functional centerpiece. She was named an NAU Regents’ Professor in 2012, a title given selectively to tenured faculty with achievements described as exceptional.
After 40 years of teaching, Copley remains passionate about her work. “I am constantly exposed to new ideas and new music. The other cool thing about my job is that I don’t program anything I don’t love and as a result, I’m getting to share my joy with them,” said Copley, referring to teaching and conducting students and other singers.
Copley will participate in NAU’s annual Curry Summer Music Camp that gets underway soon. In July, she will serve as a headliner at the Tennessee Arts Academy where she will share various techniques with teachers followed by a similar engagement with the California Choral Directors Association.
During the past year, Copley was invited to conduct at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, as part of the National Association for Music Educators. She also conducted the Florida and Illinois all-state honor choirs, where she represented NAU to some of the best high school singers in the country.
Her agenda for the upcoming year includes conducting at Carnegie Hall in New York City for the third time and traveling to the Middle East to conduct an international choral festival in Muscat, Oman, all the while searching for the latest trends in world music and conducting techniques, information she can bring back to Flagstaff to further elevate NAU’s musical offerings.