This is the second in a series of articles about the musical directors of Millennial® Choirs & Orchestras, featured in this blog post.
We recently asked Jodi Reed, Associate Musical Director of Millennial Choirs & Orchestras, about why she loves what she does (“the joy of it all”), what inspired her to become a conductor (“I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to make it a priority in my life”), and what advice she would give to aspiring conductors (“learn from as many people as you can”).
About Jodi Reed
(Biography courtesy of Millennial Choirs & Orchestras)
Jodi Reed and her husband are the parents of six children. A conductor and pianist, she began her musical career at a young age studying piano competitively. After being introduced to choral music in high school, Jodi has had lifelong involvement in choral music, leading university, school, church, and community choirs.
For seven years, Jodi has been the director of accomplished high school choral programs and was the first female conductor to place first at the prestigious Golden State Choral Competition, which she has since won several times.
Some notable performances include conducting her Chamber Singers on NPR’s nationally syndicated radio show “From the Top,” reaching over a million listeners, Concert Choir selected by blind audition to perform at the 2018 American Choral Directors Association’s Western Region Conference, and a full concert under Jodi’s baton in Carnegie Hall and the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Her choirs have received honors for their beautiful tone and artistry throughout the country and internationally.
Jodi has enjoyed traveling with choirs internationally, most recently to Spain, conducting in magnificent venues, including the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey and La Sagrada Familia. In addition to being an Associate Musical Director with Millennial® Choirs & Orchestras in Orange County, California, Jodi is currently the director of Choral and Vocal Music at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California.
After two decades of managing a competitive piano studio and teaching accomplished pianists, Jodi earned a master’s degree in choral conducting from California State University East Bay to complement a previously awarded bachelor’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy from San Jose State University. Her mentors include Buddy James, Laurel Brettel, Ted Reid, Susan Bana, and Dottie Nix. She has had the privilege of working with many experts in the field including Charlene Archibeque, Dennis Shrock, Jameson Marvin, and Edward McClary.
Jodi is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Education, and Chorus America. In addition to spending time with her family, Jodi enjoys scuba diving and any time spent at the ocean.
Lemonade Stand: What is your musical background?
Jodi Reed: Like many people don’t remember learning how to read, I do not remember learning how to read music. I studied piano competitively throughout my youth with no intention of ever being part of a choral program, but my friend Holly convinced me to audition for the high school choir my junior year. I fell in love with the art, and choir quickly became the best part of my day.
After high school I earned an undergraduate degree in piano performance and subsequently ran a busy piano studio for 25 years before going back to school to get a master’s degree in choral conducting. I also study vocal pedagogy and am currently working on my doctorate in conducting at Claremont Graduate University.
LS: Who or what inspired you to pursue choral music as a career?
JR: My high school choir teacher, Ted Reid, inspired a love of choral music I never expected to find, but I did not pursue it professionally for some time. When Brett and Brandon Stewart, brothers and founders of MCO, launched a new locale in Arizona where I lived at the time, I immediately joined and signed my children up as well.
Once again, being part of a choir changed my life. The drive home from rehearsal became my favorite part of each week. Instead of fighting, like a car full of rambunctious boys are prone to do, they sang sacred music together, in a harmony that lasted well beyond the drive home.
For me personally, being part of a choir again reignited that passion I felt in high school. Additionally, the artistry and quality of MCO resonated with me and helped me to rediscover the undeniable power of music in singing sacred text. I came home from our first dress rehearsal and had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to pursue choral conducting as a career and make it a priority in my life.
Though I had previously planned to go back to school to get my master’s degree in piano, I switched to choral conducting instead. Since making that decision, I have had some of the most remarkable experiences of my life, ones I never could have imagined for myself.
LS: What kind of education did you pursue to become a choral conductor?
JR: I received a Master of Arts degree in choral conducting and a teaching credential, and I am currently working on a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting.
LS: Who have been some of your favorite mentors and why?
JR: Dr. Buddy James has had a significant impact on my life and in my career. He is exceptionally talented, but his humanity, kindness, respect for all, and compassion for his students pours out in everything he does making music about so much more than just the notes. I also admire so many others who have contributed to the field, especially those who have done so in the face of difficult circumstances. Ken Rawdon, retired from Mt. Eden High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, is at the top of that list for the way in which he has inspired his students and the community to reach for excellence. I learned musicality and discipline from Susan Bana, my high school piano teacher, and Dr. Laurel Brettel, my undergraduate piano mentor. I will always be grateful to Ted Reid for introducing me to this extraordinary art.
Though I have had amazing professional mentors, I have to say that I learn the most from the students I teach. From their commitment to the ensemble, their passion for the music, and their resilience in life, they teach me how to do what I do … better.
LS: What do you love most about what you do?
JR: In choir, there are many big, public moments — big performances — like concerts at Carnegie Hall, Golden State, competitions and more. I love those. But I equally love the unseen moments where a chord locks in tight at rehearsals, sending goosebumps down everyone’s spine; the singers sing a small phrase oozing with passion; the varsity football player realizes he’s also a choir kid; and having the singers fall into each other’s arms after a performance knowing they left it all on the stage — the joy of it all is what I love.
I also love the interfaith aspect of my teaching. I direct a large choral and vocal music program at Mater Dei Catholic High School and am inspired daily by the devotion and faith of these young people. Choral music brings incredible community, unlike that of any other kind of group. Choral music allows people of all faiths, all walks of life, to come together and join in a common thought and voice. I love that we can together praise God, sing of Christ, and inspire others to feel that testimony of Him.
LS: If you could give advice to an aspiring choral conductor, what would that be?
JR: My advice would be to learn from as many people as you can. There are so many talented and accessible experts in the field. Observe them as much as you can. Let them work with you and be open to their advice. And then … just go for it!
LS:When was a time where you were able to turn lemons into lemonade?
JR: In high school I desperately wanted to be on a sports team; however, the only team that would take me was the diving team. But I had an intense fear of heights. On the first day of practice, I discovered that I either needed to overcome this fear and learn to gracefully launch off a 3-meter platform or quit the team. I stood on the platform, paralyzed. Torturous minutes ticked by until finally the coach yelled, “Do it or go home!”
Mustering every ounce of courage in me, accepting the possibility that I might plunge to my death, I jumped. (I really did think I might die. I’m that scared of heights.)
Obviously, I survived. But learning to do something that scared me has impacted my life ever since. Many, many times, sometimes daily, I have to summon courage and go for things that seem too difficult to do. That’s when I remember … do it or go home.
LS: What do you fear most in life?
JR:Rattlesnakes, mice, spiders, choking, serial killers, scorpions, and heights.