Tony Araujo – Choral Conductor
Tony Araujo, Choral Conductor
interview article by Rosemary Phillips, 2003
UPDATE 2019: At the time of this interview in 2003 Tony Araujo was taking on the role of artistic director of the British Columbia Boys Choir, a role which he has, after 14 years, passed on to Edette Gagne. He was honoured at the recent 50th Anniversary Christmas Concert of the Boys Choir. In addition, Tony has completed his doctorate, and has toured extensively with all his choirs. But let this article speak to you of this man's amazing talents and insights... for to talk with Tony Araujo is to converse with a man who truly
speaks from his heart. He brings compassion, caring, wisdom
and a passionate vision.
A holistic approach to choral music
"To me it's important that the music resonates with
the individual lived experiences of members of the choir," explained Tony Araujo. “When they bring (those experiences) to the
performance it’s more connected, holistic.”
Tony conducts from a feeling space, a place of pure thought. “There’s
something numinous about conducting. When trying to reach the different
frequencies in music, as a conductor, you can be in that frequency,
the space between space, neither here nor there. If you can get
the singers in that space then you are in the same zone, you are
IN the music. I want all my singers to become the music.”
When the singers become the music, the audience feels it. “For
me (the joy) is the moment when people who don’t know the
choir are moved to tears - that the audience feels really connected.”
Choral music has deep meaning for Tony. “I feel
like I’m being called to do this. Everything happens for a
reason and there’s a timely contribution to be made.”
To date he has made incredible contributions as the choral director
of international award winning choirs at St. Patrick Regional Secondary
School and as the artistic director of Corpus Christi College Chamber
Choir. He has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching
Excellence, and his work has been captured in a documentary film
entitled “Spirit Alive: The Tony Araujo Story”.
At the time of this interview he had just returned from a tour through
Canterbury, London, and Paris with one of the school choirs, and
after a week of rest he is now preparing for his full season ahead.
And what are his visions for the BC Boys Choir?
Tony Araujo’s vision for the BC Boys Choir - “When a wheel is so good it doesn’t need re-inventing,”
he stated. “Gerry (Gerald Van Wyck) and Margot (Holmes) have
really helped get the choir to where it is. My vision is to maintain
what has already been done and to keep some of the traditions, such
as singing ‘May God be with you ‘til we meet again’
at the end of a performance. There are silent traditions, things
that I have noticed. I imagine there will be new traditions. I want
a sense of continuity while introducing new things.”
One of those new things is to create opportunities to connect with
more groups and to perform at festivals all over the world, to introduce
the BC Boys Choir to the international concert stage level.
“I want them to work with some of the finest choral educators
in North America like Anton Armstrong, Weston Noble and Dr. Doreen
Rao. I want them to hear more choirs – to challenge them.
I want to continue to do a variety of music from around the world
and to have new pieces commissioned for the choir.
“Right now though I think I’ll just settle in for a
year and see how things go. More ideas will emerge. I’m very
grateful to the organization and blessed that the boys have received
me so well. When someone new comes in after 13 years it can be very
difficult. Gerry (conductor from 1988-2003) integrated me from the
start when I joined as associated conductor in 2001, and he allowed
me to participate fully from the first day I got there. I am very
grateful to Gerry for how he has been and continues to be so supportive.”
Spirit Alive - Choral music from a depth perspective - And while Tony settles in with the BC Boys Choir, he will still be working with St. Patrick’s
choirs, and taking his monthly trips to the Pacifica Graduate Institute
in Santa Barbara where he continues his doctorate studies and research
on “Spirit Alive: The Choral Music Experience from a Depth
While reading the introduction to his thesis, and another paper
on his understanding of music as healer, this writer was moved by
Tony’s articulation, his energy, and his ability to integrate
academia with writing from feeling that includes his own personal
healing experience. How does a writer, bound by limitations of prose,
describe a concept that can be so illusive and not main stream?
“I’m studying everything from alchemy to dreamwork.
I think that choral music has a transformative capacity to facilitate
the individuation process with every singer. Part of my research
is based on the art of teaching to the soul. Admittedly it’s
one of those things you can’t articulate. It’s called
Depth Psychology - archetypal psychology - Jungian.
Choral music is about listening - to each other - "It not only changes the singer but the entire audience. It's really about love."
“This is what’s driving my research. How can we get
this into mainstream education – to look at the experience
of the individual, rather than the top-down method of teaching?
Choral conductors can be healers – because we are a coach
of a large group of people. Someone called me a Spirit Maker. It’s
not intentional. But I can see how that can be seen in that way.
It comes from a place of humility. When I’m up there conducting
I’m washing (the choir’s) feet – all I ask is
that they wash the feet of the audience. It’s humility. It’s
an inclusive process. It’s not about the ego of the art, it’s
the spirit of the art. It’s about creating a container where
you can really build community.”
Tony loves what he does. To him work is play. It gives him energy.
But there is another side to the man. “I love going out and
hanging out with friends. I love to dance. I did a bar tending course
once so I love making martinis. I like to entertain.”
But with his choirs Tony’s work goes beyond
entertaining, it is a transformational experience reaching
from the individual members of the choir and connecting with the
audience at a deep rooted and soul touching level.
NOTE: There are many more articles on this site about great musicians and artists - see Index of Articles.