Indianapolis is filled with vibrant arts organizations, outstanding artists, and stellar partnerships. The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and Butler University School of Music have teamed up to create their Conducting Fellowship which provides one-of-a-kind professional mentorship opportunities to outstanding students. Meet Dr. James Plenty, the 2016-2018 Conducting Fellow with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. Read about Plenty’s experience with the fellowship and what he plans to do with the skills he’s learned during his time with the ISC.
Conducting Fellow Seeks to Strengthen Community
“The most important part about being a musician,” says Dr. James Plenty, “is the opportunity to impact change in the community in which I serve.” Plenty, an Alabama native, is the Conducting Fellow of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and Butler University. He has been involved in sacred, popular, and classical music from an early age. Early memories of music for him revolve around church music, and sitting at the piano of his childhood home playing songs from musicals with friends. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Music Technology, Master’s in Church Music, and Doctorate in Education, Plenty embarked on a quest to study more about choral conducting.
During his national search for conducting programs, Plenty became aware of the fellowship opportunity at Butler University. “As I surveyed other programs around the country I did not find any other program that offered an opportunity to partner a graduate conducting student with a community vocal arts organization… That was very unique and it was an opportunity I did not want to pass up.” The fellowship program is highly competitive and offers an immersive opportunity for one Master’s student to work with the ISC on an administrative level, as well as spend time on the podium conducting the ensemble. This approach of teaching both the administrative and the artistic gets “the best of both worlds,” according to Plenty, and has left him feeling more prepared for the next stages of his career.
The professional classical music world is extremely competitive and breaking into the field of conducting is even more cut-throat. The position of conductor is as elite as that of a CEO, and leading such an established ensemble as the ISC is a tremendous opportunity that few ever get to experience. To date, Plenty’s fondest memory of his time with the ISC is conducting Morten Lauridsen’s O Nata Lux. “To have the opportunity to stand before 150 singers and make outstanding music as a graduate student is just… it leaves me without words.”
Plenty intends to stay in Indianapolis after the conclusion of his fellowship. He hopes to utilize some of the connections he’s made to work with an arts organization to continue making a positive impact on the community. Education is a priority for Plenty, so it’s no surprise that his long-term career goal is to teach conducting at the university level, to share with others what he has learned. For now, he’s focused on finishing up his studies, but we look forward to seeing how Plenty uses the information he’s obtained in his fellowship. Wherever he ends up, that organization and community will benefit from the efforts of this passionate conductor.