Dr Donald St. Jean
Associate Professor, Music, Program Coordinator
Office Location: Angelus Hall, Room 202
Academic Department: Music, Theatre and Dance
- B.M. in music education, University of Rhode Island (1977)
- M.M. in vocal performance, New England Conservatory (1985)
- D.M.A. in music education, Boston University (2014)
A cappella singing is the subject of my research interest and the centerpiece of my teaching efforts in choral singing. Unaccompanied singing in a vocal ensemble contributes to the development of students' musical skills, including intonation, sight singing, rhythm, tonal memory, vocal range and flexibility, and musical expressivity. Exploring this topic in its application to both traditional music and contemporary collegiate a cappella was the subject of my doctoral dissertation research. In that study, I sought to understand the impact that a cappella singing has on undergraduate students, from the perspectives of the students themselves, of faculty choral directors, and of recent graduates that were presently teaching music in schools. Through individual interviews, focus groups, observations and a survey, this research addressed the following questions: In what ways is a cappella ensemble singing perceived to contribute to the musical development of undergraduate students? Are there measurable differences between students and faculty in the perceived benefits of a cappella ensemble singing? Are there measurable differences between the perceived benefits of traditional and contemporary a cappella ensemble singing? The use of a cappella in rehearsals of the choral ensembles at Salve Regina promotes musical awareness and expressivity. Of particular interest to me for future research is to further understand the impact that a cappella has on the musical development of singers of all ages and at various levels of experience, from beginner to advanced.
Prior to going to school for music education, I was set to go to a prominent school for accounting. In fact, I had been accepted, and had made a deposit to hold my place at that institution. After much thought, I changed my plans and applied to school for music education. What drew me to music education was an opportunity that I had while in high school. Due to health reasons, the choral director at my school was absent during the final few weeks of my senior year. As arrangements were being made to hire a substitute conductor, my fellow chorus members and I had continued to rehearse for the event on our own. One student was in charge of distributing the music folders; another accompanied the chorus at the piano. My responsibility was to conduct the group - about which I knew very little at the time. When the principal walked into our rehearsal and saw that the students had taken the initiative to keep the chorus going, he decided that we should have the opportunity to perform at graduation under our own guidance. My work at Salve Regina is to bring students closer to music, whether that is to explore music education, or simply to enjoy the experience of making music together in our choral ensembles, while they actively pursue their dream in another area of study. Perhaps throughout the course of these experiences, students will be touched by the joy of music and will, in the process, share their joy with others.