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Melinda O'Neal leaves Handel Society

Published February 9, 2004; Category: ARTS & SCIENCES

Choir of students and locals loses director of 25 years
Melinda O'Neal
Melinda O'Neal, former conductor of the Handel Society of Dartmouth College. (photo by Robert Eddy)

The Handel Society of Dartmouth College is losing its conductor and music director of 25 years. Melinda O'Neal announced in February her departure from her post with the student and community choral ensemble.

"The Handel Society is a marvelous organization, one that I love and respect," O'Neal said in her announcement. "Every rehearsal and concert has been a privilege for me. I am so very thankful for the many opportunities to work with the fine student and community singers in both the Handel Society and Chamber Singers over these 25 years."

O'Neal will continue in her roles as professor of music at Dartmouth (half time), as well as conductor with Boston Vocal Artists, a newly formed professional vocal ensemble, comprising 10 singers concentrating on a repertoire from the 19th century to the present. She will also continue her research and writing on the relationship of text and music, historical performance practices, and the music of French composer Hector Berlioz.

O'Neal came to Dartmouth in the fall of 1979, when she revitalized the Handel Society, originally established in 1807, after a period of inactivity. She also founded the Chamber Singers of Dartmouth College upon her arrival in the Department of Music. O'Neal is also the first woman tenured professor in the music department at Dartmouth, and she is the first and only tenured woman conductor in the Ivy League.

O'Neal initiated and has led the music department's Foreign Study Program in London four times, and she also founded and administered the Dartmouth Conducting Institute. She has been visiting professor at Indiana University and the University of Georgia, guest conductor of the Seattle Symphony Chorus, chorusmaster of the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra and has served on advisory panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the N.H. State Council on the Arts. She is a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the N.H. State Council on the Arts and the Julius Herford Award from the American Choral Directors Association for her doctoral paper on Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ. O'Neal holds a doctorate and master's degree in choral-orchestral conducting from the Indiana University School of Music.

The Hopkins Center for the Arts, the performing home of the Handel Society, will begin the search for a new conductor immediately. A new position has been approved by Provost Barry Scherr for O'Neal's successor to conduct both the Handel Society and the Dartmouth College Chamber Singers.

By ROLF OLSEN

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Last Updated: 12/17/08