Emily Edgington Andrews found her passion in music during college, and she has built her life and work around it in Columbia.
Andrews was appointed artistic director for the Columbia Chorale in 2013. During her tenure, the organization has expanded to include 10 choral ensembles and community programs under the title of Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri.
Andrews' efforts have made it possible for anyone to participate — regardless of age or financial situation. Under her leadership, the chorale has provided scholarships and grants to make community events possible.
In addition to her work with the chorale, Andrews is the director of community outreach and assistant choral director for the MU School of Music, vocal music teacher at the Columbia Independent School and conductor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. She talked with us about her work in the Columbia music scene.
Why did you choose to develop your career in arts?
I was born in Hannibal, Missouri, and grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. I played volleyball and basketball for nine years, but have always been active in the arts, singing in choir during elementary and secondary school, taking private voice and piano lessons. An inspiring high school choir director drew me to study music in college, and my collegiate director (R. Paul Crabb) continued to fuel the passion through my undergraduate and graduate years.
I love people and music, so marrying the two seemed an obvious career choice. I’ve been fortunate to have a wide variety of professional experiences.
What’s your role in the Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri?
As artistic director, I oversee the functioning of the organization in collaboration with the board of directors, cultivating the programming for the 10 choirs each season, managing the various artistic staff and conducting several ensembles, including Columbia Chorale, Canta Bella and Cambiare (two youth choirs in CAAM’s youth extension Columbia Youth Choirs).
Our mission is to create exceptional choral opportunities to all individuals from beginning youth to professional musician. When I began in 2013, there was only one choir for adults, Columbia Chorale. This was during a time of transition in the school system and the funding was being cut for the arts particularly at the middle levels.
I recommended to the Columbia Chorale board of directors that we expand to include a youth choir extension. Each year since then we have expanded our reach to include diverse and varied programming options for interested singers of all ages and musical levels.
Can you give examples about your collaboration with other arts groups in our community?
I strive to create compelling concert programs that involve partnerships with other organizations that will add authenticity and strengthen a theme. We are stronger when we can come together, regardless of our background and beliefs.
This fall, CAAM’s Columbia Chorale partnered with the MU Asian Affairs Center to present a Japanese-themed concert, bringing in a taiko drumming group from St. Louis and commissioning a new work by a Japanese composer to mark the occasion.
In April 2019, CAAM will partner with Missouri Contemporary Ballet to present Carl Orff’s "Carmina Burana" in the composer’s original conception of “total theatre.” Often programmed as a concert work with orchestra or wind ensemble, pairing with the dance company makes for an even more stunning visual effect.
Since the ensemble’s conception in 2014, our select adult choir, Columbia Chamber Choir, collaborates with the Columbia Civic Orchestra in a concert that premiers new music by composers with a Missouri affiliation. CAAM also happens to be a Partners in Education with Columbia Public Schools.
In March 2015, we merged the three organizations when one of our singers composed a piece from poetry submitted to us from a poetry contest by elementary students at Locust Street Elementary School. The students were invited as special guests as they heard their words come to life during the live performance.
One concert that is based entirely on the spirit of collaboration is our annual Unity Benefit Concert, now in its fourth year. Presented every January to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his peaceful teachings, the concert features CAAM’s Columbia Community Gospel Choir, Columbia Kids Gospel Choir and Columbia Chorale in a concert of gospel music (traditional and concert gospel). Each year we select a local nonprofit that works to reach the underserved population in our community to be the beneficiary of the funds collected at the door.
What do you think has been your greatest contribution to the Columbia community, in terms of the arts?
As I’ve grown as a musician and educator, I’ve become increasingly more focused on using music to build relationships between people while striving to maintain a high artistic quality. I believe music is so powerful that it can be used as a vehicle to promote positive social change, to give representation to a minority population through specific programming, to bridge gaps between diverse groups of people by giving individuals opportunities to celebrate and respect uniqueness, and to provide opportunities to use music as a means of healthy expression.
I think because of my desire for inclusivity, accessibility and high quality, CAAM is an asset to our community, enriching countless lives.