Arianne G. Abela

Arianne G. Abela

Director of the Choral Music Program and Lecturer in Music

Arms Music Center

Arianne Abela is Director of the Choral Program at Amherst College where she directs the renowned Glee Club and Concert Choir, and teaches a beginning voice class. Abela is Artistic Director of Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble, professional chamber group that celebrates racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. In addition to performances and artistic residencies, the ensemble engages in creative educational outreach to audiences and students, particularly in communities of color, and promotes the study, research, performance, and recording of music from various eras with special attention to the intersection of arts and social justice.

Abela served on conducting faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, and is founder of the Detroit Women's Chorus and Detroit Justice Choir, ensembles dedicated to social-justice and community empowerment. She directed Detroit's historic Fort Street Chorale, conducted choirs at University of Michigan, and the UMS Choral Union. Focusing her efforts on community building through song, Abela founded The House of Clouds and has worked closely with Musicians Take a Stand to organize over a dozen benefit concerts for charities and various causes across the country.

In the realm of opera, has guest conducted opera productions with various Michigan-based opera companies including Detroit's OperaMODO, and serves as music director for Vancouver-based opera company, Re:Naissance. Prior to her time in Detroit, Abela lived in Connecticut where she served on faculty at Wesleyan University, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, The Westover School and Notre Dame High School in West Haven.  In 2012, Abela was featured conducting on NBC's Today Show and was a semi-finalist in Season 8 of America's Got Talent as director of Connecticut-based 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra. The ensemble later recorded for the soundtrack of Hollywood film Walk of Shame starring Elizabeth Banks.

Abela received her doctorate in conducting from the University of Michigan with Jerry Blackstone and Eugene Rogers, holds a master’s degree in choral conducting from Yale University with Marguerite Brooks, Jeffrey Douma, and Simon Carrington, and bachelor of arts from Smith College. Abela sings professionally in ensembles across the United States and Canada such as Yale Choral Artists, sounding light, Etherea Vocal Ensemble, Arkora, and Audivi. Originally from the San Francisco bay area, she sang with the San Francisco Girls Chorus for many years.

A Brief History of the “Singing College”

A black and white photo of young men in suits against a brick wall

The Amherst College Glee Club, circa 1880

Music has always been integral to the Amherst experience. The College Choir was formally established and its constitution adopted on December 3, 1833. The faculty agreed to grant $50 to the Choir annually, as long as students strictly follow its constitution and submit a report for the approval of the College president.

After a committee from the class of 1862 was organized to address the matter, the College released the first issue of Songs of Amherst in March 1860. This 75-page volume contained lyrics for 62 songs, all but eight written especially for Amherst.

October 1894: Under the direction of Edward Sumner, Amherst’s Musical Association became the first U.S. college glee club to perform abroad, touring England for four and a half weeks, before enthusiastic audiences. The same year, William P. Bigelow ’89 was appointed Amherst’s first professor of music. At that time, Harvard was the only other American school with such a position, but more soon follow: Columbia, Dartmouth and then Williams College, which appoints Amherst alumnus Sumner Salter ’77 professor of music in 1905.

March 5, 1931: The Amherst Glee Club has a long history of singing tours of England and Continental Europe as well as around the United States. The group first visited Bermuda in 1928 and returned in 1931. They performed at the White House in 1920, during Calvin Coolidge ’95’s term as U.S. vice president, and embarked on a world tour in 1967. Amherst's reputation as "The Singing College" spreads far and wide.

On October 3, 2019, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg visited campus. At the beginning of her talk with President Martin, the Choral Society performed music from her favorite, The Marriage of Figaro.

A choir singing in a large, dark space