A Magnet Voice: Rachel Carlson's Choral Career

by Priyanka Gokhale '08

If you attended Blair between 1997 and 2001 you may have heard notes from Magnet alum Rachel Carlson's soprano coming out of the Arts hallway.  For four years, Carlson was heavily involved in the music department, juggling her time between choir, InToneNation, musicals, and performances in the community.  During that time, "singing was always a hobby," she says, but the possibility of a career in medicine came first.

After applying to colleges with that intention and choosing to matriculate at the University of Maryland as a double major in Biology and Voice, Carlson 'began to think about the idea of pursuing a career in the music industry.  "It actually wasn't until the summer before my senior year...that I seriously considered music as a career," she says.  Instead of medical school, Carlson pursued higher education in music. She zigzagged across the country, obtaining a Bachelor's in Vocal Performance from Maryland, then a Master's in Choral Conducting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and finally a second Bachelor's in Music Education from Maryland.

Ultimately, the years of schooling paid off - as Carlson now works as a performer, conductor, and instructor.  One of her first orders of business upon completing her second Bachelor's degree was spearheading an organization that combines all of her vocal interests - Six Degree Singers, a community-based choral group that performs throughout the Silver Spring area. 

A satisfying aspect of her career, the group has given Carlson the opportunity to serve her community.  Initially, she brought together singer friends with no performance outlets, but the Six Degree Singers quickly grew into a much larger organization.  “I never thought that 2 years ago we would be a non-profit with a board of directors, and almost 40 members,” she says.  “I love bringing a young professional choir to Silver Spring…It is always wonderful to connect with the community.”

But her music hasn't been constrained to the DC-Metro region.  Currently, Carlson is a member of groups all over the country, including: Tucson Chamber Artists (AZ), Santa Fe Desert Chorale (NM), Vox Humana (TN), Spire Chamber Ensemble (MO), and the Washington Bach Consort and Washington Revels in DC.  Managing her time commitments is a feat that she attributes to her “nice balance of groups that don’t tend to conflict with each other.

Because the U.S. only has part-time choral singing opportunities, Carlson is currently “exploring the possibility of performing with a full-time choir in Europe,” and adding German to her repertoire of languages along the way.  Her schedule is hectic, but that's okay:  “I hope to eventually get a Doctorate in Choral Conducting and teach college, but for now, I'm enjoying working, auditioning, and seeing where I can go as a performer."

Priyanka Gokhale '08 is looking for Magnet students who have taken the program's independent-thinking spirit and applied it in unique and interesting ways.  From day one in Research and Experimentation, we're thrust into new situations and asked to think outside the box - and if you think you know of alumni that embody this spirit, please e-mail news@mbhsmagnet.org or make a suggestion online.

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