The compelling impact of a successful conductor is founded on the combination of three primary factors, in Dr. King’s opinion (all of equal importance):
- Clear and expressive gestures, such as can only be developed through dedicated study and practice of conducting, as is necessary for excellence in any other instrument;
- Knowledge of repertoire, and informed score study and research; and
- Loving insight into the individuals with who art is made (performers), and with whom it is shared (congregations/audiences).
While fully degreed in vocal performance and musicology as well, it is to the art and craft of conducting, as outlined above, that Dr. King devotes her professional focus.
Whether in church programs, collegiate degree programs, independent professional work, or any of her many appearances as a guest conductor, skill as an experienced conductor are equally focused toward the emergence of a meaningful human and artistic experience for all involved.
Independent Choral Organizations
Ember is the semi-professional vocal ensemble within the Schola Cantorum on Hudson Choral Arts non-profit organization, founded in 1995 by Deborah Simpkin King, Ph.D. As Ember’s Artistic Director, Dr. King programs full-season explorations of life/social issues through the music of living composers, leveraging an eclectic stylistic mix designed to tangibly impact the lives of both performers and audience members.
Crescent Choral Society
The Crescent Choral Society is a non-auditioned community-based choir of mixed voices which performs major works with orchestra twice annually. It is sponsored by the not-for-profit Crescent Concerts.
Crescent Singers is an ensemble formed twice annually by invitation of the Artistic Director, for purposes of providing the popular Yuletide holiday concert, and Good Friday’s meaningful Tenebrae offering at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Plainfield, NJ.
A consistent thread woven throughout Dr. King’s professional work has been that of ministry through music. Over the years she has built programs of various sizes and configurations within Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Community denominations. She is also the innovative force behind a new, experimental form of collaborative music leadership for the parish church. As a conductor who approaches all music – secular as well as religious texts; even instrumental music – as a spiritual journey, it’s not surprising she would find professional resonance in an ecclesiastical environment where singing and the faith message are seamlessly blended.
Current position: Interim Director of Music Ministries, Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Plainfield, NJ
In this position, Dr. King serves as both Choirmaster and Organist for the church (see specs on the 2002 Gilbert Adams installation here), and as Artistic Director of the Crescent Concerts concert series. The Chancel Choir, Crescent Choral Society and Crescent Singers are all artistic directed and conducted by her.
Immediately prior to accepting the call to Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Dr. King served as the Director of Arts Ministries at Trinity and St. Philip’s Episcopal Cathedral, located in the heart of downtown Newark, NJ. During her tenure, the previously-dormant Cathedral Choir was re-established, and Cathedral Arts produced several events of community and diocesan scope and impact.
Dr. King frequently serves as a guest conductor on musical projects. She recently conducted with the Mostly Mozart Festival of Lincoln Center in its large summer choral production – a commissioned premiere by John Luther Adams (August 2018). In August of 2016, she was one of five conductors chosen to work with Simon Halsey in the live-at-Lincoln Center premiere of David Lang's, a public domain, scored for 1000 voices.
Most recently, Dr. King guest conducted in Tlaxcala, Mexico, within the 7th annual week-long Tlaxcala Canta Festival. She has accepted invitations to program, train and conduct various ensembles through a concert preparation cycle (Union Theological Seminary Choir; Manhattan Choral Ensemble; etc.). Other projects include such district and state choral festivals with high school singers (PMEA District 9 Festival; North Jersey School Music Association Chorus; etc.).
Dr. King’s academic background and early publication activity* was undertaken with the expectation of a career focused exclusively on college/university/conservatory campuses. While she has consistently been active as an educator, she has built a professional tapestry that combines entrepreneurial performance, education, advocacy work, and ecclesiastical involvement, while always enjoying the occasional interim or guest faculty position (most recently as full-time Interim Director of Choral Activities at William Paterson University).
Her academic interest is currently in developing a specialized program of choral composer residency in an academic/conservatory program of sufficient choral depth and a commitment to training specifically in choral writing, her leadership in this area through PROJECT : ENCORE as a significant value-add to a college of music or conservatory.
PRoject : Encore
PROJECT : ENCORE™ (P:E) was launched in June of 2009 as Dr. King's response to the rapidly-changing world of new-music composition, evaluation, and distribution. It is an international, online catalog of post-premiere contemporary choral music that has been blind-reviewed and endorsed by a panel of renowned conductors. P:E has been heralded as establishing a new and necessary paradigm for score evaluation and promotion for the 21st century, in which self-publishing is a choice being made by many of our finest working composers. It has been recognized by the American Composers’ Forum and by ASCAP as a valuable marketing arm for composers.
The history and full description of P:E has been published in a variety of places, most completely in ACDA's Choral Journal, November 2015. Beginning with the May issue of 2017, "PROJECT : ENCORE News" is a monthly column within The Choral Journal, taking P:E composers into the 44 countries of the Journal's distribution.
PROJECT : ENCORE is supported by Schola Cantorum on Hudson, a 501(c)3 organization founded by Dr. King in 1994.
New York Choral Consortium
The belief that arts organizations are better positioned to make a meaningful impact in the world when they work together, rather than in competition, Dr. King took on leadership within the New York Choral Consortium (NYCC) in 2012 – initially as Co-Chair with Kent Tritle; as Chair since 2014. The organization is the primary hub for choral activity and awareness in New York City, and has worked with the NY Philharmonic and with Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in producing large choral events. The NYCC serves more than 75 member organizations.
COMMITMENT TO THE NEXT GENERATION
Engaging and nurturing love for and skill in singing among young people is a continuing thread throughout Dr. King's career and takes a variety of forms. In addition to active involvement with training the next generation of music professionals, she has designed programs for nurturing lifelong choral participation as one meaningful path to full personal actualization.
With her founding of Schola Cantorum on Hudson (Schola) in 1994, Dr. King and the first Schola board of directors determined that educational opportunity was to be as fundamental to the organization as performance, even at the organization's outset. Schola's Choral and Conducting Scholar programs provide pre-professional training and post-graduate internships to young musicians planning to make a career in music. Through the Cantorum Young Singers program, hundreds of high school singers from New York and New Jersey have collaborated with Schola singers (as of 2017, called "Ember"), providing an experiential bridge between a meaningful ongoing experience in the arts, and its lifelong continuation.
Additionally, Dr. King took on leadership of NJ-ACDA's High School Choral Festival in 1994, and introduced adjudicated sight singing to the Festival in 1998, seeking to support the teaching of skills that would support lifelong choral singing. Beginning in 1999, new sight singing examples have been commissioned and composed annually for the Festival by Mr. Richard DeRosa. In 2013, John Wilson joined the leadership team, becoming Co-Coordinator in 2015.
Working with another conductor, singer, coach, etc., is an experience that many find to be inspirational while bringing a fresh perspective to their art. Dr. King is frequently asked to provide such sessions for church, community or school programs, always planning around musical and pedagogical areas of special interest to the conductor.
It’s the instrument that makes no sound when played solo: that of the conductor. Yet its impact shapes the artistic experience of large groups of musicians, as well as audiences, and excellence requires training and practice, as with any other instrument.
From the basics of gesture to score study and analysis, from expressive use of the hands to effective baton technique . . . all the way to awareness of such motivational potential as approaches that of a musical shaman – all of this and a great deal more are part of a conductor’s art.
Dr. King offers the following conducting instruction:
Group master classes offered through a professional organization (such as AGO, ACDA, etc)
Group master classes through an in-service clinic to the conductors in a school district
Individual lessons with conductors (Private study in NYC and NJ locations)
It’s the one instrument on which the artist is one in the same with the instrument itself! Learning to sing well – to use the full body in artistic expression – is a journey in self-discovery. Each “instrument” is unique, and each day is different even with the same individual, as elements of mood and health, artistic and spiritual sensibilities change and grow, in addition to what practice has been engaged.
Dr. King offers private voice instruction (only for adults who are actively singing) in both NYC and NJ locations.
To book Deborah as your next guest clinician or conductor, please fill out the form below, or get in touch with Kathleen Engles of KEngles Communications & PR via phone (914.907.1843) or email.
Published research, writing and editing:
PROJECT : ENCORE™ News, Choral Journal (Quarterly Endorsements), December 2018 pp. 74-75
PROJECT ENCORE™ News, Choral Journal (Karen Thomas feature), October 2018, pp. 93-95.
PROJECT : ENCORE™ News, Choral Journal (Quarterly Endorsements), Sept. 2018, pp. 76-78
PROJECT : ENCORE™ News, Choral Journal (Quarterly Endorsements), Aug. 2018, pp. 76-78
PROJECT : ENCORE™ News, Choral Journal (Quarterly Endorsements), May 2018, pp. 76-78
PROJECT : ENCORE™ News, Choral Journal (Andrea Clearfield feature), April 2018, pp. 82-84
Fresh Choral Voices Found Here! PROJECT : ENCORE™, See-a-dot Music Publishing, Inc., October, 2014
A Blow Anthology. Oxford University Press, 1996
The Full Anthems and Services of John Blow, and the Question of an English Stile Antico. PhD dissertation (winner of the University of North Texas Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Award for Scholarly Communication, 1991).
Caro Carapetyan: His Choral Beliefs and Practices. Master’s thesis, 1981
Published media products
Sacred Bridge. SCH, 2006
Beautiful Star. SCH, 2006
Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, plus DSK interpolated excerpts from 12th-century source. SCH, 2004
Cantorum Christmas. SCH, 1999
Songs from the Heart: Folk Songs and Spirituals. SCH, 1998\