Choral Arts History

The choral program at the University of Arkansas began in 1957 with the Schola Cantorum, conducted by Professor of Music, Richard Brothers. Originally only 32 voices, Schola Cantorum quickly flourished under his baton. In 1962, Schola Cantorum became the first American choir to win the coveted first prize—The Guido d'Arezzo Award—at the prestigious International Polyphonic Competition in Arezzo, Italy. In honor of their achievement, Schola Cantorum soon after appeared on NBC TV's "Today Show" and performed for U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden. In 1964, the choir was invited to the Vatican in Rome to sing for Pope Paul VI. Professor Brothers retired in 1976, passing the baton to Dr. Jack Groh who expanded the program, adding the Concert Choir in addition to the Schola Cantorum.

At about the same time, Dr. Harry Budd, founded the Inspirational Singers, a gospel choir aimed at increasing the visibility of black students on campus and providing a culturally relevant outlet for the performance of music from the southern black music tradition. One of campuses great diversity initiatives, the Inspirational Singers developed under Dr. Budd’s leadership. In 1990, Dr. Eddie Jones was hired to succeed Dr. Budd as their director, and Dr. Jones worked to incorporate the Inspirational Singers into the Department of Music curriculum, offering the course for credit, and changing the name to the Inspirational Chorale.

As the University of Arkansas grew its student population, the size of the Concert Choir became too large and was no longer able to rehearse in MUSC 335. Dr. Stephen Caldwell, arrived in 2012 and immediately began to expand the ensemble offerings to accommodate the increasing student population. In 2014, the Concert Choir was split into the Women’s Chorus (now Treble Chorus) and the Men’s Chorus (now Razorback Chorus), and in 2016 the Chamber Choir was added to provide a laboratory ensemble for students studying conducting at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Jeffrey Murdock, who came to the University of Arkansas in 2015, has since further developed the Inspirational Chorale, now offering two sections of the class.

In recent years, University of Arkansas choral ensembles have been invited to appear at conferences of the American Choral Directors Association and the National Collegiate Choral Organization, the Arkansas All-State Music Conference , and have toured to Ireland, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, and Jamaica. They are heard around campus, singing at athletic events, commencements, fundraising events, and other academic functions.