Q&A: Melinda Imthurn, Women’s Chorus of Dallas director

Melinda Imthurn: Photo by Rasy Ran
Melinda Imthurn: Photo by Rasy Ran

Melinda Imthurn of Stevens Park Village started with the Women’s Chorus of Dallas as a singer more than 10 years ago, after she moved back to Dallas behind a stint in marketing. The chorus immediately needed a new director, so she volunteered to be on the search committee. When the new hire didn’t last long, she stepped up as director. That was December 2004. The chorus is gearing up for its biggest concert of the year, in honor of National Women’s Day, at 7 p.m. March 10 at City Performance Hall.

You’ve been with the Women’s Chorus of Dallas for over 10 years. What have been some memorable moments?

My first time directing the choir was a live radio performance. Because of the way things had gone with the previous director, we only had one rehearsal, and then we were on the radio. I have to tell you, I was terrified. I had experienced stage fright as a singer, but once we started, I just felt very calm. It just felt really right, and it always does. I’ve since overcome my stage fright as a singer as well, but every time, I get that little bit of extra energy, but it’s an excitement, not fear.

What are you proud of?

What’s unique about a women’s chorus? Obviously, we’re women. So bringing the focus to more music by women. Having events to celebrate whatever we should be celebrating as women. We do a Mother’s Day concert; this is our fifth year, in partnership with Texas Discovery Garden. And then the March concert for Women’s History Month. I really believe that something we need to have in Dallas is a choral event that celebrates that. I’m thrilled we’re celebrating the music of women. There’s so much great music out there by women composers, and it’s our job to promote it. We’re also commissioning women to compose works for us. We have a new commission from Jocelyn Hagen from Minneapolis and Julia Klatt Singer, based on her poetry.

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How many events do you put on every year?

We do three or four per season. We always do something in December and then March and May, and then we might do something in October or June. This season we’ve got something in late May with the Metropolitan Winds. We also do community outreach. We collaborated with the First Presbyterian Church and did a concert at their location; they were doing a women’s health educational series. We do civic events, and we go to places where people can’t get out to hear music.

That must be very rewarding.

Yes, it really is. In December we did a program of holiday music at an addiction recovery center. And you can imagine how sad it might be to be in a place you can’t leave, like an addiction recovery center, at the holidays. And as we were performing, I looked over at these two women, and they were holding hands and crying. Sometimes you forget how moving the music can be, and it’s wonderful to be reminded like that.

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You’re also a professor at Eastfield College. What do you teach?

I teach music and direct the choir and handle the voice department; I teach voice.

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How long have you been doing that?

This is my fourth year. I taught at Mountain View for about five years. I got to build a program where there wasn’t one, which is something I really like to do. Then I taught music in public school. After graduate school, I got a job in the Northwest ISD [in Fort Worth]. I built a choir program at two schools there. That was fun, and I did that for two years. But I knew that the college-age student was what I really wanted to teach. I taught at [Tarrant County Community College] for two years. Then I built the Mountain View program. It’s still going, so I’m thrilled with that. We know that if students are involved with something they love on campus, they are more likely to finish their degree.

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What else do you do?

I’m working on something with Dallas ISD right now. I’m working with nine schools [including Townview, Sunset, Molina, Carter and Kimball] as a mentor to choir directors, which is tons of fun. I work with their choirs and find the areas where they’re doing well and maximizing those, and then identifying areas where they can improve. It’s really neat. These choir directors, they work a lot of hours. I thought I worked long hours, but they’re there from 6 or 7 in the morning to 6 or 7 at night, and there’s always something on the weekends, too.

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What are you looking forward to?

Doing more commissions and expanding the March event to include high schools. We’ve had the choir from Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School perform a prelude in the lobby of the City Performance Hall, and we would like to include more schools. There’s a sense in high school that mixed choir is the top choir. If you don’t make it into the top choir, then you’re in the girls’ choir. There are more girls than boys in choir; that’s just how it is. So it’s more competitive for the ladies. There’s this idea, at least in Texas, that the treble choir is the secondary choir. I would like for it not to be like that. I would like for them to be singing in the treble choir because it’s truly a great experience to sing with women, and there’s amazing music. We want them to see that singing with a group of women is a great experience and not something you do because you couldn’t get into the mixed choir. We’d like to have them sing with us and see what it’s like to keep singing after you’re finished with school. That to me is very exciting.

And do you still sing?

Oh, yes! Thanks for asking. I’m doing a concert at Eastfield on March 25. I’ll be doing a lot of Clara Schumann because I just love her. She was one of the first women doing things as a concert artist [in the early 19th century]. She wrote just gorgeous artistic songs. There are so many that are excellent. I’m having a ton of fun learning some music I didn’t know.

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Imthurn leads a rehearsal at City Performance Hall: Photo by Rasy Ran

More info: Season tickets for the Women’s Chorus of Dallas cost $25-$55. Visit thewomenschorusofdallas.com

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