When David Horne left Tabor Academy last spring after 30 years of service as our choral director and organist, he left some large shoes to fill. Thankfully, we were able to attract back to Tabor our former Chinese teacher to replace him, who happens to be an internationally known professional singer! What was that?
Well, it’s a long story, but Dr. Tianxu Zhou our new choral director previously taught Chinese at Tabor from 2012-2015. Zhou is a teacher, and while he enjoyed teaching his native tongue, it is the language of music that most drives him and which drew him away from us and then back again when he learned of Horne’s departure. Zhou is a creative, and he loves teaching for the ways he can adapt and change his lessons for greatest effect, instilling curiosity and a passion for high achievement from his students. “I love the creative process of teaching. In all teaching, there is repetition and practice, but I enjoy figuring out ways to make learning exciting and fun.”
Tianxu Zhou, originally from Beijing, is an accomplished, and internationally known, professional singer and conductor who has taught music privately as well as in higher education (Shenandoah Conservatory, RI College, Salve Regina, UMASS) continuously since earning his PhD. Zhou performed as a soloist with many orchestras as well as with many opera companies such as the Washington National Opera where he shared the stage with many world-renowned artists. While teaching at Tabor, he also conducts the University Choir once a week at UMASS Dartmouth, where he has worked in various roles since 2009, as well as the Southcoast Children’s Choir, a group very close to his heart.
Zhou is so pleased to be back at Tabor, as he really enjoyed working with our students. He recalled the warmth of our community and the spirit of learning our students bring to their work in the classroom. He is pleased to have found that intensity to learn just as strong in his music studio today as it was in his Chinese classroom three years ago. He also likes our increased emphasis on service at Tabor since 2015 and is seeking ways to incorporate it into his work.
“What I enjoyed most when I was here was the community, the faculty and the students. I had a great time working with my students. I remember walking back from class with a colleague and sharing how excited I was about how capable and how responsible the students are and how far we can get in just one or two classes with their learning. They kept taking on challenge and asking for it. Now, I am finding the same with the choral groups. I have not been disappointed. The music I gave them is challenging repertoire and they are up to the task. They are learning it, and learning the nuance.” Zhou went on to explain that he is working on teaching solefage (Do, Re, Mi…), the art of sight-reading music. “I made it clear to them that solefage is the difference between listening to a story and reading a chapter book. Now, they are asking for the challenge of solefage as they get into difficult parts of a score in order to understand it better. It was hard for some in the beginning, but as they get into it, they gain that critical listening skill. They can start to hear the tone quality, the color of the vowels and the excitement of music, the development of the phrasing. It is really exciting. And they take it on so fast! When they develop that listening skill, that is when they become a capable musician.”
Beyond his teaching, Zhou is planning ways the Tabor choirs can collaborate with UMASS and the Children’s Choir to do some local service. He knows the children in his Southcoast choir will respond to the Tabor choristers as role models and sees ways to work with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, sharing performances of women composers, in their effort to celebrate the historic contributions of women in our area. “Everyone should see what our students are doing as they are doing some beautiful work!”
While several groups have already performed in Chapel and for our trustees and special guests, Lessons & Carols will bring all the choral groups together to perform in this major concert, a real tradition at Tabor. Please plan to join Dr. Zhou and our students on December 16 at 7:30 PM for his first Lessons & Carols. (The event will be livestreamed for those not able to be with us in person.)