Kandice D. Dickinson

1960 -

Kandice Dickinson, a soprano soloist and choir director, taught at elementary through college levels in both the public school and Seventh-day Adventist educational system and also maintained a private studio. A frequent soloist, she gave numerous recitals featuring both traditional art songs and highlights from numerous operas.

Dickinson began voice study with Klaus Leukert and Stephen Zork, voice teachers and choir directors at Maplewood Academy. Upon graduating from the academy in 1978, she enrolled at Union College, where she studied voice under Lynn Wickham for two years before transferring to Andrews University, where she worked with James Hanson and Harold Lickey. Following two years there, she transferred to Atlantic Union College, where she completed a B.Mus.Ed. in 1983 with a major in voice and choral music and a minor in piano.

While at UC, Dickinson was a soloist in presentations of the Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio and Haydn's Creation and Lord Nelson Mass. At AU, she soloed in J.S. Bach's Dixit and Magnificat in D, and sang the role of Belle in A Christmas Carol, Chava in Fiddler on the Roof, and Hanna Glawari in the Merry Widow. She was the Opera Division winner in the MTNA Wurlitzer Collegiate Artist Competition in Massachusetts in 1985.

In 1983 to 1986 she taught at Cedar Brook School in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, and from 1986 to 1991 in the Chicago area at West Suburban Consolidated School and Hinsdale Junior Academy. During this time she completed her M.Mus. in vocal performance and pedagogy at Chicago Musical College, now Chicago College of Performing Arts, of Roosevelt University, studying voice with Eileen Deneen and coaching with Music of Baroque's Thomas Wikman and Lyric Opera of Chicago's Bruno Bartoletti.

In October 1990 she was chosen by audition to sing in the Dalton Baldwin Master Class. Her singing led to an invitation from Baldwin to attend his music festival in Nice, France, the following summer.

Later that summer she was traveling in the Northwest and stopped at Walla Walla College, now University, where she successfully auditioned for the vocal/choral position, which had opened just as the school year ended. During the next four years, she would lead a very active and innovative vocal and choral program that produced a number of singers and created excitement on campus.

In her second year Dickinson presented four highly acclaimed presentations of H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan on campus and one on tour. Her husband, Stephen Taft, an art teacher at the college, created a minimalist sketch of the sea and shipboard for the setting, and she designed the costumes for the production, which, as reviewer Roger Robbennolt observed, "pulls us into the 1870s and yet leaves the satire wisely contemporary." He also went on to praise her training of the singers for both their singing and role playing, which, in his perspective as a frequent theater attendee, led to a performance "of such vitality that they win over those of us who have seen this piece many times."

In that same year, Dickinson presented the first of three highly successful annual Opera Galas that featured her students and herself singing solos and choruses from famous operas, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Glenn Spring. In her third year, because of the increase in voice students, more recitals and master classes had to be scheduled to provide increased performance opportunities for them.

While at the college, she worked closely with the Walla Walla Symphony in preparing its choirs for concerts, the first being a presentation of the Messiah with I Cantori, the college's select choir, in 1991. She subsequently prepared the Collegiate Chorale for performances with the symphony of Verdi's Messa Da Requiem and Mozart's Requiem Mass in c Minor, both in 1993, and I Cantori for a concert version of Bizet's Carmen, in 1994.

When she and her husband relocated to San Francisco in summer 1995 in order to more fully pursue their careers, it was a huge disappointment to both her students and colleagues. Dickinson's students knew her as a caring and inspiring teacher, who had created excitement in the choral/vocal department. She did everything with verve and a commitment to excellence. She had a natural artistic flair that had evidenced itself in the many details associated with the promoting and production of her programs and in her frequent thoughtful and distinctively penned notes to her students and colleagues.

Dickinson continued to teach and perform until late in 2000 when she contracted severe myalgic encephalomyelitis, ending her career. Fortunately, what turned out to be her farewell performance was one of her favorites: a recital for the International Emily Dickinson Society, where she performed settings of the poetry of her distant cousin and most beloved poet.


Source: Kandice Dickinson Resume (1993); Walla Walla College department of music newsletter, Opus, 1992-1995; Information provided by Kandice Dickinson, July 2011; personal knowledge.