Choir director returns to classroom

Entering her 17th year of teaching and conducting choirs, Irene Messoloras is starting her first year as director of the University of La Verne Choir. Originally from western New York, Messoloras worked with professional choirs for two years. After receiving her DMA from UCLA in 2008, Messoloras said over those two years she missed the experience of starting with a group from scratch, ultimately deciding to return to teaching. / photo by Noel Cabrera

Autumn Simon
Staff Writer

Irene Messoloras has performed at the star-studded Carnegie Hall, toured around the world and learned her craft under the great American conductor Robert Shaw. Her journey has led her to the University of La Verne as the new director of choral activities and vocal studies.

“It feels fantastic being here at the University of La Verne,” Messoloras said. “I love the energy on campus and how the students are motivated to creating a vision of excellence on campus.”

James Calhoun was La Verne’s previous director of choral activities, and for years the position had not been replaced.

Messoloras was hired in the summer and so far has been making a great impact among her colleagues and students.

“I met her in the summer when she joined La Verne’s music department,” said La Verne alumna Vicky Compos. “She has a great impact on building the programs and has great ideas for the University.”

Her responsibilities as the director of choral activities are to oversee all of La Verne’s choirs: the University Chamber Singers and Chorale. She also oversees all vocal activities on campus.

“She emphasizes healthy vocal pedagogy and passionate performance,” said La Verne choir president Terry Dopson. “I feel like I am in a professional choir when I sing under her direction. Plus I love how infectious her personality is, both in the classroom setting and when speaking to her one on one.”

Under Messoloras’ direction, the size of La Verne’s choral program has increased from eight to about 80 members. There are 60 members on chorale and about 26 members in chamber singers.

“She has improved the department with her recruitment efforts, she is excited and proactive,” Compos said. “Her ideas of getting people to come are great, like her pie for a guy idea.”

Pie for a guy is when the members have to bring a new guy into the group and they get a free pie.
Long before Messoloras was performing around the world in grand halls, Messoloras was a music-loving, New York native.

She was born into a Greek and American family who appreciated music. On her dad’s side of the family they were vocalists.

“It was always said in my family that I was singing before I was talking,” Messoloras said. “I always was heavily involved in art, music, dance and theatre throughout grade school.”

Messoloras took band, orchestra, choir and voice lessons. Music was never not a part of her life, but ultimately she found that her passion was vocal music.

She went to the University of California Los Angeles for her master’s and doctorate in conducting and musical arts. Messoloras considers her years at UCLA as an important part of her life.

“My experience at UCLA was phenomenal, my mentor was Dr. Donald Neuen who had lineage with Shaw. Both had a great understanding of oral excellence,” Messoloras said.

While attending UCLA, she taught at Malibu High School and found her love for teaching.

After receiving her doctorate in musical arts, Messoloras began teaching at UCLA. As much as she loved teaching, she got offered a position in New York City as a conductor at a music production company at Carnegie Hall.

She began missing the teaching component and moved to Oklahoma after being offered a position as the chair of the fine arts department and director of choirs at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

Although Messoloras enjoyed touring across the country with her choral group and learning musical education in other cultures, she missed her family, who stayed on the west coast.

La Verne finally decided it was time to refill the position of director. The overall mission of La Verne sealed Messoloras’ decision to join the faculty.

“I believe in the civic engagement aspect and especially the diversity inclusive,” Messoloras said. “I think it is important for everybody to know you do not have to be great at singing to be a part of a choir, just come, learn and enjoy,”

Autumn Simon can be reached at

Noel Cabrera

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