by Fernando Quintero
For more than a 100 years, students at Berkeley have come together to raise their voices in musical harmony, beginning with the first Glee Club organized on campus shortly before the turn of the century.
As the new director of UC Choral Ensembles, Mark Sumner will carry on Berkeley's melodious tradition.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the wonderful traditions of the UC Choral Ensembles, and to help it grow into the 21st century," said Sumner.
Sumner was hired this year following a national search for a choral director. Robert Cole, director of Cal Performances, which is in charge of the chorale ensembles, was quick to sing his praises.
"We were delighted to find the ideal candidate with the right combination of skills, education and knowledge to lead this unique program," said Cole.
"In addition to his educational and professional experience, Mark possesses the rare combination of musical ability, energy and enthusiasm with the necessary administrative skills to lead the organization."
A former music conductor at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Southern California, Sumner has an extensive background as both a conductor and professional performer.
One of Sumner's more interesting jobs has been singing in the soundtracks of motion pictures, including "Edward Scissorhands," "Beatle-juice" and "Mars Attacks!"
At Berkeley, Sumner will oversee several singing groups that make up UC Chorale Ensembles, including the men's and women's chorale, the men's and women's a cappella groups, the Cal Jazz Choir, and the UC Alumni Chorus.
"Berkeley is a unique place to be because there is such a vast array of students with so many different backgrounds," Sumner said. He looks forward to bringing together such a diverse group of students in perfect harmony.
"You have some of the country's top students here studying biochemistry, engineering, computers-they all need an artistic education as well," said Sumner. "I believe in educating the whole being."
Singing, Sumner said, is one of the most fundamental and rewarding acts of artistic expression.
"You put your heart and soul into it," Sumner said. "The rewards are plentiful because the emotions that come from singing are purely positive. That's why so many people sing when they feel good, whether it's in the car or in the shower."
Sumner, who grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, got his first job teaching music at his high school alma mater. He then went on to teach at the University of Southern California, where he received his Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Music.
He has also been a member of several choral groups including the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Chamber Singers.