By Eric Dundon
When Kevin McBeth took over as the Director the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus in January 2011, he had just a few weeks before the chorus would perform its annual Lift Every Voice concert. He worked quickly to develop a strong rapport with the chorus and orchestra.
Ten years later, those relationship have flourished as the SLSO celebrates Kevin’s first decade as IN UNISON Chorus director.
“Being welcomed into the community is essential. It’s key. I’ve worked over these last ten years, for instance, to build trust in the community," McBeth said. "I always have the scope and the vision at heart.”
In the past ten years,McBeth has led the IN UNISON Chorus in annual Gospel Christmas and Lift Every Voice: Celebrating Black History Month concerts, as well as yearly community choral concerts.
But his work touches every part of the SLSO, from concerts on stage with the orchestra, education programs, holiday concerts, and special events with acclaimed artists from Boyz II Men to Broadway star Leslie Odom, Jr.
“Getting a chance to work with the orchestra apart from the chorus and to build that build relationship has been tremendous for me," he explained.
That feeling of family extends to the audiences who watch McBeth lead performances, said longtime IN UNISON Chorus member Wilatrel Rice.
“I believe Kevin even helps the audience to be comfortable," she said of McBeth's approach on the podium. "He turns around, he talks to them, he engages them.”
Soprano Jennifer Kelley said Kevin excels at meeting each member of his musical family where they are.
“Learning from Kevin was very easy," she said. "He has a way of making you feel comfortable with your sound, your abilities, no matter what level you’re at. He meets everybody where they are.”
As McBeth reflects on his first ten years, he’s already looking forward to the future with chorus, engaging with more renowned guest artists, broadening the capabilities of the chorus, and welcoming new members to his musical family.
“I think most importantly right now, I’m tremendously thankful and tremendously grateful, first of all to the symphony itself—the orchestra has been unbelievably kind to me—and to the rest of my colleagues,” he said.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO's Public Relations Manager.