Alumni Profile: Choral director's international work encourages diversity

Thursday, October 10, 2019
Written by: Emily Hollingshead

Collin Edouard’s voice has carried him across oceans to perform. Classically trained, Edouard’s personal journey with music and music education has led him to blend classical techniques with traditional folk music from cultures around the world, creating something truly unique. 

“As a first generation born American, I have always been between two cultures,” Edouard said. “Music is a large part of my cultural identity, and I have always been proud of being a Caribbean man. However, music in the mainstream will often make people like me feel less American, which can create a shameful attitude towards our own culture.” Through a message of diversifying music education, he is challenging the euro-centric teachings he grew up with. 

He stresses how important it is for music educators to reflect on how their curriculum could be impacting their marginalized students, especially children of color, and how beneficial it is for students to hear music they identify with. “It is so important for kids to feel like scholars of their own culture,” Edouard said. His work focuses on pushing music education beyond euro-centric views, and he tries to find a balance when he teaches internationally, between healthy vocal singing techniques and how the children want to sing.

Edouard’s international dossier includes performances in five countries, but his work goes far beyond entertaining, and he has taken on an educator role while abroad. He has taught in three countries including Uganda, where he founded the Kampala Choral Festival to help raise money for music students’ tuition and instruments. Now, he is finishing up work in Turkey, where he was invited to partake in a music festival and teach as a choral director for Syrian refugee children. “A lot of these children have been experiencing trauma, such as war, and a lot of them have lost their parents,” Edouard said. “Music is a healing tool to help take their minds away from the trauma in their lives.”

Seminole State College gave me the time to lay the foundation of who I wanted to be as an adult.

Collin Edouard

Edouard is no stranger to how music can help those who are overwhelmed. When he attended Seminole State College of Florida from 2007-10, he struggled with working full-time and even homelessness as he went through school. “Seminole State College gave me the time to lay the foundation of who I wanted to be as an adult,” he said. “Nothing was handed to me, and there were people there who understood the adversity that I had to go through at that age.” During his time at the College, he joined SeminoleSound, the College’s vocal jazz ensemble, as well as the Concert Chorale and Community Chorus. He learned to get out of his comfort zone by landing a role in the College’s production of “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.” 

Transferring to The City College of New York, he completed his bachelor’s degree and went on to earn a master’s degree from Columbia University. He was a recipient of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship and is excited to pursue another Master of Music degree from Wolfson College in Cambridge, England. However, he says he is most proud that “I have the opportunity to continue to work with kids in other countries. I am so grateful I get to collaborate with them.” 

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