The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Daniel Paulson at 5 years; City College choir professor on building a career, traditions

Professor of Voice and Choral Music Daniel Paulson poses for a photo in his office in the Performing Arts Center on Sept. 27, 2016. Hector Flores, Staff Photographer. |
Professor of Voice and Choral Music Daniel Paulson poses for a photo in his office in the Performing Arts Center on Sept. 27, 2016. Hector Flores, Staff Photographer. | [email protected]

Roger Fandel
Guest Writer

Huuuuummm. Bahh. Dooooooooo.

Silly tongues wiggle out breath exercises. The conductor forms his hands into a circle in front of his belly and looks at the choir expectantly. They’ve learned the language of belly circles, so their tongues wiggle out a fuller sound.

Ten weeks into the last semester, many belly circles and countless tongue wiggles later, City College’s choir don jet black slacks and dress jackets. As many as 35 of the 50 singers had no training 10 weeks ago, but tonight they’ll tackle the “Ode to Liberty”, a 30-minute performance without applause breaks.

Conductor Daniel Paulson points fingers and swings arms—and sneaks in a quick belly circle here and there—while his choir chants the words of Thomas Jefferson. The conductor’s arms fall to his side, so song fades away, and the performance ends. Applause. Then the combined choirs of Folsom Lake, American River, Cosumnes River and City colleges—nearly 200 singers—coalesce onstage for a bombastic showstopper.

This was the fourth annual Collegiate Sing. An event first organized by Paulson, City College’s choir director and music professor. Four years before, Paulson had just begun at City College as an adjunct professor, but that didn’t stop him from establishing a tradition of collaboration within the Los Rios District. And now it seems anything going on in the Fine Arts building has Paulson involved in some capacity.

The music professor stays pretty busy. You can find him if you wander about the arts building. Just about any time, any day. His voice will be heard preaching to the choir, or he’ll come whipping around a corner with singers in tow. Or he’ll be wagging his finger at thoughtless students mistreating department equipment. There’s no coffee allowed near the pianos, nor are the practice rooms for hanging out.

As one of four full-time faculty in the department, he is responsible for overseeing the budget, so his policing the halls fits. He cares about the students, the building, the future of the program. His onus is evident.

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Much of Paulson’s often 14–hour days are spent in his office, the door open, a cavalcade of students buzzing in and out with questions and answers, perspectives and goals.

“He revived the music program,” says voice student, choir member and music major Mikaela Mamola. “He sets students up to excel in a four-year and beyond.”

Paulson is a young guy, yet his bona fides are undeniable. He started at Gold River Elementary as its choir director, then went on to direct at a Methodist church for 15 years. He finished his undergrad, got his master’s in music and vocal pedagogy, waited some tables, sang professionally, and conducted his own professional choir, Vox Musica, which performs to this day.

He says his job at City College was “20 years in the making.” He clearly wants to be here. When prior choir director Doreen Erwin retired, Paulson was one of around 200 potential replacements in a national pool.

“I said let me know the moment Doreen ever says she wants to retire,” he says. “I want that job. The moment you hear Doreen coughing let me know.”

It’s a competitive market. He got a tentative, sort-of, part-time position, which is normal for a new hire. But what’s special is how fast he made full time. Just a year.

“Sometimes you can get pigeonholed as an adjunct, like 20 years. Adjunct. Adjunct. Adjunct,” says Paulson.
Professor, choir director, conductor — Daniel Paulson was clearly fast-tracked. His hiring immediately bore fruit. Like a new president, he took his office by storm, with vigor, fostering community, ingratiating himself with the faculty and the studentry, flexing his professorial and leadership muscles.

But unlike a president, he’s in his fifth year and still shows us why he got the job in the first place.

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