Choral Collective helps lift voices at Madison College

New director brings passion, enthusiasm to campus group


Emily Faust / Clarion

Director Melissa Richardson leads a recent rehearsal of the Choral Collective at the Truax Campus.

Kelly Feng, Managing Editor

On any Thursday evening, if you find yourself lingering near the Music Department, you will hear some enthusiastic singing from the practice room. Once called the Adult Show Choir, the Madison College Choral Collective was formed in the ‘90s. However, only some know of this opportunity. Enter Melissa Richardson. Richardson is the third choir director in its history, a role she started last August. She’s determined to get the word out about singing.
She wants more people to see her group’s performances and eagerly welcomes new members through the end of February.
There are no requirements to be a member of the Choral Collective. Richardson said they are looking for people who “like to have fun and have good attendance.”
Although anybody can join, Richardson said attendance was key.
“It’s not an activity you can do online at your house by yourself — it’s really a collaborative art form,” she said.
The choir is open to all students and community members. Students or faculty members can join for free, and community members pay a nominal fee.
Jessie Soto Garcia, who has been both a student and a community member, has been involved with the choir for four years.
“It’s a great community. We’ve definitely changed and grown with the years,” said Soto Garcia, a choir member during the COVID-19 shutdown. “We practiced online — that was really interesting! But as time went on, the choir evolved. You can always meet new people, and we build relationships. I think it’s great.”

Director Melissa Richardson leads the Choral Collective through warmups before a rehearsal.
Director Melissa Richardson leads the Choral Collective through warmups before a rehearsal.

The choir comprises people of all ages, from high school students to retirees. The members have day jobs in different aspects of the economy, from finance, healthcare, education, culinary and sales.
“The thing we all have in common is that we love singing,” said Richardson, who is also a member of the Madison Choral Project.
“It’s also a social club, honestly. It’s intergenerational, which can be hard to find in the social club. We have had some members in this group for 20 years.”
The love of music and singing brings the choir together, which has been fundamental in Richardson’s life.
Raised on a farm in Belleville, Wisconsin, Richardson became her church’s only organist when she was still in middle school. Along with learning sight reading and practicing daily singing, Richardson’s position was paid, allowing her to save money for college.
The church years, combined with summer music camps and inspiring teachers, fueled her passion for performing.
Richardson’s educational trajectory brought her to Iowa’s Luther College and later to New Jersey to earn a masters at Westminster Choir College (not to mention a decade of international teaching and performance in between).
Although she’s proud of her formal education, she’s drawn to performance opportunities, like the choir’s efforts in community outreach.
In April, they are performing at the Porchlight Men’s Emergency Shelter. In May, they will perform for a Mother’s Day banquet at the downtown Madison YWCA.
When choosing music repertoire, it’s a democracy between the 35-member group and its director. Richardson takes suggestions, creating a program based on what members like and their audience. They choose a wide selection of pieces, with genres coming from world, musical theater, pop, classical, jazz and movie themes.
Wade Troyer, the choir’s piano accompanist who started at the same time as Richardson, enjoys the many different music genres.
“She has chosen a wide variety of music, so it’s not just classical,” said Troyer, who’s particularly excited about upcoming selections. “We have the James Bond theme song!”
Along with the choir’s outreach efforts, Richardson appreciates the college for its many qualities.
“The flexibility of everyone from the students to the music faculty to the community members to the supporting staff here — everyone makes you feel welcome.”
Along with feeling embraced, Richardson appreciates the opportunity to collaborate. The choir and the Culinary department are teaming up for the spring Porchlight event, with the baking side providing 200 cookies for the residents.
“People are very open to collaboration and flexible, which makes it a very fun place to work.”
Asked what the best part of her job is, Richardson takes a moment to reflect.
“It’s a great way to connect with people and lead you to things you never expected.”

Members of the Choral Collective follow the direction of Melissa Richardson during a rehearsal at the Truax Campus.
Members of the Choral Collective follow the direction of Melissa Richardson during a rehearsal at the Madison College Truax Campus.

Events and Info
The Chorale Collective’s next concert: World Drumming Ensemble and Choral Collective, on Saturday, April 22, 7 p.m., Mitby Theater.
The Choral Collective will perform two combine samba pieces with Music Department Chair Dr. Timothy Patterson’s drumming ensemble.
For more information on the performance ensemble, like the orchestra conducted by Blake Walter. Or the big band and jazz ensemble, directed by Jamie Kember visit
For more information on the Choral Collective’s outreach events, please visit: