Emilie Amrein is a scholar, artist, educator, and activist whose professional activities resist and unsettle the boundaries of academic disciplines. They locate their work in community practice, drawing on the revolutionary wisdom of abolitionist, anti-colonial, and anti-capitalist organizers and freedom dreamers from the Global Majority. Current areas of curiosity include disability and voice studies, carceral geography, critical border studies, ecopoetics, and the post-humanism.
Emilie currently serves as Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of San Diego, where they teach courses on the intersection of music education and social justice movements, community music, and changemaking. As the Director of the USD Choral Scholars, they center embodiment, collective consciousness raising, dialogue, and storytelling in their teaching and artistry.
Emilie is the co-artistic director of Common Ground Voices / La Frontera, a bi-national community music project that aims to build relationships and understanding across political, demographic, and perceptual borders as an exercise of non-violence. They are the founder of The Choral Commons, a media platform that provides a space for singing communities to realize the liberatory potential of the ensemble as a site of radical imagining.
Emilie is coauthor of the book, Empowering Song: Music Education from the Margins, published by Routledge in 2022. They contributed to Wisdom, Wit, and Will: Women Choral Conductors on Their Art, and to Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir (Vol. 2-3). As a speaker, they have presented at the national meetings of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, Chorus America, the American Choral Director’s Association, the College Music Society, and the National Youth Leadership Council.
Empowering Song: Music Education from the Margins
Empowering Song: Music Education from the Margins (2022) weaves together subversive pedagogy and theories of resistance with community music education and choral music, inspiring professionals to revisit and reconsider their pedagogical practices and approaches. The authors’ unique insight into some of the most marginalized and justice-deprived contexts in the world — prisons, refugee shelters, detention facilities, and migrant encampments — breeds evocative and compassionate enquiry, laying the theoretical groundwork for pedagogical practices while detailing the many facets of equity-centered, musical leadership. Presenting an orientation to healing informed by theory, Empowering Song explores the ways in which music education might take on the challenging questions of cultural responsiveness within the context of justice, seeking to change not only how choral music is led but also our conceptions of why it should matter to all.
Selected Video Recordings
This video features the University of San Diego Choral Scholars, under the direction of Emilie Amrein, at their April 2022 performance at the San Diego Sings Festival at the Baker-Baum Concert Hall at Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.
Repertoire: Trilo - Ale Moeller; Hands - Jocelyn Hagen (featuring soloists Julia McAtee and Jack Hemphill); and Fire - Katerina Gimon. Improvisations between pieces and choreography devised by the ensemble.
Videography: Daniel Rumley, Rumley Music and Audio Production.
This choral meditation was recorded remotely by artists from Mexico, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and India, who regularly collaborate with the ensemble Common Ground Voices / La Frontera. They devised this piece in response to The Choral Commons Podcast episode #10, Borders, Bridges, and the Choir, a conversation with Ahmed Anzaldúa. The text source for this piece was a quote from the book This Bridge Called My Back by Chicana poet, author, and activist, Gloria Anzaldúa. "Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar. / Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks."
This piece samples the sound sculptures of artist, Glenn Weyant, who writes, "One of the passions I have right now is amplifying objects, both found and in public spaces, that sort of thing. The way that I do this is a use a contact microphone, which is very similar to a stethoscope in that you place it on something and it picks up the vibrations and the sounds that are occurring from that object. What I did was go down to Nogales, Arizona, which is a town on the border with Mexico and the United States. There is a wall that separates the United States from Mexico in Nogales. It is made of mostly steel salvaged from helicopter pads used by the U.S. military in Vietnam and Desert Storm. I went to the wall with my contact microphone and my gear, hooked up the microphone to the wall. I had a cello bow and began to play it. I also bowed some of the barbed wire fences that are in the area as well."
Additionally, the piece features a prominent quotation from the fourth movement of Joby Talbot's Path of Miracles. The quotation symbolizes the objects and mementos that forced migrants carry with them as they journey. "What if you had been forced to leave home suddenly, fleeing war or escaping poverty? Could you have brought your prized possession? Would you have found something new along the way?" (UNICEF, Children Uprooted: The Things They Carried, 2019) The dancers performed on railroad tracks in Boston, in front of a wall in San Diego, and on a bridge in Tijuana, Baja California.
Selected Concert Programs
Intersections: Considering Matthew Shepard (2022)
Choirs from USD, SDSU, and MiraCosta College
Portraits: Anne Frank & Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2020)
The USD Choral Scholars & Sacra/Profana
Crossings: Migration Music (2017)
USD Choral Scholars & Concert Choir with Peregrine Music