Daniel Hopkins, the new director of the Gaithersburg Chorus, is no newcomer to the group. The 23-year-old solo pianist, accompanist and conductor served as accompanist last year under director Cory Davis. When Davis announced he was leaving to attend graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia, Hopkins applied for the job.
Hopkins, said Laurie Levy-Page, Performing Arts Program Coordinator for Arts on the Green, “had a mind-meld with Cory and a similarly positive connection with chorus members. When Cory had trouble articulating a direction to the chorus, Daniel would say exactly what Cory meant. They were a dynamic team, and Daniel has conducting as well as accompanist skills.”
Levy-Page said “a full open hiring/selection process (took place) and Daniel ended up as the top candidate, clearly an excellent fit. He brings very strong musical skills and talents–as a singer/vocal teacher, conductor and, when needed, accompanist, fluency in a wide variety of musical genres, an understanding of the goals and abilities of the chorus, and wonderful energy and enthusiasm.”
Collaborating with the chorus last year, Hopkins said, “was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed spending time with all the members and hearing them grow over the course of the year.” He pointed to the members’ “positive sense of community and the joy they bring to every rehearsal” as among the reasons he wanted to take on the new position.
As their leader, “I hope to bring my love and enthusiasm for music to the chorus. At the same time, I want everyone to leave the group a better musician than they entered.” He plans to stress “musicianship skills like music reading, aural skills and vocal technique,” he said. “I think the greater a person’s knowledge and ability, the richer their experience can be.”
At the University of Maryland—Hopkins graduated in 2015 with a bachelor of music degree in piano performance, he co-founded and directed OperaTerps, the university’s student-led opera company. Now he is pursuing a master’s at Maryland and working as a choral and general music teacher at Kenmoor Middle School in Prince George’s County. He spent the summer as a head counselor at Camp Encore, a music camp in Maine.
As a chorister, Hopkins has had experience in a variety of genres and ensembles. “I have sung backup to the BSO Pops and sung with the NSO in performances of Mendelssohn and Bach,” he said. “I’ve sung (everything from) baroque music to barbershop, and I hope to share that variety and breadth of experience with the chorus.”
Hopkins grew up in a musical family in Rochester, N.Y. His father, an electrical engineer, played piano, “a lot of Chopin and Beethoven,” and his older brother is working on a doctorate in piano. He credits his arts magnet high school’s “wonderful teachers and students” for inspiring him.
The new director hopes “to continue the (Gaithersburg Chorus’) tradition of friendship and connection” and perpetuate members’ “enthusiasm and excitement about sharing music with the Gaithersburg community.” Among his short-term goals are “to play and perform as much as possible and to foster a love for music wherever I go.”
The non-audition Gaithersburg Chorus, now entering its 29th year, welcomes new members of high school age and older who sing soprano, alto, tenor or bass/baritone. Previous singing or music experience is not required. An open house for prospective members is set for 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park, 506 South Frederick Ave. Rehearsals, which start Sept. 13, take place on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and winter and spring concerts are scheduled. For City of Gaithersburg residents, the registration fee is $100 per semester, for non-residents, $120. Financial aid to qualifying members is available through the newly established Linda May Scholarship Fund.