“A musician is a social innovator:” Kristo Kondakçi ’13, ’15 MM brings The Women's Chorus to NEC

NEC's Erica J. Washburn and the Chamber Singers welcomed the Eureka Ensemble Women's Chorus, comprised of women experiencing homelessness, for a joint master class in Jordan Hall, co-led by Women's Chorus co-founder Kristo Kondakçi ’13, ’15 MM.

Erica Washburn leads a master class in Jordan Hall with the Chamber Singers and the Eureka Women's Chorus.

“I love singing. I love music; I love everything about it. I believe in it. I believe that without it, the world would be pretty barren and scary.” —Michelle, Women’s Chorus participant

NEC Chamber Singers and the Eureka Ensemble Women's Chorus shared a master class in Jordan Hall
NEC Chamber Singers and the Eureka Ensemble Women's Chorus shared a master class in Jordan Hall

Singers from the Eureka Ensemble Women’s Chorus recently visited Jordan Hall for a joint choral master class with the NEC Chamber Singers.

The Women’s Chorus (TWC) is comprised of participants who are experiencing homelessness and severe poverty and seeking meaningful musical experiences. The Chorus was cofounded by NEC alumnus Kristo Kondakçi ’13, ’15 MM with David McCue. Since its launch, the chorus has engaged over 80 of Boston’s most vulnerable women from many diverse backgrounds, ages 23 to 82.

“In lieu of a traditional rehearsal, we hold a ‘meetup’ every Wednesday and Friday. This is due to the transitional nature of homeless life," explains Kondakçi. "Thus our participants consist of a combination of first-time, one-time, or regular attendees and volunteers. All are equally welcome and each meetup is designed to be a stand-alone musical experience.

“Then on Thursdays, we have private lessons. Professional singers come in and teach the voice lessons, and we have keyboard lessons as well, and people can work on what they want to work on.”

Building skills in a shared master class

Erica J. Washburn teaches a master class in Jordan Hall
Erica J. Washburn co-taught the master class with Kristo Kondakçi ’13, ’15 MM and David McCue

In the Jordan Hall master class, Kondakçi, McCue, and NEC’s Director of Choral Activities Erica J. Washburn led choristers in building breathing, body awareness, and diction skills. The combined ensembles worked on repertoire including Eric Whitacre’s “Seal Lullaby,” “Amazing Grace,” and a spirited rendition of “Happy Birthday” for a TWC chorister celebrating her 82nd.

“Singing here was awkward, enlightening, and majestic, all at the same time. I feel a really neat energy that I’ve never felt before,”

shared Michelle, a Women’s Chorus participant. “The education behind the breathing—I’m excited about learning to get that down. When I hear the other girls perfect it, like an instrument, it makes me want to do it, too.”

Junior Vocal Performance major Allyson Bennett ’20 shares that her time at NEC has “opened up doors to not just perform in gigs outside of NEC, but also to connect with people of other schools and other backgrounds,” particularly through working with the Chamber Singers and the Entrepreneurial Musicianship and Community Performances & Partnerships departments: 

“NEC opens a lot of doors. It doesn’t keep you trapped in the conservatory bubble.”

The impact of music on a person's life

NEC alum Kristo Kondakci with members of NEC Chamber Singers and the Eureka Women's Chorus in Jordan Hall master class
Kristo Kondakçi ’13, ’15 MM with master class participants

Kristo Kondakçi ’13, ’15 MM, co-founder of The Women's Chorus:

“This morning, I am reminded of what music making can do and what being at a conservatory is all about.

The magic of NEC is that you are surrounded by an incredibly high quality of music making, and what that can mean for the community is priceless.

One of Eureka's core principles is that a musician is a social innovator.

When you look at the work a musician does in the practice room and in rehearsal, where you are asked to invest all your love, care, discipline, and focus into perfecting something as simple as a black dot on a piece of paper, you ask what is this all for?

I then ask: what would happen if you were able to transfer that into how you treat yourself and the people around you? With the Women’s Chorus, one of our goals is to put this principle into action. Learning to sing together with others, building harmony, good tone, and aural skills can change how you see yourself and others around you.”

The Chamber Singers and the Women's Chorus in a Jordan Hall master class.

Michelle, Women’s Chorus participant:

"[Music] definitely saved me as a kid. It kept me from going in a really bad direction.

Lauryn Hill and Alanis Morissette were the two women who raised me through music, because other than that, I didn’t have any kind of good influence in language, words, music, any of that. They helped keep me balanced, and interested in music, and big words, and in-depth thought.”

Alexandra Purdy ’19, Vocal Performance:

“It was really special to combine with members of the community who we may otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet or sing with or talk to.

It really goes to show that music is a universal language, and no matter what background you come from or country you come from, we can all come together and sing the same music and improve on the same things and learn from each other.”

Lydia, Women’s Chorus participant:

“Music save our life, for all category of people—for children, for elderly people. Music save our life. Voice is given by nature to everyone. Everyone, you have sound, a voice. Given by nature, for everyone.”