July 1, 2021
Brandon Waddles, a composer, conductor and educator with deep roots in the Detroit gospel music tradition, has been named the new artistic director of Rackham Choir.
Waddles began working with the choir this month, and hopes to put on a first concert in the fall. He is also director of choral activities at Wayne State University and music director for Ledisi, a Grammy-winning recording artist.
The long hours he spent making music at church during his childhood shaped his musical sensibilities and his deep belief in group singing — what he calls “the community experience of artistry.”
“Music is for all of us,” he explained, adding: “I am a native of Detroit, I admire the culture that has been passed on to me, and I’m passionate about giving it back.”
A majority of choir members voted to hire Waddles after an extensive vetting process, which included virtual interviews and mock rehearsals with the top candidates.
“Brandon is a native Detroiter with deep roots, connections, and respect in the musical scene (academic, church, popular, jazz), and I expect Rackham to grow in new ways based on the collaborations his network will facilitate,” said Victoria Bigelow, soprano and member of Rackham’s board of directors.
Waddles was in middle school when he first saw Rackham Choir perform. The show was Too Hot to Handel, a jazz-infused rendition of Handel’s Messiah, and his father Alvin, a preeminent Detroit gospel pianist, was accompanying the choir.
He succeeds Suzanne Acton, the chorus master and assistant music director for Michigan Opera Theater, who was Rackham’s artistic director for 25 years. Rackham’s future is bright with Waddles taking up the conductor’s baton, Acton said.
“He’s got energy and he’s got talent, and I think it’s going to be exciting for Rackham,” Acton said. “Now it’s his turn to experiment.”