Dr. Joseph Amante y Zapata becomes new Chorus Director

New Choir Director Dr. Joseph Amante y Zapata directs the group in rehearsal.

Grace Kenningham, Herald Contributor

RWU welcomes Dr. Joseph Amante y Zapata as the new chorus director. Dr. Amante y Zapata has a passion for music and teaching. He received a Bachelors degree in Church Music from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif., his Masters in Choral Conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and his Doctorate from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

 Dr. Amante y Zapata came to RWU from the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), where he has been the director of choral activities and a music professor since 2001. He teaches sight singing and ear training, music history and music appreciation courses. In addition, Dr. Amante y Zapata conducts both the CCRI Chamber Singers and Chorus.

 The fight to find Dr. Amante y Zapata was tedious. After former chorus director Dr. Jonathan Richter left the university, Assistant Professor/Head of the Music Department Dr. Catherine Hawkes began the search for a replacement that the students would like to work with.

 It wasn’t easy.

 Dr. Amante y Zapata was the third director to be assigned to the position at RWU and was not even informed of the position until after Sept. 1 which, according to Chorus President Adam Caezza, caused frustration in the club’s editorial board.

 “As president, I expected that I would have had a fair bit of involvement in overseeing and meeting our new choir director, but to my surprise, I had nothing to do with the process,” Caezza said.

Dr. Amante y Zapata found out about the open director position here through some of his CCRI students who continued their education at RWU. At CCRI, he is only able to work with the same students for two years, whereas at RWU, he will be able to have the same students for four years and perfect their sound as a group and as individuals.

“I am excited to be able to work with students for a longer period of time,” he said.

Dr. Amante y Zapata has big plans for the chorus program. He intends to bring many different genres of music into their performances. He specializes in music from New Spain, specifically Mexico, from the 18th century. 

“It’s amazing to work with this kind of music because some of it hasn’t been performed in over 300 years,” Dr. Amante y Zapata said.

Though most of the music performed by his choirs originates primarily from North and South America or is classical, he does not hesitate to diversify his selections. In the past he has incorporated gospel, rock, jazz, and per request of his students, some contemporary pieces, as well. 

Moving forward, Dr. Amante y Zapata is excited to get started with his first semester here. He plans to spend the next few semesters getting a feel for the group he is working with, and intends to work with them on developing their skills. As a professor, he is more than just a conductor. He is going to teach students the history of the songs they sing, how to read music and sight sing.

“Working in smaller groups allows me to give students individual training, as well as learn the songs at a faster pace,” he said.

Dr. Amante y Zapata, who is also known by some as “The King of Collaboration,” has plans to expand the program by working with the campus a cappella groups, musical ensembles and even developing a group of chamber singers. He also has plans to bring the CCRI chorus to work with RWU students to collaborate on a few songs. Although his students do not participate in competitions, he is hoping to prepare his students for that during the year. Dr. Amante y Zapata will surely have an impact on the music program at RWU.