For more than a decade, Don Cleary devoted himself to building the drama program at Paine College in Augusta.
He returned to his roots in choir directing, however, when he accepted the artistic director position at Columbia County Choral Society.
“I’m no longer teaching at Paine College, so I don’t really have an outlet for my musical and theatrical nature,” the Augusta resident said. “It just seemed like ... a way of going back to your roots.”
Cleary’s first rehearsal with the 40-member choir was Aug. 28. He replaces Timothy Powell, who stepped down in June after leading the choir for nearly two years.
Cleary holds a master of church music degree and earned a doctorate in comparative arts at Ohio University in 1990.
For thirty years, Cleary directed adult and youth choirs in churches across the South and in Ohio.
“I had gotten away from directing a formal choir group over the last several years,” Cleary said. “It was good to step back into it.”
Cleary learned of the Choral Society’s director vacancy from his two daughters, who approached him at different times with news of the opening.
Cleary said he then decided to pursue the opportunity.
In addition to his work with choirs, Cleary has directed several musicals and currently serves as adjunct music professor at Augusta State University.
Cleary not only instituted the drama program at Paine College, he served as director of the department and oversaw scenery, lighting and sound for productions.
“I’m a builder kind of guy,” he said of leaving Paine College.
“It was like, okay, I need a new challenge.”
Though he’s not been with the choral society for long, Cleary already has established goals for the organization that he’d like to see met.
Cleary said he wants to offer a wide repertoire to the public and promises to keep choral masterworks a mainstay of the choral society.
In the spring, the choir will perform Arthur Honegger’s King David, followed by a pops concert in the summer, Cleary said.
Cleary said he’d also like to create smaller groups within the choir to perform throughout the community.
A main objective for Cleary is to double membership within the next two years.
Rehearsals, he said, are kept “fresh,” “active,” and “engaging.”
“I try to keep the rehearsal fun, but at the same time serious enough,” he said. “You’ve got to keep a light spirit but not lower your standards.”
Cleary welcomes potential members to a newcomers reception at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at First Baptist Church of Evans.
For more information about the choral
society, visit www.ccchoralsociety.org.