Lawrence Abernathy makes positive changes to Washburn’s choral program


Tyler Smith

Lawrence Abernathy, director of choirs, leads members of the Washburn Choir during a rehearsal. Abernathy also formed Washburn’s current soprano-alto ensemble, VoxAura.

Washburn’s music department has gone through many changes in the past several years. The choral program in particular has been faced with multiple faculty changes and has struggled to increase its numbers, but Washburn’s latest director of choirs, Lawrence Abernathy, is already taking action to change that.

Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, Abernathy said he was drawn to Washburn because of the campus culture and community.

“I recognized many of the same qualities at Washburn that I did at my undergrad,” Abernathy said. “And I kind of knew that I wanted to go back and work in that type of environment if given an opportunity, because I’ve seen how special it can be.”

Abernathy is not only a conductor, but a performer as well. He has performed in multiple professional choral ensembles, including The Cecilia Ensemble, which is where he met his wife.

Since his start at Washburn in the fall of 2022, Abernathy has been working to grow the choral program and recruit more students for the Washburn choirs. As both a conductor and a performer, he understands what singers are looking for when they decide on a program.

“I firmly believe that good singers want to sing good music. And we have a bunch of good singers on campus,” Abernathy said. “So, the first thing in developing a program is giving them the right repertoire to sing that energizes them and makes them excited about getting involved in choir.”

In addition to repertoire, Abernathy has also focused heavily on recruitment, both by drawing in people on campus and also by visiting high schools in the area. He also said that their next step as an organization would be to put together a board of choir members that could help with outreach and recruitment.

“Eventually we’d like to see as many people as possible in the ensembles,” said Abernathy. “And I think we’re working towards that right now.”

Abernathy is providing new opportunities for choir members to grow as singers. In the recent past, the Washburn Choir has only been able to hold concerts together with the Washburn Singers, now known as VoxAura. Recently, however, the Washburn Choir held their own full-length concert, an opportunity they haven’t had in several years.

Abernathy’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by students. Bella Wood, junior in integrated studies in administrative communication and also the campus and community affairs director for WSGA, thinks that Abernathy has been doing a lot of good for the choral program.

“I think Professor Abernathy has brought a lot of really positive change to Washburn’s campus. He’s focused a lot on recruitment and intentionality,” Wood said. “He’s revitalized the women’s choir, which is super amazing.”

Abernathy said that when he’s not conducting the Washburn choirs, he’s usually still doing other choir-related things, which is one of the things he loves about what he does.

More information about Abernathy, his experience and his past performances are available on his website. Information about his work with the Washburn choirs can also be found by following @wuvocalarea on Instagram.

Edited by Glorianna Noland and LeSha’ Davis