Alumni focus: Margaret Burk, M.M.’19 Choral Conducting

September 28, 2023

In celebration of ISM’s 50th anniversary, ISM alums have been invited to share what they have been up to since graduation and to reflect on how the ISM has impacted them.  Thanks to Margaret (Maggie) Burk ‘19 Choral Conducting for sharing her experiences with us!

What have you been up to since graduating?

After graduating from Yale ISM, I completed my DMA in choral conducting at the University of Michigan with Eugene Rogers. It was an amazing experience working with so many wonderful people — even through the pandemic! One of my highlights was teaching a music class at a men’s prison as part of the Prison Creative Arts Project. I am currently Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI, where I oversee the choral area, conduct four choirs, teach coursework in conducting and music education, and direct the Carthage Christmas Festival. I also compose; my works are published by Oxford UP (Carols for Choirs 6!), Hal Leonard, and Selah Music Publishing. I’ve conducted all-state and district honor choirs, sung professionally with Audivi in Detroit and Musica Atlantica in Savannah, GA, and I filmed a masterclass in Montréal for the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ “Organist Launchpad” project. A busy but amazing first year in higher ed! When I’m not working, I love exploring Milwaukee restaurants with my queer dinner group, learning to swing dance, training for my first full marathon (on September 2! Eeep!), and working out at my local CrossFit box. And, of course, I love snuggling with Leo, my adorable fluffy senior rescue cat!

How did the ISM impact you?

My time at the ISM opened the world of music and scholarship to me in a way that both inspired and challenged me to come into my own. Being around such incredible colleagues, faculty, and such amazing music — it was transformative. Learning from my mentors, experiencing music at such a high artistic level with incredibly thoughtful musicians… it was a dream. I often describe it as “musical Disney World” because of the abundance of the experience! Crucially, the ISM — ensembles, lessons, classes, trips, relationships — helped me cultivate my identity as an artist. I discerned a calling to be a professional musician of the highest caliber, but also a thoughtful scholar and persistent advocate for change and equity in the arts and beyond. Paradoxically (aren’t the deepest truths often paradoxes?), I both grew in confidence of my own skills and in awareness of where I still need to grow, both personally and professionally. It was, truly, exactly where I needed to be, when I needed to be there, and I’ll be forever grateful.

Photo: Emma Simmons, Antonia Chandler, and Margaret Burk after Schola’s performance of Path of Miracles in the Burgos Cathedral — truly a mountaintop experience!!