This semester, Chris Li '11 is channeling his love of choral music into an independent study in conducting. Li is working with Director of Bowdoin Chamber Choir and Professor Robert Greenlee on cultivating his conducting skills before making his debut in the upcoming Bowdoin Chamber Choir concert and Bowdoin's Festival of Lessons and Carols.

Li is no stranger to the world of choral music. He is a music major, a member of the Chamber choir, and music director of Bowdoin's oldest a cappella group, the Meddiebempsters.

"I had long heard about how Professor Greenlee was an amazing conductor, and I was so excited to get to sing with him this year," said Li. "The opportunity to conduct under his tutelage has been incredible."

With input from Greenlee, Li developed a curriculum for an independent study that would balance intensive one-on-one instruction with performance experience.

In addition to his concert preparation, Li meets with Greenlee twice a week to learn the more technical aspects of conducting.

"Before my independent study, I thought conducting was just a matter of keeping the tempo," said Li.

He said he has since learned that "there is so much more to it."

In his one-on-one sessions with Greenlee, Li said he has learned techniques that help him communicate clearly with the choir. He has also learned to make sure that his interpretation of the music is exactly reflected in each vocalist's rendition.

His studies will culminate in the upcoming Bowdoin Chamber Choir concert, during which Li will conduct two of the eight songs performed. For the second time in a row, Li is also working on directing and conducting Bowdoin's Festival of Lessons and Carols, a holiday celebration featuring Bible readings and carols.

Instead of taking a midterm or final exam, he will be evaluated by his performance in these two productions.

In order to prepare for the Festival of Lessons and Carols, Li will pair selected Bible passages with carols, run rehearsals and conduct the choir and organist in the final performance.

Rehearsals have not officially begun, but Li has already been busy selecting carols and familiarizing himself with the music.

While his work preparing for his upcoming productions is keeping his fall schedule busy, Li says he's enjoying his independent study so much that it doesn't quite "feel like work."

So far this year, Li has conducted one piece during Homecoming weekend and two pieces during Parents Weekend with the Chamber Choir.

Li has also pursued music outside of Bowdoin. This summer, Li received the Robert S. Goodfriend Summer Internship Fund to work with "Young@Heart," a world-renowned choir for senior citizens. In his internship, Li rehearsed the choir in adaptations of pop songs, such as Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark."

Li credits his experience this summer with preparing him to undertake his intensive study in conducting. He said that the performers in the Young@Heart choir were extremely encouraging and helped him feel more comfortable in his role as conductor.

In addition, Li learned about other important aspects of the industry, such as copyrighting, advertising and booking performances.

Li said he isn't yet speculating about how his conducting experience will fit into his career after graduation. For now, he is trying to take advantage of every opportunity he has to pursue his curiosity and passion for choral music.

"It's why I love Bowdoin," said Li of his ability to work closely with Greenlee while doing what he enjoys most.

Li's conducting can be seen at the Bowdoin Chamber Choir concert on Friday, November 20 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, November 21 at 3 p.m. in the Chapel.

Bowdoin's Festival of Lessons and Carols will take place on December 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapel.