UMKC Conservatory Professor Aidan Soder Wins Fulbright Scholar Award


The UMKC Conservatory is pleased to announce that Associate Professor of Vocal Studies Aidan Soder has been awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award.

Soder’s work will focus on Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature. Tagore’s work, which ranges from poems to song compositions to paintings, was, and still is, widely known in his native India. Over time, his work has grown in popularity and its accessibility to Western classical composers, many of whom have set his poems to music. These works are referred to as art songs.

Soder is no stranger to Tagore’s work. In fact, she has studied and performed his work in English, German, Polish, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian. But Soder made an unexpected realization recently, as she was preparing an all-Tagore recital and recording project.

“After we did these concerts and recordings, I thought to myself, I wonder if people in India know how much we love their beloved Tagore," Soder said.

That question gave Soder the inspiration for a Fulbright project proposal.

She decided she’d like to travel to West Bengal, India, to explore the population’s reception of these Western classical songs, begin compiling an art song anthology of Tagore settings in multiple languages and by numerous composers, and contribute to the teaching of Western classical vocal practices.

That idea recently gained approval from the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. According to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Since 1946, the program has provided approximately 325,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

News of Soder’s selection came as no surprise to Conservatory Dean Peter Witte. "This Fulbright is another indicator that Professor Soder is on the rise. An ambassador at heart, Aidan's time in India is an exploration of Western and Indian classical traditions. She's a wonderful choice to celebrate culture through song," Witte said.

Robert Bode, chair of the Conservatory’s vocal studies department, is excited for what Soder’s research will eventually bring to her students in Kansas City.

"We are thrilled for Dr. Aidan Soder.  This is an exciting opportunity for her to explore the rich traditions of Indian art music.  And, of course, all of us at the Conservatory will be the beneficiaries of her exploration," Bode said.

Soder has equally high hopes for the project, mainly that awareness of Tagore’s worldwide influence will continue grow.

“Most people in India have no idea that Western composers have been setting Tagore’s poetry for more than 100 years. My hope is that Indians across all professions—even though it may be completely foreign to them—will receive these art songs as the homage that it was meant to be,” Soder said.  

Soder will travel to Kolkata, India, November 2014.  She will be hosted by Rabindra Bharati University during her tenure there. 

Soder, a mezzo soprano, joined UMKC in 2007. Her scholarly and performing interests include the music of Schoenberg, performance practice-related issues in contemporary music, French mélodie of the early 20th century, and art song of living American composers. She recently premiered and recorded composer Karim Al-Zand's Orange Torches Against the Rain, a song cycle for mezzo soprano and piano set to the poetry of Amy Lowell.  Soder’s 2008 book Sprechstimme in Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire: a Study of Vocal Performance Practice was published by The Edwin Mellen Press and received the Certificate of Merit by the Association of Recorded Sound Collections in 2009. Soder is the recipient of the UMKC 2011 Apple Polisher Award, the Conservatory’s 2011 Kauffman Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the 2012 UMKC Trustees Faculty Scholar Award.  Tagoriana, Soder’s recording of Western classical settings of Tagore, is released Summer, 2014 by Albany Records.  Represented composers include Frank Bridge, Karol Szymanowski, John Alden Carpenter, Franco Alfano, and Karim Al-Zand, whose Tagore Love Songs was the driving force behind the project.  Recorded in Houston, TX with baritone Paul Busselberg and pianist Calogero di Liberto, this disc of songs is the genesis for Soder’s Fulbright proposal.


For more information, please contact:

Name: Dana Self
Phone: 816-235-2949