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Meet Kimberly Waigwa of Phoenix Women’s Chorus

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kimberly Waigwa.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a child and all through my adolescence, I was always interested in music. My first instrument was the violin, then the guitar, and I’ve always been fascinated and played around on the piano. However, it wasn’t until I moved from Texas to Tucson, to study at the University of Arizona, that I fully discovered my interest invoices.

For most of my life, I assumed I could not sing. My voice had a certain range. There was nothing I could do, and I needed to accept the limitations of my physical reality. While working towards my degree in Creative Writing, I met friends and roommates who, slowly but surely, convinced me that I should audition for voice lessons. And I did. Panicked and clueless and out of my depths, but I did.

Eventually, three years later, I was in every undergraduate choir the university had to offer and Tucson’s LGBTQA community chorus Desert Voices. By the time I graduated I knew that teaching voice and working towards a better understanding of the human voice was what I was meant to do.

After taking a year off, I enrolled at the Fred Fox School of Music and began my journey towards becoming a voice teacher. And while I kept my vision of becoming a voice teacher through my four years, it was my conducting courses, under master educator Dr. Elizabeth Schauer, and involvement with Desert Voices that truly solidified my desire to be a leader of a choral community.

After falling entirely and helplessly in love with the compelling craft of conducting, I was honored and privileged to be mentored by Shawn Cullen, former TUSD teacher and artistic director of both Desert Voices and Reveille Men’s Chorus. I became soprano section leader, rehearsed and conducted a piece, was coached and instructed, in a masterclass-style, both during and after rehearsals, and conducted in Desert Voices’ summer concert. This experience culminated in making my national conducting debut at the GALA Chorus Festival in the summer of 2016.

From then it has been a snowballing of new opportunities and experiences including participating twice as a conductor in the Audivi Vocem Conducting Institute, becoming assistant director of Desert Voices, working as interim director of two choirs at St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal church, two years of private vocal and piano instruction, and, thanks to Dr. Schauer, conducting the University of Arizona’s Symphonic Choir and being selected as one of eight participants in the first ever Undergraduate Conducting Masterclass at the 2017 National American Choral Director’s Conference in Minneapolis.

Now, one year out of school and excited to be an effective and successful choral leader, I am enjoying the beginnings of my career. I have nearly completed my first year as a high school teacher at Salpointe Catholic, becoming music director at Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and, my dream come true, becoming artistic director of my very own GALA choir, the Phoenix Women’s Chorus.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The greatest challenge in my career as a conductor was returning to school as a nontraditional student. In the first two years of my music degree, I was working 12 to 13 hour days, 6 to 7 days a week along with taking 8 to 10 classes each semester. I was all in. Although I realize that it was my choice to overload myself, I wasn’t willing to wait for the career I wanted and was determined to get to my goal as quickly as possible.

This created a great amount of difficulty in scheduling time for group projects, studying my materials, practicing my music, getting anywhere near a functional level of sleep, having difficulty learning, maintaining emotional instability, and navigating through a compromised immune system. I was also traversing the college realm from a new standpoint, being surrounded by a majority of students who were younger and living a very different lifestyle and college experience than I was. It was a very isolating experience.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Phoenix Women’s Chorus – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The Phoenix Women’s Chorus is a group of phenomenally talented women dedicated to creating safe spaces for women.

We are a proud member of GALA Choruses and welcomes all women to live our mission of nurturing sisterhood, empowering women, embracing inclusivity, and educating our communities through meaningful and powerful musical experiences. As we approach our 25th anniversary, we are proud of our longstanding visibility and social engagement. We are a warm group with big hearts committed to supporting each other.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Currently, my biggest plans are to create a spectacular 25th Anniversary season, aimed at honoring the women who helped create and sustain the Phoenix Women’s Chorus. It is my dream to continue to expand not only the number of singers in the ensemble but also the impact of the chorus in the community and our visibility throughout the state.

Our next stop will be participation in the 2020 GALA Choruses’ Festival in Minneapolis, focusing on fundraising to ensure as many singers can attend as possible.


  • Tickets: $15 for students, $18 in advance, and $20 at the door

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