BIG ARTS welcomes new chorus director
Ellen Whitten, who accompanied previous chorus director Steve Cramer for the last five years will become BIG ARTS’ newest chorus director this fall.
Whitten currently lives in Jasper, Georgia, and is an associate music director at a local Methodist church by her home. Whitten does not plan on making a permanent move to Sanibel, she will only be here seasonally.
As chorus director, Whitten will be in charge of the holiday and spring concert programs.
“We also want to keep chorus visible in the community and do a number of community events like the Thanksgiving celebration and Luminary Night. We want to make sure the chorus is out there and the public knows about it,” Whitten said.
Next spring, Whitten said she has her sights set on getting involved with Shell Point Retirement Community.
“I think it will be great fun. We will join them at Shell Point and do a combined chorus program with them and then have them share a meal together after our dress rehearsal. I hope that this is something we can continue,” Whitten said.
Whitten was originally born in Illinois. She traveled all around the country before attending college in Ohio, where she majored in music.
“My education took me to Georgia where I live and have lived since 1983,” Whitten said.
Whitten credits her mother who piqued her interest in music.
“My mom got me started with piano when I was in second grade and I ended up accompanied by a lot of choirs when I was in high school. I decided that I would major in music in college,” Whitten said.
With that, she taught middle school choir for three decades. Playing piano and choral directing has been an integral part of Whitten’s life.
“It’s a blessing to still be doing it today,” she said.
Although Whitten hasn’t started her position quite yet, she is currently in the process of setting the programs for next season and ordering music. Whitten initially starting coming to Sanibel 10 years ago when her college roommate and sorority sister beckoned her to come visit. Ironically, her friend was singing with the BIG ARTS Community Chorus.
“She called me and said ‘Ellen, you really need to give Steve Cramer your resume and send him a clip of you playing because this would be perfect for you and we could see each other – I’ll be in the chorus and you’ll be playing piano,” Whitten said. “That’s what really brought us down there initially.”
Whitten said that she is looking forward to her opportunity with BIG ARTS. Her accompanist will be Erik Entwistle.
“I feel like I know a lot of these folks for the most part. A lot of the same folks come back year after year. I’m excited about picking a program and working with them vocally in this new job so to speak and I’m also excited that we will have an accompanist which has been my role for forever,” Whitten said. “It will be very fun to try this new role again and working with the folks chorally to see what I can do with them.”