Christine Noel is the founder and artistic director of the RI Children's Chorus.
Plato defined music as a “moral law,” which “gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life.” Christine Noel ’00, founder and artistic director of the RI Children’s Chorus, is a vivid example of this idea.
Music was her life from a very early age. As an only child, she would spend hours singing while her mom worked two jobs to make ends meet. Music was her companion, the resource that would keep her imagination going. “I didn’t feel lonely because I had music,” she recalls.
Today, Noel has established a career in music. In addition to the Rhode Island Children’s Chorus, she serves as artistic director and conductor of the Providence Singers and conducts annual performances of “Messiah” with the Rhode Island Philharmonic.
Her youthful passion for music started to crystalize when she was in high school. At the time she sang at Carol Zabinski’s church choir in Woonsocket; Zabinkski became Noel’s mentor throughout the beginning of her career. “It was her influence that led me to see that I not only wanted music to be a part of my profession, I wanted to bring music to children and young people through teaching,” she notes.
Although she got accepted at RIC, to be admitted into the music program she first had to audition for a panel of music professors by singing several classical selections. “It was a wonderful experience. They were kind, encouraging and inspiring,” she says. “I felt really connected to the faculty at that audition, and I knew that I wanted to study there. The tuition was very affordable, and I was very fortunate to receive scholarships.”
During her undergrad years Noel had a life changing experience, a year studying in Hungary made possible by the Shinn Study Abroad Fund. “I was a junior in college and I had never been outside of the United States,” she recalls. “In Hungary, I was in an international school with students from Greece, Colombia, Italy, France, the UK, Australia, different countries in Asia and I came to understand their stories and lives.”
That experience gave her the confidence she needed and also inspired her to go abroad again, enrolling in a summer program in Florence, Italy. She fell in love with the country and language, and continued returning until, she says, “Parlavo correntemente l’italiano.” (“I was fluent in Italian.”)
The incredible experiences abroad and the years as an undergraduate student motivated Noel to continue her education, pursuing both master’s and doctorate degrees, and to start her own organization. In 2005, she began the master’s program in conducting at Boston University. A year later, she applied and auditioned for the doctoral program in conducting also at BU, which she concluded in 2011.
Along with her friend Joyce Wolfe, in 2003 she co-founded the RI Children’s Chorus, now entering its 20th season. “I love mentoring and teaching young people and I view my work as so much more than just teaching them how to sing or how to be good musicians,” she explains. “I am very passionate about music education. When I was in Italy I was working with adults, so when I came back I knew that I wanted to work with children again.”
The chorus began with a small group of children in northern Rhode Island. The program grew and became so popular among young musicians that they expanded to multiple locations. Over the years, more than 2,000 students have benefited from the organization’s programs; the chorus performed at Carnegie Hall in 2019 and appeared in the movie “Moonrise Kingdom” in 2012.
“When several of the students graduated from high school we recommended that they go to RIC for their music education studies,” she concludes, adding, “and they’ve continued with us as staff members.”
Christine Noel is the founder and artistic director of the RI Children's Chorus, an award-winning choral organization for youth. She has conducted at conventions of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).