The University Musical Society Choral Union on stage at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor with the BRNO Philharmonic Orchestra.

My time as a music scholar at CUAA taught me to love choral music and prepared me to join an elite, decades-old community choir in Ann Arbor.

Author’s Note: I’m Allie Milot. I graduated from Concordia University Ann Arbor in 2021 with a degree in Digital Media Design. On the heels of a world-renowned performance with BRNO Philharmonic Orchestra this past weekend, I took a moment to reflect upon how CUAA helped me become a part of this choir.

After more than a decade dedicated to playing the violin, I decided to retire my strings when I began attending Concordia University Ann Arbor. I wanted to explore other creative pursuits and maybe even give choir a try. When I was growing up, I always thought the choir was a group you joined when you didn’t want to carry an instrument to school, but I never really understood it for what it really was – a supportive, creative, and passionate group of music-making individuals (who also didn’t have to carry instruments!).

During my first year on campus, I joined the Women’s Chorus and also took voice lessons, something I had to do in order to keep a scholarship, not realizing it would be one of my favorite pursuits throughout my college experience. As a sophomore, I joined the Concordia Choir, auditioned and made it into Arborsong, CUAA’s chamber choir, while continuing my voice lessons. I absolutely loved singing in a SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir.

Combined Concordia Choir, Women’s and Men’s Choruses, 2017

Being able to sing with a large group of talented singers was something that brought a lot of joy to my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. For that reason, I decided to continue singing in both the Concordia Choir and Arborsong for the following two years, going on tour in the fall of 2019 as well.

The people that I met in choir at CUAA were my closest friends throughout college. In fact, the first person I met in choir during my freshman year ended up being my roommate for the rest of college in addition to becoming a lifelong friend.

Even throughout the changes that were brought on by the pandemic, I still attended choir each week throughout my final years at CUAA. Having a musical oasis was the key to holding onto my sanity and my on-campus friendships. Our group wasn’t perfect, but we found ways to encourage each other and make music together under the fantastic guidance and teaching of the CUAA music faculty.

With Hannah Knehans (’20), friend, college roommate, fellow choir member
Arborsong, 2018
Arborsong, 2019

After graduation, I left Concordia, began attending a new church, had a full-time job and began to understand the growing pains of a freshly graduated adult living on her own. I found ways to still make music with some friends in Ann Arbor, MI, and I eventually volunteered to lead worship at my home church, but I was still missing the full sound of a choral group. That is when I reached out to my former voice instructor, Kara Alfano, from CUAA to see if she knew of any community choral groups in Metro-Detroit.

Thankfully she did! Alfano directed me to the University Musicial Society Choral Union. This choir belongs to a well-known and beloved performing arts society in Southeast Michigan. UMS is actually one of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country! Knowing that this choir would be a new challenge, I asked Alfano to run through some of my old music from when I performed with her studio. Thankfully she had saved my list of songs that I had studied over my four years at Concordia. After a couple private lessons to refresh my skills, I auditioned for the choral union and got it!

It was an honor to be in rehearsals with over 150 musicians. The UMS Choral Union is a mix of university of michigan students, faculty, staff and local community members from all over southeast michigan. No vocalist is paid, we all gather together on Monday nights each week, simply for the love of music.

UMS Rehearsal for Handel’s Messiah at Hill Auditorium, 2022

This love of music, choral music specifically, was given to me by my music professors at CUAA. Without them, I would not have the confidence to step away from my violin and sing with a nationally recognized choir. I praise God for the musicial opportunities he gave me, here at Concordia. What started out as a way to get a scholarship ended with an inspired love of choral music, singing in large ensembes and developing the talent and passion I needed to continue singing even after my time at CUAA came to an end.

Related: Learn more about the University Musical Society Choral Union here.

Want in?

We have a large variety of ensembles that you can choose from at Concordia. Whether you’re interesting in a choir, an instrumental group, contemporary worship or classical music, you can choose the ensemble that best suits you. Click on the link below to learn more.