Bulgarian Hanover Choir

Hanover College’s Batchvarova
strikes a chord with choir group

By Molly Dodge
Contributing Writer

(May 2002) MADISON, Ind. – When asked why students and adults alike should study music, Madlen Batchvarova explains, “Seizing the opportunity to bring a score to life, to recreate the emotion that the composer must have imagined, is exciting for those who perform and appreciate music.”
Batchvarova speaks about music with the same level of enthusiasm she displays when she takes the stage as conductor of the Hanover College Concert Choir and Chamber Singers. She took over as the college’s director of Choral Programs last summer. A native of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, Batchvarova is an only child of her mother, a teacher, and her father, an engineer. Music was a significant part of growing up, Batchvarova said.

Hanover Choir

Bulgarian-born Madlen Batchvarova
(front row center) poses with some of
her choir students at Hanover College.

“My mother taught herself to play the accordion and served as the choir director for a local school, and my fraternal grandfather sang with a beautiful tenor voice.”
Though she does not remember the defining moment in which she decided music was her calling, Batchvarova credits her mother and grandfather for encouraging and inspiring her to begin piano lessons at age 5 and exploring her love for music.
Her exploration became dedication as Batchvarova was admitted for undergraduate study to the renowned Academy for Music and Dance Art in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The academy offered her an intensive and rigorous schedule of courses in piano and choral conducting and performance, and later the opportunity to travel all over Europe, to Canada, and the United States. She even served as the guest conductor of the Plovdiv Academy Women’s Choir.
One such choral trip proved fateful. While taking part in a choral fest in Atlanta in 1991, Batchvarova made friends who would eventually help her come to the United States to continue her education in music.
After graduating from the academy with the Medal of Honor, a high distinction in then-communist Bulgaria, and working as the conductor of the school’s women’s choir, Batchvarova became intrigued with the idea of graduate work in music.
“I didn’t speak any English, and my friends from Atlanta were encouraging me to come to the United States for a master’s program. I thought they were crazy,” Batchvarova said, laughing.
But knowing in her heart that she should not pass up the opportunity, she enrolled in English courses and applied to Georgia State University, where she was accepted for master’s work.
Reflecting on her arrival to the United States, Batchvarova said, “Coming to Atlanta knowing a handful of people and the basics of English showed me how strong a person I could be. But I still can’t believe my parents let me go.”
While at GSU, Batchvarova began performing with the Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus, making recordings for Telearc of Rachmaninoff’s “The Bells” and Adams’ “Harmonium,” the latter winning a ’97 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
While performing with the chorus, Batchvarova sang during the opening ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games, held in Atlanta and at Carnegie Hall – the latter she describes as a pinnacle performance and an emotional experience.
Batchvarova relocated from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to earn her doctorate degree in choral conducting from the University of Alabama. While at Alabama, Batchvarova conducted the Tuscaloosa Community Singers, a university-community collaborative choir comprised of citizens of the greater Tuscaloosa community.
Equipped with her doctor of Musical Arts and teaching and performance experiences, Batchvarova arrived last summer at Hanover College.
In her role as director of Choral Programs, Batchvarova teaches a literature of music course, individual voice instruction and conducts the two leading college ensembles, the Hanover College Concert Choir and Hanover College Chamber Singers. Batchvarova says she enjoys conducting her choral groups because “though the choirs are made up of students of all different majors, each student has the spark – the love of music.”
Colleague and Music Department Chair, C. Kimm Hollis, speaks highly of Batchvarova.
“Madlen far surpasses what we had hoped for. She is a very fine academician and musician – a rare find and a gem in our department,” he said.
Batchvarova’s future goals at Hanover College include building a strong choral program that is well respected among liberal arts colleges; exposing her students to the great master works from the Renaissance to the contemporary; and most importantly, helping her students appreciate and respect the skill required to make music and the diversity of music styles.
As part of the latter, Batchvarova is planning to expose the rich cultural tradition of her homeland of Bulgaria by researching “lost” music scores, hidden in monasteries from the 12th to 19th centuries.
And just as she participated in her Tuscaloosa community, Batchvarova is doing so in Hanover and Madison, conducting a choral workshop at Madison Consolidated High School, singing at local churches and contributing to the successful Christmas performance of Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” by the Madison-Ohio Valley Community Chorus.
Jane Jakoubek, Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty, Hanover College, best sums Batchvarova’s impact on her students and community, saying, “Madlen Batchvarova is passionate about music and its potential to enrich our lives. She wants both the choir members and the audience to experience music as a celebration of life.
“Her background has taught her that music is worth hard work and self-discipline. She wants her students to acquire the same standards of excellence that have enabled her to succeed.”
Jakoubeks added that Batchvarova has already contributed in significant ways to the college and local community. “I believe the impact of her work here will grow in remarkable ways over time,” she said.

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