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Laura Ritter Directing for Clemson This Semester
November 26, 2019

Laura Ritter, assistant dean of humanities and choral director at Walters State, can usually be found somewhere in the Judge William H. Inman Humanities Complex on the college’s Morristown Campus. This semester, she’s being spotted on another campus, too.
Ritter is directing the women’s choir at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. 

“This has been a busy but exciting semester,” Ritter said. “I am grateful to Walters State for allowing me to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The offer to direct at Clemson came after Ritter became acquainted with Dr. Anthony Bernarducci, director of choral activities at Clemson. Her son, Cameron, is a student in the program. Ritter attends his concerts and hosted the Clemson singers at her church last spring.
“I mentioned to Dr. Bernarducci that when I retire, I would love to teach in his program. Dr. Bernarducci replied that he needed a women’s choir director.” Ritter said.

Ritter teaches a one-hour class at Clemson and directs the women’s choir. She worked with Chippy McLain, dean of humanities, and Dr. Donna Seagle, vice president of academic affairs, to make some needed changes to her Walters State schedule. 

“Laura is a great director and a great teacher. That she would be asked to direct the women’s choir at Clemson reflects positively on both Laura and the choral program here at Walters State. This is also a great opportunity for 

Laura to see the inner workings of a prestigious choral program at a four-year institution,” McLain said.

“She’s sharing some of what has made our program successful with students at Clemson and bringing some of the unique aspects of Clemson’s choir program to our students.” 

Ritter, who is in her 26th year of directing, draws equal praise from her part-time boss.

“I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Laura over the past few years as she has attended choral concerts at the Brooks Center. Knowing that she was also a choir director I always enjoyed our conversations after concerts about the details of the performance,” said Bernarducci.
“I was thrilled when the time came to find a conductor for the Clemson Women’s choir for the 2019-20 academic year that she was willing to discuss taking on this role. Her years of experience and motivating teaching style have benefitted the ladies of women’s choir and they are having a successful fall semester under her leadership.”

Ritter will manage both jobs through the end of the year. How does she do it?

“I spend a lot of time on the road, of course. I have made some adjustments. Chippy and I may have a phone call instead of an actual face-to-face meeting,” Ritter said.

Just as she is helping Bernarducci, Clay Ogelsby is assisting her with directing the Walters State choir.

“Clay is doing a great job and he plays a role in making all of this work,” Ritter said.

Why add another responsibility to what is already a demanding schedule? 

For Ritter, everything comes back to providing the best possible experience for her students.

“It’s easy to get complacent when you do the same thing every semester,” Ritter said. 

“I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration and some new ideas for my students here at Walters State. Seeing how things are done under Dr. Bernarducci’s leadership has challenged me to look for new ways and new ideas to implement here.”

Bernarducci is also a composer and the choir will be performing one of his original compositions during its Dec. 2 fall semester choral concert. 

In February, the Walters State choir will travel to Greenville to rehearse original music with Bernarducci. 

“The choir will be doing Dr. Bernarducci’s original music during that concert. This will provide our students with the very unique experience of working with the composer,” Ritter said.

Students will also see the Clemson musical theatre production of “Bright Star” where Ritter will have yet another role. She’ll be playing the piano in the orchestra pit.