Western Slope Choral Festival

Honor Choir    

The 2014 festival is March 6-8, 2014 (Thursday afternoon through Saturday afternoon concert). This year’s Women’s Choir conductor is Dr. Tina Thielen-Gaffey from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and this year’s Mixed Choir conductor is Mr. Blair Buffington from the University of Arizona.

The Western Slope Choral Festival is held on the Western State Colorado University Campus each Spring, usually during the first week in March. Approximately 250 singers from 40 Colorado High Schools are selected by audition to participate in two Honor Choirs - Mixed and Women's. Each choir is directed by a nationally known choral conductor. Past conductors have included Donald Brinegar, Edith Copley, Dennis Cox, Galen Darrough, and Solveig Holmquist.

Auditions for the Western Slope Honor Choir Festival are held in Fall. Specific information about the Honor Choirs is mailed to individual high schools in September.

The Western Slope Choral Festival is held on the Western State Colorado University Campus each Spring, usually during the first week in March. Approximately 250 singers from 40 Colorado High Schools are selected by audition to participate in two Honor Choirs - Mixed and Women's. Each choir is directed by a nationally known choral conductor. Past conductors have included Donald Brinegar, Edith Copley, Dennis Cox, Galen Darrough, and Solveig Holmquist.

Auditions for the Western Slope Honor Choir Festival are held in Fall. Specific information about the Honor Choirs is mailed to individual high schools in September.

2014 Conductors

Blair Buffington
Blair Buffington made his international conducting debut in 1995 and has since led choral ensembles in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. He is presently the artistic director for the Bisbee Community Chorus of Bisbee, Arizona, the director of music at Holy Way Presbyterian Church of Tucson, and associate director of the Wildcat Outreach Choir at the University of Arizona. Mr. Buffington served as Director of Choral Activities at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa from 2004-2011 where he conducted the prestigious Waldorf Choir and St. Christopher Chorale. As Assistant Professor of Music, he taught conducting, choral literature, applied voice and music education methods. During his time at Waldorf College, he served as director of music theatre and distinguished himself as chair of the music department. Additionally, he was co-director of the North Iowa Choral Society, a semi-professional vocal ensemble based in Mason City.

With a strong background in music education, Mr. Buffington worked in the public school and community college systems in Iowa where he led ensembles to championships and Division I ratings, with many of his students receiving All-State accolades. He has been co-director of the Overtones Barbershop Chorus and has served as sanctuary choir director for the First Presbyterian Church in Kirksville, Missouri and interim choir director for the First United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

A native of Southeast Iowa, Buffington received his undergraduate degree in music education from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and his master’s degree in choral conducting and voice performance from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. While at Wartburg, he was selected as assistant conductor for the Wartburg College Choir and was the first student to conduct the choir on an international tour. At Truman State, he directed the university’s Chamber Choir and Men’s Ensemble, and served as assistant director for Cantoria and the University Chorus. Currently, Mr. Buffington is pursuing a DMA in choral conducting at the University of Arizona where he served as assistant conductor of the University Community Chorus & Orchestra. While at the university, Mr. Buffington was awarded the School of Music Teaching Assistant of the Year. He has studied conducting under Paul Torkelson, Robert E. Lee, R. Paul Crabb, Sam McClure, Elizabeth Schauer and Bruce Chamberlain.

Dr. Tina Thielen-Gaffey is the Assistant Director of Choral Activities at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where she conducts Concert Chorale, two Vocal Jazz Ensembles (Lake Effect and Chill Factor), teaches elementary music, ethnic & folk music of the world, applied voice and graduate courses in voice, conducting, and vocal jazz seminars.  A mezzo-soprano, she completed her D.M.A. in Choral Conducting at the University of Iowa, M.M. degree in Choral Conducting at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI and B.M. in music education at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. 

Prior to her studies in Michigan, the Wisconsin native taught for eight years in the public schools of her home state, where she was responsible for choral ensembles, band ensembles, vocal jazz and show choirs, musicals, madrigals and madrigal feasts, festivals, and touring.  At WMU, Dr. Thielen-Gaffey soloed with the Treble Chorus, University Chorale, Opera Workshop, and the award winning vocal jazz ensemble, Gold Company. At the University of Iowa, Dr. Thielen-Gaffey served a two-year graduate assistantship with the Old Gold Singers, performed with the graduate choir, Kantorei, and was the recipient of the Zeta Phi Eta, T. Anne Cleary and foreign language scholarships.  She is also a 2003 recipient of the MNACDA F.Melius Christiansen graduate scholarship. At the 2003 and 1999 ACDA national conventions, she was a national finalist in the graduate student conducting competition.  In 2006, her vocal jazz ensemble, Lake Effect, was selected as a winner in DownBeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards as an Outstanding College Jazz Choir.  Lake Effect was also selected to perform at the Minnesota American Choral Directors Convention in fall 2006, the Minnesota Music Educators Conference in spring 2007 and the NC ACDA Regional Convention in Fargo, ND spring 2008.  In spring 2009, Lake Effect competed and won their quarterfinal in the International Competition of Collegiate A cappella, subsequently placing as a runner up in the semifinal round. In summer 2010, Lake Effect performed at the International Society of Music Education in Beijing, China and in fall 2010, Thielen-Gaffey and an alumni vocal jazz ensemble provided clinics, lectures and performed throughout Ireland as part of a cultural music exchange.  During the summer of 2012, Thielen-Gaffey was invited to present a lecture at the 30th World Symposium of the International Society of Music Educators in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Dr. Thielen-Gaffey has conducted choir festivals in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Iowa and Canada and is an active clinician and solo ensemble judge.  In winter 2008, she was an artist in residence at the Paris Conservatory, lecturing to students in conducting, vocal jazz, and improvisation, as well as performing a jazz recital with UMD jazz pianist, Ryan Frane.  In fall 2009, Thielen-Gaffey was a guest conductor with the Dublin, Ireland choir, Enchiriadis Treis and the St. George’s Singers, Belfast, Ireland. In summer 2011, Thielen-Gaffey had an opportunity to sing with the Irish chamber choir, Anúna.  Fall 2011 offered her an opportunity to perform at the Irish National Convention Center as part of an Irish commemoration of the events of  9-11.  She has also lectured nationally and internationally in the area of vocal jazz, American spirituals and gospel music and on David Fanshawe’s composition, African Sanctus.   As a vocalist, she regularly sings with jazz combos in the Duluth area, with the Twin Ports Choral Project, and is the cantor Duluth’s Concordia Lutheran Church.