University of Oregon Chamber Choir Invited to New Zealand for World Choir Games

By Kristen Hudgins 

Dr. Sharon J. Paul is no stranger to the global stage. With more than three decades leading choirs on international journeys, she’s set to embark on another adventure this summer. In July, she is heading to New Zealand with the University of Oregon Chamber Choir for the esteemed World Choir Games.


University of Oregon Chamber Choir

Dr. Paul’s passion for exposing students to diverse cultures through music was ignited on a three-week trip to Berlin, Poland, and the Soviet Union in 1990. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, and the day after the choir’s Berlin concert, they rented small pickaxes and chipped away at the wall themselves. They drove through Checkpoint Charlie and sang in Poland, Kiev, Moscow, and the Baltics, which were fighting for their independence at that time.

“I am still in touch with so many of those students, and they all describe it as a completely life-changing journey,” Paul said.

While Paul has mixed feelings about choral competitions because music is not a competitive sport, she recognizes the profound impact of immersing oneself in new cultures. On past trips, her students have eaten meals with Syrian refugees, danced and sang the night away with choirs from Israel and Russia, and embraced the transformative power of global connection.

"If you go into these international competitions with the desire to learn and with an open heart for the experiences you will share with fellow choristers, you will emerge with new perspectives on both music and the world we live in,” she said.

Excitement Builds Among Choir Members

As anticipation builds among UOCC members, students like Joey Decker, who traveled with the choir when they went to Spain in 2022, eagerly awaits another life-changing experience.  


UOCC performs in Spain, 2022  

“I met so many amazing people while [in Spain],” he recalled. “I got to experience so many amazing cultural activities and learn so much about travel, myself, and my friends. Most of all, we had just an amazing musical experience and learned so much. It was amazing!” 

Fellow choir member Emma Jones echoes Decker’s sentiment, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to explore a country she’s long dreamed of visiting.

“What I’m trying to get out of this New Zealand experience is the chance to get to experience another culture,” she said. “New Zealand, specifically, is such an expensive place to go. I've wanted to go my entire life, but I knew I probably never would be able to on my own, so I'm incredibly grateful that we get the opportunity to go there this year.” 

Grace Miller, with UOCC for two years, is excited to share Oregon culture with the international choirs. “The opportunity to represent the University of Oregon abroad means that I get to share the amazing experience that I’ve been a part of and represent the amazing culture that we have,” she said.   

World Choir Games Preparation

With the World Choir Games on the horizon, UOCC is diligently rehearsing their repertoire for the international competition, which expects choirs from 41 countries this year.   

Having excelled in previous international choral competitions, UOCC has qualified for the Champion’s Competition, where they will compete in the University and College Choirs and Sacred Music with Accompaniment categories.  

Additionally, the Artistic Committee has invited UOCC to sing during the Celebration Concert, which is considered a great honor. Finally, they will sing in a Friendship Concert with two other choirs.   

“UOCC students will gain a new focus through representing UO, Oregon, and their country overseas that it is not possible to replicate on campus,” Dr. Paul said. “They will hear music by outstanding choirs from all over the world and share time with people from cultures they have never experienced.”

Australian Extension

UOCC is also heading down under while in Oceania. After New Zealand, they are scheduled to sing in two concerts in Sydney.

Anyone who would like to support UOCC’s journey to the World Choir Games can do so here.