Northern Michigan University music education major Caitlin Palomaki of Marquette is serving as guest conductor for the Friday and Saturday performances of NMU Theatre and Dance's Elf: The Musical. She will lead the pit orchestra, subbing for music professor Erin Colwitz, who has a conflict directing the Marquette Choral Society concerts this weekend.
“Dr. Colwitz called me right before the fall semester started to say she had an opportunity for me to step in and be student conductor,” Palomaki said. “I was eager to accept because I love theater. I've been involved in it since I was 6 years old and have served as music director for multiple Superior Arts Youth Theater (SAYT) shows. I've practiced alongside her for Elf and conducted one of the dress rehearsals for practice.
“Dr. Colwitz believes in giving students real-world experiences that will help us learn and grow in our field. I'm thankful she allows for that, but also that she walks me through the process and offers great guidance.”
Both Palomaki and Colwitz agree that NMU's relatively small size facilitates such opportunities more effectively than larger universities.
“Caitlin will be a more viable and attractive job candidate with this kind of experience,” said Colwitz. “She's a natural—very musical and expressive—and more advanced than the average undergraduate conductor. She understands the voice, her body and is highly coordinated. The other night she ran a rehearsal and nailed it. I couldn't be more proud of her. We're grateful to NMU Theatre and Dance for allowing us to do this. They were 100% behind it.”
Earlier this semester, Palomaki conducted one song and was soloist for another at an NMU choral ensembles' concert. She begins her student teaching next fall and is scheduled to graduate in December 2022. Palomaki said her goal is to land a choir director position at a middle school or high school.