Parents with master’s degrees in music. Check.
Parents who’ve sung opera for years. Check.
Parents who’ve directed choirs and collaborated with symphonies. Check.
No disputing that Darrin Hassevoort’s daughter and son grew up in the world of music. Their heritage has led the eldest, 19-year-old Sophia, to the pursuit of a career in musical theater, which means lots of auditions and coming face-to-face with an ongoing irritation.
“My daughter has said several times, ‘If you’re a guy, all you have to do is show up and you get a part.’ And there’s some truth to that,” said Hassevoort, the new director of the Men’s Chorus at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
There seems to be a widespread belief that being a man who wants to sing in a choir or find a career in musical theater isn’t particularly manly, that engineering or technology or something science-based is more suitable, he said.
“I’m not sure what it is, but young men in particular don’t seem to be encouraged to find artistic avenues in their life,” he said.
It’s a roadblock Hassevoort must plow through as he rebuilds the Men’s Chorus, which hasn’t performed since 2019. He knows he has some convincing to do.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” he said, “but you can pursue a degree in engineering, and you can also sing in the choir. To me, a creative engineer is even more marketable and a leader in the industry when you develop both sides of your brain in that way.”
Hassevoort has the credentials to make his case to students. A tenor with a life in music that started when he was 6, he has performed in productions with the giants of opera and music in general.
He has worked with the late Donald Pippin, one of the most renowned and revered opera directors in the world. He has collaborated with Tomer Zvulun, artistic director at the Atlanta Opera and a former member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
He has performed at Radio City Music Hall with Harry Connick Jr., sung in such operas as “Rigoletto,” “Madame Butterfly, “La Boheme” and “The Barber of Seville” and performed classical works by Bach, Mozart and Haydn, among others.
Working alongside world-class musicians has given him insight into a common trait among them all.
“They were folks who chose their careers in music, and they were incredibly passionate about it. That’s contagious. One of the best compliments that I get is that I’m passionate about what I do,” said Hassevoort.
He brings that passion to his current work as the chorus master for the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, artistic director for Choral Arts of Chattanooga and director of music and worship at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga.
Kevin Ford, director of Choral Activities at UTC, has worked with Hassevoort in the past when the University Chamber Singers performed with the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra.
“I’ve always been impressed with his approach to developing choral singers and his kind-but-insistent rehearsal technique,” Ford said.
“Men’s Chorus is a mix of vocal music students and students majoring in other programs. His experiences have prepared him well to work with that level of diversity.
“His background as a singer also will allow him to demonstrate healthy singing technique for the men. He also has a work ethic that is second to none,” Ford said.
“I can’t wait to see what he does with the new UTC Men’s Chorus.”
Convincing male UTC students to sing is one of Hassevoort’s first goals, and it doesn’t matter what their major is.
“I want to meet them where they are, especially at the beginning,” he said, “but I would say the No. 1 thing I want to do is get them singing together and get them to be successful.”
Singing together is more than just vocal harmonizing, he said. It’s also harmonizing as human beings.
“When people sing together, they tend to get along, and I just think there’s so much in our society that could use more people singing together,” he said.
“Singing together just helps you realize how much we have in common, this common bond that we have as humans.”