Dr. Raul Dominguez is one of the Denver Children’s Choir Timberline Ensemble conductors and started his first season with DCC in the fall of 2023. While growing up in Spring, Texas (a suburb of Houston) he was surrounded by a mix of Cumbia and Garth Brooks, memorizing any song he heard, both in Spanish and English. Some of his family’s earliest memories of Raul are him singing Selena songs by heart in the back of the car with his feet swinging. In 6th grade he decided to join choir as an elective course and began to thrive as a singer. Raul remembers taking voice lessons and learning that, regardless of any innate ability, anyone can learn and experience the joy of singing. “I had a legendary choir teacher at my high school with 300 kids in the choir, six ensembles. And all these kids were inspired by one person, and I thought – I would love to do this for others someday. Those experiences inspired me to become a choir teacher.”
Raul went on to major in Music Education and Vocal Performance at Oklahoma City University. Upon graduation, he worked in the nonprofit sector for six months before landing a teaching job at Clear Lake High School – “It was a small program and they needed someone to grow it.” The choir program grew from 90 children to over 200 by the end of his four years at the school. While growing enrollment in the choir program, Raul noticed the importance of vertical alignment within the music education system. “I would always try to promote collaborative performances with middle school and high school students. It was so important for the young kids to see what’s coming next and get excited.” Also, during this time, Raul met his husband, Kevin, and got married in 2016 at the Northgate County Club – it was the country club’s first gay wedding.
Raul said he always knew he wanted to go back for his masters and went to New York to receive his Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from Ithaca College. A continuation of his music education would lead him to Colorado where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts and Choral Conducting and Literature from the University of Colorado Boulder. During his time at Boulder, Raul founded the Choral Conductors Colloquium, a huge success with over 1200 initial subscribers. During the pandemic, the colloquium presented informational panels and symposiums over Zoom on timely topics like racism in the music industry. Archived videos of the sessions are available on Raul’s website – www.raulconducts.com.
After CU Boulder, Raul became the Director of Choral Activities at Regis University where he conducts the Concert Choir and University Choir. His time at Regis led him to continue to study his passion – Mexican Choral Music. He enjoys spending his time following this passion researching Mexican Composers and publishing works that honor and give ownership back to original Mexican works that have been colonized. He is currently in his first year teaching Mexican music – purpose and identity – a fine arts credit open to all students, not just musicians. “It feels good to have a Brown scholar teaching Brown topics.” If he’s not teaching at Regis, you can find Raul hiking with his husband or cooking tacos.
What initially drew you to the DCC?
“The vibes felt great. I had learned about the Denver Children’s Choir previously and what sets it apart from other children’s choirs. I have a long history with youth choirs from my own ensembles while growing up to conducting a fresh youth church choir in Oklahoma City. The work feels like an extension of my previous work at a higher level. And the most unique thing about DCC that drew me here was the community, the staff, and the amount of support for the staff and the music. There is a huge culture of internal support for each other. The outcomes feel so wholesome as a collaborative effort and I feel like part of something greater.”
What has been your biggest surprise at DCC?
“The true sense of community – the first gathering with DCC staff took me a bit by surprise I did not realize what I was getting into was a beautiful reflection of humanity. People are asking about children and personal life events. It wasn’t work it was community. The DCC staff reflects what we are trying to teach our students – that they are not the only ones, they are a piece of a bigger whole.”
What is the most important thing DCC does?
“Our basic function is the most important thing we do – Choir – the coming together of singers in an organized way to do something they couldn’t do on their own, something they couldn’t do at home alone. Those moments are concentrated and so few, they are treasured. Prepping children for the performance – for any performance, job interview, presentation, or something artistic takes a lot of work on the human level. That’s the exciting part – connecting humans at this early age only serves their generation that much more in the long run. People who are out of the norm, or different, are celebrated, that is what we do. For a young person to know they are not alone is so important.”
How does DCC create an inclusive environment?
“You have to start top down and bottom up at all times. So when I first walk in a room I notice how many people who look like me are in the room. Who is represented here? The DCC creates an environment where I can feel comfortable enough to see myself and my experiences in the people around me while also exploring new experiences and gaining new perspectives. I am happy to work for an organization that looks to the future of generational representations.”
Why is inclusivity so important?
“Inclusivity depends on how the person sees themselves how they see others. It’s a beautiful thing when humans sing together – it represents all of humanity. It is so important to make room at the table – we can all sit and eat together. Mental health and self-identity and how those ideas transform during a person’s coming of age are so important to explore. Many young people are going through trauma, experiencing anxiety. Inclusivity to all experiences is so important because someone who feels alone and now is not – that can be a lifesaving factor. It is so important that people be seen so they know they are not alone.”
What has been one of your favorite teaching experiences?
“Conducting an intergenerational choir at a nursing facility called Longview Longterm in Ithaca, NY. There,I learned how much I loved community music and how much music builds community.”
What makes Raul, Raul?
“Helping others – that is my fundamental role. I work best if my goal is always helping others the moment it becomes vain it becomes disingenuous.”
Favorite Music memory
My First Concert – Aaron Carter
Favorite Ice cream
Favorite vacation spot
Somewhere with an ocean and a peach margarita
Favorite performance attended
Audra McDonald in Rochester
Favorite meal to cook
Favorite meal to eat