Melinda O'Neal

Academic Appointments

Professor of Music, Emerita
Former Conductor, Handel Society and Chamber Singers

Conductor Melinda O'Neal has been praised for her "lucid and musical understanding of the score," "moving and satisfying interpretations," and her “stylish and clear manner on the podium” by Hugh Macdonald, Berlioz scholar and music critic. She is professor emerita of music at Dartmouth College (1979-2018), where she taught courses and conducted choral ensembles, and artistic director & conductor emerita of Handel Choir of Baltimore (2004-2013).

[show more]

At Dartmouth O'Neal conducted the Handel Society of Dartmouth College, a student-community oratorio ensemble performing two-to-three choral-orchestral works annually with distinguished guest vocal artists and professional Hanover Chamber Orchestra. Under O’Neal’s 25-year leadership (1979-2004), repertoire included Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette and L’enfance du Christ, John Adams’ Harmonium, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and Hodie, Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, Haydn’s Harmoniemesse, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion, among others. O’Neal also conducted the all-undergraduate Chamber Singers (1979-1996), leading them on seven international tours. They presented numerous annual theatrical renaissance dinners with period instruments entitled “Feast of Song,” and with them she programmed baroque and classical concerts with period instruments. O’Neal designed and taught courses in conducting, text and music, and “Berlioz, Brahms and the Romantic Imagination,” and she was an advisor to numerous Dartmouth students working on honors theses, recitals, senior fellowships and presidential scholar projects. She initiated and directed the Music Department’s term-long study program in London, leading it four times, and served as chair and interim chair of the department. She also was founder and director of the Dartmouth Conducting Institute, a workshop for ten selected professional conductors, and she taught alongside guest faculty Jan Harrington and Thomas Dunn.

Under her leadership, Handel Choir of Baltimore was a community/professional oratorio ensemble performing baroque and classic style works with period instrument orchestras; it also joined colleague ensembles to perform music from the 19th century to the present. Collaborations included engagements with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Bach Sinfonia, American Opera Theatre, Pro Musica Rara, and Peabody Early Music and Baroque Band. Works O’Neal conducted with Handel Choir and the Handel Period Instrument Orchestra, which she founded, include, for example, Mozart's Requiem, Haydn's Die Schöpfung, Theresienmesse and Paukenmesse, Handel's Messiah, Jephtha, Semele and Ode to the Birthday of Queen Anne, Bach cantatas, and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and his symphony anthems. The Baltimore Sun noted, "Melinda O'Neal has steadily and rapidly honed this ensemble into quite a potent chorus... It was a thoughtfully constructed, entertaining program delivered with an informed sense of historic style."

Special projects with Handel Choir included conducting performances of Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem in collaboration with University of Maryland Baltimore County Chorale and St. John’s Orchestra (2013), Handel’s oratorio Semele with Clara Rottsolk and Aaron Sheehan in leading roles (2012); “Anglo Meets Saxon” with music from Britten to Bruckner (2012); staged presentations of Handel’s final oratorio Jephtha in collaboration with American Opera Theatre (2010), performances and a recording (Dorian) of Alexander’s Feast by Handel with Washington Bach Sinfonia (2007, chorusmaster). She also co-commissioned and premièred Donald McCullough’s Song of the Shulamite (2013) and as chorusmaster commissioned and premiered Jonathan Leshnoff’s Requiem for the Fallen with Baltimore Chamber Orchestra (2008).

O’Neal has been a visiting professor at Indiana University where she taught graduate choral literature courses and conducting (2017, 2016, 1999), Towson University (2005), and University of Georgia (1996-1997). She founded and conducted the New Hampshire Symphony Chorus, Groupe Vocale de St. Denis in Hanover, and Boston Vocal Artists' Sonique. As guest conductor, O'Neal worked with Albany ProMusica, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Hanover Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Chorale, and the Vermont and New Hampshire Symphony Orchestras.

O’Neal holds masters and doctoral degrees in choral-orchestral conducting from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and a bachelor of music education from Florida State University. She studied score preparation, choral literature, and conducting with Julius Herford, Jan Harrington, Fiora Contino, Helmuth Rilling, Robert Shaw, Marcel Couraud, John Nelson, and Thomas Dunn. She is a member of the Berlioz Society, Viola Da Gamba Society of America, and past member of Conductors Guild national board. O’Neal serves on the Julius Herford Prize committee of the American Choral Directors Association for evaluation of outstanding doctoral theses in choral music. Her research focuses on the music of Hector Berlioz, historical performance practices, relationship of text and music, and conducting pedagogy. Experiencing Berlioz: A Listener's Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) represents a culmination of these interests. Her heartfelt thanks are extended to the many Dartmouth student, community and professional singers and instrumentalists who have performed Berlioz’s well-known and lesser-known works under her direction.

[show less]
Curriculum Vitae Personal Website
HB 6187
B.M.E. Florida State University
M.M. Indiana University
D.M. Indiana University

Selected publications

Experiencing Berlioz: A Listener's Companion (Rowman & LIttlefield, 2018).

Conductor Highlights: Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem (Handel Choir and UMBC Chorale, 2013); Handel's Semele (HC, 2012), British/American Connection (HC, 2010); Handel’s Jephtha (staged, HC Chandos Singers, 2010) in collaboration with American Opera Theatre; Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (Handel Society of Dartmouth College, 2003); Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem (HSDC, 2003); Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (HSDC, 1998).

Artistic Director and Conductor 2012-13: Handel’s Messiah with Handel Choir & Handel Period Instrument Orchestra, guest soloists; Transcendence & Transformation with Diba Alvi, soprano, Marian Rian Hayes, harp, John Kilkenny, percussion, commission and première of Song of the Shulamite by Donald McCullough; folk song arrangements of the British Isles; music by Arvo Pärt and John Tavener; Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) with guest soloists Laura Choi Stuart and Steven Combs, a collaboration with Camerata of University of Maryland Baltimore County and Orchestra of St. John’s.

Artistic Director and Conductor 2011-12: Handel’s Messiah with Handel Choir and Handel Period Instrument Orchestra, guest soloists; Anglo Meets Saxon—Music of Britten, Walton, Rheinberger and Brahms; Handel’s oratorio Semele with Handel Period Instrument Orchestra and guest soloists; Final Fantasy with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; benefit concerts for First Unitarian Organ Fund; Murphy Initiative for Peace and Justice, Collington Square Education Program.

Artistic Director and Conductor 2010-11: Handel’s Messiah with Handel Choir and Handel Period Instrument Orchestra, guest soloists; Dunphy’s Gonzales Cantata and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (staged production); Mozart’s Requiem and Bach Cantata 106 in collaboration with Harmonious Blacksmith; Benefit Concert for Methodist Board of Child Care.

Forward for A History of the Handel Choir of Baltimore by Carl B. Schmidt. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books (2015).

Essay in Hand-Print Folio: “Handel’s Compassion and Messiah: An Oratorio." Baltimore: Hill Press (2012).

Lecture and Reading Session: Library of Congress–American Music 1870-1923 (2010).

Conference Presentation: “Preparing and Performing Berlioz’s Choral Music,” Berlioz Society, London, UK (2009).

Chapter: “Passion and Authenticity: A Conversation with Marin Alsop” in Wisdom, Wit and Will: Women Choral Conductors On Their Art, ed. Joan Catoni Conlon. Chicago: GIA Publications (2009).

Article: “Orchestral Songs and Choruses by Hector Berlioz,” Conductors Journal Podium Notes (2005).

Chapter: "Coming to Terms with Historical Performance Practices," in Up Front!: Becoming the Complete Choral Conductor, ed. Guy Webb. Boston: ECS Publications (1994).

Selected works and activities

Course Design: Brahms, Berlioz and the Romantic Imagination (Fall 2013).