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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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Abbie Weaver in her element. Abbie Weaver in her element.

Conductor in the Making

Graduate student Abbie Weaver knew it was the right time to choose SDSU.
By Jack Haworth

San Diego State University graduate student Abbie Weaver has been around music her entire life. It was not until junior year of high school that she decided she wanted to do more than play an instrument — she wanted to conduct.

“I wanted to play but also share with other musicians my interpretations, thoughts, and philosophies on the music,” Weaver said.

Weaver received her undergraduate degree in music education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, she taught music classes at public schools in North Carolina. Eventually she decided to further her education and pursue a master’s degree in wind band conducting from San Diego State University because of her admiration and respect for SDSU’s director of bands, Shannon Kitelinger.  

“He has done tremendous things to improve the quality of music education and his bands at SDSU,” Weaver said. “I knew it was the right time to come to SDSU and be able to study with such an innovative music educator, who truly cares about furthering the entire spectrum of music education.”

Full of opportunities

With only seven graduate conducting students in the program, Weaver has plenty of opportunity to get the hands-on experience she needs. Experience that Kitelinger explains is especially crucial for conducting students. 

“As a conductor, your instrument is an ensemble so getting that time in front of them can be difficult,” Kitelinger said. “The unique thing about our program is how much podium time our students get to conduct the groups.”

While Weaver knew she would have great opportunities at SDSU, the reality exceeded her expectations. She works with the concert bands, the marching band and is the conductor for the varsity band that performs at the SDSU women’s basketball games.

“To be able to work with the varsity band is an opportunity not too many graduate students have and it will certainly make me more marketable,” Weaver said.

To top it all off, Weaver has accomplished all of this in only her first semester at SDSU.

“She has had an immediate impact on the program,” Kitelinger said. “I have found all of my graduate students to be very willing to work hard and take on new ideas and concepts.”

A national reputation for excellence

The two-year graduate program gives conducting students an opportunity to work with the everyday operations and management of the bands — an experience that gives these students the right training and skill set to succeed in the future.

“The students are working on the physical art of conducting,” Kitelinger said.

The recent resurgence of the program has attracted top-caliber talent from across the nation.

“We are gathering a lot of momentum nationally and are really pulling in the best and the brightest in the profession which is really exciting,” Kitelinger said. “They are not here because it’s San Diego, they are here to work with us and what’s going on here.”

Bringing music to future generations

After SDSU, Weaver plans to pursue a doctoral degree in conducting and eventually become director of bands at a large university.

That position that will allow her to pass her love and knowledge of music on to the next generation, just as her mentor continues to do at SDSU.

“Shannon Kitelinger has such a passion for music and educating others,” Weaver said. “He is so focused on producing students who have a love for great music and can go out into the world and share that same love with others.”