An accomplished singer with roughly two decades of teaching and performance experience joined Hancock College this fall as one of 51 newly hired faculty, staff and administrators.
“It’s been my career goal for a long time, ever since I started as an undergraduate, to get into music education,” said Nichole Dechaine, who replaced Ann Lucas, a music instructor and choir director who retired this spring after 13 years.
A Lompoc resident who performs with choirs, orchestras and ensembles, and in leading roles for opera and musical theater productions, Dechaine credits her education with encouraging her to pursue a course of study – and eventual career – in music.
The Corona native picked up the flute in third grade and continued to expand her musical skills as she grew. She took oboe, piano and violin lessons as a child, joined her high school choir and played in the band as a flutist.
“It’s important that we have those strong programs in the high schools, junior highs and elementary schools,” Dechaine said. “That’s where people get their beginning."
Though Dechaine originally planned to major in flute performance, she chose to study vocal performance after attending a summer music camp organized by the University of Redlands, her eventual alma mater.
“They had us all sing in the choir, and it was just the most amazing experience to hear all those people in harmony together,” she recalled. “I thought ‘Wow, I really want to do this.’”
After Redlands, Dechaine continued her education at UCSB, receiving a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts in vocal performance. Hancock College President Kevin Walthers said he was excited to have her join the college’s music program.
“She is not only talented and passionate about music, but shows that same dedication and enthusiasm for teaching her students,” he said.
As a professor, Dechaine teaches music history to majors and non-majors and directs the college’s choir program, a vocal ensemble that is open to all students regardless of experience or skill. Her lessons focus primarily on proper vocal technique and how to sing, skills she says are constantly improving regardless of what level a student is at.
“You can always get stronger – always become a better singer and a better musician,” she said.
The college’s “start here, go anywhere” motto is what attracted her to the position. "Each student has a spark in them,” she said, a quality she hopes to “fan into a flame and show them what the possibilities are.”
In addition to growing the department’s performance ensembles, Dechaine hopes to establish an applied music program to prepare students to transfer to four-year colleges or music conservatories at a junior level.
Blending theory and practice with private lessons, the program would help students prepare for the competitive transfer audition process.
“I want them to go to some really great places – into great programs and great careers,” she said. “It’s a wonderful program to have, but not one that’s currently offered.”
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