When Michael Hudlin graduates with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music, he dreams of starting a national choir in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago. For all his hard work and growth within the music department, Hudlin has strong relationships with his faculty and family who have aided him in his journey to become a concert conductor.
Growing up in San Fernando, Hudlin transferred to Plattsburgh State from The University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago in 2017. He heard about the college through his cousin, who graduated the same year.
“He did really well for himself here, and he told me about the school and said that although it’s not a big school, they will help me a lot in what I want to do, and I found that to be very true,” Hudlin said.
In college, most of Hudlin’s time revolves around the music department. This semester, he is the assistant choir conductor for the department’s concert choir class.
Hudlin said back home, conducting classes were offered at different degrees with lectures and small practical components. When he transferred, he decided to make conducting his focus, and the music department created a choral conducting practicum for Hudlin that allowed him to practice his conducting with the concert choir.
“You wouldn’t get that kind of opportunity at any and every university,” Hudlin said. “Me being the only student focusing on conducting and the only student as the assistant conductor for the concert [is] a major feat and privilege, and I’m very proud of that.”
PSUC music professor and choral director Jo Ellen Miano is Hudlin’s primary voice instructor and conducting mentor. Miano said Hudlin is an independent thinker and a wonderful collaborator, working with both students and faculty with ease. When it comes to his performing, Miano said he has a powerful charisma on stage that supports him equally well in contrasting genres that range from comedic to dramatic.
“His communicative powers are outstanding,” Miano said. “His joy of performing separates him from the crowd.”
Miano also emphasized a strong relationship between him and the students in the concert choir, where Miano coaches Hudlin on his conducting.
“He engages the singers,” Miano said. “They sing with joy, and he challenges them. He strikes a fine balance in rehearsal between firmly stating a musical goal and creating a path that singers are willing to take in order to achieve [that] musical goal.”
Miano said Hudlin is adventuresome and accepts challenges put before him when it comes to his musical abilities, demonstrating strong skills in musicianship, theory, diction, song literature and having the instincts to develop further as he continues his career.
“Michael is very bright, and his talents extend well beyond music,” Miano said. “He’s a joy to teach because he brings intelligence, talent and an openness to each of our meetings together. He’s the kind of student that every professor hopes to have in class. He is what I call a class maker.”
Similarly, Hudlin appreciates everything the music department, particularly Miano and Music Department Chair Karen Becker, have done for him through his four semesters at PSUC.
“They have both really pushed me and made me realize I can do a lot more than I thought I could,” Hudlin said.
In addition to the concert choir, Hudlin is currently the musical director for the College Theatre Association and vice president of Club International. Hudlin has also sung and conducted songs with the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, interned with the Title IX Office and volunteered with RADIUS in previous semesters.
Hudlin said he enjoys arranging music just as much as conducting it, sometimes taking folk or calypso music from back home and incorporating classical elements to create something new.
“I’ll use some really strange harmonies and modulations, [or] I’ll do something strange to the melody, something to make it different but still trying to keep it true to what the style is or what the style asks for,” Hudlin said.
On April 7, Hudlin performed four pieces during his senior recital in Krinovitz Recital Hall in Hawkins Hall. Hudlin sang two versions of “Mandoline” by French composers Gabriel Fauré and Charles Debussy, “The Daisies” by Samuel Barber and an early musical theater piece titled “Lost in the Stars” by Kurt Weill. Hudlin said he thought the performance was well-received, and he had a lot of fun.
“Despite the fact that I was terrified, it was very good,” Hudlin said.
When Hudlin is back home, he has a tradition with one of his friends where they travel to their favorite beach, sitting in the sand and listening to the waves crash.
“It’s a two-hour drive, but we’ll just go to the beach and spend as much time as we can,” Hudlin said. “Since I’m here, I don’t get to see the ocean that often.”
In Plattsburgh, Hudlin has his sister, Frances Hudlin, to keep him company. Frances Hudlin is a junior fitness and wellness leadership major at PSUC and will graduate in December.
Frances Hudlin described her brother as energetic, passionate, intelligent and ambitious. Growing up, the two and their three other sibling’s lives were steeped in music, being highly involved in choir within their church. While Michael Hudlin focused on strengthening his singing, Frances Hudlin said eventually learned to love the piano and dabbled in guitar.
“Sports was never his thing,” Frances Hudlin said. “He’d rather be inside with music.”
When her brother was home, Frances Hudlin said he was always singing in at least two choirs at one time. She also said Michael Hudlin volunteers his time at their church as often as he can to assist their choir.
“Even when we go back home for the summer or winter, the first thing he does is on Sundays, he goes to play the organ for the 8 a.m. mass on the promenade,” Frances Hudlin said of her brother’s volunteerism at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in San Fernando. “When he’s not there, they don’t have a musician. So as soon as he’s back, whenever it’s the first Sunday [of the week], he’s there.”
Outside of music, Michael Hudlin sometimes goes out to clubs in town since his 21st birthday, and he and his sister sometimes go to the movies or across the border to visit Montreal, one of his favorite things about the college’s location.
“We never not have fun together,” Frances Hudlin said. “We tend to be on the same wavelength. We’re different people, but sometimes we don’t have to finish a sentence and the other knows what we’re talking about.”
Frances Hudlin said she’s proud of her little brother for how far he’s come with his music during his undergraduate years at PSUC, describing his singing as amazing enough to give her goosebumps during one song of his senior recital.
“It’s not something that happens to me, but for one of his songs he performed, for like 30 seconds, I was like, ‘Wow,’” Frances Hudlin said.
Michael Hudlin will attend graduate school at Eastman School of Music in Rochester this fall to pursue a Masters of Music degree. With his personal goal of starting a national choir in Trinidad and Tobago, Michael Hudlin thinks now is the time.
“My friends and I always have that conversation,” Michael Hudlin said. “There’s a National Steel Symphony Orchestra, there’s a National Philharmonic Orchestra, there’s a National Theater Company, there’s a National Dance Company, but we don’t have a national choir. We all think it’s time for one.”
Frances Hudlin also commends her brother for having such a precise goal for his future after college.
“To want to take what you’ve learned and bring it back to make your country a better place and share your talents, I’m really proud of him for that,” Frances Hudlin said.
But when it comes to the major inspirations in his life, Michael Hudlin wants to focus on himself, his music, his conducting and whatever else the future holds for him.
“As I got older, I realized that I try to live my life for myself,” Michael Hudlin said. “There are people in the world who I think are excellent and great, and they’ve really helped me. I’ve molded some of my decisions after them, but at the end of the day, I want to leave my own legacy.”