For someone who spends most of his workday behind the scenes, John Schroeder sure sticks out.
Between his bright shock of hair, gleaming smile and 6-foot-3-inch stature, the senior identity and access management analyst in the architecture and integration department of the College’s Division of Information Technology is hard to miss – especially when he opens his mouth and you hear his deep, booming voice.
“It’s easy to pick me out,” laughs Schroeder, who sings bass with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Chorus, the Grace Church Cathedral St. Gregory Choir and The King’s Counterpoint vocal ensemble.
With three rehearsals a week and a heavy schedule of performances, Schroeder is kind of all over the place.
“I’m always juggling things,” says Schroeder, who has also served as both vice president and president of the CSO Chorus. “I have to be organized. My calendar is very important.”
Music has always been a part of Schroeder’s life. Before choral singing, it was the French horn, which he played from middle school through college. And then there was the euphonium, which he played with the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps (then the Garfield Cadets), a world-class competitive touring junior corps based out of Allentown, Pa. But he didn’t find his voice in choral singing until 1990, when he joined his church choir in New Jersey.
“It turned out I was pretty good at it,” says Schroeder, who became a cantor for his congregation and even sang a solo here and there. Then, when he came to Charleston in 2002, he auditioned for the St. Gregory Choir at Grace Episcopal Church and became the choir’s bass II staff singer. He then joined the CSO Chorus, where he got to sing accompaniment parts for everything from Beethoven to Bernstein.
“Singing with a symphony is a whole different experience,” says Schroeder. “It’s just a gas.”
He’d certainly hit the right note – and Charleston’s choral community was tuning in to listen.
In 2014 he was invited to become a founding member of The King’s Counterpoint, a professional ensemble that specializes in sacred and secular music from the Middle Ages all the way to the modern era. That experience has afforded Schroeder wide performance opportunities, including his first trip abroad ever – to England’s Wells Cathedral.
“They liked us so much, we’ve been invited back and also got invitations from multiple other cathedrals. On these trips, we sing ‘Evensong’ every day for a week, which I love,” says Schroeder, who will also be doing a residency in England’s Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey next year. “Singing ‘Evensong’ is actually the best, because it involves so much music, is different every service, but yet it’s very structured.”
Schroeder may have found his sweet spot for singing, but he says that spot will always be in the right back corner of the choir.
“I generally prefer to be an ensemble singer,” he says. “I don’t like to stand out there and belt.”
Of course, he doesn’t have to be a soloist to get noticed. Even from the very back of the choir, Schroeder can’t help but stand out.