William Huckaby is a musician whose name is unfamiliar to most Wolf Trap patrons, yet he is one who has contributed more to their pleasure than many will ever know.
He is the vocal coach, conductor, chamber musician and concert organist who fulfills a variety of needs during the summer season at Wolf Trap.
Tonight, when the George Mason University chorus takes the stage for a Rodgers and Hammerstein programs, the voices will be of singers expertly trained by William Huckaby.
When the Wolf Trap Opera Company presents Verdi's "Falstaff" in August, the singer's performances will be products of Huckaby's training.
The conductor who normally coaches in a studio in Arlington, is spending this summer at Madeira School in McLean, where the Wolf Trap company practices.
Recently, between rehearsals of the George Mason Chorus and the Wolf Trap opera, he took a coffee break and discussed his profession and his love of music.
"I'm basically a free-lance musician," he said. "I'm a vocal coach and also a conductor. I'll be conducting Mozart's "The Impresario' in the theatre in the Woods later this year, and I am also rehearsing the (opera) company in 'Falstaff,' preparing them for Sarah Caldwell who'll conduct the actual performances."
Huckaby, a trim 36-year-old with expressive dark eyes, said he does not mind being the behind-the-scenes force in these performances rather than the on-stage conductor.
"I love the human voice, I love song and the theater," he said. "My father was a Methodist minister and I grew up loving the liturgy of the church, which has translated into love of the threater."
He attended Southen Methodist University in Dallas, majoring in music as a concert organist. "I loved the organ from the time I was four years old," he said.
He still plays the organ at St. Alban's Cathedral in the District, but his main preoccupation is with musical theater and opera.
Preparing the George Mason chorus for tonight's concert, Huckaby said, was as complex as preparing a Schubert symphony. "The music is literally history," he said. "Richard Rodgers made a tremendous contribution with his songs and they are very demanding, even if I can't sing them in the shower."
Huckaby, who teaches privately as well as fulfilling his theatrical obligations, took on the summer role of chorus master with George Mason after the death in April of Dr. Wilbert King, long-time director of the group.
Tonight's performance will be conducted by Dr. Franz Allers, with the chorus as an adjunct to soloists and the orchestra.
"In preparing a choral group like this one," Huckaby said, "I have to have them so well rehearsed that they'll come in exactly as Dr. Allers directs them, even though they've never sung with him before."
This kind of perfection is familiar to Huckaby, who has often worked with Boston impresario-conductor Caldwell. "At the last minute the Boston Opera needed a people's chorus for 'Aida,'" Huckaby recounted, "I got one together even though it almost killed all of us."
Huckaby admitted to being a high-energy type who "takes vacations here and there, where I can find them," and whose private and professional lives are completely intermingled.
"I'm constantly having to work with somebody who needed a vocalist coach yesterday," he said. "My life is centered around the human voiced and around singers. I want to give them the special treatment they deserve."
Huckaby checked the time and departed for the Madeira School's chorus room to rehearse the Wolf Trap opera singers in "Falstaff."
Inside the rehearsal room, Huckaby was immersed in the Verdi score -- playing it on the grand piano, cueing in the singer, singing along with the solos.
At the end of the rehearsal he told the singers, "If you tested yourselves to the fullest, you did very well." Then with a broad grin, "If you cheated a bit you still did very well."
The singers stood and applauded the conductor. CAPTION:
Pictures 1 through 5, no caption, Photos by John Dwyier for The Washington Post