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Snapshot: Erik Clayton

by on November 28, 2016 11:29 AM

Erik Clayton looks around the high school and laughs. “I almost forgot, this week is our homecoming,” he says in early October.

It has been about a year since Clayton was appointed as director of choirs at State College Area High School. He graduated from Penn State in 2006, double majoring in music education and piano performance. He also holds a master’s degree in piano performance.

State College has a long tradition of being very successful in music performance. The music profession is respected and supported within the community.

“I love working here,” says Clayton, who has a wife and three children. “Not only because it is my hometown but also because it’s a great honor working in one of the best music programs in the nation. I really love seeing students transitioning into adulthood. From ninth grade to 12th grade, they are really receptive to instructions.”

Music has always been a part of Clayton’s life, especially with his mother and her side of the family.

“My mom is a great singer,” he says. “She always would sing at home or in a car.”

While his mom loved and appreciated music and was an inspiration to Clayton, she never pushed him into pursuing music as a career. Still, the passion for music rubbed off on him, and he did his first solo piano performance when he was in elementary school and his first solo singing performance was in Eisenhower Auditorium when he was 13.

“Singing is something that I am always passionate about, but I didn’t take any singing lessons until I went to high school,” he says.

Prior to returning to State College, Clayton had been codirector of choirs at Williamsport Area High School from 2008 to 2012. From 2012 to 2015, he was director of choirs at Central Dauphin High School.

In two years, the choirs will be moving into the new State High building, which is going to make things different, according to Clayton. He adds that he is aiming for more collaborations with Penn State and the State College Choral Society, as well as organizations across the state.

Although high school can be a rebellious time for teenagers, Clayton says going through the process of achieving a goal can help students and teaching is not all about improving skills.

“You have to understand the personality of your students, as well,” he says. “You have to be able to tap into their mind and think from their perspectives and understandings. Otherwise, you can’t get them to understand what works for them.

“It’s all about the process. If they put hard work into what they do, opportunities will open that they don’t even know about. It’s one of the biggest life-changing moments of their lives, and I want to make sure they understand that.”

The State College Chamber Singers, directed by Clayton, will perform The Art of Music: Songs of the Season at 12:10 p.m. December 14 at the Palmer Museum of Art.



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