Ashley Hall’s choral classes, ensembles, and vocal lessons begin a new era of excellence as world-renowned artists and music educators Margaret Kelly Cook and Ricard Bordas assume their directorship. With a wealth of experience, they are committed to fostering artistic growth, enrichment, and confidence among their students.

Cook will oversee the vocal studio and assume vocal private lessons. She earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance degree from Oberlin College and completed the postgraduate opera course at the Royal College of Music in London.  An active participant on the concert stage, Cook has appeared as a guest soloist throughout England and Europe, appearing in recitals at the Buxton Festival in the United Kingdom, Spoleto Festival, USA, the Salzburg Festival in Austria, and the EuroConcert Early Music Festival in Barcelona, Spain. Locally, she has appeared frequently with the Charleston Chamber Music Society, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and the South Carolina Philharmonic. Cook is highly regarded as one of the lead vocal instructors in our area. 

Bordas will direct the Upper School choral classes and ensembles. Conductor, countertenor, educator, and Grammy nominee, he graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London. Bordas has conducted choirs and chamber groups in the United States, Spain, and Britain and is considered one of the leading countertenors of his generation. He has performed in fourteen countries in operas and concerts under renowned conductors and at prestigious venues such as La Scala in Milan, the Netherlands Opera, Royal Albert Hall, Barbican Hall, and the Spanish National Concert Hall. He is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Charleston Southern University, Artistic Director of the Bach Society of Charleston, Director of Choral Music at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church in Charleston, Artistic Director of the Charleston Men’s Chorus, and a writer for the Spanish classical magazine Revista Musical Catalana.   

Fun fact: As husband and wife, Cook and Bordas have collaborated on numerous productions and performances. Above (bottom left photo), they are shown singing in their first opera together, when they met in 1993.

Margaret Kelly Cook Full Biography

Ricard Bordas Full Biography

Q & A

What excites you most about directing Ashley Hall’s choral music and vocal private lessons program?

Ricard Bordas: I am eager to share my love of music and singing with Ashley Hall students. Since conducting the Catalan National Children’s Choir in Barcelona many years ago I have loved working with young voices. It is especially gratifying in that their voices are fresh and the musical possibilities are wonderful. There is a grand tradition surrounding the choral program at Ashley Hall, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to be a part of that lineage. (Also, my mother-in-law graduated from Ashley Hall, so we have a family connection to the School.)

Margaret Kelly Cook: Since returning to Charleston I have had a number of Ashley Hall students in my private studio. I know the music department to be top notch and have seen its evolution over many years. I am excited to be a part of it now and to be able to contribute to its continued success. And, yes, my mama graduated from Ashley Hall and took part in many music and theatre performances. It’s a wonderful connection!

What are your goals for the coming year? What do you hope to accomplish with students?

RB: After more than one year dealing with the effects of COVID-19, in particular in the world of choral music, first and foremost I want to help nurture the joy of singing and the sheer fun of being in choir. We will prepare music to be shared with the Ashley Hall community, the Charleston area, and hopefully the wider world as circumstances permit. We will also work on developing musical and vocal skills that will strengthen our individual singers and the choral program as a whole.

MC: My goal for those students in private lessons is the development of a solid vocal technique and understanding of how the voice functions while singing a variety of musical styles from classical to music theatre to pop. In private teaching my ultimate goal has always been to enable singers to sing healthily for life whether in a choral setting or as a professional soloist.

What do you enjoy most about music education and working with students?

RB:  Having worked with students from middle school through college level for many years, I love to see how students find their own voice and discover the satisfaction of singing, learning music and working collaboratively. As a teacher, it is very fulfilling to see month after month, year after year, the progress of my students.

MC: For me, there is nothing greater than the gift of music. It stays with us for life no matter our chosen profession. There are numerous books, articles, and studies on the importance of music education in scaffolding all learning and cognitive development. For me, simply, music is the closest experience we have to my idea of heaven. Singing is that much closer. If I can help singers to find their voice, or develop their talent, then it is enough.