Michelle Searle Kim to become Whitman’s first female choral director


Michelle Searle Kim conducts her Seneca Valley choral students in a performance at a private holiday party at the White House. Next year, Kim will replace Jeffrey Davidson as Whitman's choral director. "I just felt like it was time for a change," she said. Photo courtesy Michelle Searle Kim.

By Anna Kulbashny

Michelle Searle Kim will replace Jeffrey Davidson as Whitman’s new choral director next year. Kim has been the choral director at Seneca Valley High School for the last 20 years, and she will be Whitman’s first female choral director. Davidson announced his retirement in April of this year after over 30 years of teaching at Whitman.

Davison’s years of devotion to Whitman’s choral program has fostered a genuine love for music among the hundreds of students he’s taught. While Davidson may be retiring, Kim’s years of experience at Seneca Valley makes her just as qualified for the job. Seneca Valley boasts one of Montgomery County’s top choral programs, and it’s the only other school in the county besides Whitman that offers five chorus classes day.

“She’s just perfect for this job,” Davidson said. “This is not a new teacher. This is a very seasoned veteran who’s bringing tons of experience into a very high level program.”

Kim built Seneca Valley’s choral program from scratch. She’s created 5 choirs with around 160 students over her two decades.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve built there,” Kim said. “I just felt like it was time for a change—to see what I could do with another program. It took a lot of soul searching, but after really seeing what [Whitman choral students] are capable of, I was like ‘I want to connect with this, I want to give it a try.’”

This year, Kim was president of the Maryland Choral Educators Association, a volunteer-based organization that puts together music events and activities for students and teachers throughout the state. MCEA also hosts All-State choir, a state-wide choir many Whitman students participate in. Along with sitting on MCEA’s board, Kim has judged high school choral festivals throughout the state.

Junior Emily Mayo has been part of Whitman’s choral program since her freshman year. In addition to being a member of the Chamber Choir and Women’s Chorus, she’s also sung for Maryland’s All-State and All-Eastern Choirs. Mayo trusts that the choral program will maintain the same caliber, even after Davidson’s retirement.

“I’m excited to explore new music,” Mayo said. “I haven’t had a female choral director since sixth grade, so I’m excited to see what Mrs. Kim can do, especially with a women’s choir.”

As for the future of Whitman’s music program, Davidson said he isn’t worried. He hopes that the Maryland and MCPS budget will eventually allow Whitman to hire a fourth music teacher, but he trusts that Kim will maintain the choral program’s reputation, rigor and pride in the meantime.

“This place is going to be in good hands,” Davidson said. “I can leave here and not look back, and no regrets. Absolutely no regrets. I don’t think everyone can say that when they’re older.”