Conducting Masterclass Alumni: Important Takeaways

More past Fellows speak about the impact of their Masterclass experience.

Barbara Berner

Artistic Director, The St. Louis Children's Choirs
Attended two Children’s/Youth Chorus Masterclasses, one in 2004 and one in 2007

“The guest young artist choirs were beautifully prepared, workshop participants had the opportunity to work with orchestral musicians to further develop our orchestral conducting, the teachers provided expert feedback and consultation, and the Masterclasses enabled me to get to know other children’s choir colleagues from across America and form friendships that remain to this day.”

Drew Collins

Director of Choral Activities, Central Connecticut State University
Attended the 2003 A Cappella Masterclass

"I met the head of the doctoral program I would later attend, connected with my instructors, networked with the other participants, and gained invaluable supplementary training. I still go back and watch the video from my time conducting those world-class choirs to keep those skills fresh."

Stephen Czarkowski

Music Director, Apollo Chamber Orchestra
Associate Conductor, Opera Camerata of Washington
Music Director, Frederick Youth Orchestra
Conductor, Old Bridge Chamber OrchestraAttended the 2006 Choral-Orchestral Masterclass

“The Chorus America Masterclass was one of the most important in my conducting training. Working with professional singers at this workshop eased a transition to conducting choral and opera repertoire. It was thrilling to have supportive faculty members like David Hayes, Otto-Werner Mueller, and Christopher Eschenbach.

Jennah Delp-Somers

Artistic Director, iSing Silicon Valley Girlchoir
Soprano, The Crossing
Attended the 2010 A Cappella Masterclass

 “The Chorus America Masterclass in Houston gave me the professional confidence that I needed to successfully secure conducting positions and later found my own choir. The four-day, intensive focus on my technique and gesture was exactly what I needed to refresh my skills on the podium. It was an honor to be coached by one of the best female conductors in our profession, Marguerite Brooks.”

Dominick DiOrio

Assistant Professor of Choral Conducting, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
Attended the 2010 and 2011 A Cappella Masterclasses and the 2011 Choral-Orchestral Masterclass  

"I had the chance to connect with conductors of my generation who were also participating and build bridges that I am sure will lead to new and exciting projects further down the road. Chorus America provides opportunities for conductors as artists and also as business people. They are one of the few organizations available that concentrates on training conductors for all aspects of the profession."

Julie Haydon

Director of Children's Choirs, Cantare Con Vivo
Choir Director at Trinity Lutheran Church
Attended the 2007 Children’s/Youth Chorus Masterclass

“The Masterclass really helped me understand how to prepare myself and my singers to effectively collaborate with instrumentalists. I could see how taking on a larger work raises the bar for singers and challenges them to reach higher levels of musicianship. The experience helped empower me to introduce more substantial works to my younger students and to begin presenting a major work with chamber orchestra each year with my adult church choir.”

Greg Hobbs 

Music Director, Highland Park Chorale
Music Director, Highland Park Presbyterian Church
Attended the 2002 and 2006 Choral-Orchestral Masterclasses

“The high artistic standards demonstrated in the Masterclass continue to impact me as I work with my ensembles today. I developed good relationships with the outstanding faculty and found them all to be passionate about the art, sincerely committed to helping me succeed, and genuinely friendly people—I still bug some of them for help.”

Andrew Lewis

Artistic Director, Bella Voce
Music Director, Elgin Choral Union
Conducting Faculty, University of Illinois at Chicago
Choirmaster, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Evanston
Attended the 2002 Choral-Orchestral Masterclass

“Though having the opportunity to hone my craft under the tutelage of leading conductors was highly beneficial, it was the relationships I began building with those teachers during the Masterclass that proved the most impactful. In particular, Duain Wolfe and James Paul helped me land a great conducting job with the Elgin Choral Union. With this job I regularly conduct the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, a truly fantastic orchestra. Then came Bella Voce shortly thereafter. The Masterclass truly proved to be the tipping point in my career.”

SeaHwa Jung

Director of Choral Activities/Assistant Professor of Music, Lock Haven University
Attended the 2010 A Cappella, 2012 Choral-Orchestral, and 2013 Conference Masterclasses

“I believe that this is one of the most effective ways to evaluate myself, with conductors from all over the world. It was an opportunity to form a good relationship and connection with master teachers and conducting fellows, which is very important throughout a conducting career.”

Bryson Mortensen

Artistic Director, Festival Choir of Madison
Assistant Professor of Music, University of Wisconsin - Rock County
Attended the 2010 A Cappella and 2012 Conference Masterclasses

“I discovered things I never would have noticed on my own studying the scores we worked with, and I learned how subtle changes in my gesture led to dramatic results in the choir. I remember working with the Houston Chamber Choir and realizing how much my gesture really mattered. The sound they made as I came down slightly less forcefully during a climax point in ‘Richte mich, Gott’ is burned into my memory.”

Gregory Ristow

Assistant Professor/Director of Choral Activites, DePauw University
Artistic Director, Encore Vocal Arts
Attended the 2010 A Cappella Masterclass

“The chance to conduct a top professional choir in a cappella rep they excel at was fabulous. It gave me the opportunity to really notice how my gesture was affecting the sound, since the Houston Chamber Choir was so responsive. But more than anything, I got so much from the opportunity to meet and interact with other young conductors at a similar stage in their career.”

Michael Slon 

Conducting Faculty/Director of Choral Music, University of Virginia
Music Director, Oratorio Society of Virginia
Attended the 2003 A Cappella and the 2004 Choral-Orchestral Masterclasses

“The  Masterclasses opened up the musical world to us in at least three ways: the chance to conduct world-class ensembles; the opportunity to work with leading artists in our field, mentors who have since become friends; and the pleasure of making friends with other student conductors who are now also colleagues."

Steven Town 

Professor of Music, Northwest Missouri State University
Attended 2007 A Cappella Masterclass

“As an older yet experienced director, I wanted to test my gestural and interpretative abilities as well as question my scholarly assumptions about the choral art among a group of gifted conductors and teachers.  The Masterclass made me rethink the practical aspects of conducting and, thus, I sharpened my skills.”  



 Robert Vance

Associate Director of Choral Studies/Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education, Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music
Attended the 2007 A Cappella Masterclass

“The Masterclass was powerful in several ways. It allowed me to receive valuable feedback from master teachers, as well as insightful comments from the singers in VocalEssence and the St. Olaf Choir. Chorus America orchestrated an experience that was both welcoming and challenging, and I remain in contact with several colleagues I met there."

Shelbie L. Wahl-Fouts

Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music, Hollins University
Attended the 2010 A Cappella Masterclass

 “The Masterclass in Houston allowed me the opportunity for significant podium time with a professional ensemble and one-on-one coaching by a teacher/mentor. It was an intense, active experience, which reinforced skills learned in graduate school, taught me new score-study techniques and expressive gestures, and helped me to solidify my own personal conducting style.”




John F. Warren 

Director of Choral Activities, Syracuse University
Attended 2009 Choral-Orchestral Masterclass

“The masterclass helped me identify bad habits that crept into my gesture, primarily using too large a gesture. It also increased my experience and understanding of conducting orchestras.”

Chorus America’s next Choral-Orchestral Conducting Masterclass, presented in partnership with the Mannes College The New School for Music will take place from February 14-17 in New York City. Details and online application are available here.

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