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Finalists to conduct concerts in 2018/19 Season,
the Phoenix Chorale’s 60th Anniversary

 (Phoenix, AZ.) The Grammy-winning Phoenix Chorale has announced four finalists in its search for a new Artistic Director for the Arizona-based professional choir (left to right):

James K. Bass
Christopher Gabbitas
Brian A. Schmidt
Jenny Wong

The Phoenix Chorale Artistic Director Finalists bring a wealth of talent and a variety of expertise including leadership positions with professional choirs and symphony choruses, performing around the world, founding new ensembles, winning honors from Grammys to Gramophones, and teaching the next generation of singing artists.

Each finalist will lead a concert weekend in the 2018/19 Season, which is also the Phoenix Chorale’s 60th Anniversary. In total, five distinct programs will be presented over the course of the year, with an additional guest conductor leading the annual holiday program, “A Chorale Christmas.”

“It’s not very often that there is an opening for a position like this anywhere across the country, and we were thrilled by the quality and number of individuals expressing their interest in the Artistic Director position,” said Jen Rogers, President & CEO of the Phoenix Chorale. “It was clear early on that narrowing the field to four finalists was going to be difficult, which is a wonderful problem to have! Each of the finalists brings a unique artistic voice and dynamic vision for the ensemble and we are excited to be working with such talented individuals.”

The Artistic Director Search process began in the summer of 2017 and by November, fifty qualified individuals from across the United States and abroad had applied for the position. The Search Team reviewed the first round of materials: cover letters, resumes, and both audio and video files, narrowing the field to 11 Semifinalists. The Semifinalists submitted a second round of materials including additional video and audio files, sample concert programs, and each semifinalist was tasked with designing a concert program for the Chorale; interviews were held, and references were checked. At the end of that round, four finalists were identified and invited to continue in the Search process. Each of the four finalists will be conducting the Chorale for the first time during the 2018/19 Season.

“The singers in the Chorale are excited at the prospect of working with each of these talented conductors,” said Alison Chaney, Phoenix Chorale Soprano and Singer Representative to the Board. “Rehearsing and performing with different conductors is a wonderful development opportunity for us – individually and collectively – we will gain such valuable knowledge from each of these artists. We also look forward to the final outcome of the Search process, when our next Artistic Director will chart the artistic path forward for our ensemble.”

Each finalist will come to Phoenix and lead the ensemble in rehearsals and concerts and will meet with the board, staff, singers, and the Phoenix community over the course of their concert series. The final selection for the Artistic Director position is expected in late Spring of 2019, with the new Artistic Director taking the helm in the 2019/20 Season.

“What an amazing journey for the Phoenix Chorale – sixty years of creating exquisite music and a legacy of sound that is unmatched in its ability to move the heart,” said Rebecca McClain, Phoenix Chorale Board Chair. “It is my joy to serve as Board Chair in this time of transition and change. We are delighted to share the news that our Search Team has been hard at work, reading, listening, discussing, reviewing, conversing, and ultimately, choosing four final candidates for the position of our next Artistic Director. Our goal was clear: a list of finalists, any of whom would be great for the Chorale. And now, we are ready for the next part of this journey. We invite everyone to be with us next season as we embark on our next era – the best is yet to be!”

Get to know the four finalists at This special website has been created with information about The Search and includes full bios and videos for each finalist.

: Los Angeles, CA
2018/19 Concert Dates: October 26-28, 2018

Three-time Grammy-nominated artist James K. Bass is the Director of Choral Studies at the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA, Artistic Director of the Long Beach Camerata Singers in Long Beach, CA, and Associate Conductor for the Miami-based ensemble Seraphic Fire. As a conductor, James has prepared choirs for Sir David Willcocks, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Gerard Schwarz, and many others. He has appeared as soloist or ensemble artist with some of America’s most important choirs including Conspirare, Seraphic Fire, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and Trinity Wall Street among others. Recently, James launched a new collaboration between UCLA and Seraphic Fire, an “Ensemble Artist Program,” designed to train the next generation of high-level ensemble singers as well as co-founding the Aspen Music Festival’s new Professional Choral Institute.

: Mayfield, East Sussex, United Kingdom
2018/19 Concert Dates: February 22-24, 2019

Double Grammy-winning artist Christopher Gabbitas has spent the last fifteen years as a member of The King’s Singers, performing almost 2,000 concerts worldwide, conducting in excess of 500 masterclasses, and appearing on over thirty commercial recordings. Trained in the English choral tradition from an early age as a boy-chorister and later a choral scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, Christopher began to direct and train ensembles as a teenager. A UK-qualified attorney, he recently announced he would step down from The King’s Singers to take a position of Artist Professor at the University of Redlands, teaching a new Master’s degree course focusing on elite choral performance along with music business education.

: Waco, TX
2018/19 Concert Dates: April 5-7, 2019

Grammy-nominated artist Brian A. Schmidt is the founder and Artistic Director of the South Dakota Chorale (SDC), a professional choir in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Brian is also Associate Professor of Choral Music at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Since founding the South Dakota Chorale in 2009, the SDC has released three commercial recordings through Pentatone and Gothic, performed at the 2015 National ACDA Conference in Salt Lake City, and in February 2018, Brian attended the 2018 Grammy Awards as the SDC’s recording, Tyberg Masses, was nominated for “Best Choral Performance.” Previously, Brian worked at Duke University where he conducted the Duke Vespers Ensemble and developed and conducted a monthly Bach Cantata Series.

: Los Angeles, CA
2018/19 Concert Dates: September 28-30, 2018

A native of Hong Kong, Jenny Wong is one of the youngest conductors to win two consecutive World Champion titles at the World Choir Games and the International Johannes Brahms Choral Competition. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Southern California and is currently the Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC). In this position, she has prepared choruses for Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic, Susanna Mälkki, Eric Whitacre, and Grant Gershon. In the summer of 2017, Jenny conducted the LAMC in the world premiere of Moira Smiley’s five-movement work, Time in Our Voices, in December 2017 she conducted the LAMC in the six Bach Motets, and she will lead them in Duruflé’s Requiem in 2019.


The Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale is regarded as one of the finest choral ensembles in North America. The 28-voice professional chorus has developed this reputation through live performances across Arizona, the U.S., and in Canada, along with a series of recordings treasured by music lovers and played by radio stations around the world. The Phoenix Chorale began in 1958 as a small study group of singers performing music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras and quickly evolved into a performing ensemble. In 1992, the ensemble transitioned into a professional choir, and to this day, the ensemble’s roster is made up of Arizona residents: highly educated and trained singers with a variety of careers, including teaching music. In 2004, the Phoenix Chorale became the first North American choir to record for the U.K.’s Chandos Records and since then, the Chorale’s recordings have earned a total of eight Grammy nominations and two Grammy wins. In its 60-year history, conductors of the Chorale have included Millicent Wesley, Wallace Hornibrook, Dan Durand, Vance George, Anders Öhrwall, Jon Washburn, and Charles Bruffy. The Phoenix Chorale’s vision is to be the preeminent model for American choral music by redefining standards of excellence and its mission is to enrich life through excellence and distinction in choral artistry.

The Phoenix Chorale, ensemble-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Phoenix, is sponsored in part through grants, funding, and support from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Arizona Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

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