Category Archives: Faculty

UW Spring Choral Festival of Excellence

We are excited to announce that registration for our 2019 UW Choral Festival of Excellence is now open! Choirs from around the area are invited to join us and receive performance feedback from our own Dr. Geoffrey Boers and Dr. Giselle Wyers as well as three other local Washington State professors and conductors. This year, our clinicians include the following:

Dr. Leann Conley-Holcom, Seattle UniversityDr. Lori J. Wiest, Washington State UniversityDr. Kristina Ploeger-Hekmatpanah, Eastern Washington University

For more information and to complete your registration, please visit our UW Choral Festival page. We look forward to seeing you there!

UW Conductors and Alumni Present, Chamber Singers Perform at NW-ACDA

On March 7-10, the Northwest Region of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) will be holding their biannual conference, this year in Portland, OR. Several University of Washington students and alumni will be presenting at the conference this year. As a capstone to the week, the UW Chamber Singers, under the direction of Geoffrey Boers, will be performing on Saturday morning.

Detailed information about each of the sessions can be found here. You can find the information about the UW presenters below (this information is also on the NW-ACDA site)

Liberating Singers with Choral Improvisation
Sarah Riskind, presenter

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 • 5:00pm
Musical improvisation can heighten the joy of music-making, increase self-confidence, develop creativity, improve aural skills, reduce performance anxiety, relieve stress, and strengthen community in all ages and abilities. In choral music, improvisation is traditionally linked to specific arenas: scat-singing, Gospel solos, harmonizing folk songs, and aleatoric sections of notated repertoire. However, crossing these boundaries with freer improvisation can liberate singers from the fear of singing wrong notes. Introductory activities in this participatory session will be playful warm-ups and games ideal for school choirs, followed by other improvisations that many types of choirs can do in both rehearsal and performance settings. Inspired by Pauline Oliveros and her philosophy of Deep Listening, singers will become aware of interactions within the group, dense and sparse textures, developing motives, changing tone color, and shaping structure in music with minimal restrictions. In an entirely idiomatic way, innovations in choral music can be linked more closely with current developments in contemporary instrumental improvisation.

(Re)imagining the Changing Voice: Adolescence to Senescence
Geoffrey Boers, Jeffrey Larkin, and Jeremy Morada, presenters

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 • 5:00pm




As our culture ages, more and more singers are remaining active longer in life. Church choirs and community choruses are filled with aging singers, all of whom face challenges with their senescent, or aging, changing voices. As we are seeing an explosion of choirs for older adults, this session will explore a new and developing area of research and importance for ACDA. Attendees will explore and play with teaching techniques and activities which address methods through which aging adults can experience musical growth and satisfaction throughout their lives. Andragogy (pedagogy for adults), sight-singing and musicianship, perception, physical health, memory, and self esteem will be addressed.

Reinvigorating the Chestnuts
Meg Stohlmann, presenter

Friday, March 9, 2018 • 8:00am

The process of discovering new artistry and musicianship through “”tried and true”” repertoire should be a part of our standard choral curriculum. These “”Chestnut”” songs become part of the canon because of the music’s ability to stand the test of time. Instead of just performing these pieces through emulation of past performances, the reexamination and rediscovery of the music between both ensemble and conductor can prove to be a most rewarding endeavor. Through the use of the University of Washington Chamber Singers and the cooperation of Dr. Geoffrey Boers, we will demonstrate that there is always something new to discover or reimagine about repertoire, that we are never done making music, that the performance is never complete. Attention to text stress and poetry, voice and breath flow management, and emotional expression to the music will be demonstrated to enhance the artistry of the ensemble. Focus of the material will be on high school and collegiate choral literature with application to community based ensembles as well.

Dialogue and Participation in the Choral Performance of Sacred Harp Music
Leann Conley-Holcom, presenter

Friday, March 9, 2018 • 9:15am

Mounting interest in folk and world music has led to increased choral performance of Sacred Harp, or shape note, repertoire. Sacred Harp is a communal musical practice that originated in the singing schools of colonial New England and is still active today, with hundreds of singing chapters across the United States and several burgeoning international chapters. Participants do not rehearse or perform, and there is no conductor. Community and collective music-making are the sole purposes of Sacred Harp singing. Lack of awareness in the choral community regarding Sacred Harp and its widespread accessibility for participatory learning has perpetuated a distanced choral approach to this music. This session presents a new perspective for the choral performance of Sacred Harp that moves beyond entertainment, places participatory learning at the foreground, and advocates for greater dialogue between the choral and Sacred Harp communities. Attendees will experience elements of a ritual “singing.”

(Re)imagining Relevance through New Music and Social Consciousness
Jeremiah Selvey, Wendy Moy, Justin Raffa, and Reginald Unterseher, presenters

Thursday, March 8, 2018 • 8:00am
Hilton Pavilion West Ballrooom

The purpose of this panel discussion is to provide thoughtfulness on the importance of new music and social advocacy as we re-conceive the impact of the choral art in our various communities. The panelists will speak from the depth and breadth of their own experiences, as well as broader trends in the field, to provide practical ways to revitalize our choral communities by way of supporting the diversity of our humanity. This panel discussion will explore how we can integrate social consciousness and new music into our choral settings as a means of making the choral art more immediately relevant to our singers, communities, and audiences.

Jeremiah Selvey and Wendy Moy are UW Alumni.






Geoffrey Boers, conductor

Saturday, March 10, 11:30 AM.

The University of Washington Chamber Singers is the UW’s longest-standing choral organization, formed in the early 1930s. The group flourished and gained international recognition under the leadership of its conductors Gerald Kechley, Rodney Eichenberger, and Joan Conlon. The current Chamber Singers consists of graduate and advanced undergraduate music majors studying choral conducting, vocal performance, music education, as well as many students from programs across campus. They have been featured at many festivals, conventions, and workshops, including NWACDA, Musicfest Canada, and at the national conventions of the American Kodaly Educators, National Association of Schools of Music, and American Musicological Society. In relationship with the UW’s nationally recognized Baltic Studies program and Baltic Choral Collection, the Chamber Singers have travelled to the Baltic five times, and will return again in 2019. The choir has just released its first professionally produced CD “…behold again, the stars” on Centaur Records.

UW Choral Leaders Presenting in 2017-2018

A number of UW grad students, alumni, professors, and ensembles will be representing the department all over the country in 2017-2018! We are excited to share our pedagogy, research, and music-making with other choral conductors and singers at several upcoming conferences:

National Collegiate Choral Organization: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 2-4, 2017

  • “Forgotten Motets for Female Voices from New France”– Poster Session and Presentation (Elizabeth MacIsaac, D.M.A. candidate)

Aging & Society: Seventh Interdisciplinary Conference: University of California at Berkeley, November 3-4, 2017

  • “A Lifetime of Singing: The Impact of Aging on the Vocal Instrument” (Jeffrey Larkin, D.M.A. candidate)

Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities: Honolulu, Hawaii, January 9-11, 2018

  • “Music Performance Anxiety and Conducting Gesture”– Poster Session (Gerrit Scheepers, D.M.A. candidate)

Oregon Music Educators Association Conference: Eugene, Oregon, January 11-14, 2018

  • “Can You Hear Me Now?!: The Process of Conductor’s Auralization” (Jeffrey Larkin, D.M.A. candidate)

Washington Music Educators Association Conference: Yakima, Washington, February 15-18, 2018

  • New Choral Literacy Rubric (Dr. Geoffrey Boers)
  • Washington Junior All-State Treble Choir (Dr. Giselle Wyers)
  • “The Power of the One-on-One” (Jeffrey Larkin and Meg Stohlmann), D.M.A. candidates

American Choral Directors Association Northwest Regional Conference: Portland, Oregon, March 7-10, 2018

  • “The Changing Voice: Adolescence and Senescence” (Dr. Geoffrey Boers)
  • “Dialogue and Participation in the Choral Performance of Sacred Harp Music” (Dr. Leann Conley-Holcom, D.M.A. Spring 2017)
  • “Liberating Singers with Choral Improvisation” (Sarah Riskind, D.M.A. candidate)
  • Artistry and Expression (Meg Stohlmann, D.M.A. candidate)
  • UW Chamber Singers Performance

Ēriks Ešenvalds

Esenvalds and Dr. BoersOn Tuesday, May 16, the choral department enjoyed an inspiring visit from the Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds! Choral and instrumental ensembles all over the world frequently program Ešenvalds’ works, which express meaningful texts in several languages with vibrant harmonies and diverse timbres. The Baltic Studies program hosted Ešenvalds to discuss the stories and influences that went into his Nordic Light Symphony on Tuesday evening, and he spent the morning working with the choral department. The choral conducting graduate cohort and alumni resonated with his ideas about storytelling, the value of humility, the joy of singing at any age and ability, the interpretive role of the conductor, and other concepts that often come up in the choral culture.Esenvalds and Tom Ešenvalds coached the cohort on his composition The Earthly Rose, which they will perform on DMA student Thomas Almli’s recital on Monday, June 5th at 7:30 at University Presbyterian Church, and he breathed new life into Chamber Singers’ interpretations of his Amazing Grace and Algirdas Martinaitis’ Alleluia. They will sing those works on Wednesday, May 24th at 7:30pm in MeanyEsenvalds with Dr. Boers and Dr. Wyers Hall.

Visit Ēriks Ešenvalds’ website to listen to his music and read about his background.

University of Washington at NAFME-Bellevue

Please come out and enjoy the following sessions offered by University of Washington faculty and students at NAFME 2017 in Bellevue, Washington!  

Friday, Feb. 17

9:50: Giselle Wyers: “Climbing the Great Wall: Singing in Chinese Dialects”

         Hyatt: Grand Ballroom J

9:50: Leann Conley-Holcom: “Gesture Without Pain: Injury Prevention for Conductors”

         Westin: Fort Peck

3:30: University of Washington Chorale Performance

         Hyatt: Grand Ballroom ABC

3:30: Panel with Laurie Cappello and Geoffrey Boers: “Adjudicating the Large-Group Choral Festival”
         Hyatt: Laurel

5:30: University of Washington reception

         Westin: Either the Lake Chelan Room, or Lake Washington A

Saturday, Feb. 18

12:30: Steve Morrison and Anita Kumar: “Conducting Matters: Shaping the Way We Hear Music”

         Hyatt: Grand Ballroom J

Sunday, Feb. 19

8:30: Bethany Grant-Rodriguez and Will Coppola: “Giving Recognition to Sociohistorical Significance in African-American Song”

         Hyatt: Cedar Ballroom

Estonian Independence Day Celebration

Estonian festival picUniversity of Washington Chamber Singers, Director of Choral Activities Geoffrey Boers, and UW graduate students and alumns in choral conducting performed at an Estonian Independence Day recognition ceremony in Odegaard Library last week. The celebration was a gathering of the Baltic Community, captured by UW TV, coinciding with the opening of a photo art exhibit celebrating the Song Festival UNESCO tradition in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Dr. Boers and Dr. Wyers combined a “tour choir” which combined to travel and perform in the 2014 Latvian Song Festival.  University of Washington has the only choral library collection of Baltic music in the US, established in 2005.

Messiah, Pops Concerts a Rousing Success

Two of University of Washington’s top choirs finished up a busy quarter last week, with performances on campus and across the community.  The UW Chamber Singers (prepared by Geoffrey Boers, director), sang four performances of Handel’s Messiah in a collaboration with regional early music ensemble Pacific MusicWorks, under the direction of Stephen Stubbs, who was recently nominated for a Grammy.  Their innovative approach was lauded in a recent review of the performance by Phillipa Kiraly at CityArts Online.

UW Chorale sang four Holiday POPS concerts with Seattle Symphony, under the direction of nationally renowed POPS conductor Stuart Chafetz (prepared by Giselle Wyers, director).  The chorus had the opportunity to back up Broadway and TV star Capathia Jenkins, as well as collaborating with Tony deSare, composer, singer and pianist.

Stay tuned for more performance information after the new year, and enjoy these photos from the recent events.  Chamber Singers Messiah 1Messiah Pacific MusicWorksUniversity Chorale and Seattle Symphony POPS 2015Capathia and Giselle

UW Choirs: Spring shows coming up

Be sure to join UW choirs for their Spring quarter concerts!  UW-Sings

Wednesday, May 27, the University of Washington Chorale and Chamber Singers offer works from across the globe, 7:30 pm, Meany Theater.  Ticket info here.

Tuesday, June 2, UW Sings, featuring the Women’s Chorus, Men’s Glee and University Singers, present their popular end of the year concert.  7:30 pm, Meany Theater. Ticket info here. 

Friday, June 5, Geoffrey Boers conducts the combined choirs and orchestra in a multi-media program of Verdi, Bernstein and Prokofiev.  7:30 pm, Meany Theater.  Ticket info here.


Combined Choirs earn “Raves” for their Seattle Symphony POPS appearance

Rave Seattle POPS 2015The University of Washington Chorale and Chamber Singers just completed a three-performance run of Rodgers and Hammerstein POPS concerts  with Seattle Symphony under the direction of Steven Reineke, who also serves as Principal Conductor of the New York POPS.  The combined choirs were joined by outstanding soloists Jonathan Estabrooks, Ashley Brown, and Aaron Lazar.  Our performance earned us a “Rave” in the Seattle Times and ignited some promising future connections with the Seattle Symphony.