“Choral music is not one of life’s frills. It’s something that goes to the very heart of our humanity, our sense of community, and our souls. You express, when you sing, your soul in song. And when you get together with a group of other singers, it becomes more than the sum of the parts. All of those people are pouring out their hearts and souls in perfect harmony, which is kind of an emblem for what we need in this world, when so much of the world is at odds with itself…that just to express, in symbolic terms, what it’s like when human beings are in harmony. That’s a lesson for our times and for all time. I profoundly believe that.”
Chris is our new accompanist, working with Music Makers, Choristers, and Men’s Choir. As the first installment of our “Why I Sing” series, we wanted to ask Chris some questions related to his experiences with choral singing, TYC, and music in general.
TYC: What are some of your earliest memories of singing in choirs/listening to choral music as a young student in Oxford, England?
CH: My first experiences of choral music were at school singing an English version of selections from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (I remember that I had some short solo as part of a recitative). The first choral listening that completely changed my life was listening to a Naxos highlights CD of Bach’s Matthew Passion. I immediately wanted to purchase the full 3-CD set and also attended a local choral society performance (that while it was probably not of the highest standard, but good enough that the musical fabric became seared into my very being!).
TYC: What has drawn you to singing? What do you enjoy about it?
CH: My earliest singing memory is of my mum singing nursery rhymes to me. Also, my brother and I used to record songs onto a cassette deck as part of our “radio” shows. I think these experiences combined with playing organ in church, finding an inspirational singing teacher at sixteen, and subsequently attending the Eton Choral Course directed by Ralph Allwood gave me a platform to want to pursue singing and choral directing as a major part of my musical career. Honestly, it just feels good to have access to an instrument that one can carry around (unlike a large pipe organ or grand piano)!
TYC: Through your eyes (and ears), what makes TYC different than other choirs you have sung with or worked with?
CH: TYC feels about as close to the English tradition of choir schools as I have found in the Pacific Northwest. On the East coast, I look to somewhere like St Thomas’, 5th Avenue, New York City but for secular choral opportunities, TYC stands with the very best. I appreciate the care given to detail at the same time as making rehearsal time enjoyable. I think the professionalism from the top downwards (including high expectations of the individual members of the choirs) is key.
TYC: Anything else you want to share about your experiences with choral music?CH: Choral music can be both frustrating (when you are sick with little or no voice!) but it can also give some of the greatest pleasure. There’s something really special about using your body to make sound as part of a large group of diverse people. The term “universal language” is used a lot when discussing music but I see more and more that it has a power to bring people together and break down the walls we seem to want to construct around ourselves…
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Chris! We look forward to continuing to work with you throughout the year!
Judy Herrington and her staff have given the Tacoma community and the Pacific Northwest a model for choral music education. Their programming is always creative, their presentations are at a high, near-professional level, and they are rewarding educationally for both performer and audience member…The young people who sing with TYC are receiving a comprehensive education that will remain in their hearts and souls for the rest of their lives. TYC brings joy to the world through their music!
Over the years, Dr. Schultz has led workshops for TYC and shared many collaborative performances with us. His artistic leadership has helped us become who we are as an organization.
Dr. Schultz’s final performance as Artistic Director of NWRS is Saturday June 9. He notes,
Our June 9 concert ‘Celebrate! Treasured Memories and New Visions’ will feature a performance of two works with orchestra and will welcome back NWRS alumni for an evening of fun, reflection and enjoyment. Members of Symphony Tacoma join us for performances of John Corigliano’s Fern Hill and Morten Lauridsen’s Lux aeterna. We are expecting a large group of NWRS alumni back to close the concert with some of my ‘signature pieces’ from over the years. It will likely be a finale loaded with emotion.
A new partnership was launched in 2017 between the Kennedy Center, National Institutes of Health, and world-renowned soprano Renee Fleming. It aims to explore the links between music, health and wellness. Check out this amazing video detailing a study in which Fleming herself was studied during music-making!
Says Fleming, “A tremendous wealth of knowledge exists between the nation’s largest performing arts center and our largest health research institute. I hoped we could share and amplify the exciting work being done where science and music intersect, by bringing these two great institutions together for this initiative. There are ramifications here for a host of health topics: childhood development, autism, pain management, Alzheimer’s, PTSD—the list goes on and on, because music’s impact on the brain can be so powerful.”
Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at TYC!
In honor of the holiday, we’re celebrating the many reasons TYC singers, alums, parents and local teachers love our organization! Read on…
Parents love TYC because….
The successes my kids have today, I believe are a direct result of their TYC experiences…respect, discipline, confidence, professionalism and travel. – Christina Martin
We are so glad our son is a part of your incredible organization and most importantly that he is genuinely loving it. It is wonderful to see the joy the singing brings the kids not to mention us lucky listeners! Thank you! – Jessica & Brent Hill
Singers and Alumni love TYC because….
I like TYC because TYC is not only supporting music but it is supporting art and beauty. (Age 8)
I like TYC because we all have beautiful voices and we all work together. (Age 11)
I love TYC because it helps me with singing, while helping me learn to collaborate with other wonderful people. (Age 12)
Learning music with friends is a blessing. (Age 13)
I love TYC because I love being in an environment where people love music as much as I do. I have learned so much through my experience here! You help our singers make music. (Age 16)
Attending rehearsals every week lifted my spirits, strengthened my musicianship, and made me feel valued. Being in TYC taught me the value of commitment, responsibility, accountability, artistry, work ethic, confidence, and most importantly, success. Now that I am “all grown up,” I can say that feeling successful as a young singer in TYC was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. It inspired me to learn how to give that feeling to others. – Kasey Eck, TYC Alum & Steilacoom High School Choral Director
Thank you, for doing the exceptional. Not in just the music, but in the lives of your members. – Emma Pitts, TYC Alum
Teachers love TYC because…
The singing was so polished and effortless from every age group! So much exceptional teaching going on!! – Dr. David P. Robbins, Professor Emeritus of Music, Pacific Lutheran University
Mrs. Herrington and Tacoma Youth Chorus staff have created a rich choral environment that has inspired hundreds of young singers, including my daughter, to cultivate and grow their passion and love of singing. It has been a privilege and honor to be a part of the TYC family. – Katherine Elshire, Pioneer Middle School
Want to learn more about our amazing community? Read more here.
If you already love TYC, do you know someone who’d love TYC too? Have them contact us and/or bring them to visit a rehearsal!
Our singers go on to pursue a variety of career paths and pursuits – but their TYC foundation stays with them forever. This week on our blog, learn about Nikki Anderson-Joy, one of our alums who has since become a costume designer in the San Francisco Bay Area!
We are honored to have violinists Svend Rønning and Gwendolyn Taylor joining us as guest soloists, for our Gift of Song performances on December 16. This week on the blog we sat down with Dr. Rønning to talk about everything from Rick Steves to Rachmaninoff. Read on!
TYC: How did you first get started playing the violin? What drew you to the instrument?
My mother tells me that she noticed that I loved to sing from a very early age. So, when I was five years old, she enrolled me at the Suzuki Institute in Seattle. I loved playing the Suzuki songs, but I also loved to sing and sang in a group like the Tacoma Youth Chorus (the Northwest Boychoir) as well. I also took piano lessons from my mother, and later from a local high school student named Rick Steves (yes, he grew up to be THE Rick Steves!).
I loved all of these things (and continue to), but by the time I was finishing grade school I knew I had to make a choice. I gave violin my all, though I continued to practice violin, learn a bit of guitar, and occasionally sing in choirs. When I was in third grade, I was in two youth orchestras and a youth choir, meaning that I had rehearsal every night of the week—my poor mom!
TYC: As a prominent local artist, you stay quite busy! Tell us what other groups you perform with and about your teaching career.
I am blessed to have an amazingly diverse career. By day I teach so many wonderful students at Pacific Lutheran University and I teach some private students as well. They go on to do absolutely everything! Some play in Symphony Tacoma, others in orchestras like the Virginia Symphony or the Boston Camerata. Some are music teachers and professors. One of my most talented former ear-training students is now TYC conductor Dr. Leann Conley-Holcom! I even have a former student that is a movie director and another one that records for Hans Zimmer in Hollywood!
By night, I play in Symphony Tacoma, but I also run the Second City Chamber Series that performs chamber music concerts around Pierce County year-round. And I have a string quartet. And I love to give recitals and play concertos.
TYC: What is your favorite thing about being a professional musician?
I’m never bored! There’s always a new and interesting project and these projects immerse you in the world of the great giants like Beethoven, Mozart, and Schoenberg, but sometimes these projects introduce you to music and cultures that you didn’t even know that you liked. As I tell my students—I haven’t been bored since I was in Kindergarten!
TYC: What kind of music do you listen to in your free time? Do you have a favorite composer or performer?
I don’t know how to have a favorite. There is so much great music out there and how do you compare Rachmaninoff to Ray Charles anyway? In any case, my favorite music is always the piece I’m performing at the moment. It has to be that way, right?
And I must say, I don’t really have free time, but I will say this—I learn about music by performing it and teaching it. One of the “sidelines” I love in my job at PLU is teaching lecture courses. Over the years, I’ve developed a course for our International Honors program, and I’ve learned all sorts of amazing new music doing that. I’ve done the same for our Nordic Studies program and learned all sorts of great Scandinavian music (from Grieg to Heavy Metal) that I would not have known about without teaching that course. Now I’m working on a similar course in film music for our new Film Studies program.
TYC: Would you share your favorite memory from a performance?
When I was eight years old, I performed for H.M. King Olav V or Norway and even composed a little piece for him that my mom sent off to the palace. We got a nice thank-you note from His Majesty. I had the great pleasure of performing for his son, H.M. Harald V just a couple of years ago when he was here in Tacoma, this time with my wonderful music colleagues in this great city! Talk about coming full circle!
TYC: Any recommendations for young artists hoping to pursue a career in music?
Whatever your chosen instrument, learn it thoroughly and well, and as young as possible. So many of the opportunities in music come when you are very young—make the most of those years you’ve got to practice and improve!
Violinist Svend Rønning is Chair of the String Division at Pacific Lutheran University where he is Professor of Music. He is also one of the most active performers in the Puget Sound, serving as Concertmaster of Symphony Tacoma as well as performing frequent soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and recording artist. He is also Artistic Director of the Second City Chamber Series, Tacoma’s award winning producer of chamber music concerts and chamber music educational programs. Rønning has appeared in venues around the world, including the Aspen, Eastern, Harkness, Jerusalem, Methow, Pacific, Rhode Island, Spoleto and Wintergreen Music Festivals and has served as Concertmaster of various orchestras including the Charlottesville Symphony, the San Jose Symphony, the Spoleto U.S.A. Chamber Orchestra, and the Tacoma Opera Orchestra. As soloist, he has appeared with numerous orchestras, including the Charlottesville Symphony, the Olympia Symphony, the Prague Radio Symphony, Orchestra Seattle, and the Tacoma Symphony. Solo engagements include concerts in Ithaca, New York, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, Norway, Hungary, and Australia. Dr. Rønning is a native of the Pacific Northwest and holds an undergraduate degree in violin performance from Pacific Lutheran University. He subsequently earned a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale University. His teachers include Syoko Aki, Sidney Harth, Jaap Schröder, and Ann Tremaine.
Our alums go on to pursue a variety of career paths and pursuits – but their TYC foundation stays with them forever. This week on our blog, get to know Katie Tinsley (Leonhardt), a 2005 alumna!
TYC: We know that one of the ways you continue to support the arts is by chaperoning our TYC international tours. What has that experience been like? Do you still sing these days?
Katie Tinsley is an ER/Trauma Nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, WA. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Gonzaga University in 2010 and attended Bellarmine Preparatory School. She loves all types of music, but musicals are her favorite.
This week on the blog, we’re sitting down with Maestra Sarah Ioannides, Music Director of Symphony Tacoma (who also happens to be a TYC parent!). Ms. Ioannides will conduct our TYC singers grades 4-12 when they have the honor of being guests of Symphony Tacoma at the Sounds of the Season concert in December!
We hope you enjoy getting to know Ms. Ioannides better!
Tacoma Youth Chorus: How did you first get connected with the Tacoma arts scene and with TYC?
Sarah Ioannides: My first connection with the Tacoma arts scene came from my position as Music Director of Symphony Tacoma. Part of my work involves being a leadership figure in the arts community and, as such, it is important for me to explore the community offerings. I was fortunate to be introduced to Judy Herrington early on in my time here and invited by her to attend a rehearsal. At that first hearing of TYC, I was immediately touched by the quality of music-making and the loving community of musicians, and I knew that it would be a dream to have my children participate in it and that they would love it, too!
TYC: As a parent, why do you choose to have your kids in TYC?
SI: Tacoma Youth Chorus is such a wonderful place to have my children be exposed to music. My girls love to sing, and I know when they come to TYC, they get excellent training, enjoy themselves and develop their skills in a healthy environment. Being surrounded by other children who also love to sing and are led by expert teachers who have great values and understand the minds of young people and how to help them grow in all ways is magical. I particularly like that the children sing, are exposed to many different languages, and have the opportunity to perform regularly and by memory. They sing with pride and joy, and there is nothing much more touching than children who sing like this.
TYC: As Music Director of Symphony Tacoma, you have a lot of varied responsibilities. Can you tell us about what you do as Music Director, beyond what we see in concert?
SI: Yes, my role is quite varied. In addition to providing a vibrant caliber of performance, my primary responsibility is also the artistic vision and programming content of the orchestra, also the orchestra’s personnel, the organization’s artistic development, and cultivation of many different parts of our organization, including its education programs, the board, patrons, and our Symphony Tacoma Voices led by Dr. Geoffrey Boers. I also nurture connections to our sponsors, grant givers and donors to help our non-profit remain healthy and growing. It is also part of my role to be involved in the artistic life of the city, attend important functions, speak and appear publicly when invited, and help improving the many positives for the orchestra and its mission, Building Community with Music.
TYC: Please share with us one of your favorite things about your job.
SI: Naturally, conducting the performances is the greatest highlight when all the months, sometimes years of planning for that program, comes to a brilliant and vibrant resounding event. But, actually, one of the most satisfying parts is the opportunity to develop significant artistic partnerships that enable a very personal and meaningful connection to our community, including the schools we work with, and such as the partners we have so far had such as Hilltop Glass Artists, the Tacoma Glass Museum, Mount Rainier National Parks and Lincoln High School in our recent May performance “Mountain and Sea” which resulted in a new work and film specially created about protecting the environment, which was a world premiere. Feeling the connection that people had to this work (Daniel’s Ott’s Fire Mountain) was something very inspiring and makes value the joint efforts a community can pull together to speak on before of its people.
TYC: How did you start out in music and what led you to pursue a career in it?
SI: I played three primary instruments – piano, violin and French horn – starting from an early age. I also sang in choirs regularly, took voice lessons, and dabbled in a few other instruments briefly like guitar, saxophone, viola. But it has always been the impact of music itself on me that drew me to spend as much of my time as possible doing it, and therefore choosing it as a career. I used to listen to as much music as the library would let me check out and just absorb it. I often think about whether I’d really like to do something else, and I find myself always coming back to the fact that there is nothing much more satisfying to me than the artistic expression that music is able to give. It is a unique relationship that everyone has with music because of their experiences and for me this connection seems to run deeply inside me. Having the opportunity to share this is a gift that I treasure, being able to as much as I can.
TYC: What kind of music do you enjoy listening to in your free time?
SI: I love all kinds of music, even those great pop songs that I grew up with! Closest to my heart, though, is the music of Bach, Brahms, Schubert, and then another period I am passionate about is late 19th century and early 20th century music. I like exploring music I’ve never heard before or works that I have wanted to get to know better – the repertoire is so vast that I am not sure I’ll ever know all the music that I want to know. I am often exploring new repertoire for program planning. Then, sometimes for a complete break, I just turn on one of my favorite operas, or find a jazz station, or find some Broadway which is just great fun to listen to. But in reality, there isn’t too much free time, as mostly I have the music processing that I am conducting, and I like to give that space to develop.
TYC: What suggestions do you have for young musicians who are interested in conducting and/or careers in the music field?
SI: Be prepared to be fully occupied with it and to work extremely hard. I don’t know any musicians who haven’t worked extremely hard because it is so competitive. So, persistence is also key, and that can be everything from the determination to learn a score in great depth to finding out everything you possibly don’t know about how to conduct, play or sing; try to equip yourself with the right skills so you can succeed. A good teacher for everyone is imperative, and I recommend also more than one teacher sometimes for perspective. For conductors, play in an orchestra or band/choir, learn several instruments, several parts, study as much repertoire as you can, score read, listen and enjoy the wealth of recordings (but make sure none of that substitutes your own learning of the score). Read books on what conductors need to know and how careers are developed. Always go to work prepared, and get to know your colleagues in the field. I’d say one of the things that has really helped me be successful is being a meticulous planner and organizer. Without that I would probably be in the wrong city, wrong time, with the wrong set of notes in my head! Only try this as a career if you know it is your calling. It must be in you from your bones and heart.
Music Director of Symphony Tacoma since 2014, and formerly Spartanburg Philharmonic and El Paso Symphony from 2005, Sarah Ioannides is listed as one of the top 20 female conductors worldwide by Lebrecht’s “Woman Conductors: The Power List.” As guest conductor, she has appeared with the Tonkünstler, Royal Philharmonic, Orchestre Nationale de Lyon, Cincinnati Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Flemish Radio, National Symphony of Colombia, Daejeon Philharmonic, Wuettembergisches Kammerorchester, and Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra.
A zealous supporter of new projects, Ioannides has conducted over 40 world premieres and produced new videos for live orchestral multimedia performances. Her current orchestras received ArtWorks grants for community projects, most recently commissioning music and film spotlighting environmental issues. Passionate about education, Ioannides continues to coach orchestra at high-level conservatories such as Yale University and the Curtis Institute. Former collaborator with composer/conductor Tan Dun, she appears as adjudicator, public speaker, and educator; she serves on advisory boards, and has served as panelist for the National Endowment of the Arts for the US Government.