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Finding Our Voice Speaker Series

Discussions of Inclusion in the Vocal World

The Finding Our Voice speaker series is part of CdM Vocal Music’s attempt to better understand how to represent the diverse spectrum of students and musicians in our community and across the country. Inspired by CCDA’s and ACDA’s renewed commitments to Social Justice, we are excited to engage knowledgable speakers in thought provoking topics, with the goal of expanding the conversation about inclusion in the Vocal Music world.

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  • Shireen Khader Livestream

Shireen Khader - Arabic Choral Music

Tuesday, 3/2/2021 at 6:00PM

Shireen's main focus has been her involvement in rearranging traditional Arabic music and composing new works for choirs both in Jordan and Palestine. She conducts the Y.W.C.A Community chorus. She served as a guest speaker in the International Meeting on the Promotion of Local Music Heritage in the age of Globalization Conference in Amman 2000 talking about “Child Prodigies from around the World”. Shireen is active in many musical activities in Jordan and the West Bank. In 2002 Shireen founded her own music organization Dozan wa Awtar with the mission to become a worldwide leader for Arabic Choral Music. Dozan wa Awtar caters to promoting Arabic folkloric and modern Choral music around the world. This is done through performances, teaching, composition, arrangements, recording and publishing.

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  • Andrea Ramsey Livestream

Andrea Ramsey on Her Work as a Composer and Director

Tuesday, 3/30/2021 at 6:00PM

Dr. Andrea Ramsey enjoys an international presence as a composer, conductor, scholar, and music educator. Her teaching experiences range from work with adolescent and children's voices to high school and collegiate voices. She enjoys regular opportunities to conduct all-state and divisional level honor choirs, festival events at Carnegie Hall, and serves as a principal conductor for the Pacific International Young Women's Choral Festival in Eugene, Oregon. Before leaping into full time composing and guest conducting, Andrea held positions in music education and conducting at The Ohio State University and the University of Colorado, respectively.

An ASCAPlus award-winning composer, Andrea believes strongly in the creation of new works. Her compositions are available with traditional publishers and also through MusicSpoke, a digital sheetmusic marketplace. She enjoys residency collaborations with ensembles and festival choirs, some of which have included: the Allegro Choirs of Kansas City, Ithaca College, and the Crescent City Choral Festival in New Orleans.

As a scholar, she has presented for state, divisional, and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, the 6th Annual Symposium on Sociology in Music Education, as well as The Phenomenon Singing Symposium in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. She has co-authored articles published in the Choral Journal, as well as the Journal of Research in Music Education. A native of Arkansas, she has experienced in her own life the power of music to provide a sense of community, better understanding of our humanity, and rich opportunities for self-discovery.

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  • Joshua Pakki Livestream

Dr. Joshua Palkki - Transgender Singers in Choir

Tuesday, 1/12/2021 at 6:00PM

Joshua Palkki joined the faculty of the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach as Assistant Professor of Vocal/Choral Music Education in the Fall of 2016. He recently co-authored Honoring Trans and Gender Expansive Students in Music Education (with Dr. Matthew Garrett, published by Oxford University Press). At CSULB, he leads the University Choir (in non-Covid times), teaches courses in music education (including choral repertoire and pedagogy), interfaces with the College of Education, and mentors graduate students in music education. Dr. Palkki is passionate about teacher education and preparing preservice teachers to be competent and caring teachers with the knowledge and skills to address issues of social justice through music education. He currently serves as LGBTQ Perspectives Repertoire and Resources Chair for the California Choral Directors Association and Artist in Residence with South Bay Children’s Choir (Torrance, CA). Under his leadership, the CSULB University Choir performed at the CCDA State Conference in San José in March 2019. Palkki earned a PhD in Music Education (Choral Conducting cognate) from Michigan State University in 2016. His dissertation, advised by Dr. Cynthia Taggart, explored the experiences of transgender students in high school choral programs. In 2016, he received a university-wide Emerging Progress Toward Excellence in Diversity award as well as the MSU Council of Graduate Students Disciplinary Leadership Award for his work on LGBTQ inclusion in music education. He was also a recipient of the MSU Dissertation Completion Fellowship. During his tenure at MSU, he studied conducting with Dr. Sandra Snow, Dr. Jonathan Reed, and Dr. David Rayl. He completed Music Learning Theory (elementary general music) Level I in the summer of 2018.

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  • Eliza Rubenstein Livestream

Moira Smiley - Activism in Music

Tuesday, 12/15/2020 at 6:00PM

As a composer, Moira Smiley is known worldwide for choral arrangements like Bring Me Little Water, Silvy and originals, Stand in That River and How Can I Cry. She’s in demand as a commissioned composer, writing multi-movement pieces like Time In Our Voices and In The Desert With You for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Vonnegut Requiem: Light Perpetual for Voces Novae, Loud My Soul for Ad Astra Festival and Headwaters for The Myrna Loy Theater. The European premiere of Time In Our Voices was performed by the voices and mobile phones of Ars Nova Copenhagen under the direction of Paul Hillier. In 2018-2019 Moira released the album and choral songbook, Unzip The Horizon as companion to her The Voice Is A Traveler solo show. She continues composing and improvising in collaboration with artists in film, video game production, theater and dance, and her work can be heard on feature film soundtracks, BBC & PBS television programs, NPR, and on more than 70 commercial albums. Upcoming premieres and current projects include Greta Sails for youth choir, Utopias for voices and strings, and a re-telling of Ovid’s tale of Narcissus for mobile phones and voices.

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  • Eliza Rubenstein Livestream

Fahad Siadat - Our Assumptive Values Around Choral Music

Tuesday, 12/1/2020 at 6:00PM

Fahad Siadat creates interdisciplinary storytelling works, folding together words, sound, and movement into ritualistic narratives. His work is described by the press as “Exceptional” (LA Times), “hypnotic” (Backstage) and having “a sophisticated harmonic vocabulary” (San Diego Story) with “characteristic vivaciousness” (Theatre Scene). He is an advocate of innovative and adventurous music, particularly for vocal ensembles and approaches this advocacy as a performer, composer, conductor and entrepreneur. Fahad maintains a robust performing schedule, and has performed as soloist with such groups as LA’s groundbreaking opera company The Industry, and the Grammy Award-Winning PARTCH, and at events included SASSAS, the NEO Voice Festival, the Hear Now Festival, Tuesdays@MonkSpace, and the Masters in the Chapel Concert Series. 

He is the artistic director of LA’s premiere chamber vocal ensemble HEX and co-artistic director of The Resonance Collective, an interdisciplinary music/dance ensemble with collaborator André Megerdichian. In 2019 he co-founded the NEO Voice Festival, a week-long celebration of new music for the voice, for which he is the Director of Composition.

Fahad is regularly commissioned to compose for concert music ensembles, dance companies, and theater troupes including: Theater Dybbuk, Rosanna Gamson Dance, Monmouth University, Seton Hill College, Northeastern State University, The Esoterics, C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, The Contemporary Choral Collective of Los Angeles, Smitten Kitten Film Productions, the award winning Armada Films, Jacksonville Dance Theater, the California EAR Unit, New Century Players, and the TOCCATA Orchestra. His music has been performed in Europe, China, and across the United States.

He has conducted such ensembles as the Chaffey College Concert and Chamber Choirs, the CalArts Institute Choir and Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Columbia University Glee Club, C3LA, and C4: The Choral Composer Conductor Collective and has been assistant conductor of The Industry opera company. Fahad has a reputation as a dynamic and engaging presenter and has given keynote addresses, commencement speeches, and guest lectures at Whittier College, NSU, Tufts University, California State University Long Beach, Institute of the Arts – Barcelona, CalArts, CSU Fullerton, Concordia College, Ashland High School, and the Kaufman Center in New York. 

In addition to his creative work, Fahad is an active researcher and arts entrepreneur. He has written articles and presented on such topics as The Future of Choral Music (NewMusicBox), Collective Models for Choirs (Chorus America), and Exploring Timbre in Choral Ensembles (ACDA). In 2012, he founded See-A-Dot Music Publishing, Inc., a company devoted to the advocacy of new choral works and emerging composers. 

Fahad holds degrees from Vanderbilt University and the California Institute of the Arts, from which he received the degree Doctor of Musical Arts. 

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  • Eliza Rubenstein Livestream

Dr. Daniel Afonso - The Experience of the Latin American Choral Musician

Tuesday, 11/17/2020 at 6:00PM

Daniel R. Afonso Jr. has served as conductor of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus since its foundation in 2001 and has prepared several choral works with the ensemble. He is also Coordinator of Vocal and Choral Studies at California State University, Stanislaus. Afonso received a B.M.E. degree from the Universidade do Rio de Janeiro (UNI -Rio), a M.M. degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a D.M.A. degree in Choral Conducting and Pedagogy from the University of Iowa. Dr. Afonso is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and has studied conducting with Carlos Alberto Figueiredo, Cees Rotteveel, Eph Ehly, and William Hatcher.

Dr. Afonso has performed with choral groups in Brazil, U.S., and Europe, and has previously taught music at the Conservatório Brasileiro de Música, Universidade do Rio de Janeiro (UNI-Rio), and Doane College, Nebraska. In 1988, he won the first prize and the best performance of Villa-Lobos work award at the Concurso Villa-Lobos de Canto Coral, a national choral competition sponsored by the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro. Dr. Afonso is strongly committed to the performance of new music and has commissioned and premiered many new choral works in the last few years, including several of his own works as well as works by young composition students.  He had his New York debut in 2012, conducting Mozart’s Requiem with members of the MSO Chorus and students from CSU Stanislaus at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

He is also a composer, arranger, and editor of choral music and has choral works published by earthsongs, Colla Voce, and Alliance Music Publications. He served as composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Choral Artists during their 2014-2015 season and has also written works for the Los Angeles Children’s Choir, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and other ensembles in the US and abroad. He has written innumerous arrangements for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, including a new version of The Star-Spangled Banner for chorus and orchestra, recently premiered at the opening concert for the 2015-16 concert season. Dr. Afonso is widely recognized for his research and performance of Brazilian choral music and continues to frequently present workshops and lectures about the Latin American choral repertoire.


Dr. Christopher Peterson - Men's Ensembles and Barbershop Music in a More Diverse 21st Century

Tuesday, 11/3/2020 at 6:00PM

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  • Eliza Rubenstein Livestream

Christopher Peterson is Professor of Music at California State University, Fullerton where he directs the Concert Choir and the CSUF Singing Titans, and teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in choral music education. In May of 2019 he was honored as the annual recipient of the CSUF Carol Barnes Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2018 he received the CMEA Outstanding Music Educator Award for the Southeastern Section of California. In his thirty years as a music educator, Dr. Peterson has taught in elementary, middle school, high school, church, community, festival, and collegiate settings. He is also a published author, editor, composer, and choral arranger for Hal Leonard Music Publishers. His choral methods college textbook Resonance: The Art of the Choral Music Educator is currently in press and will be published by Pavane Publishing in Spring of 2021. Peterson has served as State Choral Representative and Southern Section President for the California Music Educators Association (CMEA), as well as the Western Division Representative for the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) Council for Choral Education. He has also served the California Choral Directors Association in various offices, and is the current CCDA President-Elect. He has been invited to teach, judge, and conduct choirs in more than thirty US states, five Canadian Provinces, and nine countries including China, England, Sweden, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, and Holland, and has conducted All-State Choirs across the nation including Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, and California. Dr. Peterson also holds the position of Director of Music at Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, CA. In his “spare time” Chris sings bass with the Masters of Harmony, nine-time International Men’s Chorus Champions of the Barbershop Harmony Society. Dr. Peterson earned the Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the University of Southern Maine, and the Master of Music in Choral Conducting performance from the University of Maine. He earned the Doctor of Philosophy in Choral Music Education and Conducting from Florida State University where he studied with Rodney Eichenberger, Andre Thomas, and Clifford Madsen.

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  • Eliza Rubenstein Livestream

Shawn Kirchner - Reconciling the American Folk Legacy

Tuesday, 10/20/2020 at 6:00PM

Shawn Kirchner is a composer/arranger/songwriter, singer, and pianist based in Los Angeles whose choral works are performed throughout the world. A member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale since 2001, Kirchner has enjoyed an enduring creative relationship with music director Grant Gershon, culminating in his tenure as the LAMC’s Swan Family Composer-in-Residence from 2012-2015. Kirchner has also collaborated with such leading ensembles as Conspirare, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Lorelei Ensemble, San Diego Master Chorale, Los Robles Master Chorale, Coro Allegro, Atlanta Master Chorale, and Tonality.

Kirchner’s creativity is driven by his passion for songwriting, folk/carol traditions, and poetry – but fused with the improvisatory virtuosity of Baroque and bluegrass instrumental traditions. Best-known for his setting of the Kenyan song Wana Baraka and for Heavenly Home: Three American Songs – praised by the LA Times as “arranged with mastery” – Kirchner has also composed deeply expressive cycles on the poetry of Neruda, Plath, Hopkins, Blake, and the Psalms (Songs of Ascent).  His original songwriting ranges in style from jazz and gospel to folk and bluegrass, the latter featured on his CD Meet Me on the Mountain.  Kirchner’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes, Oxford, Santa Barbara, and his own company at

As a singer with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Kirchner has sung with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in numerous performances with the world’s leading conductors, composers, and soloists.  Kirchner has sung on LAMC’s recordings of Adams, Reich, Glass, Lang, Gorecki, and Muhly, and has been featured as a soloist on works of Perotin, Pärt, Ramirez, and Meredith Monk.  He also sings countertenor in the touring ensemble for LAMC’s ground-breaking, fully-staged Lagrime di San Pietro, directed by Peter Sellars.  As a session singer, Kirchner has sung on dozens of feature film soundtracks including Avatar, La La Land, and Frozen.

Raised with his triplet brother and sister in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Kirchner’s musicianship was shaped through intensive piano study with Joan Smalley and George Katz. His principal creative mentor is the banjo-playing poet Steve Kinzie, with much inspiration from American choral matriarch Alice Parker. Kirchner earned a BA in Peace Studies (Manchester University) and an MA in Choral Conducting (University of Iowa) where his teachers included William Hatcher, Richard Bloesch, and Donald Jenni. Kirchner’s outside interests include organic gardening, languages, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Enneagram.

“Everything he touches turns to musical gold.” – Grant Gershon (Broadway World, 2/17/15)


Stacey Gibbs - The African American Spiritual and Its Impact on Current Happenings

Tuesday, 10/6/2020 at 6:00PM

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  • Eliza Rubenstein Livestream

Stacey V. Gibbs is a prolific and highly sought after composer and arranger. Best known for arrangements of spirituals, he is highly acclaimed for his ability to infuse new energy into familiar works without sacrificing their authenticity or power.

Maestro Gibbs' spirituals have been performed by the United States Air Force Sergeants, The St. Olaf Choir, the Stellenbosch Choir of Africa, the University of Southern California Chamber Singers, the Winston-Salem State University Singing Rams, Morehouse & the University of Michigan Glee Clubs, the Wartburg Choir, and many other college, university, high school, and professional ensembles both domestically and internationally. His music has been programmed at all state festivals, National Association of Music Educators (MENC) Festivals, the World Choir Games, and regional and national American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Conventions. Several of his works also appear on J.W. Pepper's Editor's Choice lists, including Didn't It Rain: The Spirituals of Stacey V. Gibbs, recorded by the Sunday Night Singers of California, and his setting of Way Over in Beulah Lan' which was performed at the 57th Inaugural Service for President Barack Obama.

Recently, two of his settings were debuted at the World Choral Symposium in Barcelona and he was also honored by five debuts at the American Choral Directors Association National Conference in Minneapolis. Maestro Gibbs' made his conducting debut at Carnegie Hall in April, 2017 and debuted his new works Freedom, I'm So Glad and I Wish That I Knew How It Feels to Be Free. He will present another new work From Agony to Glory: the Spiritual in 2018.

Mr. Gibbs serves as a clinician (nationally and internationally) for university, high school, professional, and church choral organizations. He attended Kentucky State University where he served as student conductor. The Stacey V. Gibbs Chorale debuted in July 2016. A management professional with 20 years experience, Mr. Gibbs holds membership in ACDA. He currently resides in Detroit, Michigan.

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  • Eliza Rubenstein Livestream

Eliza Rubenstein - Women in Music

Tuesday, 9/22/2020 at 6:00PM

Eliza Rubenstein is the Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Orange Coast College and the Artistic Director of the Orange County Women’s Chorus and the Long Beach Chorale and Chamber Orchestra. Born in Missouri to a musical family, Eliza first requested violin lessons at age 4 so that she could “play on street corners for money” when she grew up; though she adjusted her career plans, she continues to play and teach violin and viola as well as directing choirs. She studied English literature and choral conducting at Oberlin College in Ohio before earning her Master’s Degree in choral conducting at UC-Irvine.

Ensembles under Eliza’s direction have performed at Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall’s REDCAT Theater, the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and the 2004 and 2012 Western Division conferences of the American Choral Directors’ Association, and the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales, where the OCWC was a 2015 prizewinner. She conducted the Carnegie Hall premiere of Kirke Mechem’s cantata Songs of the Slave in 2017, and she serves the California Choral Directors’ Association as editor-in-chief of Cantate magazine. The Orange County Register has praised her “expert direction,” and the Long Beach Gazette has said that “musically and technically, she has it all.”

For eight years, Eliza was the assistant supervisor of the Irvine Animal Care Center; she is the co-author of a 1995 book about dog adoption, and she’s remembered for her ACDA conference presentation called “Sit, Stay, Sing: What Choral Conductors Can Learn from Dog Trainers.” Eliza lives in Costa Mesa, California, where her family includes her partner, Julie Fischer; a yellow Labrador and retired service dog named Dayton; and a grey cat named Wilbur. Besides music and animals, her passions include photography, progressive politics, and anything to do with the St. Louis Cardinals.

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