Joan conductingWorking under the guidance and insight of the composer is an incomparable experience for the choral singer. The qualities that distinguish Joan Szymko as a composer — an embodied approach to sound, a passion for mining the expressive qualities of the singing voice, a dedication to storytelling and an insistence on quality texts — are all rooted in her more than thirty years experience as a choral conductor. Choirs in the US and abroad have hosted festivals centered around Szymko’s extensive repertoire for women’s choir.  As a guest conductor/clinician, Joan will bring her infectious energy and enthusiasm sharing her creative process with your choral program and to refining a performance of her music.  For more information about bringing Joan to work with your choral program, contact Joan directly

Joan Collaborating via Skype

The Composer as Collaborator

Joan Szymko is available to work with conductor and performers as they prepare a commissioned work for its premiere.

Bella Voce, the women’s choir at Oregon State University, and I had the distinct privilege and honor of working with Joan Szymko earlier in 2013. Joan wrote a spectacular new commission for us entitled, “Viva, Sweet Love!” In addition, Joan spent time as a clinician and conductor, helping create nuanced musical interpretations of her work. We enthusiastically shared the world premiere of her new piece at Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center on May 12, 2013.” — Dr. Tina Bull

The Composer as Conductor

A dynamic and accomplished choral director, Joan Szymko will dig deep into her compositions with your ensemble as choral clinician, guest lecturer, or as a guest conductor, offering special insight into her music.

Joan is unwavering when it comes to artistry, pulling more out of a choir then they thought they were capable of. She is a true vocal technician guiding choirs to create a healthy, vibrant, vocal tone when singing.” — Margaret Green, Conductor of the Lewis & Clark Women’s Chorus; Music Director, Vancouver School of Arts

Themed Concert Presentations

"As a composer and conductor,
 my intention is to engage singers and audience members
 with choral experiences that surprise, delight, 
challenge and transform."
 — Joan Szymko

Programming is key to engaging singers and audience. It is also a key motivating component to Joan Szymko's work as a composer/conductor. The short programs below are recommended for Guest Artist Residencies.

For Mixed Chorus

A loving exploration of the singer's relationship to that which compels him/her to sing.

  • A Burst of Song
  • Todo o Meu Ser (All of My Being)
  • Remembering
  • Be it Therefore Resolved

A call to awaken the compassionate heart.

  • All Works of Love (the 2010 ACDA Raymond Brock Memorial Commission)
  • It Takes a Village
  • I Dream a World
  • Ffe Mwe Mwe Ffe

Sufi poets and Christian saints on the path to mystical union with the Divine.

  • Illumina le tenebrae
  • Where is the Door to the Tavern?
  • The Freshness
  • Ubi Caritas

For Women's Chorus

Divine reassurance and the power of grace.

  • Vivos Voco
  • Nada te turbe
  • Despertar al Amor
  • Benedizione

Explorations of the Sacred Feminine.

  • Ave Maria
  • Woman Am I
  • I Am (“The Womanly Song of God”)
  • She Who Makes Her Meaning Clear
  • Call

Gratitude for the physical world.

  • Eli, Eli
  • Eagle Rounding out the Morning
  • The Peace of Wild Things
  • For the Beauty of the Earth

20th century American poets set with rhythmic and lyrical vitality.

  • Variations on a theme by Rilke
  • Always Coming Home
  • Here
  • maggie and milly and molly and may
  • viva sweet love

And the song is joy, is life, and the song am I (The Singing Place).

  • A Burst of Song
  • Todo o Meu Ser
  • The Singing Place
  • You Are the Music

Joan with Bobby McFerrin at the Omega Circlesongs Workshop in 2012

Circle Sessions: Building Ensemble

To the choral singer, performing "off book" means singing the exact words, notes and rhythms that have been inscribed in a score by the composer—from memory, while recreating a conductor's carefully prepared interpretation as learned over several rehearsals. What if "off book" meant "no book," no score—simply creating songs in the moment? What might be possible if the "free and healthy" singing tone encouraged by voice teachers and choral directors were applied in a truly free and playful musical environment, where the only expectation is to be fully present in a collaborative improvisation? 

Circle Singing, like traditional choral singing, cultivates listening skills required for ensemble singing—blend, balance, tuning, and sensitivity. Joan Szymko is experienced in both leading Circle Songs and in facilitating Drum Circles. Contact her to learn more about how these two different kinds of Circle Sessions can enhance your choral music program.

"Our experience with you was absolutely worth the trip across the continent. It was inspiring to dig deeply into your work in every way, from the meaningful and important sentiments and poetry you shared to the creative work in refining our craft together, I was so dazzled by your teaching, your listening and your openness- I'll never forget the experience. —Andrew Clark, DMA; Director of Choral Activities, Harvard University


"Joan Szymko is one of the most dynamic and inspiring conductors I have ever worked with. Any choir would benefit from her musical insights, energy, and presence."
— Dr. Ethan Sperry, Director of Choral Activities at Portland State University


"Joan Szymko was the consummate professional in all aspects of her work with us. The commission was completed exactly on time, using the musical and time parameters I had requested. As a guest clinician and conductor, she provided expert guidance and afforded my women the opportunity to witness a truly remarkable composer, conductor, and choral musician in action. I hope we can collaborate again and again. It was a remarkable experience for all of us."
— Dr. Tina Bull, Coordinator of Music Education, Director, Bella Voce Women's Chorus, Oregon State University (Corvallis)


"Working with Joan Szymko in the workshop setting is a real treat. Joan has a vitality and energy when she works with a choir, especially on her own compositions. Joan is unwavering when it comes to artistry, pulling more out of a choir then they thought they were capable of. She is a true vocal technician guiding choirs to create a healthy, vibrant, vocal tone when singing. Joan's passion and artistry is infectious and makes a performer feel like they are working together with her to create a tremendous musical event."
Margaret Green, Conductor of the Lewis & Clark College Women's Chorus; Music Director, Vancouver School of Arts


"I was thrilled with our 2011 commissioned piece, "O Lux Beatissima". We had the opportunity to bring Joan to our campus last year and it was a wonderful experience to be inspired by her conducting as well as her compositions."
— Debra Spurgeon, DMA, Associate Professor of Choral Music, University of Mississippi