Working 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 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.
The Composer as Collaborator
Joan Szymko is available to work with conductor and performers as they prepare a commissioned work for its premiere.
Joan wrote a spectacular new commissionfor 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, Director, Bella Voce, Oregon State University
Collaborating via Skype with choristers at Frankilin HS, Franklin, WI
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, Music Director, Vancouver School of Arts
Themed Concert Presentations
Programming is key to engaging singers and audience. It is also a key motivating component to Joan Szymko's work as a composer/conductor. Click the "Programming" menu tab above to explore programs for Guest Artist Residencies.
"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
Final Bow—Szymko Women's Choral Festival, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Univerisity of Illinois, Fall 2016
Promotional Flyer:Szymko Choral Festival in Limburg, Netherlands, June 2016
"As a composer and conductor, my intention is to engage singers and audience members with choral experiences that delight, challenge and transform." — Joan Szymko
Programming is key to engaging singers and audience. "Story" and strong themes are key motivating components to Joan Szymko's work as a composer/conductor. The themed program lists below are recommended for Guest Artist Residencies.
For Mixed Chorus
THE SINGER AND THE SONG
A loving exploration of the singer's relationship to that which compels him/her to sing.
I DREAM A WORLD
A call to ignite the compassionate heart.
WHERE IS THE DOOR TO GOD?
Sufi poets and Christian saints on the path to mystical union with the Divine.
Rehearsing the mass choir on "Ffe Mwe, Mwe Ffe" at University of Kansas City Music Conservatory's Celebration of Peace Festival, Feb, 2016, Kansas City
For Women's Chorus
DARE TO BE POWERFUL
The moderate to advanced choral works in the Dare to Be Powerful series are passionate expressions of women’s worth, power and potential. (see menu tab above for details)
ALL SHALL BE WELL
Divine reassurance and the power of grace.
FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH
Gratitude for the physical world.
POETRY IN MOTION
20th century American poets set with rhythmic and lyrical vitality.
THE SINGER AND THE SONG
And the song is joy, is life, and the song am I (The Singing Place).
With singers from Jeugdkoor Giocoso, Vocaal Ensemble Genti (Rita Scheffers, dir. and Vocaal Ensemble Kerkrade, Louise Deal, dir., Weert, Netherlands, June 12, 2016
The Dare to Be Powerful choral series encourages women to stretch, to grow, to lead the way in speaking truth to power.* Girls and women deserve all the opportunities and respect afforded to boys and men, and yet the face of gender bias and misogyny persists in all areas of life: in the workplace, in arts, culture, politics, education, and most virulently—in social media. Dare to Be Powerful series pushes back with compelling, passionate settings of inspiring words of women poets, social justice advocates and brazen feminists. Programming Dare to Be Powerful titles will cultivate dialogue and foster understanding of the challenges facing women today. The women’s choir rehearsal room, so often a nurturing oasis for many, can also become hotbed of resistance and a wellspring of hope for women of all ages.
* “Speaking truth to power,” is a phrase coined by the Quaker community meaning: to stand up to all forms of totalitarianism and hatred.
As a Woman // A Bell Awakened // Blessed Be // The Beauty of Your Dreams // Call // Finding Her Here // I Am // Like a Mountain // Malala // She Who Makes Her Meaning Clear // River // Water Women
WORKSHOPS with JOAN SZYMKO
Working under the guidance and insight of the composer is an incomparable experience for the choral singer. As a guest clinician, Joan will bring her personal daring, infectious energy and enthusiasm to refining the performance of her music while sharing the creative process behind the music.
Full Residency (2-4 days) Joan will:
- direct rehearsals of repertoire selected from the DTBP series
- facilitate discussion on the risks and rewards of daring to be powerful
- lead a drumming circle
- guest conduct at your concert performance
Clinic (1 day) Joan will:
- rehearse DTBP repertoire with your chorus as you prepare for a performance and guest conduct her compositions
Dare To Be Powerful Festival (2 days)
Host a women’s DTBP festival! Contact Joan for ideas, details.
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