The Houston Symphony Chorus is the official choral unit of the Houston Symphony and consists of highly skilled and talented volunteer singers. Over the years, members of this historic ensemble have learned and performed the world’s great choral-orchestral masterworks under the batons of Juraj Valčuha, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Hans Graf, Christoph Eschenbach, Robert Shaw, and Helmut Rilling, among many others.
In addition, the Chorus enjoys participating in the Houston Symphony’s popular programming under the batons of conductors such as Steven Reineke and Michael Krajewski. Recently, the ensemble sang the closing subscription concerts with the Prague Symphony Orchestra in the Czech Republic.
Houston Symphony Chorus 2023–24 season:
- Opening Weekend: Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe: September 29, 30 & October 1, 2023
- Handel’s Messiah: December 15, 16 & 17, 2023
- Very Merry POPS: December 20, 21, 22 & 23, 2023
- Takemitsu + Brahms’s Requiem: January 19, 20 & 21, 2024
- Carmina burana: April 19, 20 & 21, 2024
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ In Concert: May 10 & 11, 2024
- Adams’s El Niño: May 25 & 26, 2024
Singers are selected for specific programs for which they have indicated interest. A singer might choose to perform in all 45 concerts, as was the case in a recent season, or might elect to participate in a single series. The Houston Symphony Chorus holds auditions by appointment and welcomes inquiries from interested singers.
For questions about the Houston Symphony Chorus, please send an email to Janwin Overstreet-Goode or Catherine Goode.
Special thanks to Trinity Downtown Lutheran Church for providing the Houston Symphony Chorus with rehearsal space.
The Houston Symphony Chorus is one of Houston’s oldest and most distinguished musical organizations. Founded in 1946 as the Houston Chorale, it became the Houston Symphony Chorale in 1968, and the Houston Symphony Chorus in 1986.
- The Chorus has enjoyed the leadership of eight directors: Alfred Urbach (1946–1986), A. Clyde Roller (1967–1968), Wayne Bedford (1968–1969), Don Strong (1969–1977), Virginia Babikian (1977–1986), Charles Hausmann (1986–2014), Dr. Betsy Cook Weber (2014–2022), and Allen Hightower (2022–present). Because of Dr. Hausmann’s extraordinarily long service, he was named Director Emeritus upon his retirement.
Over the years, the Chorus has sung with dozens of the world’s most notable conductors, including Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Steven Reineke, Michael Krajewski, Robert Shaw, André Previn, Leopold Stokowski, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir John Barbirolli, Ferenc Fricsay, Lawrence Foster, and Hans Graf, to name only a very few.
In addition to performances in Jones Hall, the Symphony’s home venue, the Chorus has also delighted audiences in various concert halls throughout the United States, Europe, and Mexico.
Recent reactions to its performances include:
“…beautifully balanced, modulated sound that seamlessly blended with the orchestra.”
—Review of A German Requiem, Houston Chronicle, May 8, 2018
“… the chorus was magnificent.”
—Review of Stabat Mater, Houston Chronicle, September 27, 2018
The Chorus consists entirely of volunteer singers who have considerable musical skill, vocal talent, and choral experience. They audition for placement each year. The Chorus performance schedule is possibly the busiest in the country, consisting of up to fourteen different sets of repertoire for a total of 45 concerts. Knowing that good singers are usually very busy people and that most could not possibly participate in a full season, the Chorus uses a unique method of placement. At the time of their audition, singers indicate in which series they are interested in singing. Some will be interested in singing only one series with us, while others will hope to sing all fourteen. They are subsequently placed based on their audition scores and stated preferences.
If it is appealing to imagine yourself singing wonderful repertoire as part of a dedicated, skilled, talented choir, with one of the world’s great orchestras, and under the batons of some of the world’s most exciting conductors, please view the Audition Information listed on this page.
May 2023 auditions for the Houston Symphony Chorus will take place in-person (or remotely, on Zoom, if needed) and will consist of three portions:
2. Messiah Chorus (optional; if you choose not to sing a Messiah chorus, you will be asked to sing a brief folksong or hymn—“My Country Tis of Thee,” for example.)
You also will be asked to fill out a Google form indicating series interest and availability.
When Does This Placement Take Place?
The auditions will be held May 5–9 at Trinity Downtown, 800 Houston Ave., 77007; for those who are unable to attend in person, you may sign up for a Zoom audition within the last half-hour of each day. Please indicate your need for a Zoom audition in the “My Comment” field.
May 5: 6–9pm
May 6: 10am–1pm; 2–5pm
May 7: 2–5pm
May 8: 1–5pm; 6–9pm
May 9: 10am–1pm; 2–5pm
Sign up for an audition time; the audition times are in 30-minute blocks; you will vocalize and sing for Dr. Hightower, and then you will sight-read in a different room for Janwin Overstreet-Goode.
You should receive an email reminder regarding your audition time, but, just in case, record the date and time so you don’t miss your audition.
Messiah Chorus (Optional)
This portion of the audition is required if you want to be considered for Messiah. It is optional otherwise. For example, you may feel that your sight-singing is not great, in which case singing the Messiah chorus would demonstrate that you have a strong ear and work ethic. You may use the score and the accompaniment links below to practice; these accompaniment links will be used in the audition.
If you opt not to sing a Messiah chorus, then you will be asked to sing a brief hymn/folksong (My Country Tis of Thee, as an example.)
Option 1: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder
PDF: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder
Option 2: His Yoke Is Easy
Option 3: All We Like Sheep
Option 4: Hallelujah! (Chorus)
Sight-reading: Our sight-reading exercises are taken from the online platform Sightreading Factory, Level 6 (major key). They are 12-16 measures long. You will be given the starting pitch and 30 seconds of practice time (very few singers get through the entire exercise during this practice time, so don’t worry if this happens to you). Then you will work your way through the exercise. To repeat, we are not looking for perfection; we are looking for a reasonable skill set.
By your audition date, you will receive a link to a Google form, in which you will indicate your interest and availability in the series with chorus for the 2023–2024 season. The deadline for completing this form will be May 10.
If you have any questions/difficulties with the audition process, please email Janwin Overstreet-Goode and Catherine Goode at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allen Hightower, Director
Dr. Allen Hightower, a seventh-generation Texan, is director of the Houston Symphony Chorus beginning in the 2022–23 Season. He is the director of choral studies at the University of North Texas, where he leads the master’s and doctoral programs in choral conducting and oversees a comprehensive choral program of eight ensembles. He serves as conductor of UNT’s A Cappella Choir, Grand Chorus, and the early music vocal ensemble Vox Aquilae.
As a teacher and conductor, Allen has visited 30 states, Asia, and Europe. His students hold leadership positions as choral conductors in public schools, colleges, universities, churches and community choirs throughout the United States. Prior to joining UNT, Allen held the Weston Noble Endowed Chair in Music at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he was conductor of the renowned Nordic Choir and artistic director of Christmas at Luther. Previously, he served as professor of music and director of choral studies at Sam Houston State University and taught at the high school level in the Houston and Odessa areas.
Outside the academic setting, Allen was Houston Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra’s artistic director, leading an annual concert series of choral/orchestral masterworks. As a deeply committed church musician, he has served churches in Texas, California, and Minnesota. Currently, he is on the music staff of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and is the church music vice-president of the Texas Choral Directors Association.
Allen earned his undergraduate degree in music education and piano from Sam Houston State University, a master’s in choral conducting from the Eastman School of Music, a master’s in orchestral conducting from Baylor University, and his doctorate in conducting from the University of California, Los Angeles. He pursued additional studies in orchestral and choral conducting at the University of Southern California, at Westminster Choir College, and the Oregon Bach Festival. After winning first prize in the graduate division of the American Choral Directors Association’s Conducting Competition in 1997, he was assistant to Paul Salamunovich, conductor of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Scott Holshouser, Pianist
Scott Holshouser, principal keyboardist with the Houston Symphony, has been a member of the orchestra since 1980. He began his musical training in Athens, GA and attended Florida State University before moving to Houston to continue his studies at the University of Houston. He is now a member of the faculty at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music.
He is a former staff pianist with the Houston Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera and presently is the accompanist for the Houston Symphony Chorus, the Ima Hogg National Young Artist Competition and the Corpus Christi Young Artist Competition.
Franco Basili, Rehearsal Conductor
Franco Basili is a first-year DMA student in choral conducting at the University of Houston under the instruction of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Jeb Mueller. Originally from Tandil, Argentina, Franco is a choral director, pianist, and singer. Before moving to the United States, he worked as artistic director of the Chamber Choir of the National University of Mar del Plata, director of Laprida’s Children Choir, and conductor assistant of the Coro Estable de Tandil. He also taught choral singing, music history, and choral literature at the Conservatorio de Música “Isaías Orbe” in Tandil and was committed to educating younger generations by teaching choral singing and aural skills at middle and high school levels.
Franco completed his master of music in choral pedagogy at Carthage College under the tutelage of Rick Bjella and Dr. Eduardo García-Novelli, and his bachelor’s degrees in choral conducting and piano pedagogy at the Conservatorio de Música “Isaías Orbe” (Tandil) with Pablo Banchi and Miguel Ángel Pesce.
As a singer, Franco has performed multiple times in choral projects in Buenos Aires, joined the Coro Nacional del Bicentenario in 2014, and was selected to represent Argentina in the World Youth Choir in the 2016 and 2018 summer sessions. In the United States, he sang with and was the student conductor of the award-winning Carthage Choir and joined the choir of “La Fille de Regiment” at the Kenosha Opera Festival in the summer of 2021.
Kaitlin DeSpain, Rehearsal Conductor
Kaitlin DeSpain enjoys a varied career as an educator, conductor, performer, and clinician. As an educator, she has served as the choral director at middle and high schools in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas, where she directed concert and pop choirs, and taught courses in music history, music theory, and piano. Kaitlin frequently appears as a clinician and presenter for teachers and music education students. As a conductor, she has worked with a wide variety of ensembles, including the University of Houston University Chorus, University of Houston’s Soundscape, the University of Kentucky Chorale, University of Kentucky Women’s Choir, the Houston Symphony Chorus, and the Symphony of Southeast Texas Chorus. Kaitlin also has experience as a church choir conductor where her ensembles regularly performed major works and special music.
As a performer, Kaitlin has extensive experience with an array of ensembles, including collegiate, community, church, and symphony choirs. She has sung with the Marshall University Chamber Choir and University Chorus, the University of Kentucky Chorale and Women’s Choir, The Renaissance Singers, The Lexington Singers, the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, the Symphony of Southeast Texas Chorus, the Houston Symphony Chorus, and, most recently, with the University of Houston Concert Chorale.
Kaitlin DeSpain is beginning her second year of doctoral studies at the University of Houston studying with Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Jeb Mueller. She received her master of music in choral conducting from the University of Kentucky, under the tutelage of Dr. Jefferson Johnson and Dr. Lori Hetzel, and her bachelor of music education degree from Marshall University.
Julia Hall, Rehearsal Conductor
Julia C. Hall is the chair of the vocal music department at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. In addition to her duties as the primary HSPVA voice instructor, she conducts the Chorale and HSPVA Chamber Choir (formerly Madrigal Singers). Before returning to her high school alma mater 11 years ago, Julia taught at Lamar High School, Episcopal High School, and Memorial Middle School. She has conducted twice at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention: in 2011, with the Memorial Advanced Treble Choir and in 2017, with the HSPVA Treble Chorus.
Julia earned her bachelor of music education, cum laude, from the University of St. Thomas where she studied voice with Diane Tobola, and her master of music, choral conducting, from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. She is a member of Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, American Choral Directors Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, and Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda honor societies.
Julia is a member of the Houston Symphony Chorus, for which she proudly serves as a rehearsal conductor. She has sung with the Houston Chamber Choir and Houston Masterworks Chorus. A life-long Episcopalian, she served on the Episcopal Diocese of Texas Music Commission for many years.
Janwin Overstreet-Goode, Chorus Preparation and Rehearsal Conductor
Janwin Overstreet-Goode is a secondary choral music consultant, clinician, and adjudicator, following 36 years as a high school choral director. She is also the coordinator of student teaching and certification for the University of Houston Moores School of Music and artistic director of Casulana, the Women’s Choir of Houston. Choirs under her direction twice performed for Texas Music Educators Association conventions: Sam Rayburn HS Chorale Women in 2001 and Friendswood HS Campus Singers in 2008.
Janwin was honored by the Houston Symphony and Fidelity FutureStage as the 2008 Outstanding Music Educator in the field of choral music. She served as vocal division vice-president, president-elect, president and immediate past president of the Texas Music Educators Association, 2011-2016, and was secretary-treasurer of the Texas Choral Directors Association, 2007-2009. She was recently recognized by TCDA with the Choral Excellence Award (2022). Janwin was twice recognized for Best Musical Direction by the Houston-area Tommy Tune Awards; and she was the conductor/clinician for the 2006 Kentucky All-State SSAA Choir.
She is a collaborator on two choral sight-reading method books: SMART – Sight-reading Made Accessible, Readable, Teachable and SMART – Modulations and Altered Tones. She has served the Houston Symphony Chorus as a rehearsal conductor since 2015. Most recently, Janwin prepared the Chorus for the 2021 performance of Handel’s Messiah. She is co-chorus manager for the 2022-23 Season.
Clay West, Rehearsal Conductor
In 2021, Clay West joined the faculty of Sam Houston State University where he serves the School of Music as conductor of Belles Voix and the College of Education as a university supervisor for choral music education students. He is a graduate of Howard Payne University, cum laude, where he earned his bachelor of arts in voice as a student of Cynthia Sheppard and was named a Presser Scholar. He continued his studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as a student of C. David Keith and at Sam Houston State University as a student of Allen Hightower. Clay also holds a master of arts in theology from Andover Newton Theological School.
Prior to joining the faculty at SHSU, he spent nine years as the choral director at Conroe High School. His choirs were consistent Sweepstakes recipients at the University Interscholastic League (UIL) contests, earned first runner-up and third runner-up, along with numerous Performance of Distinction awards at the American Classic Madrigal Festival, and have been named Best in Class at contests in Florida, New York, and Texas. His choirs performed with the Houston Symphony in 2018 and were an invited ensemble at Carnegie Hall in 2019.
Clay is an active UIL and festival adjudicator and clinician, and maintains an active membership in the Texas Music Educators Association, having served as the Region 9 vocal chair, tenor section leader and organizer for the All-State Mixed Choir and convention coordinator. In addition, he holds memberships in the Texas Music Adjudicators Association, American Choral Directors Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, and Pi Kappa Lambda honor society.
Janwin Overstreet-Goode Chorus Manager
Catherine Goode Chorus Manager
Tony Sessions Librarian
Since the Chorus Endowment was established in 1997, all proceeds have helped enrich the choral experience at the Houston Symphony. With your generous support, the Chorus Endowment has helped fund exciting new commissions, underwriting workshops and free community performances.
Please join us in giving to the Chorus Endowment. Here is how you can donate:
- Give online now: Use this link to donate online and be sure to designate “Chorus Endowment” from the list of supported programs.
For current Houston Symphony Chorus members, use the Chorus Portal link to log in and access chorus resources:
Go to Chorus Portal