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 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 2022–23 season:
- Juraj Valčuha Inaugural Weekend: Verdi Requiem: September 16–18, 2022
- Holst’s The Planets: November 11–13, 2022
- Handel’s Messiah: December 9–11, 2022
- Very Merry POPS: December 15–18, 2022
- Bartók Miraculous Mandarin + Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto: January 13–15, 2023
- Perlman Conducts Mozart Requiem: April 1 & 2, 2023
- Stravinsky Oedipus Rex: May 19 & 20, 2023
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.
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.
Houston Symphony Chorus Auditions for the 2022–2023 Season will take place remotely and consist of six portions:
1. Complete Membership Data form
3. Sight Reading Appointment
4. Recording of Messiah Chorus (optional)
5. Fill out Google Form
6. Sight Reading Audition
Details for completing these components of the audition are below.
When Does This Placement Take Place?
All portions of the audition must be completed by August 1, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. to be considered for the Verdi series and August 15 at 11:59 p.m. to be considered for the rest of the 2022–23 season.
Please note that the sight-singing appointments will take place on July 25 and August 1 & 15.
Please complete the HSC Membership Data form: Membership Data Form.
a. Record an audio recording of yourself vocalizing with the appropriate voice track below. When it gets too low or too high, drop out. You will be asked to write down your highest and lowest (beautiful) pitch in Step 5, so keep that in mind while recording your vocalise. It MUST be an audio file (ex. .mp3, .m4a) and no larger than 10MB. We recommend recording with “Voice Memos” if you have an IOS device.
b. When you have finished recording, double check your work to make sure you and the vocalization track can be heard. If the sound quality is poor, try adjusting your microphone placement, or recording with a different device.
c. Your recorded track will be uploaded in Step 5.
Sight Reading Appointment (Required)
a. Sign up for a sight reading appointment at the link below.
b. You should receive an email reminder regarding your sight-reading appointment, but, just in case, record the date and time so you don’t miss your Sight-Reading Audition.
c. Our sight-reading exercises are taken from the online platform Sightreading Factory, Level 6 (major or minor key). They are 12–16 measures long. Most of our singers struggle with these exercises, so don’t worry if you do, too. We’re looking for reasonable proficiency not wizardry.
Messiah Chorus (Optional)
a. This portion of the audition is optional. Record ONE of the four Messiah choruses listed below if you want to enhance your audition. 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. Using the score and the accompaniment links below, download, sing, and record your part to ONE of these choruses. (Yes, we know that the tempi are slow, but there is method to our madness; these slow tempi reveal a great deal.) Your submissions MUST be an audio file (ex. .mp3, .m4a) and no larger than 10MB. We recommend recording with “Voice Memos” if you have an IOS device.
Option 1: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder
PDF: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder
Option 2: His Yoke Is Easy
PDF: His Yoke Is Easy
Option 3: All We Like Sheep
PDF: All We Like Sheep
Option 4: Hallelujah! (Chorus)
PDF: Handel Hallelujah Chorus
b. When you have finished recording, double check your work to make sure you and the accompaniment track can be heard. If the sound quality is poor, try adjusting your microphone placement, or recording with a different device.
c. Your recorded track will be uploaded in Step 5.
STEP 5: Google Form
Fill out the following Google Form. This is where you will upload your vocalise and optional Messiah Chorus.
Sight Reading Audition
On the date and time of your sight-singing appointment, use the link you received when you signed up for an appointment (Step 3). This will take you to a virtual meeting with Co-Chorus Manager, Carlin Truong. There, you will complete the sight singing portion of the audition.
• Please be prepared to wait by your computer in the Zoom waiting room for up to 30 minutes to audition.
• One of several possible sight-reading exercises will be digitally delivered to you after you have entered the meeting. 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.
• You may encounter technical difficulties at any point during this audition process. Breathe — we will work with you to make the process as painless as possible.
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.
Anna Diemer, Principal Vocal and Diction Coach
Anna Diemer is a Houston-based voice teacher, soprano, and arts entrepreneur. She has been teaching voice at the high school, collegiate, and adult levels for the past seven years, and she strives to help her students reach their personal singing goals through a physiological approach. Anna is an adjunct professor of voice at Brazosport College, and her private studio consists of students from Porter and Shadow Creek high schools, along with members of the Houston Symphony Chorus. She also works with area middle and high school choirs on vocal technique, diction coaching, and repertoire for UIL.
With a background in opera, musical theater, and jazz, Anna enjoys performing in all genres, with an interest in reviving the medium of art song. She serves as the Personnel and Programming manager for the Houston chapter of Opera on Tap, and she regularly organizes and sings in art song recitals and cabaret-style performances, including outreach concerts at the Campbell Learning Center and nonprofit fundraisers at Saint Arnold. Anna specializes in new music and has commissioned and premiered works by Houston-area composers Joshua Zinn and Mark Buller. She made her Houston Symphony solo debut in 2016, and most recently, she collaborated with Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Music Director, on a project involving singers in a performance of Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting.
Anna graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Music from Furman University and earned her Master’s degree in vocal pedagogy and performance at the University of Houston, where she studied with Melanie Sonnenberg.
Kaitlin DeSpain, Rehearsal Conductor
Kaitlin DeSpain is beginning her first year of doctoral studies at the University of Houston studying with Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Jeb Mueller. Prior to her time at UH Kaitlin served as the Choral Director at middle schools and high schools in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas. In her time teaching Kaitlin has taught Concert Choir. Show Choir, Music Theory, Music History, Piano, and Rock Band courses. During her time as a show choir director Kaitlin’s choirs earned numerous awards, including a state championship at the West Virginia Music Educators Association state competition.
Kaitlin received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Marshall University and her Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Kentucky under the tutelage of Dr. Jefferson Johnson and Dr. Lori Hetzel. As a singer Kaitlin has performed with many university and community choirs, including the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, the Lexington Singers, and most recently the Symphony of Southeast Texas Chorus.
Julia Hall, Rehearsal Conductor
Julia Hall is the Director of Vocal Studies at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. In addition to her duties as the primary HSPVA voice instructor, she conducts the Young Performers and Bella Voce Women’s Chorus and teaches music theory and music history. Before returning to her alma mater eight 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 Bella Voce.
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 Moores School of Music, UH. 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.
Emily Jenkins, Rehearsal Conductor
Emily Jenkins is entering her third year of Doctoral studies at the University of Houston under the tutelage of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Mueller. She served as the Assistant Conductor/Choral Conducting Intern with the GRAMMY award-winning Houston Chamber Choir for the 2019-2021 seasons. Prior to moving to Houston, she served as the Assistant Director of Choirs at the University of West Georgia. She was as a conductor of the Greater Atlanta Girls Choir; a nonprofit choral organization striving to empower young women through choral music. Previously, she served as a choral director of middle and high school programs in Fayette County and Marietta City Schools.
A very diverse choral conductor and music educator, she is originally from Mississippi where she received her Bachelor’s of Music Education degree from Mississippi State University graduating cum laude with an emphasis in piano and voice, studying with Dr. Gary Packwood and Dr. Rosangela Yazbec Sebba. She then went on to obtain her Master’s degree in Choral Conducting graduating summa cum laude from Georgia State University in Atlanta, studying with Dr. Deanna Joseph.
As a singer she has sung in a variety of professional choral ensembles; most recently the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus. In Houston, she sings with the University of Houston Moores School of Music Concert Chorale and the Houston Symphony Chorus. She recently presented a session entitled: Gratifying and Engaging Early Music Repertoire for Treble Choirs at the 2021 Texas Music Educators Association Conference.
Matthew Lyon Hazzard, Rehearsal Conductor
Matthew Lyon Hazzard is an award-winning composer, conductor, singer, and educator. Praised for his “exquisite text-setting” and for creating “stunning landscapes of sound”, Hazzard’s music has garnered numerous accolades. He was named the winner of the 2017 American Choral Directors Association Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Competition, a prize winner of the International Choral Composition Competition Japan 2016, and the inaugural winner of True Concord’s Stephen Paulus Emerging Composers Competition. His music is increasingly performed by collegiate and professional ensembles around the world, including the Metropolitan Chorus of Tokyo, KC Vitas, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, the Bob Cole Chamber Choir, and others.
Hazzard earned his M.M. in Choral Conducting with honors from the Bob Cole Conservatory at California State University Long Beach, and his M.A.T. and B.M. in Music Composition from East Carolina University. Before pursuing his graduate studies, Hazzard taught at Greene Central High School (NC) for four years. His choirs received numerous awards, consistent superior ratings, and were invited to perform on the stage of Carnegie Hall under his leadership. He is now pursuing his D.M.A. Choral Conducting at the University of Houston, where he continues to write for voices.
Janwin Overstreet-Goode, Rehearsal Conductor
Janwin concluded her twelfth year as the choral director at Friendswood High School in the spring of 2017. In 2008, the FHS Campus Singers were a TMEA Invited Performing Choir. Janwin also serves as music director of the school’s annual musical. The school’s production of South Pacific received the Tommy Tune Award for Best Musical in 2006, and the award for Best Musical Directon for Oklahoma! in 2010.
Prior to joining the faculty at FHS, she taught at Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena, TX; the SRHS Chorale Women were selected to perform for the Texas Music Educators Association in 2001. Her choirs have been consistent Sweepstakes and superior ratings recipients at the University Interscholastic League contests, and have been named Best in Class at contests in Florida, Louisiana, California and Texas. They have performed on concerts with the University of Houston, Lamar University and Houston Baptist University.
Carlin Truong, Rehearsal Conductor
Carlin Truong is a DMA student at the University of Houston under the tutelage of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Jeb Mueller. In Houston, he has served as the interim director for ManCorps and the teaching assistant for Choral Conducting and Concert Chorale. In the upcoming year, he will be the instructor of record for Soundscape and the assistant conductor for Moores Opera Center where he will conduct Handel’s Giulio Cesare.
Prior to his studies in Texas, he taught at Clovis East High School in California where he directed the choirs and instructed AP Music Theory. In 2020, the Clovis East Choraliers were invited to perform at the California All-State Music Education Conference and Western Division ACDA Conference. During his tenure at Clovis East, he was also the co-founder and artistic director of the Central Valley Vocal Project, the premiere men’s community chorus in the Fresno area.
Truong has a B.A. in Psychology from UC San Diego. He studied at the University of Ghana where he founded a course in contemporary a cappella music and discovered his passion for music education. Consequently, he pursued a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from San José State University where he studied with Dr. Jeffrey Benson.
Janwin Overstreet-Goode Chorus Manager
Carlin Truong 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.