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World Choir Games 2024 Jurors: Pitch Perfect Vocal Director Deke Sharon And 35 Other Choral Music Luminaries

The list of jurors invited to sit on the prestigious jury panel for New Zealand’s upcoming World Choir Games 2024 has been announced. It features a heavy-hitting lineup of choral music experts from right around the globe, including Deke Sharon, acclaimed music director, coach, and arranger for the Pitch Perfect film series and a pioneer of contemporary a cappella singing.

Joining Deke is an array of jurors of similar stature. According to Artistic and Games Director John Rosser, “This is a truly outstanding group of choral experts – people who are not only among the world’s top conductors but also have a wealth of experience in adjudicating choir competitions right across the globe.”

The jurors, with their diverse backgrounds and rich experience, will play a crucial role in evaluating the choirs at the 2024 Games. The competition is held at two levels – Champions and Open – with the same 28 categories in each. Choirs can enter up to four categories and a panel of five (Open) or seven (Champions) jury members awards marks for each performance. Choirs are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals or diplomas, and the winner of each Champions category is declared, as their flag is raised and national anthem played, Champion of the World Choir Games!

Australian of the Year 2022 nominee Lyn Williams is widely regarded as one of Australia’s finest choral conductors and has received many national awards for her work. Founder and Artistic Director of the celebrated Gondwana Choirs, she has made significant contributions to musical performance and development in Australia, including the commissioning of indigenous works.

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Renowned for founding Kazakhstan's first choir school, Zimfira Poloz is a decorated figure in choral conducting. Artistic Director of the Toronto Children’s Chorus, Zimfira is a frequent guest conductor in Canada and abroad, and sits on jury panels for numerous choral events around the globe.

A ‘National First-Class Conductor’ in China, Guanghui Chen has directed many championship-winning choirs in both domestic and international competitions. Founder and Artistic Director of Shenzhen Star Bright Choir and Chinese representative on the World Choir Council, his expertise and leadership have contributed significantly to the vibrant choral scene in China.

Finnish composer and arranger Mia Makaroff – whose compositions have been sung by such internationally fêted groups as Rajaton, the King‘s Singers and Cantus, and include the global hit "Butterfly" – draws inspiration for her work from Finnish folklore and poetry.

Mathew Wright founded and is Artistic Director of the Barnsley Youth Choir, a communitygroup that, despite being based in anarea of significant deprivation, has now won eight first prizes and gold medals in international competition, including at the World Choir Games 2014 in Riga. Matt is in demand internationally as a clinician, workshop leader, conductor and adjudicator.

Accomplished choral conductor, composer and arranger Ken Steven is Director of Studies at Charles Wesley Music Vocational School in North Sumatra, conductor of the Medan Community Choir and has played a crucial role in the development of choral music in Indonesia.

A celebrated music educator, Susanna Saw established the Young Choral Academy in Kuala Lumpur in 2007 and is Vice-President of the International Kodaly Society and the World Youth and Children Choral Artists’ Association. Regularly invited as juror for various international choir competitions, she is currently lecturer and choir director at the Faculty of Music at the University of Malaysia and has been hugely influential in promoting music and choral education in her home country.

Timothy Wayne-Wright was a countertenor in The King’s Singers for 10 years, touring the world and singing over 1500 concerts in some of the world’s greatest venues. He has continued to have a busy career as part of the international choral scene, teaching in over 500 masterclasses, workshops and summer schools, and as Artistic Director of CHORALSPACE’s Berlin Winter and Summer Festivals. UK native Tim and his NZ wife moved their family to Auckland in 2021.

Recognised globally for her contribution to choral music, Beverly Shangkuan-Cheng received her Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan and won first prize in the American Choral Directors Association National Conducting Competition (Graduate Division).She is President of the Philippine Choral Directors Association, Artistic Director of the Las Piñas International Bamboo Organ Festival and Associate Professor of Music at the University of the Philippines.

Michael Barrett is Director of Choral Activities at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and conducts the renowned Tuks Camerata, one of South Africa’s finest choral ensembles. Executive Director and Co-Producer of “Capital Singers”, South Africa’s largest community choir project, he presents workshops on South African Music nationally and abroad and is a member of the World Choir Council.

Director of Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and Artistic Director of the Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Trust, Karen Grylls has been recognised at home and abroad for her choral conductor training, professional choral performance and long-standing relationships with Te Ao Māori and Pasifika musicians. Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, she was in 2023 made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Choral Music.

Hailing from Fatausi in Savai’i, Tuilagi Igelese Ete is Associate Professor and Associate Dean: Pacific at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts in Wellington, and has been recognised with the Senior Pacific Artist Award. He has chaired the Fiji Arts Council Board and held the role of choir conductor and choral composer, respectively, for the iconic The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Disney’s Moana.

Founder and Artistic Director of the Voices of Singapore, Darius Lim orchestrates nationwide concerts and festivals while leading the VOS community of 30 choirs and over 1200 singers. His extensive involvement in the choral world extends through his roles as CEO of The Voice Company, Board Member of the International Federation for Choral Music and the Asia Pacific Choral Council, and Chair of the World Alliance of Children's Choirs. 

Director of the celebrated Ewha Chamber Choir, Shin-Hwa Park is Professor Emeritus of Music at Ewha Women’s University in the Republic of Korea and conducted the Ansan City Choir for 25 years.

President of the Korean Church Music Association, broadcasting host of FEBC FM and a member of the World Choir Council, he received the University of Colorado Distinguished Choral Alumnus Award in 2021.

Carl Crossin has been directing choirs for nearly fifty years. Founder of the acclaimed Adelaide Chamber Singers in Australia and serving as their Artistic Director until 2021, he also co-conducts the esteemed Gondwana Chorale. He received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007 and was inducted into the South Australian Music Hall of Fame in 2021.

Currently employed as a full-time Music Specialist at Royal Oak Primary School in Auckland, Megan Flint sang as a member of the New Zealand National Youth Choir from 1997 to 1999. A graduate of the University of Auckland's Master's program in choral conducting under the guidance of fellow juror Karen Grylls, Megan was recently awarded the Australian Kodaly Certificate by the Kodaly Music Education Institute of Australia.

Cristian Grases holds the position of professor of choral music at the Thornton School of Music in California. In order to elevate Latin American and Caribbean choral music, Cristian initiated "The Choral Music of Latin America and the Caribbean" series, providing a platform for the region's choral repertoire on a global scale.

Rachael Griffiths-Hughes is a senior lecturer in Music at the University of Waikato, and performs regularly as a harpsichordist and organist with early music ensembles Affetto and Vox Baroque. She is also Director of Music at The Waikato Cathedral Church of St Peter in Hamilton.

Acclaimed New Zealand composer David Hamilton was formerly Head of Music at Epsom Girls Grammar School, where he conducted the award-winning Opus. A past Deputy Music Director of Auckland Choral, he has been Composer-in-Residence with Auckland Philharmonia and at both Sing Aotearoa and the NZ Singing School. David has been commissioned by choirs worldwide and published globally, while his works have won competitions across Italy, the USA, the UK and New Zealand.

Saeko Hasegawa is president of the Japan Choral Association and former Vice-President of the International Federation for Choral Music. She was awarded the Medal with Blue Ribbon by the Japanese government in 2023 for her contribution to the development of choral music in Japan and around the world.

With a career spanning both music education and direction, Jeroen Keymeulen currently conducts the Mechelen-based Vokalis and the Chamber Choir Flanders in Belgium, winning several prizes in international choral competition in recent years. 

Mārtiņš Klišāns (Latvia) has since 1998 been art director of the Rīga Cathedral Boys’ Choir, which has been granted the Latvian Grand Music Award – the highest state award in music – and the Latvian Music Recording Award. In 2015 Mārtiņš himself received the highest state award, The Order of Three Stars.

Yang Li is vice professor in conducting at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra, and the Chief Conductor of the Children and Young Women‘s Chorus of the China National Symphony Orchestra.

Danish conductor and organist Steen Lindholm has conducted at festivals across the globe and held masterclasses and seminars for choir conductors in the USA, Canada, South Korea, China, and Argentina. In 2021 he was appointed as a senior advisor for the World Choir Council, and in 2023 was appointed Honorary Senior Advisor. Steen has been awarded the Copenhagen Music Critics prize and the Order of the Icelandic Falcon.

Sara Matteucci is a choral conductor, musicologist and professor of choral singing at the Luigi Boccherini Conservatory in Italy. She has worked in Italian theatres and abroad, conducts the children's choir of the Accademia del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and is the Educational Director of the institution’s School of Choral Singing for Children in Florence.

New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie has been awarded several accolades for his compositions, such as Best Classical Album in the NZ Music Awards. His work is increasingly known overseas, with his oratorio Gallipoli to the Somme having been performed in London in 2018. He is currently Associate Professor of Music at the University of Otago.

Debra Shearer-Dirié, originally from Perth, Western Australia, has an active career as a choral conductor, educator, and scholar. Debra has conducted internationally acclaimed choirs, founded several ensembles including Vox Pacifica Chamber Choir and Vintage Voices, and established Fusion, a semi-professional a cappella group. She has also lectured at various institutions and served as president of the Australian National Choral Association.

Tian Xiaobao is a professor at the Music School of Central China Normal University, and a Masters graduate tutor in chorus conducting and vocal music. Tian Xiaobao formed the chorus of the Music Department of Central China Normal University in 1999, and the Tian Kong Chorus in 2003, which went on to win several awards at various choral competitions.

Anthony Trecek-King is a choral conductor and educator with over 20 years of experience. As Resident Conductor with the Handel and Haydn Society, his ensembles have contributed to projects earning prestigious awards, including a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy.

Since 2014, Anna Ungureanu has been the Principal Conductor of Romania’s National Chamber Choir “Madrigal – Marin Constantin” and Artistic Director of the National Cantus Mundi Programme. Having specialised under the direction of Maestro Marin Constantin and conductor Ion Marin, Anna has conducted the Madrigal Choir in hundreds of concerts all over the world.

Hans van den Brand has conducted choirs and vocal groups across the Netherlands, ranging from early music, classical music and opera to jazz and pop music. In 2008-2009 he was musical director of one of the Netherlands’ most successful musicals, ‘Ciske de Rat’.

Following his tenure as Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, USA, Andrew Withington has now relocated to New Zealand. He has taught courses in conducting, choral literature, diction, vocal pedagogy, voice and teacher education at university level, and was Artistic Director for the prestigious New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir for ten years.

Yan Baolin is a conductor, doctoral director and professor of conducting at Zhejiang Conservatory of Music. He is currently Vice Chairman of the China Music Association Chorus Union and Director of the Conducting Performance Committee. Yan Baolin has been guest conductor and Artistic Director of the Shanghai Opera House and his choirs have won more than 40 awards in competitions at home and abroad.

David Tapene is the master arranger for Hātea Kapa Haka, based in Whangarei. He has a long history with kapa haka and is a renowned waiata tira (choral) composer, arranger, and conductor. David is conducting a project to record a full set of himene (hymns) sung by Māori Anglicans since they were published in the 1860 Māori Book of Common Prayer.

Founder of choir Pacific Connection, Henrietta Hunkin-Tagaloa has been a member of the Sweet Adelines barbershop chorus since 2005. In 2019 she was awarded the annual Service to Young Women in Harmony award for her contribution to choral education in Aotearoa.

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