Choral Arts has selected Dr. Jace Kaholokula Saplan (they/them, he/him) as Artistic Director, following an executive search process led by Arts Consulting Group (ACG). They began their tenure on June 10, 2022.
A fierce advocate of the classical and choral arts, Dr. Saplan joins the Choral Arts with outstanding experience and leadership as an artist, educator, and community leader. Dr. Saplan has most recently served as Co-Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music Learning & Teaching and Choral Conducting at Arizona State University. They are an invariable presence in modelling the choral arts in culturally responsible ways to both elevate the craft’s excellence and retain its relevancy.
A Kanaka Maoli leader and teacher, Dr. Saplan has also served as Director of Choral Arts at the University of Hawai’i and conductor of the UH Chamber Singers. Dr. Saplan is the Founder and Artistic Director of Nā Wai Choral Collective, a professional vocal ensemble based in Hawai’i dedicated to Hawaiian music preservation, propagation, and innovation. Dr. Saplan is committed to the empowerment of communities through decolonial practices and ensuring the survival of Native stories. They were most recently named an Obama Asia-Pacific Leader through the Obama Foundation for the 2022 to 2023 year.
Dr. Saplan is a prolific author and researcher, focusing on the performance practice of Pasifika choral traditions and Queen Lili’uokalani’s choral compositions; decolonial approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the choral classroom; intersections of choral pedagogy, gender, and sexuality in communities of color; and trauma-informed practice and boundary building with Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian music educators. Their knowledge and scholarship on these topics have led them to lead clinics at the state, regional, and national levels for the American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Educators, National Collegiate Choral Organization, and the LGBTQ Studies in Music Education Conference.
Dr. Saplan received their bachelor of arts in music from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, their master of education in curriculum and instruction from Concordia University-Portland, their master of music in choral conducting from the University of Oregon, and their doctor of musical arts in choral conducting with cognates in music education and ethnomusicology from the University of Miami Frost School of Music.
In making the announcement, Board of Directors Chair, Choral Arts Craig Miller said, “After an extensive board-led search in partnership with Arts Consulting Group, the Choral Arts Board of Directors and the Search Committee are elated to welcome Dr. Saplan to Choral Arts and look forward to all that they will bring musically and culturally to the organization. As we look to the future of Choral Arts as a leading arts institution here in the nation’s capital, we are certain that they will take us to new heights while achieving our mission to reawaken human capacity for awe through the power of choral music.”
“I am honored to be a part of Choral Arts,” said Dr. Saplan. “The organization has a deeply important role to play not only in the DC region but as a broad bastion for the classical arts. I view it as my job to advance choral music as a communal art and make it accessible to and intertwined with the realities of all people. This is equity – not as a weapon to passively erase one history in favor of another – but rather equity as a means to create a more welcoming and understanding space that recognizes all of our contributions to the evolution of art.”
“Congratulations to the Choral Arts board and staff on welcoming Dr. Saplan as their new Artistic Director,” said ACG Vice President Calida Jones. “Dr. Saplan has a true understanding of the power of choral music, with a luminous vision and artistry that weaves traditional classical music with a cultural reverence that will build upon the Choral Arts’ musical excellence.”