Betsy Burleigh named fifth artistic director
Betsy Burleigh, currently music director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and Chorus pro Musica in Boston, has been named artistic director of the Providence Singers. Burleigh will begin her tenure as the Singers’ fifth artistic director on July 1, 2011, succeeding Andrew Clark.
Artistic director-elect of the Providence Singers
Credit: Roger Mastroianni
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Board of Trustees of the Providence Singers has unanimously appointed Betsy Burleigh as the Singers’ fifth artistic director, effective July 1, 2011. Burleigh was recommended to the Board by its selection committee, following a six-month national search. She succeeds Andrew Clark.
“The artistic director is crucially important to the continued growth and success of the Providence Singers,” said Board Chair Tony Palms, who announced Burleigh’s selection during intermission at Saturday’s concert. “Dr. Burleigh’s creative energy and extensive record of artistic achievement are a perfect fit for the Singers.”
Burleigh is currently music director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, where she succeeded Robert Page in 2006, and of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. She will continue in those positions.
“Betsy Burleigh is an energetic and creative choral leader who inspires singers to perform consistently at their best,” said Allison McMillan, executive director of the Providence Singers. “Her experience in conducting and preparing choruses for orchestral performances, her strong interest in programs for young singers, and her commitment to the full choral repertoire, including commissions and new music, are in perfect alignment with the mission and vision of the Providence Singers.”
A seven-member selection committee of Singers trustees and former Board officers began a national search last fall, following Clark’s appointment as director of choral activities at Harvard University. Four finalists for the position each conducted a full weekly rehearsal during January and February, and the committee received comments from more than 100 chorus members. Advisers to the committee included Clark, the Singers current artistic director; Francisco Noya, resident conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic; and Michele Holt, past president of the American Choral Directors Association and former music director of the Junior Providence Singers.
“The search for our fifth artistic director drew a large pool of immensely talented choral leaders — people who understand the power and potential of choral music,” Palms said. “All four final candidates received an enthusiastic reception from the chorus, and I thank the candidates for their sincere interest in the future of our organization.
“I also want to thank the selection committee and its chair, Carolyn Duby, both for their dedication to the task and for executing such a comprehensive and well-informed search process,” Palms said. “The committee incorporated extensive feedback from chorus members after the applicants’ auditions, and this perspective was key to selecting a new artistic director who will advance our common mission of performance excellence, choral education, and community involvement.”
A graduate of Indiana University (Bachelor of Music Education with distinction, vocal concentration), Burleigh earned graduate degrees in choral conducting at the New England Conservatory of Music (Master of Music with distinction) and Indiana University (Doctor of Music).
Throughout her career, she has combined her interests in choral and orchestral conducting with her academic interests in choral education. She was most recently professor of music at Cleveland State University, conducting university ensembles and offering graduate and undergraduate courses in conducting, choral literature, choral methods, and diction (English, French, and German). She also served as interim conductor of the Cleveland State Orchestra. Burleigh served on the faculty at Cleveland State for 15 years before moving to Boston in 2010.
In Pittsburgh, Burleigh has prepared the Mendelssohn Choir for all choral performances of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, including concerts by Manfred Honeck, Rafael Frübeck de Burgos, Leonard Slatkin, Sir Andrew Davis and others, and she has conducted the chorus and orchestra in Handel’s Messiah. Earlier in Cleveland, she was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, chorus master for Cleveland Opera, and assistant director of choruses for the Cleveland Orchestra, and she prepared choruses for the Blossom Festival, the Cleveland Orchestra’s program of summer performances. She has commissioned a number of choral works, including Andrew Rindfleisch’s Anthem.
“I'm honored to be named the fifth artistic director of the Providence Singers,” Burleigh said. “I greatly admire the group’s record of promoting new works and fostering choral music in the community, but I’m most excited by their commitment to quality. The chorus’s dedication and love of singing was palpable during my audition. I can’t wait to start rehearsals this fall!”
The Providence Singers
A nonprofit performing arts organization that has just completed its 39th season, the Providence Singers fosters public engagement in the choral art through performances of contemporary and historic works, new music commissions, education programs, creative collaborations, and recordings.
The Providence Singers regularly performs with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and has performed regionally with the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Kronos Quartet, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet (at the 50th anniversary Newport Jazz Festival and at Lincoln Center) and in association with FirstWorks Providence, among others.
In 2004, as part of its educational and outreach efforts, it established the Junior Providence Singers, an auditioned choir of the area’s best high school singers. Through its Wachner Fund for New Music, the Singers commissions and premières new works for chorus.
In 2007, the Providence Singers was one of seven choral organizations nationwide selected by the National Endowment for the Arts to present an American Masterpieces choral festival. Recording projects have included Lukas Foss’s The Prairie and Dominick Argento’s Jonah and the Whale, both released on the BMOP/sound label.
Artistic directors of the Providence Singers:
- Robert Molison (1971–73)
- Charles Fassett (1973–95)
- Julian Wachner (1996–06)
- Andrew Clark (2006–11)
- Betsy Burleigh (2011– )