Sierra Master Chorale names new music director

InConcert Sierra is pleased to welcome Alison Skinner as the new music director of the Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra. The appointment follows a year-long search that included more than 20 candidates from around the world.

Skinner will take the baton from founding Sierra Master Chorale Music Director Ken Hardin, who announced more than a year ago that he will step down from the podium after the holiday concerts in December. Hardin will continue as Artistic Director for InConcert Sierra.

The Sierra Master Chorale is an 80-voice auditioned choir comprised of local singers. It was founded in 2008 and throughout the past 10 years has established a reputation for outstanding performances. The choir is joined by an orchestra of local and regional professional musicians. The Sierra Master Chorale spends more than 100 hours in preparation prior to each concert, including workshops and weekly rehearsals. The group has formed a warm, inclusive family-like culture that the choir and InConcert Sierra board felt important to factor into its search for a new director.

Through Skinner’s auditions and interviews, the search committee, board of directors and the choir felt that her personality already fit the culture of the Sierra Master Chorale.

“Ken and the choir, as well as the board of directors and staff, are looking forward to embracing Alison as our new music director and making sure that she receives all the support and tools she needs to make the transition seamless,” said Executive Director Julie Hardin.

The Music Director Search Committee, made up of members of the choir and InConcert Sierra board, and the orchestra’s concertmaster, narrowed down the highly-qualified applicants to three finalists.  The final audition process included leading a rehearsal so the chorale had a chance to see first-hand the prospective candidates conducting style and personality.

“It was an exceptionally difficult decision,” said Julie Hardin. “All of the candidates were outstanding and brought a wealth of experience, and enthusiasm.” 

News of Skinner’s hiring was met with a loud cheer from the choir. It’s a sentiment she feels as well.

“I was really taken with how kind people were and how warm,” Skinner said of Sierra Master Chorale and InConcert Sierra.

Skinner added that she was incredibly impressed with the organization Ken, Julie and the board has created, the scope of what they do and how both InConcert Sierra and the choir are well organized.

“Working for an organization that has such a great foundation is amazing,” she said.

Skinner brings with her more than 12 years of choral experience. For the past eight years she has been the artistic director for the Davis Chorale. She is also choir director of Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. 

Skinner also works as a voice instructor in Davis, but chorale conducting is where her heart truly is, she said.

“I just love conducting a choir. It’s really fun. I like the energy in the room when you have a committed group of people. You get a really great community experience you don’t get in a lot of other ways,” Skinner said.  

She has a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Temple University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Skinner also belongs to the American Choral Directors Association and Chorus America.

The Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra Holiday Concerts Dec. 15 and 16 will be Ken Hardin’s finale with the choir. Skinner will assume leadership of the chorale in the spring and is already working on the choir’s performance in May.

“I love programming and am already thinking about what music I want for the spring concerts,” Skinner said.

—By Brett Bentley, InConcert Sierra

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