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The Choral Arts Society of Washington Welcomes New Artistic Director, Jace Kaholokula Saplan, DMA

Conductor brings vast experience and a progressive, collaborative spirit to DC arts organization.

The Choral Arts Society of Washington welcomes Jace Kaholokula Saplan, DMA (they/them) as its new Artistic Director effective September 1, 2022. A fierce advocate for the classical arts, Dr. Saplan will advance Choral Arts by reimagining the classics and ushering in a new generation of innovative programming with global influence.

"After an extensive board-led search in partnership with Arts Consulting Group (ACG), 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," stated Craig Miller, Board of Directors Chair, Choral Arts. "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," stated 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."

"Having Dr. Saplan join our DC choral community is exciting because we are eager to expand the boundaries of classical music while welcoming a new generation of choral singers and patrons," remarked Tad Czyzewski, Choral Arts Executive Director. "I am confident in their ability to expand Choral Arts and we could not be more excited for what's to come."

Dr. Saplan serves as the Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music Learning & Teaching and Choral Conducting at Arizona State University. Dr. Saplan enjoyed an acclaimed career in their native Hawai'i, as a consistent voice and advocate for the choral arts, modeling the relevancy of the choral craft in culturally responsible ways while amplifying the state's choral legacy of excellence. They were recently named an Obama Asia-Pacific Leader through the Obama Foundation for the 2022-2023 year.

Prior to their appointment at Arizona State University, Dr. Saplan was the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Hawai'i and conductor of the UH Chamber Singers. Dr. Saplan is the artistic director of Nā Wai Choral Collective, a vocal ensemble based in Hawai'i. Since Nā Wai's inception in 2009, Nā Wai Choral Collective has won two Global Music Awards, toured throughout the Pacific Rim, and performed for both regional and national American Choral Directors Association conferences.

"When we are culturally responsive, we open up the canon to people like me, who would otherwise be excluded," remarked Dr. Saplan. "And that is how we make sure Bach doesn't just survive but thrives in the future. And he won't be alone - he will be joined by the voices of the past and the future that would otherwise be excluded."

Dr. Saplan is a prolific author, speaker and champion for new works including works by LGBTQIA+ and BBIA (Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian) composers. Their research focuses 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 BBIA music educators. Their knowledge and scholarship on these topics has also 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.

Dr. Saplan's first performance with Choral Arts will commence this fall.


At Choral Arts, we sing the music we love as a balm to frenzied days, an antidote to solitude, a union in an often-fractured world. We sing for a city with little time and high expectations, which compels us to transform a night out into a lifelong memory. Founded in 1965 by Norman Scribner (1936-2015), Choral Arts has a rich history of bringing the power of the human voice to audiences large and small, advancing the story of choral music by partnering with a myriad of musicians, composers, and ensembles. To stay up to date with the latest news from Choral Arts, follow @ChoralArtsDC on Instagram and Facebook, YouTube, or visit choralarts.org.



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