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A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa graduate, and former assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, will head to the nation’s capital as the new artistic director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington. Jace Kaholokula Saplan ​​will advance choral arts by reimagining the classics and ushering in a new generation of innovative programming with global influence, according to the organization. Saplan’s term begins on September 1, 2022.

person standing cross armed
Jace Kaholokula Saplan

“I hope to bring a sense of artistic expansion and re-imagination for what the choral craft is and who it is for,” Saplan said. “The Choral Arts Society of Washington has been such a catalyst in modeling the best of what the choral craft sounds and looks like, and I look forward to continuing the work while diversifying our programming and ensuring that what we do honors the multicultural fabric of my new city.”

Saplan serves as the director of choral activities and associate professor of music learning and teaching and choral conducting at Arizona State University. Prior to that, Saplan served as the director of choral activities and Hawaiian Music Program at UH Mānoa. Saplan’s highlights at UH included the UH Chamber Singers’—the premiere choral ensemble in the UH System—first invitation to perform at the American Choral Directors Association Western Region Conference in March 2022.

Saplan is also the founder and artistic director of Nā Wai Chamber Choir, an ensemble dedicated to Hawaiian music preservation and innovation. The organization mentors Native Hawaiian musicians, educators and composers. Since its inception, the choir has offered workshops and community concerts throughout the state and created resources for music educators across the country who desire to teach Hawaiian music.

As a Kanaka Maoli leader, educator and artist, Saplan is committed to empowering communities through decolonial practices to maintain their agency and engage with each other in meaningful ways across their cultural differences, and to ensure the survival of native stories.

people singing in a room
Saplan conducts the UH Chamber Singers at a virtual concert in February 2021 called “KELEMANIA: Germanic Influences, Hawaiian Soundworlds.”

Saplan earned their bachelor of arts in music from UH Mānoa, master of education in curriculum and instruction from Concordia University-Portland, master of music in choral conducting from the University of Oregon and doctor of musical arts in choral conducting with cognates in music education and ethnomusicology from the University of Miami Frost School of Music. Saplan was also selected as part of the Obama Foundation Leaders Asia-Pacific program 2022 cohort.

“My training at UH as a student has truly given me many of the skills needed to be ready for this moment. With an emphasis on global musical practices and individualized attention, my time at UH as an undergraduate student is a grounding force for me. My time as a professor allowed me to pass on these skills to the next generation of artists and root a philosophy that interlocks Classical music with relevant and culturally responsive practices of the world. That is what I will take with me to my next chapter,” Saplan said.

More about the Choral Arts Society of Washington

Founded in 1965, 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.

“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,” said Craig Miller, Choral Arts Board of Directors chair. “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.”

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