Outstanding Choral Director Award

The Outstanding Choral Director Award is given to a choral director with 10 or more years of experience, is a current member of ACDA/WAACDA, participates in ACDA/WAACDA activities, maintains high performance and literature standards, and promotes choral music in his/her community.

2016 – Vijay Singh

This year’s recipient, Vijay Singh, is the directs choirs at Central Washington University. A graduate of Willamette University (B. M. Ed/Clarinet & Voice) and Portland State University (Masters in Choral Conducting/Vocal Performance), he has been rapidly gaining international attention for his eclectic musical compositions, performances, workshops, and conducting appearances. Vijay’s teaching experiences have included work at public secondary schools, community college, and university levels.

He currently teaches voice, choral arranging, jazz pedagogy, directs the University Chorale, and award‐winning CWU Vocal Jazz 1, and oversees the vocal jazz program (3 jazz choirs). Vijay’s student ensembles at CWU have been honored as some of the finest in the nation with invitations to perform at prestigious national IAJE, MENC, and ACDA conventions. Vocal Jazz 1 performed at the national ACDA conference in Chicago, IL March 11, 2011, and most recently, at the 2013 national Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference in Atlanta, GA.

As a composer, Vijay writes for all levels in both the classical choral and jazz idioms. His compositions (over 170 currently in print) are widely available from a number of publishers and he often writes on commission for some of North America’s finest ensembles. Vijay’s “MASS with Orchestra” received it’s world premiere at Lincoln Center in New York City May 30th, 2011.

An active performer, Vijay has appeared as featured bass‐baritone soloist with such notable groups as Male Ensemble Northwest, Choral Cross Ties, the Oregon Symphony, the Robert Shaw Chorale, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Clark Terry, the Disciples of Groove, and as a member of the award‐winning a cappella jazz quartet Just 4 Kicks. He has appeared in professional opera and musical theatre productions, and maintains an active career in oratorio, recital, and contemporary music.

Vijay served 4 years as National Repertoire and Standards Chair for Jazz Choirs in the American Choral Director’s Association and is in demand as a guest conductor of All‐State and Honors choirs. He has conducted All‐State choirs in over twenty‐five states and has the distinction of conducting both All‐State Concert Choirs and Jazz Choirs within the same year. Vijay has served as adjudicator/jurist at international festivals in Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States. The recent recipient of a thirteenth ASCAP Composer’s Award, Vijay is also a member of ACDA, MENC/NAfME, ASCAP, JEN and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

2015 – Dr. Steven Zopfi

This year’s recipient, Dr. Steven Zopfi, is the Director of Choral Activities at University of Puget Sound where he serves as conductor of the Adelphians and Voci d’Amici and the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Portland Symphonic Choir, the official chorus of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra.

A native of New Jersey, Steven received the Bachelor of Music Education from the Hartt School of Music, a Master of Music in Conducting from the University of California at Irvine, and Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Colorado.

He taught in the public schools in Vermont and New York, where he also served as Vermont State President of ACDA and an executive board member of the Vermont Music Educators Association, and has served on the faculties of Penn State University, the University of Washington, and Pacific Lutheran University.

He has been a member of the Washington ACDA and the Northwest ACDA boards and choirs under his direction have been invited to sing at the local and regional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association for Music Education. He is the founder and former artistic director of The Foundling Hospital Singers, The Boulder Schola Cantorum, The Grace Chamber Orchestra, and The Portland Sinfonietta.

As a singer, Steven has performed with many leading conductors, including Sir David Willcocks and Robert Shaw, and he has prepared choruses for several nationally recognized conductors, including Carlos Kalmar, Bernard Labadie, Alastair Willis, Murray Sidlin, and Peter Schickele. Active as an editor of early music, Zopfi is also a passionate advocate for new music and has commissioned and conducted world premieres of music by leading innovative composers. He has articles published in the Choral Journal and arrangements and music editions published by Colla Voce.

Congratulations to Steven Zopfi!

2014 – Dr. Ben Keller

This year’s Outstanding Choral Director Award recipient is Benjamin Keller (Sue Green prepared Ben’s letter of introduction.)

Dr. Benjamin Keller received his Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master of Music degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree with a minor in Music Education from the University of Arizona, in the process studying with numerous notable conductors and voice coaches.

He has spent more than 40 years serving the choral arts, and has directing church choirs, community choirs, and public school music at all levels throughout his illustrious career.  Most notably, he directed choirs at Lakes High School in the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, WA, retiring from this position in 2013.  Under his direction, the Lakes High School choirs consistently received superior scores at festivals and contests and performed at state and regional conferences of ACDA, NAfME, and at the American Guild of Organists national convention.  They gained a well-deserved reputation for excellence.

Dr. Keller has served on state and regional boards for NAfME and ACDA, and has adjudicated at local, regional, and national festivals.  He has received numerous awards throughout his career including the Employee of the Year from the Clover Park School District in 1999, Outstanding Music Educator of the Year for the Mountain Region of the Washington Music Education Association in 2000 and 2006 and the Roots and Wings award from the United Methodist Church of Lakewood for his dedication to improving the lives of youth and children.

2013 – Bernard Crouse

The state’s “Outstanding Choral Director” award for 2013 went to Bernard Crouse of Spanaway Lake High School. Lori Wiest had this to say about Barney (as he’s called by his friends):

The winner of the Outstanding Choral Director Award has been serving our art and his community for over three decades, and has been the director at Spanaway Lake High School in Spanaway, WA since 1985. He has been named Bethel School District Teacher of the Year and has received the Pierce County, Washington, Arts Commission’s Margaret K. Williams Award for Excellence in Arts Education. His choirs have performed several times at the Washing Music Educators Conference, and at the Washington Arts Time Conference, the Washington State PTA Convention, the School Director’s Convention, and the School Administrators Association Convention.

Our recipient consistently sets high expectations for his students, and as a result, they love him and work hard to “Expect Excellence.” This director provides, according to his district’s fine arts coordinator, ‘a nurturing environment for his students, giving them opportunities to collaborate, to learn new concepts and skills, and to take risks.

In Barney’s own words:
“What I thought upon hearing from Lori that I was receiving this award was: Since 1971 I have been sitting in audiences and watching others receive awards; and to be honest, being a little envious: wishing I could do what they do. What I have learned over the years is just to keep attending workshops – absorb all you can – and then pass those ideas on to others. That sharing is the real, fulfilling joy of being an educator.”

2012 – Karen P. Thomas

The “Outstanding Choral Director Award” for Washington state was given to Karen P. Thomas, who is both a conductor and a composer. Karen is the Artistic Director and Conductor of Seattle Pro Musica. Karen is well known for her innovative programming, incisive conducting, and inspired performances, as well as for her dynamic choral compositions.

Karen is a technician who demands the highest standards of her choir, yet equally conjures the heart and emotion of the music from her singers. From an a cappella English carol to Bach’s Mass in B minor, Karen pursues each work with the same perfectionist voracity and care.

Her impeccable conducting, scholarly interpretation of the score, and unwavering attention to detail, result in consistently masterful performances and recordings which have rightfully garnered rave reviews including being named “…among America’s very best choirs” by American Record Guide. She has been lauded for her “charismatic…magnetic podium presence.”

She is wholly dedicated to her choir, and members of Seattle Pro Musica share a zealous commitment to her and her cutting-edge artistic vision.

2011 – Eric Banks


Eric Banks, director of the Esoterics from Seattle was awarded this year’s Outstanding Choral Director Award. As a composer, conductor, translator, vocalist, linguist, and ethnomusicologist, Eric Banks has garnered international acclaim as one of the most creative choral musicians in the United States – for his unwavering commitment to music for unaccompanied voices. Hailing from Roscoe, a small town in upstate New York, Eric completed his BA in Music at Yale University (1990), where he studied with Fenno Heath and Marguerite Brooks, and received the Vernon Prize in Composition.

Eric then relocated to Seattle for graduate study at the University of Washington with Julian Patrick, Jonathan Bernard, and Abraham Kaplan, and received both Brechemin and Boeing Scholarships.

In 2010, Eric was granted the prestigious Dale Warland Singers Commission Award from Chorus America and the American Composers Forum to compose a concert-length choral cycle, This delicate universe, for Conspirare in Austin.

2010 – Dan Davison

Dan Davison of Puyallup was presented the first annual “Outstanding Choral Director” award by past-president, Leora Schwitters. Dan has taught at Ballou Junior High School in Puyallup for 30 years. His choral work has been consistently superb and he has developed a huge “following” in the past ten years as an arranger, composer, and as one who knows thoroughly how to write for middle school aged singers. Dan has dozens of titles in print, many in the Walton catalog.

Dan was nominated for this award by Stacy Brown. Stacy’s nominating letter said (in part):

“I have been lucky enough to observe and learn from Dan on several occasions over the past six years. Dan is truly a master teacher.

Dan holds high standards for every individual in his choirs and gets to know his students on a personal level. He teaches with joy and care, and brings out the best in his students. His work with male singers has been recognized as some of the best in the profession. Dan has given workshops on teaching for years. He has worked on creating sightreading methods and assessments for middle level students and shows his dedication to his students by writing pieces specifically for their voices. His arrangements and compositions address specific issues of the middle level singer and will solve problems in choir rooms across the nation.”