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Serious about beautiful music

The Santa Clarita Master Chorale dedicates itself to fine choral music

Posted: March 10, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 10, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Members of the Santa Clarita Master Chorale rehearse at Valencia United Methodist Church on Monday. (Jonathan Pobre/The Signal)

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It is one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s best kept secrets, said Sherry Klaus, Santa Clarita Master Chorale board chairwoman.

“I run into people all the time that have never heard of us, that don’t know we exist,” she said. “It’s frustrating when you think that next year will be our 15th concert season. It’s hard to stand out so that people know us.”

Klaus said the mission of the Master Chorale is to “facilitate the appreciation, enjoyment and experience of fine choral music for the benefit of the entire community.”


The Santa Clarita Master Chorale has been active for more than a decade and offers three concerts a year.

The group was founded by Jill Hackett and Deb Baur in 1998 after the duo became weary of traveling out of the Santa Clarita Valley to attend choral music concerts.

The Master Chorale hired Peter Pocock as its founding conductor and artistic director.

After Pocock left to return to his native Australia, the Chorale turned to Allan Robert Petker to pick up the baton.

People have to audition to become a member of the Chorale and pay dues of $150 year.

Klaus said members are expected to attend every rehearsal from September to June, purchase a performance tuxedo or dress and to assist with fundraising events.

The Chorale stages three concerts a year, in December, March and June. Its repertoire ranges from masterworks to music from Broadway and current composers.

Allan Robert Petker

Petker is a composer and arranger with more than 250 published works to his credit.

In 1994 Petker formed the Consort Chorale, an ensemble of 40 select voices from the San Francisco Bay area. He continues to work with that group.

Petker said the Santa Clarita Master Chorale is a very “special group.”

“Members have to audition to be part of the Chorale,” Petker said. “To have musicians who function at a higher level means that our repertoire and our expectations can be higher. And that’s what they do. They’ve just gotten better and better.”

Petker and founder Hackett work together to craft the season’s three concerts.

“We want it to be an experience,” he said. “Not just a concert. It always has a theme and we plan it so that even non-musicians will enjoy.”


Klaus said keeping the Master Chorale running can be challenging.

“Like every nonprofit and arts groups funding is an issue,” she said. “Ticket sales don’t begin to cover the cost of presenting our concerts.”

The Master Chorale currently runs on an annual budget of $88,000 with grants bringing in almost 25 percent of that total, ticket sales at less than 20 percent and fundraisers and individual donations making up the lion’s share.

“There are many things competing for people’s time,” she said. “It’s also a challenge to make people aware of what you offer.”

Chorale programs

In addition to the three annual concerts the Master Chorale also has an educational outreach program.

“We believe strongly in arts education,” Klaus said.

Fifth-grade students in the SCV school districts are offered a curriculum supplied by the Chorale followed up with an assembly.

“The kids sing along and we have a quartet that visits the schools to demonstrate different styles of singing,” she said. “It is a good way to introduce children to that type of music.”

The Chorale also offers a high school intern program that is offered mostly to seniors, said Klaus.

“They have to pass an audition and be recommended by their choir teacher,” she said. “They also have to commit to the same participation as a regular Chorale member.”

The Chorale’s college intern program is offered to music majors and offers the singers a stipend to participate in the Chorale.

“We are limited as to how many we can fund,” said Klaus. “It’s a great addition to their learning experience and the Chorale benefits by having another really good singer.”

Children’s Choir

The Santa Clarita Children’s Choir began in the fall of 2010 under the umbrella of the Santa Clarita Master Chorale.

The mission of Children’s Choir is to provide children in the SCV with an “opportunity to experience excellence in choral singing,” said choir director Jennifer Brown.

Currently the Children’s Choir sings with the Master Chorale in the December and June concerts.

It is open to children in the fourth through eighth grades. Auditions for the Children’s Choir will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7. For information call 661-799-5851 or

“It’s a great way to offer a special musical experience for young children,” Klaus said.

Members speak

Carlene Payne, of Valencia, has only been a member of the Chorale for a year, but has attended Chorale concerts since they began in 1999.

“I always thought about joining,” she said. “Then I heard they needed more singers last year and I decided to go for it.”

Payne, a soprano, decided to join the Chorale because, “I love to sing,” she said. “And I want to be part of something good.”

Cara Kowalczyk, of Valencia, is a founding member of the Master Chorale.

Kowalczyk, a soprano, sings professionally and has sung with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

“I love that this is a community group,” she said. “It’s the only place I sing where I don’t get paid, but it’s like a family, I love the people. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.”

Dean Smith, of Valencia, is also a founding member of the Master Chorale.

He said the group is home to many talented singers.

“It’s been a great experience over the years. The level of musicianship is outstanding,” he said. “I’ve been blown away with it since I joined.”


Among the goals of the Master Chorale is to grow the membership of the Chorale to at least 100 singers, said Klaus.

“We’d also like to grow and expand our offerings,” she said. “We’d like to present more concerts, we’d like the concerts to have more instrumentalists, we’d like to perform in venues in outside the community.”

Klaus said the Chorale hopes the community will increase its support of the Master Chorale.

“We’d like people to attend our concerts and support our fundraisers,” said Klaus. “The Santa Clarita Master Chorale is a community group of high caliber that presents a really enjoyable concert for not a lot of money and close to home. It’s an opportunity to experience a fine art. We all benefit from being exposed to beautiful things. This music is beautiful.

The Santa Clarita Master Chorale will appear in concert 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 17 at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Valencia. For tickets visit or call 661-362-5304.



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