Artistic Staff

Artistic Director — Joan Szymko

Joan SyzmkoJoan Szymko has directed Community Choruses in the Pacific NW for over 30 years and has served as Artistic Director of Aurora Chorus since 1993. She brings to Aurora, extensive experience with women’s voices, expert composing and arranging skills, and a wide exposure to peace and justice repertoire. As with her conducting—Joan’s dedication to craft and artistry, her understanding and respect for the singer, and her insistence on quality texts are all reflected in her choral writing. With over 70 choral octavos in print publication, her choral music is sung by distinguished ensembles across North America and abroad; enjoying performances at international competitions and festivals, at state and regional conferences, and at five consecutive National Conferences of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). The ACDA has recognized Szymko’s lasting contribution to the choral arts by awarding her the prestigious Raymond W. Brock Memorial Commission in 2010. Visit Joan’s website to read more.

Accompanist — Signe Lusk

Signe LuskSigne Lusk studied piano accompanying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and then continued her studies in Stuttgart, Germany. Upon returning to the United States, she worked for the Oregon Symphony as the Assistant Publicity Director. Lusk has worked as staff pianist for the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. She was given the Outstanding Music Director Award for her work on “Candide.” She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998. She accompanied soprano Debra Wilke in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Artists Award Competition, where she was awarded first place. Lusk has performed in concerts with Metropolitan Opera stars Jerome Hines, Nico Castel, and John Del Carlo, and she was pianist for National Trumpet Association winner Andre Dubelston. In addition, Lusk has worked for Seattle, Portland, and Eugene opera companies. Currently, Lusk is staff pianist at the First Unitarian Church, where she conducts their Nova Choir. She is also staff accompanist for the Pacific International Children’s Choir Festival.

Assistant DirectorMichelle Bahr

Michelle BahrMichelle Bahr, Assistant Director, recently moved here from Illinois with her husband, two beagles, and three cats. She is enjoying everything that Portland has to offer! She received a music education degree and MM in choral conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Michelle loves to create music with or in an ensemble, and her favorite thing is the community formed by participating in a musical group. She likes to listen to good choral singing, Broadway, and opera. Michelle’s hobbies include reading, crafting, and cooking. Professionally, Michelle has taught music in the Illinois and Connecticut public school systems. She was involved with the Illinois Music Educators Association, and served for two years as Professional Development Chair to District III. Michelle worked for seven years as the Chancel and Bell Choir Director at the First United Methodist Church of Urbana, Illinois. She teaches private music lessons at the Hoffman Academy in Portland.

Photo credits: Joan Szymko, © Jeanne Giles; Signe Lusk, © Jacquie Jones