Testimonials from SCCCW participants:
IF you are passionate about your work as a choral artist, I strongly recommend attending the Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop. Living in Sarteano for a week in 2004 was a worthwhile retreat especially for a city-person like me. Singing madrigals became so much more enjoyable in this very Tuscan town. I decided to attend with a simple expectation of enjoying music-making as a chorister and not as a conductor, a rest from my usual work. I did not expect all the inspiration and great experience I had with Brian and all the participants. The week made me feel so fulfilled. I couldn’t wait to start working again with my choir. Since then I had always wanted to go back. In 2012, and again in 2017, my wish became a reality. I had been looking forward, with much anticipation, to working again with Brian. In addition, the thought of working with Simon excited me. Once again, I got more than what I expected. The sessions with Broni opened my mind to new ideas on singing. I came to learn from these three. I did not expect to learn also from the participants – great conductors themselves. And after another week in Sarteano, I feel blessed and grateful I came back.
Thank you, Brian! I wish you and Gail more success in this project of yours. Continue to inspire other conductors!
Mark Anthony A. Carpio
University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers
UP College of Music
The Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop is an inspiration-fueled program of the highest degree for the inexperienced, the young professional, and the established professional. I would highly recommend this workshop to absolutely anyone; I have already encouraged several of my friends to attend.
I attended the Sarteano workshop the summer before my senior year. As an undergraduate, there are relatively few opportunities in America to get the podium time required for significant growth, and thus I coveted every opportunity to get in front musicians to rehearse them. Sarteano was a place where I was able to have a substantial amount of hands-on rehearsal time with a high quality group of singers in a low-pressure environment. The podium time alone was worth the cost of the program to me.
In addition, the incredible instruction from Brian O’Connell and Simon Carrington was second to none. Brian’s extensive experience in a number of choral situations throughout his career and his warm demeanor created an exceptional working environment to work the kinks out of my rehearsals and allowed my time on the podium to be productive and fun. His knowledge of the music and natural artistry was evident in his instruction. His lovely wife Gail was so efficient in handling the details of the program. Throughout the entire process I always felt like I was being valued and taken care of.
Of course, Dr. Carrington’s expert advice and all-encompassing knowledge of the human voice and the choral repertoire is a huge element of the workshop. Simon was able to hit all of our issues spot-on because of his experiences from his distinguished career. I was amazed at his congeniality and also his candor and his ability to immediately and effectively help all the conductors in the course achieve their goals.
Networking and making friends in the music community is also a great advantage of this course. I regularly communicate with several other conductors from the workshop, both on a relational and professional level.
Another factor of the workshop is its ideal location. The little town of Sarteano is so charming and removed from the busy atmosphere of Sienna and Florence. This allows focus to be put on the music making. The rehearsal facilities and the performance venue were both great. Everything about the set-up of the workshop was ideal.
In conclusion, this workshop was one of the best education decisions I have made and I would highly recommend attending. I believe that Simon and Brian helped prepare me to get into my upcoming graduate program and the memories I made in Italy will stay with me for a lifetime.
Blake Clark, Music Director, Baltimore Choral Arts
Graduate Assistant to Simon Halsey, 2014-2015
MA in Choral Conducting
University of Birmingham
One summer experience was simply not enough; a second summer would only expand upon my understanding; if given the opportunity, I would return for a third. Brian O’Connell’s Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop is indeed worth returning to, a second and even third time.
The first year both my wife (Dr. Lois Kuyper-Rushing, Interim Assistant Dean of LSU Libraries, oboist, singer, and conductor) and I attended together. Not knowing what to expect, we both participated as full conductors and came away with treasured insights into our personal strengths and weaknesses. The team of Brian O’Connell and Simon Carrington provided in-depth analysis of our conducting/rehearsal techniques and guided us through a personal journey of self-discovery. At the same time, we were able to observe the growth of other participants and experience a unique synergy that resulted in a heightened understanding of the art form for all.
As a professional opera singer and teacher of applied voice at the graduate and undergraduate levels for over 30 years, I can attest to the quality of the Sarteano experience. Bronislawa Falinska’s Rohmert Method of Voicetraining was nothing like anything else I have ever experienced. Her unique approach to the “whole” of the singer gave me new insights into my own singing and provided a wealth of resources for my studio. This trio of professionals, Simon, Brian and Broni, worked in tandem to guide us through an experience that I will never forget. Their conspiracy led to a unique Òbreathing togetherÓ of a disparate group of singers and conductors from all over the world, and taught us to appreciate, on a new level, the transcendent nature of the art of singing.
Dr. Stephen Rushing
Professor of Vocal Arts
Southeastern Louisiana University
The Sarteano workshop was an opportunity to study alongside wonderful colleagues and soak in the Tuscan countryside – what could be better? Working with Simon, Brian, and Broni was an important step for me during my graduate studies and I’m proud to be an alumnus of the program.
Joel Tranquilla, DMA
Chorus Master, Windsor Symphony Orchestra (Windsor, Ontario)
Vice President for Advocacy, Association of Canadian Choral Communities
The Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop was stimulating, formative and humanly enriching. And it was super fun, too! I had the opportunity to work very hard for one intense week with 3 great teachers. The daily schedule was accurately planned so that the best could be squeezed out of each session. When you were not conducting, you could sing with talented musicians from all over the world and with some of them we’ve become friends. I very often tell about this great experience and suggest colleagues to try this workshop. Broni, Brian and Simon made me feel at ease and yet work hard and I thank them all for that.
conductor of the Laudamus Dominum Choir (Italy)
I consider my time at the Sarteano Choral Workshop to have been a pivotal experience in my career. The workshop is a lot of work, tons of fun, and also a major networking opportunity. There are numerous connections that I made during that short time in Italy where we’ve come back together for professional consultations and collaborations, and also new friends who I wouldn’t miss for the world. Participating in the workshop helped me refine not just my conducting technique, but also my rehearsal management. I use things that I worked on in the workshop in every rehearsal, especially when staying mindful about time management. I credit the workshop (and Brian and Simon) with helping shape me into the artist that I am today.
Dr. Basil Considine
Really Spicy Opera
This year marked my 27th year as Organist & Director of Music at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC. It was definitely time for a break, so I decided to apply for a Cathedral sabbatical grant, and was very thankful to receive a 3 month sabbatical (plus my regular one month holiday).
Part of the requirement of this time away was a professional development component, so I went searching for choral workshops. When I came across the Sarteano Choral Conductor’s Workshop for Chamber Choirs something caught my eye right away – “we heartily welcome qualified singers who are interested in attending in a non-conducting capacity; who enjoy singing in a chamber group environment….”
A pledge I made to myself for the 4 months was: no conducting, no playing, no composing, so this seemed perfect for me…I could sing and it would be a wonderful change of perspective for me. The requirement of “strong vocal ability” was however a stretch, since I had not sung in a choir since University days! But the overwhelming lure of being in Tuscany for 7 days and singing in a chamber choir sized group every day seemed like heaven to me, so I was willing to risk putting myself “out there.” Brian, Gail, Broni and Simon were very patient with me while I got my bearings. Getting used to singing 7 hours a day was at first daunting, but once into the routine I really loved it.
The 7 hours a day for 7 days was challenging for sure, but Broni’s vocal work every morning and watching both Brian and Simon work with the conductors day by day with such care and attention to individual needs – was very instructive to me. Also the philosophy of collaborative preparation of the music resonated with me….no room for any conductor’s (or singer’s) ego in this workshop (yea! my philosophy too!). Singing in a choir is community!
I cannot fail to comment on the town of Sarteano itself. I fell in love with this perfect little Medieval town as soon as I arrived. At the end of my 2 week stay there, I didn’t want to go back to Canada! Combining hard work in rehearsals with the amazing hospitality I experienced with hotel owners Nadia and Felice doesn’t get better than this! After a long day of singing and rehearsing I was always ready for a relaxed evening combining fantastic food, wine and conversation with my new musician friends!
I was probably not the ideal chorister to have in the Sarteano chamber choir, but the singing stretched me enormously, and that is what I wanted – to be out of my element and experience choir from the other side of the “podium.”
With Simon’s “huge” ears I found a new appreciation for working away from a keyboard – never over singing and truly listening – always with intention. I found a real appreciation for rehearsal techniques from Brian with his vast experience and his gift for choosing repertoire that would stretch each conductor. Broni scared me because I had no confidence as a singer – being out of my element as a conductor. But again I knew that I was there to be challenged, scary as it was for me.
The Tuscany experience with Simon, Broni, Brian and Gail was definitely the highlight of my 4 months sabbatical. Thank you Italy, thank you Tuscany, thank you to my sweetheart Sarteano and all the new friends I made there. How could combining food, wine, music and friends ever get better than this???
With MUCH appreciation,
Organist & Director of Music
Christ Church Cathedral
Vancouver, BC Canada
My experience in beautiful Sarteano was life changing. Broni, Simon, and Brian, are world-class instructors, and they have created a supportive and enriching environment for students from a variety of backgrounds to grow and make music together. They were extremely invested in each musician’s personal development Broni, Simon, and Brian are all masters in their field, and to have the opportunity to work with them was incredible. The master class setting in this workshop was unique in that there were conductors with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, from young musicians at the start of their career to accomplished musicians with DMAs and successful professional musicians. I was so thankful to learn from my colleagues as well as our extraordinary teachers. What is truly unique about this workshop is the incredible location. Sarteano is just a dream: a beautiful landscape and medieval buildings, amazing cheese and chocolate pastries and little cafes, and people who make you feel as if you’ve lived in the town all your life. I cannot recommend this workshop highly enough!
Katie Gardiner, Sarteano ’09
Choral Director and Lecturer, Skidmore College
I attended the summer Sarteano Choral conducting seminars in Italy for several years, my daughter came with me one year. I always had a wonderful time meeting everyone, conductors, composers, instructors and singers from all over the world; it was especially interesting getting to know the Seminar’s instructors with whom I am now good friends.
For me it was very useful to see patterns and traditions of conductors and musicians from many parts of all continents. Listening to the instructors’ suggestions, always proposed with great courtesy and sensitivity, offers a teacher like myself new insight on teaching and choral coaching techniques. One gets personal time to practice the art of conducting and interpretation of choral pieces in different languages and styles, and it is especially fun singing along in the group and observing the requests and techniques of colleagues. Touring the area is also a wonderful extra, there is always time for that and good food too.
Director, Florence Opera House, Children’s Choir
Director, Tempus Floridum
Chordirektorin and Kappellmeisterin, Opera Theater of Nordhausen, Germany
The repertoire was varied and of very high quality.
It was a real privilege to be coached by Simon. His teaching regarding both the conducting gesture and rehearsal technique was always creative, insightful and very effective. The rehearsal techniques he used and suggested to the conductors during rehearsal helped me tremendously in working with my own chamber ensemble. The collaborative nature of the festival created an enjoyable atmosphere for making music.
Director of Choral Activities
Montana State University
The Sarteano choral conducting workshop was a life-changing experience. On top of working with brilliant mentors who helped improve my conducting and rehearsal technique, I acquired some fantastic repertoire, soaked in the beauty and cultural delights of the Tuscany region, and most importantly formed amazing friendships with people from all over the world who shared my passion for choirs. If you love choral conducting, do not miss this workshop!
Sarah Mills Menogue,
freelance conductor, Australia
I have participated in many conducting workshops. What sets Sarteano apart from the others is the truly collaborative atmosphere and constructive, yet demanding instruction.
Dr. Steve Grives, Director of Choral Ensembles
School of Music
Working with Simon Carrington at the Sarteano Workshop was a turning point in my musical life and career. Experiencing Simon’s positive insistence on constant musicianship and musical awareness is something I cherish and strive for every day. My eyes and ears have also been opened widely to a greater search for musical rhetoric, allowing for more persuasive and highly convincing performances Ð that genuinely get at the core of the art form.
In addition to the incredible musical ideas, the setting in Sarteano couldn’t be any more beautiful – a small, welcoming town in the rolling hills of Tuscany – it doesn’t get better than that. Great people, great music, and great food make for an extraordinary week.
I would whole-heartedly recommend the Sarteano Workshop to any musician who seeks growth in the choral art.
Cameron F. LaBarr, DMA
Assistant Professor of Choral Music
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65897
Of all my choral experiences, my time in Sarteano stands out among the most enriching. I have only fond memories of the program. Most prevalent are the memories of the exceptional musicianship and collegial atmosphere formed by a truly passionate group of choral singers and educators. The guidance provided by Brian, Broni and Simon is first-rate. This exceptional team is committed to honing and refining choral skills and is dedicated to music-making of the highest caliber. I am a better choral musician in light of their influence. The Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop is far and away a worthwhile experience for any choral musician, and for me, will not soon be forgotten.
Founding Artistic Director
Il Sono – Men’s Vocal Ensemble &nDouble Treble – Women’s Vocal Ensemble
I’ve been a participant in the SCCCW three times, and will go again in a heartbeat if the opportunity arises. Although I’m an academic junkie (I was a full time doctoral student in choral conducting under Simon Carrington in my 50s, and would be a full time student again in my 60s if I could), I also believe that the most important things in music cannot be learned in school.
One of the beauties of this workshop is that it is not merely academic, although each member of the faculty has a highly distinguished academic career. Each of the faculty members brings a unique perspective and set of experiences, expertise and artistic sensibility. All that, when brought together with thirty singers and choral conductors from around the world, makes the workshop very unique.
Bronislawa Falinska is a lecturer at the University of Padua, which is among the oldest universities in the world, an expert in early music, and a leader in vocal research. Her work with the singers each morning is non-traditional, and provides an opportunity for singers to learn from her extensive research. Sometimes old vocal habits are called into question, as other ways are introduced. Come to these sessions with an open mind, and you’ll no doubt leave the week with some new things to incorporate into your own singing and vocal coaching.
Brian O’Connell’s depth of experience and the philosophy that he has developed during his long and distinguished career are foundational to the workshop. Leaving the ego at the door, and giving oneself to the experience and to the music are key. His personal philosophy sets the stage for the whole week. He cares about each participant, and that caring permeates the flavor of the week.
Attendees already know Simon Carrington as a world class musician with finely honed conducting and rehearsal skills. His performance and conducting experience and expertise make him much sought after as a clinician. But singing under his direction, and experiencing first-hand the ways he draws the best from a group, and from a piece of music, is an experience one will always remember. Simon observes as each student conductor rehearses the choir daily, and through his comments and coaching each singer has the opportunity to learn from him throughout the rehearsals.
The combination of these three highly regarded clinicians makes the workshop unlike any other. But that’s not all that’s unique about it. Sarteano is unlike any other village I’ve visited, even in Italy. It sits atop Etruscan ruins, at the crest of a hill, above vineyards and olive groves. A sense of the sacred is present as one walks the narrow winding streets in the old part of town, and an awe-inspiring view from the castle grounds.
When we think of Tuscany we usually picture sun-kissed landscapes, hillside vineyards and olive groves, villas, fine wines, great food, and some of the worlds richest artistic treasures, to name a few. But once you’ve been to Sarteano, the word Tuscany will conjure a host of new impressions: Intimate walks along streets in the medieval heart of town. Glorious vistas. Cappuccino and wine sipped at street side tables. Flag-throwing ceremony at the Castle and Renaissance festival on the piazza.
All this is the backdrop for the Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop, and very much a part of the magical experience you will have there. I highly recommend it!
Sylvan Learning Centers of Birmingham, Hoover and Huntsville
My week in Sarteano was fantastic. Beautiful choral music with outstanding musicians, wonderful teachers, in a magical setting. Exhilarating, inspiring, memorable. An experience to treasure.
Director of Fine Arts
Norwood Public Schools
Attending the Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop as an auditor in 2008 was a very important experience for me. When I applied to participate in the workshop, I was just about to graduate with an undergraduate degree in Music Education from the University of Toronto. Choral conducting was definitely a field that interested me, but my mind wasn’t set on it pursuing a career as a conductor then.
When I arrived in Sarteano and met people who have been working as choral conductors from a variety of musical backgrounds, I felt immensely inspired to learn more about the profession. Some of the colleagues that I met that summer have become my very good friends as I continue to stay in touch with them over Facebook and e-mail. I’ll never forget just how beautiful the city of Sarteano is and just how hot it was that summer!
The entire experience was highly memorable. I often look back on it with a smile on my face! If I didn’t attend the Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop, I probably wouldn’t have pursued a Master of Music degree at the University of Alberta – advice that I received from Simon Carrington at the workshop! Thanks to all of the staff at Sarteano for continuing to foster choral music making and professional development for conductors worldwide!
Irene Apanovitch-Leites – BMus, MMus, DMA Candidate
Teaching Assistant at USC Thornton School of Music Los Angeles, CA
“What a great privilege is was to join with new friends from ten different countries, singing a diverse repertoire under the consummate guidance of Simon Carrington and Brian O’Connell. All that, coupled with the mind-expanding vocal work of Broni Falinska, and the magical setting of Sarteano made for a profoundly amazing week of growth and pleasure.”
Dr. Patrick F. Casey
Music Specialist, Greer Elementary School (Charlottesville, VA)
former Music Director, Rheinland-Pfalz International Choir (Kaiserslautern, Germany)
The Sarteano Chamber Choral Choral Conducting Workshop was a great experience. The coaching we each got as conductors was invaluable, the chance to learn from others’ conducting was equally helpful, and the rehearsal techniques were very helpful to me. All three clinicians brought different but complementary expertise and worked together seamlessly. I’d recommend it highly.
Paul Boehnke Artistic Director- Bach Society of Minnesota
Sarteano is a beautiful and unique part of Italy, made all the more special because of the Choral Course. From early morning singing in ancient churches, to well-chosen musical selections, to afternoon espressos, to one-one-one conversations with Brian, Simon, and Broni, the course offers something for singers, conductors, and lovers of summer in Italy!
Co-Founder, COO, BABIATORS
My time at the Choral Conducting Workshop was filled with wonderful learning and music making in the charming town of Sarteano. I wish I had attended the Workshop earlier in my life so that all I learned there could have been applied to previous music rehearsals. The chance to work so closely with Brian and Simon is unique and anyone pursuing choral conducting should take advantage of this tremendous opportunity. They are both master pedagogues and wonderful men to work with. In addition to learning from great and accomplished artists as Brian and Simon, the environment they have created allows for the opportunity to learn from your fellow conductors and singers as well. There were participants from all over the world which meant a wealth of knowledge and experience was shared. And who doesn’t want to spend time making music (and eating) in Italy? As a music professor, I left the Workshop with renewed passion and energy for choral music, the rehearsal process, and expressive conducting. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Workshop and recommend it to any dedicated musician who wants to collaborate and improve.
Julie Neish, DMA
Director of Choral Activities at Thiel College
Greenville, PA 16125