Big Sky Choral Initiative

July 17th – 24th, 2016

The Big Sky Choral Initiative is a seven-day training and performance experience for fellows specializing in choral singing, conducting, and composition and a career development opportunity for high caliber professionals. High up in the mountains of Montana, the Choral Initiative is an artistic partnership between the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center and The Crossing, and the project brings a small group of top talent together in an environment that supports rigorous training and fosters the creation of inspiring new music.

The Big Sky Choral Initiative of 2015 was a huge success and brought 12 Fellows from around the United States to the mountains of Montana in a transformative experience that will not soon be forgotten.  Here are some of the testimonials:

“I have never before made music with a group of such like-minded, passionate artists, and profoundly talented singers that generously welcomed me into their world.”

“It was a fantastic experience – a real turning point for me.”

“An absolutely INCREDIBLE week; I’ll never forget it.”

Auditions and Supplemental Materials:

All vocal fellows must submit a video audition.  More information is available on the audition page.

All composition fellows must submit two contrasting work samples for choir.  Applicants may email .pdf files to  Links to recordings are preferred, but not required.

Once you have submitted your application, you will be directed to the video audition page.

For any additional inquiries, contact John Zirkle at


Artistic Director & Conductor

Donald Nally is conductor of The Crossing, director of choral organizations at Northwestern University, and chorus master of The Chicago Bach Project.  He has held distinguished tenures as chorus master for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Spoleto USA, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He has served as artistic director of the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati and the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, and is the recipient of the Margaret Hillis Award for Excellence in Choral Music. Among the many ensembles Donald has guest conducted are the Latvian State Choir in Riga, the Grant Park Symphony Chorus in Chicago, the Philharmonic Chorus of London, and the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. His ensembles have sung with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Ballet, Spoleto USA, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Cymru, RAI National Symphony Orchestra, and International Contemporary Ensemble; his work is heard on numerous recordings on the Chandos, Navona, and Innova record labels.  In 2012 Donald received both the alumni merit award from Westminster Choir College and the Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal from Chorus America. His book, Conversations with Joseph Flummerfelt, was published in 2011.


The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. Consistently recognized in critical reviews, The Crossing has been hailed as “ardently angelic” (Los Angeles Times, 4/14) and “something of a miracle” (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/14). Formed by a group of friends in 2005, the ensemble’s reputation has since grown exponentially and “has made a name for itself in recent years as a champion of new music.” (The New York Times, 2/14). Highly sought-after for collaborative projects, The Crossing was the resident choir of the Spoleto Festival, Italy in 2007; appeared at Miller Theatre of Columbia University in the American premiere of James Dillon’s Nine Rivers with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE); joined Bang on a Can’s first Philadelphia Marathon; and has appeared with the American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, red fish blue fish, Tempesta di Mare Baroque Chamber Orchestra, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Toshimaru Nakamura, Dolce Suono, and in the summer of 2013, The Rolling Stones. The ensemble has sung in such venues as Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; they made their Lincoln Center debut this past summer in a world premiere of John Luther Adams in a collaboration with the Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, eighth blackbird, Jack Quartet, and TILT brass.

2016 Resident Composer

Ted Hearne - (c) Nathan Lee Bush-2

Composer, singer and bandleader TED HEARNE (b.1982, Chicago) draws on a wide breadth of influences ranging across music’s full terrain, to create intense, personal and multi-dimensional works.

The New York Times included Hearne’s oratorio The Source on its list of the best classical vocal performances of 2014, noting that the work “offers a fresh model of how opera and musical theater can tackle contemporary issues: not with documentary realism, but with ambiguity, obliquity and even sheer confusion.”

Law of Mosaics, Hearne’s 30-minute piece for string orchestra was named one of The New Yorker’s most notable albums of 2014 by Alex Ross and was recently performed this year by the San Francisco Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Hearne’s cantata Sound from the Bench for choir, two electric guitars and percussion, set to text by Jena Osman appropriated from Supreme Court oral arguments, was co-commissioned and premiered in 2014 by Volti and The Crossing. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “a fantastically inventive cantata,” which “transforms legal language into a kind of runic ritual.”

Hearne performs with Philip White as the vocal-electronics duo R WE WHO R WE, belongs to the composer collective Sleeping Giant, and his most recent collaboration paired him with legendary musician Erykah Badu. Two forthcoming albums of vocal music, The Source and Outlanders, will see release this year on New Amsterdam Records.

Hearne is the recipient of the Gaudeamus Prize in composition and the New Voices Residency from Boosey and Hawkes. He recently joined the composition faculty at the University of Southern California. Recent and upcoming works include commissions from the LA Philharmonic, eighth blackbird, A Far Cry, Yarn/Wire and Roomful of Teeth.

His website is

Comments are closed.