Keystone State Boychoir
Keystone State Boychoir (KSB), founded in 2001, has enjoyed unprecedented success during its ten years and has become recognized as one of the finest community-based boychoir programs in the world. Under the direction of Music Director Joseph P. Fitzmartin and Associate Music Director Steven M. Fisher, KSB consists of more than 150 young men between the ages of eight and eighteen who sing an enthralling repertoire from the classical to the contemporary. Major choral works that KSB has performed include Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Orff's Carmina Burana, Handel's Messiah, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Britten's St. Nicolas, and the Fauré Requiem.
KSB has sung with the region's most distinguished ensembles, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, for which it serves as its official boychoir. KSB has appeared in the area's most prominent venues including the Perelman Theater and Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Academy of Music, and the Mann Music Center. The choir has performed by invitation at conferences of the American Choral Director's Association, the Australian Music Educators Society, and the International Society of Music Educators.
Internationally, KSB has performed in major concert halls, including the Manus Opera House in Brazil, the Petronas Philharmonik Hall in Malaysia, and the Hanoi Opera House in Vietnam, as well as in venues throughout Canada, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Monaco, France, Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria. Having sung in Antarctica, KSB is the only choir to have sung on every continent. In July of 2012, KSB will embark on a concert tour of Norway and the Arctic Circle.
The KSB experience centers on its truly joyful music-making. The vibrant sound of the choir is enhanced by its compelling stage presence. The music directors believe that today's choral music should be felt, as well as heard, if the art form is to thrive. They have found that when the unique energy of boys is channeled into choral singing of the highest standard, the result is unforgettable performances for audiences and singers alike.
Keystone State Boychoir and its sister-choir, Pennsylvania Girlchoir, are member-choirs of Commonwealth Youthchoirs, founded by Joseph P. Fitzmartin and Steven M. Fisher. Under the leadership of Executive Director Susan S. Ashbaker, this non-profit organization is committed to providing superior choral music education and performance opportunities for young people from diverse economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Anchored in deep caring and respect for each individual singer, our choral programs will promote camaraderie and self-discipline and nurture leadership skills, in the pursuit of artistic excellence that uplifts and inspires performers and audiences alike.
Joseph P. Fitzmartin
Music Director, Keystone State Boychoir
A co-founder of Commonwealth Youthchoirs, Joseph P. Fitzmartin has served since 2001 as Music Director of member-choir Keystone State Boychoir. His role with Keystone State Boychoir combines Mr. Fitzmartin's long dedication to music education, conducting, and composing. A distinguished composer, he has written and arranged extensively for choirs and orchestras, including A Fantasy of Carols, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Additionally, Mr. Fitzmartin's Concert Mass, a major work for symphony orchestra and choir, made its world premiere at Carnegie Hall and has since been performed at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, in Berlin, and by the Novgorod Symphony in Russia.
A native of Philadelphia and graduate of Catholic University in Washington, DC, Mr. Fitzmartin is also choral director for the middle and upper schools at the William Penn Charter School. Previous positions include organist and choir director at at Collenbrook United Church in Drexel Hill for twenty-four years, organist and choir director at Girard College, and associate director and accompanist for the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale, a post he held for twenty-one years.
Steven M. Fisher
Associate Music Director, Keystone State Boychoir
Steven M. Fisher is a co-founder of Commonwealth Youthchoirs, and has served as Associate Music Director of its member-choir Keystone State Boychoir since its founding in 2001. He is also director of "FYI!" (Find Your Instrument!), the school outreach program of Commonwealth Youthchoirs and music director of the West Philadelphia Children's Choir.
A conductor, composer, and music educator, Mr. Fisher holds a master's degree in music from Temple University's Esther Boyer College of Music. He studied conducting with Alan Harler, composition with Richard Brodhead, arranging with Alice Parker, and piano with Alexander Fiorello. In 1998, Temple University awarded him the prestigious Presser Foundation Award, which recognizes "a graduate student who has the potential to make an outstanding contribution in the music world."
Mr. Fisher is a composer of musical theatre. His work Mandela has been presented in New York and in Johannesburg, and his musical Isabelle and the Pretty-Ugly Spell is currently enjoying an open-ended run in New York City. Mr. Fisher is at work writing a new musical titled In the Theatre, based on the life of Joan Littlewood, and another inspired by the life of ventriloquist Terry Fator, winner of the first season of America's Got Talent.
Music Assistant, Keystone State Boychoir
A well-known choral conductor and tenor soloist in the Philadelphia area, Lawrence Hoenig joined KSB's music staff in the spring of 2008. Most recently Mr. Hoenig was Director of the Germantown Friends School choir, as well as Chair of the school's Music Department.
Mr. Hoenig was Associate Conductor of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, under Alan Harler, as well as the Music Director of the Choral Union at the University of Delaware. Numerous solo performances include Stravinsky's Les Noces with the University of the Arts, Dvorak's Mass in D with Mendelssohn Club. Mr. Hoenig holds a BA from Columbia University, an MA in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MM in choral conducting from Temple University, where he was a student of Robert Page. He has been on the voice faculty at Haverford College, Settlement Music School, and Jenkintown Music School. He conducts the choir for the High Holy Days at Har Zion synagogue and sings with the choir of St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh.
Vocal Development Coach, Keystone State Boychoir
Anne Odland has been working as KSB's Vocal Development Coach since 2004. Ms. Odland holds degrees in vocal performance from St. Olaf College (BM) and Northwestern University (MM). She has extensive performance experience as a soloist in musical genres ranging from opera to musical theatre to cabaret. Most recently she appeared as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Town and Country Players Theater in Buckingham. Ms. Odland's favorite opera roles have included Musetta (La Bohème), The Governess (The Turn of the Screw), and Ann Trulove (The Rake's Progress). She has been the soprano soloist for Handel's Messiah, the Requiem masses of Fauré, Brahms, and Rutter, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Bach's Magnificat, among many other masterworks, all with regional mid-western orchestras. Ms. Odland is also the Executive Director/Music Director of the Town and Country Players Summer Theater Workshops, and teaches private voice lessons in her home studio in Warwick, Pennsylvania.
Commonwealth Youthchoirs Staff
Susan Shiplett Ashbaker
Executive Director, Commonwealth Youthchoirs
Susan Shiplett Ashbaker became the first Executive Director of Commonwealth Youthchoirs in 2007. In this role Ms. Ashbaker oversees the artistic and administrative operations of the organization's two member-choirs, Keystone State Boychoir and Pennsylvania Girlchoir.
Ms. Ashbaker also serves as an independent artistic advisor/consultant and an opera/vocal coach. Recent projects include serving as artistic consultant for the Mann Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia, with OPERA America (spearheading "Building And Managing Your Network" in the Perspectives series) and with Fort Worth Opera Association, in preparation for the new opera and their first commission, Frau Margot, by Thomas Pasatieri, with libretto by Frank Corsaro.
Ms. Ashbaker was affiliated with the Opera Company of Philadelphia for 16 years−the last 11 as director of artistic and music administration−leading the casting practices of the company and supervising all activities of the artistic and music departments. Her experience on both sides of the opera industry gives her a unique vantage point in the administration of opera companies, arts organizations and institutions of higher learning.
Ms. Ashbaker serves on the faculty of The Curtis Institute of Music, a position she has held since 1993. She is an adjunct professor at Westminster Choir College, and artistic advisor of the college's CoOPERAtive program.