CORONAVIRUS: Concerts, Updates, Schedules and A Moment of Comfort

The Bel Canto Youth Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem provides an educational and artistic musical experience for children of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds and nurtures a sense of accomplishment and community through the outstanding performance of diverse choral repertoire chosen specifically for the young voice. Each season classical, contemporary and traditional works from around the world are included as are the compositions of J.S. Bach.

Founded in 1993 by its current artistic director Dr. Joy Hirokawa, Bel Canto is comprised of auditioned treble singers from five counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. The choir has developed an international reputation for performing diversified choral repertoire at the highest standard of musical excellence and style and has been invited to perform for numerous music conferences, including the Eastern Division ACDA, Eastern Division MENC, PMEA, AGO, and Pennsylvania ACDA conferences.  In 2013, the choir completed a recording with The Bach Choir of Bethlehem for a Christmas CD that was released on the Analekta label. Bel Canto was the winner of The American Prize in the Children’s Chorus category (2011), performed a Concert for Peace with Philadelphia based Atzilut (2009), and was part of the Philadelphia premiere performance of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, presented by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Tours have taken the choir to Central Europe, Italy, Ireland, Canada, England, Oregon, Brooklyn, Disneyworld, Ohio, and twice to Hawaii for the Pacific Rim Children’s Choral Festival under the direction of Henry Leck. In July 2018, Bel Canto merged with The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. In addition to concerts this season, we present a choral director’s workshop with  Dr. Jason Vodicka, Westminster Choir College and Dr. Joy Hirokawa, the fourth year of the Choral Village Summer Camp, and collaborations with the Touchstone Theatre “Festival Unbound” and The Bach Choir of Bethlehem & Pennsylvania Youth Theater’s production of Benjamin Britten’s “Noyse Fludde.”


Virtual Choral Village 2020

Connect ~ Communicate ~ Create

It’s a messy time. How can anyone process it all? If you are an artistic, musical person, singing and creating may be the first place you reach to begin to sort things out. But where to start?

Join us for the Virtual Choral Village (July 27 – 31, 2020), an on-line week of exploring and processing the stories of Spring 2020 through music-making, conversing, drumming, improvising, and creating, geared for youth entering grades 8 – 12 in Fall 2020.

We are seeking youth who are interested in:

  • connecting through artistic expression, exploring new ways to use their voices, ears, and cultural rhythms
  • communicating with other youth from different locales, with different life experiences, telling different stories
  • creating a new artistic expression with these new colleagues

What will each day be like?

All Times Eastern Standard Time/Schedule is subject to change, depending on participants living in different time zones.

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Vocal warmup and improvisation
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Dialogue and Community Building
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Drumming
2:30 PM – 4:30 PM Creative project work with coaching by the clinicians
4:30 PM – 5:00 PM End of the day Check-In

Friday at 4:00 PM will be a presentation of the creative projects of the week.

What do I need to participate?

  • Computer/laptop/smartphone with stable internet access.
  • We will be using Soundtrap and Flipgrid, two free online programs to share our work and stay in touch.
  • You do NOT need a drum! But you DO need something to bang on – a trashcan, laundry basket, bucket, anything to make some noise!
  • Curiosity, openness, and willingness to learn!

The Virtual Choral Village Team of Expert Clinicians

Our team is experienced in facilitating dialogue, leading vocal improvisation, and instructing drum circles.

Dr. Joy Hirokawa (Vocal Instructor and Director of Choral Village) is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Bel Canto Youth Chorus of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. She formerly led the music education program at Moravian College for ten years, was an adjunct instructor at Temple University, and was Director of the Lafayette College Concert Choir. Dr. Hirokawa is a published arranger and frequent guest conductor and clinician, presenting regularly at ACDA, NAfME, and PMEA conferences. She is the ACDA National Repertoire and Resources Chair for Children and Youth Choirs. Dr. Hirokawa taught in public schools for 20 years prior to teaching at the collegiate level.

Jennie Gilrain (Theater Artist-Educator) has worked for 20 years as an actor, director, and teacher with Touchstone Theatre, 10 years as an adjunct professor with the Lehigh University Department of Theater and 13 years as a teacher with the Bethlehem Area School District. Most recently, Gilrain directed The Secret, an exploration of the celebrated feminist writer and LGBTQ icon Hilda Doolittle with Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre (2020). Gilrain also curated Finding H.D., A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle with partners Lehigh University, the Bethlehem Area Public Library, Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Community Center, and Mock Turtle Marionette Theater. Gilrain graduated from the Lecoq International School of Theatre and Laboratory for the Study of Movement and is currently in the Education Leadership doctoral program at Lehigh University.

Joseph Tayoun (World Drumming) is an accomplished Middle Eastern percussionist. He started playing by the early age of eight at his family’s renowned Middle East Restaurant in Philadelphia where live, authentic Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Armenian, Greek, and Israeli music and dance was performed nightly for over forty years. Learning from the area’s top Middle Eastern musicians, Joe became adept at the many styles of drumming within these different ethnicities. He performs with various Middle Eastern and World Music ensembles locally, regionally, and internationally, as well as conducting workshops and masterclasses at schools and universities. Joseph has been the recipient of several noteworthy grants from such organizations including the: NEA, PCA, PAEP, and the State Department. He is a Teaching/Artist-In-Residence at Independence Charter School, an award-winning K through 8th school in Center City Philadelphia where he instructs a Hands-On Global Arts class and directs the new World Drumming Corps for the Middle School. Joe is also Artist-In-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archeology where he regularly instructs Middle Eastern Drumming classes in the Egyptian Gallery for adults.

Tuition – $200 US

Scholarships available for Lehigh Valley, PA students

Registration closes July 25, 2020 at midnight

Enrollment is limited to 20 students! Sign up TODAY by clicking the link below to reach our registration page.

While we are based in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, USA, we also welcome youth from other areas to join our exploration of shared and diverse experiences of the last five months.

To Register for the Virtual Choral Village 2020

  1. Click HERE to access and complete our registration form.
  2. After the registration form is submitted, you will be contacted to confirm the registration and to process tuition payment.
  3. For more information about Virtual Choral Village, financial aid, or registration, contact Silagh White at .

    **Limited financial aid is available for families with demonstrated financial need.

    Please note that spaces are limited for this camp. To guarantee a spot in the Choral Village, registration must be completed by June 25, 2020, at midnight.


* Exciting news! * 
An article about Bel Canto’s Choral Village program, written by Joy Hirokawa, Bel Canto’s Founder and Artistic Director,  was published online in Choral Journal and will be the lead article in the print magazine. It will also be included in an upcoming book based on articles that came out of the Relevance Symposium where Joy presented information behind Choral Village.

See Video Gallery for a Peek into the Choral Village


Contact Silagh White at  or 610-866-4382 x 116 for more information. 

To receive an audition , complete the background survey.

Auditions will be done through private virtual Zoom meetings with Dr. Hirokawa.

Please call 610-866-4382, ext. 116 with questions.
No preparation needed.
Noted for its innovative and artistic programming, the Bel Canto Youth Chorus is comprised of Preparatory, Intermediate, and Concert Choirs. In addition to performances throughout the greater Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley areas, tours have taken the choir to Ireland, Central Europe, Italy, England, Canada, Hawaii, and Disney World. At weekly rehearsals, Bel Canto choristers are provided with an educational and artistic experience that encompasses far more than just singing. Choristers learn about different cultures, religions, and lands through music, and develop friendships with other children who share their passion for music-making.
An education and outreach program of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, The Bel Canto Youth Chorus is under the artistic direction of its founder, Dr. Joy Ondra Hirokawa.
The Preparatory Chorus is designed for our youngest singers, typically in grades 2 – 4. Basic vocal skills, score reading, and rehearsal techniques are established in this group. These singers perform in the Winter and Spring concerts, and often in one or two run-out concerts. Rehearsals last 60 minutes on Monday evenings. Directed by Lauren Kostovick and Derek Kostovick. Annual tuition $755.00
The Intermediate Choir emphasizes developing vocal technique, music literacy, and part-singing. Singers at this level typically perform 1-2 run-out concerts in addition to our annual Winter and Spring concerts. It rehearses for 90 minutes on Monday evenings and is comprised of singers primarily in grades 4 – 8. Directed by Lauren Kostovick and Derek Kostovick.  Annual tuition $800.00
The Concert Choir performs a wide variety of music at an advanced level. Singers in this ensemble are expected to have a high level of musicianship in place to be accepted. They perform 2-3 concerts each season and tour annually. The Concert Choir rehearses 2 hours weekly on Thursday nights and has a required week-long camp in the summer. Most singers in this ensemble are in grades 6 – 12.  Directed by Dr. Joy Hirokawa.  Annual tuition $850.00
The Chamber Choir consists of any select choristers who currently sing in the Concert Choir. This ensemble is featured annually on music that highlights the unique vocal characteristics of advanced singers.
Assistance and payment plans available- contact us for more information.
Curious? Sit in on a rehearsal to see what it’s all about! Please contact the office to arrange a visit! Call 610-866-4382 x116 or email


Please complete the background informational survey to request an audition time.

Please call 610-866-4382, ext. 116 with questions.
No preparation needed.

Upcoming Events and Performances

We look forward to singing for you during the 2020-2021!

Winter Concert:

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Spring Concert: 

Saturday, May 2, 2021

Please watch your email and this page for repertoire, time and location information to come.

Professional Development

Want to find out about our Professional Development Resources?

We are currently planning for the third Choral Director’s workshop. It will be open to all levels of classroom, community, and faith-based choral directors. If you are interested in receiving information about the next professional development workshop, please add your name to our email list here.

Choral Music Teacher Workshop Professional Development

Dr. Jason Vodicka & Dr. Joy Hirokawa, clinicians
Saturday, January 25th, 2020 – Reflections

Our annual professional development day for Choral Music Educators was held on Saturday, January 25, 2020 at Christ Lutheran Church in Allentown. Attendees included a WIDE variety of choral conductors – from church musicians dealing with aging voices with out of control wobbles to elementary general music teachers working with our youngest singers. Sessions covered teaching strategies that were applicable to every age group, and every attendee had something to offer to our discussions. We are grateful that our choral director community has such generous and supportive individuals, and hope that more of you can join us next year!  We hosted Dr. Jason Vodicka from Westminster Choir College for a workshop on incorporating Group Vocal Technique, Gordon Music Learning Theory, and Critical Pedagogy into any choral rehearsal.

Workshop Description
Using the accessible octavo “Shady Grove” arranged by Tom Shelton, Jason presented a wide variety of possible teaching approaches for a choral setting. The workshop included theory backed up by actual application to a learning environment, demonstrated Group Vocal Technique, Gordon Music Learning Theory, Critical Pedagogy, and other approaches. The workshop provided participants with pedagogical ideas to explore to support the work they do with singers.

The workshop included the following themes:

  1. Distracted Music-ing: Music as a Multitask:  Creating rehearsals that teach discrete skills within a musically empowering context (60 mins).
  2. The Choral Warm-up: Building Vocal Skill through Group Vocal Technique (60 mins).
  3. Singing in Context: Applying language-based “sight before sound” techniques to build choral literacy (100 minutes).
  4. Please Talk in My Rehearsal: Strategies to engage singers in musical and social dialogue (50 minutes).

8:30 – 9:00     Coffee, Conversations, Connections!
9:00 – 12:00    Workshop
12:00 – 1:00    Lunch (Box lunch may be purchased with registration.)
1:00 – 3:00     Workshop

5 hours of ACT-48 credit was made available by working with the school districts for each participant who wished to add this workshop for their professional development.


Conductor and educator Jason Vodicka is an Assistant Professor of Music Education at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in music education, mentors student teachers, and teaches summer courses in conducting pedagogy for in-service musicians. Prior to his appointment at Westminster, Dr. Vodicka was Coordinator of Music Education at Susquehanna University where he taught courses in music education, conducted the University Chorale, and founded the Susquehanna University High School Choral Institute. During this time he was also Music Director of the Harrisburg Choral Society and Orchestra, a community ensemble founded in 1895. For nine years, Dr. Vodicka was a vocal music instructor at Pennsbury High School in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A versatile musician and educator, Dr. Vodicka has worked as a church musician for more than twenty years.

Dr. Vodicka holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in music education from Westminster Choir College and a doctorate in conducting from the University of Georgia. He is a 2017 inductee into the Westminster Music Education Hall of Fame. Dr. Vodicka is in frequent demand as a clinician and guest conductor. He is the author of several publications including chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Choral Pedagogy and James Jordan’s Inside the Choral Rehearsal: Harmonic Rehearsal Teaching and Learning Based on the Music Learning Theory of Edwin E. Gordon. He is the chief author of the Inside the Choral Rehearsal teaching guides series available from GIA Publications.


Questions? Please email Dr. Joy Hirokawa @ or contact Silagh White, Administrator, at 610-866-4382 x116 or

The Directors and Administration

Dr. Joy Hirokawa, Founder and Artistic Director

Dr. Joy Hirokawa is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Bel Canto Youth Chorus. She earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Education from Boston University, a Masters degree in Choral Conducting from Temple University, and a Bachelors degree with honors in Music Education, also from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She teaches a course annually at Villanova University’s Summer Music Program in working with the child’s voice. Dr. Hirokawa is a frequent guest conductor and clinician, presenting regularly at ACDA, NAfME and PMEA conferences and conducting numerous honors choirs, including the Connecticut All-State Elementary Honors Choir, the Middle School Treble Alabama All-State Chorus, the ACDA-PA All-State Middle School Honors Choir, and the ACDA-PA All-State Women’s Honor. Under her direction, The Bel Canto Youth Chorus has performed locally, nationally and internationally to great acclaim, and has appeared at ACDA, NAfME, and PMEA conferences. International tours have taken the choir to Italy, Ireland, England, and in the summer of 2013, Central Europe. Dr. Hirokawa’s published arrangements include her jazz arrangement of “My Favorite Things” and the Andalusian song “Lamma Badaa Yatathanna,” which have appeared on numerous festival programs. She is the current ACDA Eastern Division Repertoire and Standards Chair for Children and Youth Choirs and the Southeast Region Chair for ACDA-PA. Dr. Hirokawa taught in the public schools for 20 years and is now an adjunct professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.

Lauren Kostovick, Director of the Preparatory Choir

Lauren Kostovick is the director of the Preparatory Choir. She is a graduate of Westminster Choir College, earning a Bachelors in Music Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching degrees. She is also certified in various processes for teaching music including Orff, First Steps in Music, and Conversational Solfege. She currently teaches K-5 vocal music at Jaindl Elementary School in Parkland School District. Her biggest goals in teaching involve building community, spreading the joy of music making, and allowing space for creative thinking for young musicians.

Derek Kostovick, Co-Director of the Preparatory Choir

Derek Kostovick is the co-director of the Preparatory Choir. He holds a Bachelors degree in Music Composition, a certification in Music Education K-12, and a Masters degree in Multicultural Education, all of which were earned at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA. He is currently a professor of music at Eastern University, teaching theory and serving as band director for Eastern Winds. He has a background in composition for television working with National Geographic, and for film working on larger productions such as Iron Man and Transformers. He has accompanied and arranged for choirs for over fifteen years. Additionally, he served for five years as director of music at Aldan Union Church in Philadelphia, writing many new songs as well as a cantata for choir and band.

Andrea Berntsen, Collaborative Pianist

Andrea Berntsen started playing piano at age of three and became a professional accompanist at the age of thirteen. She earned a BM in Piano Performance from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and an MM in Piano and Organ Performance from the Yale University School of Music, New Haven, Connecticut. Ms. Berntsen has been an active church organist and choir director for close to fifty years and currently resides in Allentown, PA where she continues working as a church musician in addition to freelancing as a keyboard accompanist.

Silagh White, Administrator

Silagh White has more than 25 years of experience in arts management, most recently at Lehigh University-first as Director of ArtsLehigh (2005-2011) and then as Director of Arts Engagement & Community Cultural Affairs (2011-2016). Her career is also anchored in music and she has a doctorate in Bassoon Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Lehigh University. Prior to moving to the Lehigh Valley, she was director of an arts engagement program called “The Muse Machine” for the Performing Arts Council of Toledo, Ohio. She is president of the Eastern PA Arts Alliance, and a member of the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission. She produces features for Lehigh Valley Arts Salon on the local public radio, WDIY, and has a blog/podcast called “The Audience Guide.”

As a new education and community building program of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, the Bel Canto Youth Chorus continues to maintain policy and oversight through volunteer leadership and parent representation.

2018-2019 Governance Committee
Jennifer O’Donnell, Chair and Representative to the Bach Choir of Bethlehem Board of Directors
Elizabeth Campbell, Parent Auxiliary Chair
Catharine Roseberry, Recording Secretary
Jesse Gehman, Bel Canto Alumn & Bach Choir of Bethlehem
Brandon Kendall, Concert Choir Parent
Lindsay Whitman, Preparatory/Intermediate Choir Parent
Silagh White, Administrator of Bel Canto Youth Chorus
Joy Hirokawa, Founder and Artistic Director of Bel Chanto Youth Chorus
Bridget George, Executive Director of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem

Video Gallery

Chamber Choir performs The National Anthem, August 22, 2019 at Coca-Cola Park.


Appalachian Festival of Young Voices
Charleston, West Virginia
June 26-29, 2020
Festival Conductors: Henry Leck and David Flood

Festival Activities:

  • 4 night stay in Charleston’s luxurious Embassy Suites Hotel

  • Performance with a traditional string band and orchestra

  • Individual choir performances each night in the Embassy Ballroom

  • Festival choir performance at Charleston’s Civic Center Little Theater

  • Participation in Charleston’s city-wide FestivALL when the city becomes a work of art!

  • Outstanding opportunity to work with Dr. Rollo Dilworth

  • Q&A Session with Dr. Dilworth, singer/songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler and singer/songwriter Ron Sowell

  • Square dancing with a live band and storytelling with a West Virginia artist

  • Farewell party with a live DJ on the River Queen riverboat.

Why we travel

  • Builds cohesiveness in the choir
  • With more cohesiveness, they perform better!
  • When they perform better, they reach new heights of musicianship & musicality
  • Educational opportunities
  • Musical opportunities
  • Broaden horizons
  • Opportunities for individual personal growth

Here is another perspective of the impact of travel. Bel Canto alumni Kennedy Spencer and Sara Mack share what they gained from the experience: