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”

Travel for summer 2020 has yet to be determined. It will remain a domestic trip, most likely on the east coast.

Upcoming Events and Performances

Decisions on The Bel Canto Spring Concert will be determined in the coming weeks. It will be made in the mostly timely manner possible.

Spring Concert

2pm Saturday, May 2, 2020
St. John Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church,  1245 Hamilton Blvd., Allentown, PA 18102

Choral Village

Choral Village
July 27-31, 2020
Allentown Public Middle School to be confirmed by March 2020.

Choral Village is a low-cost, one-week summer program for youth entering grades 6 – 9 in the Lehigh Valley. The purpose of the program is to intentionally bring together young people from our region to learn about each other and our community’s cultural diversity through activities that may include theatrical games, drum circles, musical experiences, and in particular, artistically expressive choral performance.

Choral Village is led by accomplished musicians who are devoted to promoting and developing self-confidence, empathy, and leadership in young people. A special highlight will be mini-concerts performed by area musicians.

Click picture to register for the 2020 Choral Village

July 27 through 31, 2020
8:30am-3:00pm daily
Location – Trexler Middle School851 N 15th St, Allentown to be confirmed March 2020

  • For singers entering 6-9th grade
  • Lunch included
  • Low cost @ $200
  • Tuition Assistance Available
  • Registration Open Now

Take these 2 easy steps and join us in July!

  1. Complete our registration form and optional survey

  2.  Pay online     OR     Send a check for $205.00* payable to: The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

Mail to:
The Bel Canto Youth Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem
440 Heckewelder Place Bethlehem, PA 18018
(include “Choral Village” in memo line)

  • Students who demonstrate financial need may be eligible for a scholarship.  Our Financial Assistance Guide is available upon request. Email

    Students who would like to apply for need-based financial assistance can request an application by emailing Financial Aid can also be recommended by your child’s classroom teacher.

    Please note that spaces are limited for this camp. To hold a place for your child, be sure to register by May 8, 2020.

    Financial Assistance forms, if applicable must be received by May 8th to qualify for assistance, if not recommended by your child’s teacher.

    If paying tuition by check, please select that option on the registration form and an invoice will be mailed to you.

    To guarantee a spot in the Choral Village, payment must be received by June 5, 2020.

* 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 510-866-4382 x 116 for more information. 

Auditions for the 2020-2021 Season will be in May, 2020.

To receive an audition , complete the background survey.

Auditions will be on Monday, May 11, and Monday, May 18, 2020, from 6:00-9:00 PM at 440 Heckewelder Pl, Bethlehem.

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

Complete the background informational survey to request an audition time.

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

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: