We believe choral singing builds better humans.
The process of learning to work together as a team to create inspired, musical performances builds personal empathy and understanding. We consider each individual chorister as a valued, contributing member. Our instructional approach provides social and historical context for every piece we study. Musicianship and vocal technique are seamlessly integrated into instruction, and drawn directly from the music we are learning. Our repertoire ranges from Bach to contemporary composers and culturally based music, with a special emphasis on underrepresented composers and music.
These wide-ranging musical experiences connect our singers, creating a strong sense of community, understanding the power they have when they lift their voices.
Take a look at how we have shifted to keep singing through the pandemic:
The Directors and Administration
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.
Elizabeth Kane is thrilled to lead the Preparatory Choir of The Bel Canto Youth Chorus. She has earned a Masters of Musical Arts in Ethnomusicology from Hunter College, City University of New York, and a Bachelor of Music degree with honors in Music Education from The College of New Jersey. She is currently completing her Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Education at Boston University with a research focus in social-emotional learning. She currently teaches music at Bridgewater Raritan Regional School district, a NAMM “Best Communities For Music Education” district for several years running. Elizabeth is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Education, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the American String Teachers Association. She also served as a national publications committee member for the National Association for Gifted Children. Elizabeth has a deep passion for lifelong and community music-making. She has been both a performer, lecturer, and board of trustees member for the New Jersey Choral Society where she worked hard to ensure high quality and informative intergenerational music performances. Elizabeth believes in helping every child experience and create music in meaningful and fun ways.
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.
Gail Grossman, Bel Canto’s vocal technician, has been a private voice teacher in the Lehigh Valley for more than thirty years, specializing in classical voice, opera, and musical theatre. Ms. Grossman has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in voice from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and spent a year in Bologna, Italy, studying opera.
She sang professionally and taught voice in New York City for many years, and continued advanced studies in speech pathology at NYU, focusing on voice disorders experienced by the professional voice user. Ms. Grossman has worked with ear, nose, and throat specialists in New York and Pennsylvania, providing voice therapy to singers with vocal nodules and other vocal issues, including paralyzed vocal cords, global apraxia, and traumatic brain injury. Ms. Grossman maintains a private voice studio in the Allentown area. Her students have gone on to major universities and conservatories, and many have gone on to major careers in opera, musical theater, film, and contemporary music.
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 an 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.
2021-2022 Governance Committee
Jennifer O’Donnell, Chair and Representative to the Bach Choir of Bethlehem Board of Directors
Phyllis H. Gibson
Connie Behringer, Administrator of Bel Canto Youth Chorus
Joy Hirokawa, Founder and Artistic Director of Bel Canto Youth Chorus
Leela Breithaupf, Executive Director of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem