University of Minnesota International Choral Academy

International Choral ACademy Conducting Masterclass and Young Artist Program, August 12 - 16 2024, with pictures of vocal and conducting faculty
From top left to right, Mark Diamond, baritone, Elizabeth Johnson Knight, mezzo-soprano, Brian A. Schmidt, conducting faculty, Richard Sparks, conducting faculty. From bottom left to right, Sonja Dutoit Tengblad, soprano, Joseph Hubbard, bass, Martina Batić, conducting faculty, and Matthew Mehaffey, conducting faculty.

Key Dates & Location

August 12-16, 2024
Northrop Auditorium on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 

Questions? Contact Matthew Mehaffey

The International Choral Academy at the University of Minnesota is a premiere summer choral program, featuring a pre-professional Masterclass Track for conductors and singers and a Conductor’s Toolbox Track for working choral practitioners.

The Masterclass Track

The Masterclass Track is an intensive summer residency program aimed at delivering professional training to emerging conductors (5 Fellows and 8 Observers) and singers (16 Young Artists) who aspire to excel in the field of professional choral music. This program equips participants with essential skills necessary for leading professional choral groups, both from the conductor's podium and as a part of the ensemble. Conductors will work closely with our esteemed conducting faculty and singers will work with our team of four distinguished vocal artists/coaches. Conducting Fellows will receive ample podium time with The Masterclass Choir, an ensemble of 24-30 singers composed of the Young Artists, the vocal faculty, and seasoned professional choral singers.

Throughout the week, singers and conductors will participate in coaching sessions, choral rehearsals, and professional development sessions. In addition to performing alongside faculty mentors and professional singers in the Masterclass Choir, the Young Artists will perform as soloists in a midweek recital. The week concludes with a Friday afternoon public concert featuring the Conducting Fellows on the podium. Application Deadline: April 1. 

Conductor's Toolbox Track

In parallel, the Conductor's Toolbox Track, led by Dr. Richard Sparks, is a specialized program aimed at music teachers, church musicians, organists, and individuals at all levels of their careers who are looking to improve their rehearsal and conducting techniques. This course is centered around Dr. Sparks' seminal work, “The Conductor's Toolbox," a required purchase for all participants. The curriculum is designed to provide conductors with a comprehensive toolkit for both artistic and technical development, covering topics such as conducting gesture, self-assessment, modeling, habit formation, skill acquisition, efficient rehearsal strategies, and repertoire selection that promotes growth for both the conductor and choir. Moreover, participants will receive a continuing education memo from the University of Minnesota School of Music, accrediting 15 hours of instruction. This track represents an invaluable opportunity for those dedicated to enhancing their conducting skills in a professional, focused environment.

Masterclass Track Overview

The 2024 Masterclass Track will focus on Scandinavian repertoire. Exact repertoire will be posted soon. This in-depth focus on Scandinavian music will provide singers and conductors an essential foundation into the background, analysis, language intricacies, and performance practices of this rich and valued repertoire. Each Conducting Fellow will be assigned approximately 10 minutes of repertoire to conduct during the week and on the final concert.

  • Monday/Tuesday - Piano Rehearsals with conducting faculty/Interest Sessions/Choral Score Preparation
  • Wednesday/Thursday  - Interest sessions and 4.5 hours of rehearsal with the Masterclass Choir 
  • Friday - Morning Dress Rehearsal with Masterclass Choir/Afternoon Final Concert. Ends at 3pm
  • Monday/Tuesday - Vocal Coachings on Solo Repertoire/Interest Sessions/Choral Score Preparation
  • Tuesday evening recital featuring Young Artists
  • Wednesday/Thursday  - Interest sessions and 4.5 hours of rehearsal with the Masterclass Choir lead by Conducting Fellows
  • Friday - Morning Dress Rehearsal with Masterclass Choir/Afternoon Final Concert. Ends at 3pm

Observing Conductors will observe all rehearsals and attend all interest sessions. They will be invited to engage in all activities.

Who Should Apply

Conducting Fellows (4-5 active conductors will receive about 60 minutes of podium time/day) 

  • For advanced graduate conductors and early- to mid-career professionals in the field.

Observing Conductors (max 8 conductors accepted)

  • For undergrad/masters conductors who aspire to do future pro choral work to study/observe alongside Fellows and Faculty, learn what skills are needed and how to develop them.

Young Artists (max of 16 singers accepted)

  • For undergrad/grad students or early-career singers interested in professional ensemble and chamber singing.


Active conductor -$1000
Young Artist Singer - $600
Observing Conductor - $500

Apply for the Masterclass Track (Application Deadline: April 1) 

Conductor's Toolbox Track Schedule Overview

Tuesday, August 13-Thursday, August 15, 2024

Tentative Schedule 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM daily

  • 9:30am-12:00 - morning session
  • Lunch on own 
  • 2:00-4:30pm - afternoon session
  • Participants welcomed to observe all evening sessions, recitals, and rehearsals free of charge (optional).
  • Free ticket to the Friday afternoon concert (optional).

Conductor's Toolbox Track (24 conductors accepted)

  • Designed for music teachers, church musicians/organists, and anyone seeking professional growth with rehearsal and conducting technique.


Conductor's Toolbox Participant - $150

Payment for Conductor's Toolbox Track

Register for the Conductor's Toolbox Track  

Conducting Faculty

Martina Batić, Danish National Radio Choir (Image Credit: Janez Kotar)
Matthew Mehaffey, University of Minnesota, Oratorio Society of MN
Brian A. Schmidt, University of Minnesota
Richard Sparks, Benedict 16 Choir, University of North Texas, professor emeritus 

Vocal Faculty

Sonja Dutoit Tengblad, soprano
Elizabeth Johnson Knight, mezzo-soprano, University of Georgia
Mark Diamond, baritone, Baylor University
Joseph Hubbard, bass