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Program for San Francisco Girls Chorus – Chorus School Level IV – June 2 , 2023

Friday, June 2, 2023 at 7 pm

download a copy of this program here.

San Francisco Girls Chorus
Chorus School Level IV
Graduation Concert and Ceremony

Monica Baruch, Level IV Director
César Cancino, pianist


The Elements
Earth, Water, Air, and Fire Songs

San Francisco Girls Chorus
Chorus School Level IV

Monica Baruch, conductor
Cesar Cancino, pianist

The ancient Greeks believed that there were four elements that made up everything in the universe: earth, air, water, and fire. This theory was suggested around 450 BC, and it was later supported and added to by the great philosopher, Aristotle.

The idea that these four elements made up all matter was the cornerstone of philosophy, science, and medicine for two thousand years.

Today, these four elements make up the foundation of our year together in Level IV, encompassing the four corners of our experiences, learning, and the music we have made together as an ensemble over the last ten months.

Welcome Remarks
Dr. Laney Armstrong
SFGC Director of Choral Studies


Songs of calmness, groundedness, stability, and awe

Hoj, hura hoj! (O Mountain, O!)
A Moravian Czech Mountain Song
Otmar Mácha (1922-2006)
Soloists: Julia Howe, Ellie Wong, Pearl Watson 

Zion’s Walls
Adapted by Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Arranged for Chorus by Glenn Koponen

Lift Thine Eyes from Elijah
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)


Songs of harmony, balance, growth, and the great beyond

Sanctus, Benedictus from Mass No. 6
György Orbán (b. 1947)

Salmo 150 “Psalm 150”
Ernani Aguiar (b. 1950)


Songs of whimsy, relaxation, possibility, and serenity

Sarah Quartel (b. 1982)

Ahe Lau Makani
Words and Music by Princess Liliʻuokalani
arr. by Stephen Hatfield (b. 1956)
Stefan Cwik, acoustic guitar
Jared Pabilona, string bass

Level IV Ensemble

Il est bel et bon
Pierre Passereau (1509-1547) 

And So It Goes
Words and Music by Billy Joel (b. 1949)
Arranged by Kirby Shaw


Songs of passion, energy, heartbreak, and love

Five Hebrew Love Songs
Music by Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)
Text by Hila Plitmann (b. 1973)

Heidi Modr, violin

      Tambourine: Maddie Swain


Graduate Remarks and Introduction to Graduate Speaker
Monica Baruch, Level IV Director

It has been one of the greatest joys and rewards of my professional life to lead Level IV this year. Being a part of and witnessing their commitment, hard work, dedication, leadership, creativity, and musicianship is inspiring to anyone and everyone that comes within their path. I am so proud of their accomplishments this year, and can’t wait to see what they accomplish in their futures.

The graduate speaker is a Level IV graduate who demonstrates the qualities that SFGC fosters. This year’s graduate speaker is Miroslava Zagal. Throughout the year, Miroslava has been an emerging leader with great musical instincts and a beautiful voice. She has worked hard and consistently to improve herself and her skills, including her posture, focus, grit, musicianship, participation, and commitment. I am proud of Miroslava as the singer and musician she has become, in addition to the ways she acts with kindness, thoughtfulness, and integrity. For this and many other reasons, Miroslava is this year’s graduate speaker, and is a great example to her peers and those that will follow in her footsteps in the future.

Graduate Speaker
Miroslava Zagal

Ceremony and Presentation of Graduate Certificates
Graduate pinning by Elisabeth Rothenbuhler, Alum ‘17

2023 Chorus School Graduates
Georgia Ballard
Gloria Anne Cebrian
Charlotte B. Choi
Natalie Falero
Julia Howe
Aram Kim
Mackenzie Pederson
Iris Pradal
Wilhelmina N. Ratto
Katherine Rogers
Elizabeth Rogers
Leonora Steward
Calista Stone
Madeline Swain
Anayah Tin
Pearl Watson
Miroslava Zagal

 Graduate Performance

Lajos Bárdos (1899-1986)
erformed by the 2023 Chorus School Graduates

Just sing, because a song is a very good thing!
Just sing, because a song is in your heart!

Fire from Elements
Katerina Gimon (b. 1993)

About our faculty

Monica Baruch, Level IV Director

Monica Baruch, a Los Angeles native, joined the San Francisco Girls Chorus team in the summer of 2018. Mrs. Baruch has directed Level I, Level II, and is thrilled to be stepping into the role of Level IV Director this year in addition to her work as Director of Chorus School Operations & Community Engagement.

Prior to her work with SFGC, Mrs. Baruch spent eight years as a choir director in the Palo Alto Unified School District, where she taught music and choir at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Under her direction, the choral program at Greene Middle School (formerly known as Jordan Middle School) grew from 13 to 250 singers in grades 6-8 in four years. Before her time in the Bay Area, Mrs. Baruch lived in Washington, D.C., where she promoted arts education outreach and advocacy at the national level with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Mrs. Baruch has ample experience teaching singers and choirs of all ages.

Mrs. Baruch is a singer with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and has sung under such batons as Michael Tilson Thomas, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jane Glover, Grant Gershon, Nathalie Schutzman and Ragnar Bohlin. She has completed her certification in Orff-Schulwerk from the San Francisco International Orff Course, and holds a Level I Certification in Kodály teaching from Holy Names University. She is a magna cum laude graduate of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where she studied choral music education. In January 2020, she led a choral reading session as part of the California Music Educators Association: Bay Section Conference, with a focus on repertoire for children’s choirs. Mrs. Baruch has prepared SFGC choristers to perform in productions with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco Opera.

César Cancino, Pianist

César Cancino enjoys a musically diverse career as pianist, musical director, conductor, and composer. He studied piano with Alain Naudé, a pupil of the great Dinu Lipatti. He was for many years the musical director/pianist for “Teatro Zinzanni” in San Francisco and for several years toured with singer/songwriter Joan Baez as her musical director and pianist. In 2021 he appeared as pianist/accompanist for LA Opera’s “After Hours” Latina Composers series. Mr. Cancino has performed throughout North America, Europe and Australia in such venues as “Montreux Jazz Festival,” Carnegie Hall, Atlanta “Summer Pops” Symphony and the “New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.”

Tonia D’Amelio, Level IV Voice Instructor

Called “extravagantly charismatic” by the San Francisco Chronicle and praised by San Francisco Classical Voice for her “vivid and technically assured” singing, soprano Tonia D’Amelio has sung with opera companies, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and vocal consorts across the U.S. and abroad.

A versatile singer with a repertoire spanning five centuries, Tonia particularly enjoys premiering opera and concert works. She created the role of Celia in Allen Shearer’s Middlemarch in Spring for the world premiere in San Francisco and the revival with Charlottesville Opera, sang in the first performance of Ryan Brown’s Mortal Lessons at the Hot Air Festival, and joined the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys to premiere Ben Bachmann’s Fantasia on American Christmas Carols. Tonia also performed featured roles in the modern stage premieres of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire (1745 version) with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, and Carlo Pallavicino’s Le Amazzoni nell’Isole Fortunate (1679) with Ars Minerva.

Other favorite opera and concert credits include The Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Musetta (La Bohème), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Elisetta (Il matrimonio segreto), and soprano solos in Mozart’s Mass in C minor, Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. As a passionate advocate for sacred music in sacred spaces, Tonia has been a soloist for liturgical performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, Mozart’s Requiem, and J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, and has participated as a guest artist at the William Byrd Festival in Portland, Oregon, and at the Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy in Wiltshire, U.K. Next season, Tonia looks forward to her European debut in Jean-Marie LeClair’s Scylla et Glaucus at the Royal Opera of Versailles.

In addition to singing and teaching voice, Tonia teaches alignment-focused barre fitness classes at The Dailey Method’s Piedmont and Berkeley studios.

Stefan Cwik, guitar

Stefan Cwik began his musical studies in composition and guitar performance with composer/guitarist Dusan Bogdanovic at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). He finished his undergraduate studies in composition at SFCM studying with David Conte and his graduate studies with John Corigliano at The Juilliard School.

Stefan is dedicated to the collaborative process of composition. He held the post of Composer-In-Residence for San Francisco based orchestra Symphony Parnassus directed by Stephen Paulson who conducts the orchestra and is also the Principal bassoonist of the San Francisco Symphony. During his time working with Parnassus he composed them five Orchestral Works which premiered in San Francisco.

Throughout his professional life Stefan’s received numerous awards including the 2010 BCMCC (Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition), the 2013 BMI Student composer award, was two time winner of the Juilliard Orchestral composition competitions, and received honorable mention at the 2013 ASCAP Morton Gould Young composer awards. Currently, Stefan was just commissioned by the San Francisco based Brass Quintet Brass over Bridges to compose a new concerto for brass quintet and Orchestra. This work will be premiered on June 11th of 2023 at Herbst’s Theatre with The SF Civic Symphony.

Stefan is a professor of Orchestration and Music Theory and Musicianship at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composer, Authors, and Publishers). Representative examples of his music can be found on the audio/video page of this site, or can be requested by contacting him via email,

Heidi Modr, violin

Heidi Modr has had the pleasure of a career in music playing the violin at exceptional concert halls with world renowned artists. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and the Juilliard School, where she studied with the late Dorothy Delay, Heidi garnered several favorable New York Times reviews for solo appearances in NYC. Most notable of these reviews was Anita Gates’ comment on her playing of an unaccompanied Sonata ‘Bach played beautifully by Heidi Modr’. She has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Sapporo Hall, Alice Tully Hall, State Theater and The Kennedy Center hundreds of times in solo, chamber music and orchestral concerts having been a member of the Lumina Quartet, The Orchestra of St Luke’s and solo violinist for NY City Opera tours. While in NYC Heidi enjoyed doing studio work, commercials and soundtracks, in addition to recording and performing with such greats as Ray Charles, Pavarotti, Carly Simon, Burt Bacharach, Frederica Von Stade, Winton Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma and Jessye Norman.

Jared Pabilona, bass

Jared Pabilona is a professional double bassist native to the Bay Area. Over the course of his career, he has appeared in the capacity of Principal Bass, Assistant Principal Bass, and Section Player with orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Symphony Silicon Valley, the San Jose Ballet Orchestra, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, and more. Jared has appeared as a featured soloist with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra; music critics from San Francisco Classical Voice describe Jared’s playing as “moving from touching restraint [to] brimming liquidity” with a “sweet and true” tone. Growing up, Jared played Principal Bass in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, and attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for Orchestral Performance.


Valérie Sainte-Agathe, Artistic DirectorValérie Sainte-Agathe, Artistic Director, has prepared and conducted the GRAMMY Award-winning San Francisco Girls Chorus since 2013, including performances with renowned ensembles such as the Philip Glass Ensemble, The Knights, Kronos Quartet, New Century Chamber Orchestra, Voices of Music, TENET Vocal Artists, the San Francisco Symphony, and San Francisco Opera.

Ms. Sainte-Agathe continues to bring high-profile guest artists and ensembles from across the United States and beyond to work in collaboration with the choristers of SFGC. She most recently joined forces with 2021-2022 SFGC Artist-in-Residence Bobby McFerrin in a performance of excerpts from his 1997 improvisational studio album Circlesongs. Previous collaborations with SFGC Artists-in-Residence include The King’s Singers and Roomful of Teeth, furthering SFGC’s creative energy during the COVID-19 pandemic with several unique video and audio projects that were released in spring 2021.

This season, Ms. Sainte-Agathe welcomes SFGC collaborators including GRAMMY Award-winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer, Santa Fe Opera, soprano Shawnette Sulker, composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra, and GRAMMY-nominated composer Ayanna Woods. She will conduct the world premiere of Matthew Welch’s SFGC-commissioned choral-opera Tomorrow’s Memories: A Little Manila Diary.

Through transformative choral music training, education, and performance, Ms. Sainte-Agathe empowers young singers and champions the music of today throughout the choral world. Recent commissions by Theresa Wong, Angélica Negrón, Pamela Z, Susie Ibarra, Cava Menzies, and Matthew Welch continue to build upon SFGC’s legacy of creating and presenting new repertoire for treble chorus.

Ms. Sainte-Agathe joins Philharmonia Baroque as its new Chorale Director in 2022. In the 2020-2021 season, Ms. Sainte-Agathe joined forces with GRAMMY Award-winning Kronos Quartet to conduct the world premiere of At War With Ourselves – 400 Years of You by Michael Abels throughout the U.S. including the west coast premiere at SFJAZZ with SFGC’s Premier Ensemble. She served as Artist in Residence in Choral Conducting at the University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music in Stockton, CA, and was guest Chorus Director with San Francisco Symphony for a program featuring works of Brahms conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann. Later this fall, she will be the Guest Conductor for new music ensemble Volti, creating pieces by Caroline Shaw and Pamela Z.

During the 2019-2020 season, Ms. Sainte-Agathe, in collaboration with Berkeley Ballet Theater, created and conducted Rightfully Ours, a fully-staged choral music and dance production that brought together young singers and dancers for an entire program of new music and choreographies. Featured works included world premiere commissions by Angélica Negrón and Aviya Kopelman. Ms. Sainte-Agathe also served as Artist-in-Residence for the Kronos Quartet’s Festival 2019.

In February 2018, Ms. Sainte-Agathe made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Philip Glass Ensemble, conducting with Michael Riesman in Glass’s Music with Changing Parts. Ms. Sainte-Agathe also conducted the Philip Glass Ensemble in another performance of this work making her debut at London’s prestigious Barbican Center in October 2019. In October 2017, she conducted The Photographer by Philip Glass and in June 2016, she conducted SFGC alongside The Knights and Brooklyn Youth Chorus for the New York Philharmonic Biennial Festival at Lincoln Center. She also collaborated with The Knights for the SHIFT Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Her first recording as SFGC’s Music Director, Final Answer, was released on Orange Mountain Music in February 2018, and her second recording, My Outstretched Hand, featured composer Aaron Jay Kernis, The Knights, and Trinity Youth Chorus and was released in July 2019. Between 2014 and 2016, she prepared choruses for Lisa Bielawa’s made-for-TV opera, Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser. She also served as Choir Master with Taylor Mac, recipient of MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Grant,” for the “Holiday Sauce” production at the Curran Theater in December 2018.

Ms. Sainte-Agathe served as Music Director for the Young Singers program of the Montpellier National Symphony and Opera in France from 1998-2011. In this capacity, she trained young singers for opera and symphony concerts and productions. She participated in eight recordings with the Montpellier National Orchestra and The Radio France Festival.

Dr. Laney Armstrong, Director Of Choral Studies

Laney McClain Armstrong, Director Of Choral Studies, is an active teacher and conductor. As a conductor and educator, Dr. Armstrong strives to cultivate a love of music in each singer through quality programming, building skills and musicianship, and devotion to the music and texts. She has toured internationally with choral ensembles as a singer and was one of the founding members of the Choral Fellows program at Harvard University in 2001. Dr. Armstrong has worked with singers of many ages, teaching middle school and high school, serving as the Associate Artistic Director and Director of Musicianship at the Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley, and as the Artistic Director of the San Francisco- based treble ensemble, Musae.

Dr. Armstrong holds a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University in Afro- American Studies and a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Oregon under the direction of Dr. Sharon Paul. In 2013, she received a Doctorate in Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Washington, where she studied with Dr. Geoffrey Boers. Her dissertation explores the life of the Estonian composer and his arrangements of folk hymns, focusing on those written for treble voices. Dr. Armstrong holds a Level I Certification in Kodaly teaching and has prepared singers to sing with the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, New Century Chamber Orchestra, and Opera Parallele.                                                             

About the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Stunning range, flexibility, drama, and power are among the hallmarks of the 43-year-old San Francisco Girls Chorus’s Premier Ensemble, recognized as one of the world’s leading youth vocal ensembles. Led by Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe, the Premier Ensemble has achieved an incomparable sound that underscores the unique clarity and force of impeccably trained treble voices.

Praised by Gramophone Magazine as a “remarkable tapestry of teenage voices,” SFGC has been a champion of the music of our time since its founding, having commissioned more than three dozen works by leading composers including Philip Glass, Richard Danielpour, Aaron Jay Kernis, Gabriel Kahane, Augusta Read Thomas, and Chen Yi.

SFGC has traveled the world as a musical ambassador for San Francisco, with tours to the Nordic countries, Germany, Japan, China, South Korea, and Cuba, and performed for the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama.

2022-2023 season performances include an evening at SFJAZZ featuring women composers, the world premiere of SFGC commission Dreaming Horizons by 2020-2021 Composer-in-Residence and percussionist Susie Ibarra at Davies Symphony Hall, performances with Chanticleer featuring a co-commissioned work by GRAMMY-nominated composer Ayanna Woods, and the world premiere of Matthew Welch’s SFGC-commissioned choral opera Tomorrow’s Memories: A Little Manila Diary.

For more information, visit

Level IV Singers

Georgia Ballard~^
Elizabeth Benton-Aufterbeck
Bradie Born
Gabriella Cave
Gloria Anne Cebrian*~^
Natasha Charas
Charlotte B. Choi*~^
Maya Cody
Samsara Dluzak
Natalie Falero^
Julia Howe*~^
Aram Kim*~^
Lavanna Maharjan
Mackenzie Pederson*^
Shayna Phillips
Iris Pradal^
Wilhelmina N. Ratto~^
Katherine Rogers*~^
Elizabeth Rogers*~^
Eliana Sambajon Mercado
Leonora Steward~^
Calista Stone*^
Madeline Swain*~^
Shunnisha Tate
Anayah Tin*~^
Irene Y. Wang
Pearl Watson~^
Sara Wolfe
Violet Wolfe
Ellie Wong
Alyssa M Yuen
Miroslava Zagal^

* Section Leader
~ Ensemble Member
^2023 Chorus School Graduate

San Francisco Girls Chorus

Board of Directors

Ann Gray Miller, President
Leah Fitschen Schloss, Secretary
Charles Ferguson, Treasurer
Bernadette Aguirre
Jeanne Finley
Sarah Hollenbeck
Alison Huang
Kathleen Koomen
Laura Lane
Julie Queen
John Sanborn

Administrative Staff

Adriana Marcial, Executive Director
Alison Murphy-Bernet, Director of Development
Monica Baruch, Director of Chorus School Operations & Community Engagement
Saskia Lee, Interim Director of Artistic Operations
Juliette Saux, Chorus School Manager
Anna Leal, Development Manager
Rabihah Dunn, Administrative Manager
Valentine McClain, Chorus Manager
Leah Ofman, Marketing Coordinator
Dan Rivard, Finance Associate
Michelle Markey, Bookkeeper
Gracia Mwamba, East Bay Campus Liaison
Rachel Clee, Dean of Choristers
Brenden Guy, Public Relations Consultant

Chorus School Faculty

Valérie Sainte-Agathe, Artistic Director
Dr. Laney Armstrong, Director of Choral Studies
Monica Baruch, Level IV Director
Terry Alvord, Level III Director
Dion Nickelson, Level II Director
Ariel Estebez, Level I and II Director
Lola Miller-Henline, Level I Director
Angelina Picazo, Level I Director
Kayla Wilfong, Training Chorus Director
Emily Kusnadi, Prep Chorus Director
Taylor Husted, Prep Chorus Director
Renée Witon, Music Theory Instructor
Ericsson Hatfield, Music Theory Instructor
Bobby Chastain, AP Music Theory Instructor
Chesley Mok, Premier Ensemble Pianist
César Cancino, Level IV Pianist
Christopher Hewitt, Level I, II, and III Pianist
Alice Kubo, Level II and Training Chorus Pianist
Natsuko Murayama, Level II Pianist
Ian Llacer Chamberla, Level I Pianist
Kevin Lie, Level I Pianist
Jenny Ma, Level I Pianist
Lisa Scola Prosek, Training Chorus Pianist and SFGConnect Pianist
Angel Chuang, Training Chorus Pianist
Dr. Justin Montigne, Voice Instructor
Tonia D’Amelio, Chorus School Voice Instructor
Mariya Kaganskaya, Chorus School Voice Instructor

Old First Concerts has volunteer opportunities available!

Our concerts rely on the generosity of volunteers to assist with simple tasks like:


distributing programs

box office

set-up and clean-up

Scheduling is flexible — you choose when to work! We especially need helping hands for our Friday and Saturday night performances.

An excellent opportunity for students, seniors, or anyone who possesses a love for music!

If you’d like to consider volunteering with Old First Concerts, please contact for more information.