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Conductor Ali Hodges joins Choral Arts Initiative as new Assistant Conductor

After an extensive search, Ali Sandweiss Hodges joins Choral Arts Initiative for an exciting 12th season.



IRVINE, CA – Conductor Ali Sandweiss Hodges (she/her) was named as Choral Arts Initiative’s third Assistant Conductor after an extensive search. Chairperson of the Board, Jeff Derus, commented: “Having served on previous search committees for the Assistant Conductor role, I can say that this was by far the most competitive application cycle yet. Every applicant was exceptionally qualified.” The search process included an initial application, which contained their resume, cover letter, a 15-20 minute conducting video with specific requirements, and optional letters of recommendation. Selected candidates were then invited to a panel interview with the entire Search Committee and a Musicianship Assessment with the Artistic Director. Finalists were invited to conduct a portion of rehearsal with the ensemble in which each Choral Artist completed an evaluation form.


Ali joins Choral Arts Initiative at the beginning of Season 12, featuring numerous world and regional premieres, commissions, and a headliner performance at the American Choral Directors Association Western Division Conference. “The Assistant Conductor role is essential for our artistic success as an organization. I am thrilled to welcome Ali as an artistic partner and collaborator,” says Brandon Elliott, Artistic & Executive Director.


Ali is a conductor, music educator, and mezzo-soprano currently living in Los Angeles. She is a current doctoral student in Choral Music at the University of Southern California where she conducts the USC Oriana Choir. A Michigan native, Ali earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Michigan, taught K-12 music for eight years in Metro Detroit public schools, then earned her master’s in choral conducting from Temple University in Philadelphia in 2022. While at Temple, she served as Assistant Conductor for the Nashirah Jewish Chorale and was awarded the Presser Graduate Music Award for her studies in Yiddish vocal music. In addition to Yiddish, Ali’s professional interests include vocology, pedagogical philosophy, and global folk music. Ali is an avid performer of many styles and currently sings with the USC Chamber Singers and the Golden Bridge Choir in Los Angeles.


Ali begins her duties later this month as Choral Arts Initiative prepares for its Season 12 opening performance, Tapestry of Time. “I’m incredibly honored and excited to be joining the Choral Arts Initiative community as Assistant Conductor!” says Ali. “New music has been a passion of mine my whole professional life and I’ve been a fan of CAI from afar for quite some time, so to work alongside Brandon Elliott and these fine musicians is a dream come true! Thank you to all the singers and staff for this amazing opportunity to continue to bring new works to Southern California.”


About Choral Arts Initiative

We believe that we have the opportunity to be a living metaphor that celebrates unity. We believe that fostering and embracing the music of emerging composers is critical to our art form. We believe that our community deserves to hear the greatest performances of new choral music. We believe that passion and sincerity should be at the forefront of all musical endeavors. We are Choral Arts Initiative.

Founded by Artistic Director Brandon Elliott, Choral Arts Initiative is a non-profit 501(c)(3) choral organization comprised of some of the most talented and passionate new music vocal artists in the Southern California region. Widely recognized as a champion of new music, Choral Arts Initiative has been praised as "gracefully lyrical" (Tim Mangan, Voice of OC), hailed as one of Orange County’s "Best Choirs" (CBS News, Los Angeles), and noted for its "sublime" and "triumphant" performances (Ron Schepper, Textura). Winner of the American Prize in Choral Performance, recipient of the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming, and Winner of the San Francisco Classical Voice Audience Choice Awards for Best New Music Performance, Choral Arts Initiative continues its commitment to musical innovation. Their inaugural album, "How to Go On: The Choral Works of Dale Trumbore," ranked #6 on the Billboard Charts (Traditional Classical Albums), and #4 Best Seller on iTunes Classical Charts. Their second album, "From Wilderness: A Meditation on the Pacific Crest Trail" charted for three weeks on Billboard and was the #1 Best Seller on Amazon and iTunes. Their passion for new music has led to the commission of twenty-five compositions and the premiere of over one hundred works.

About Brandon Elliott, Artistic Director

Brandon Elliott enjoys an expansive career as a conductor-educator, musician, arts leader, and consultant. He is the Founder & Artistic Director of Choral Arts Initiative, an award-winning new music choral ensemble based in Orange County, CA. Under his leadership, Choral Arts Initiative has received critical acclaim and recognition for its artistic excellence, musical innovation, and dedication to performing music from a vibrant roster of living composers. With a passion for new music, he has conducted the premiere of over 100 works.

Equally passionate about teaching, training, and mentoring musicians, Elliott is the Choral & Vocal Studies Director at Saddleback College. He regularly serves as an adjudicator, clinician, preparatory conductor, guest conductor, and guest speaker for festivals, competitions, and local K-12 programs, and is a semifinalist for the 2022 GRAMMY Music Educator Award. As a vocal musician, Elliott has sung with various professional and contracted choruses. Previous engagements include singing under Craig Hella-Johnson in the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble, Pacific Chorale with John Alexander, and various ad hoc ensembles for artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Beck, Star Wars Live, and Zelda Live.

Elliott maintains professional memberships with ACDA, NAfME, MACCC, and Chorus America. His writings have been featured in both Tactus and The Music Educators Journal. Additionally, he has presented on choral entrepreneurship at the 2016, 2017, and 2023 Chorus America national conferences and was a panelist for the CCDA Choral Leadership Academy. He serves on the American Choral Directors Association national board as Repertoire & Resources Co-Chair for 2-Year Colleges. He previously served on the California Choral Directors Association board as the Repertoire & Resources Chair for Community and Professional Choruses. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education and a teaching credential from California State University, Fullerton, a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, a specialist certificate in Music Business Leadership from the Berklee College of Music, and a Doctor of Education degree in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California. Learn more at brandon-elliott.com.

About Ali Sandweiss Hodges

Ali Sandweiss Hodges is a conductor, music educator, and mezzo-soprano currently living in Los Angeles where she is pursuing her DMA in Choral Music at the University of Southern California. She previously earned her bachelor's in music education from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and her master's in choral conducting at Temple University, at which she was awarded the Elaine Brown Tribute Award and served as Assistant Conductor for the Nashirah Jewish Chorale. At Temple, Ali also won the prestigious Presser Graduate Music Award, which earned her $10,000 to devote to building her foundational knowledge in Yiddish - the language, music, and culture. Devoted to preserving and promoting Yiddish in the choral world, Ali has also studied under the master teachers at Yiddish New York, Yiddish Summer Weimar, and the YIVO Institute.

Prior to her graduate work, Ali spent eight years teaching K-12 music in Metro Detroit at Eton Academy (Birmingham) and in Berkley Public Schools (Berkley) and worked for the National Children's Chorus as an Associate Conductor. Ali is an advocate for practical pedagogy in the collegiate choral classroom and has dedicated her coursework at USC to studying the ways choral directors can best serve the varied populations found within a non-auditioned collegiate choral ensemble. She worked at several summer camps throughout her teens and twenties and credits these hard-working experiences with her ability to value creativity, exuberance, team building, and play in an adult educational setting. Ali's choirs regularly received "1" ratings at choral festivals and show choir festivals, but she is proudest of her work at Eton Academy where she grew a part-time position into the first full-time music teacher the school (which exists to serve the K-12 needs of students experiencing learning difficulties) had employed in its 25 years.

An active mezzo-soprano, Ali currently sings with the USC Chamber Singers (Tram Sparks, conductor) as well as the Golden Bridge Choir (Suzi Digby, OBE, conductor). Past notable performances have also included residences in Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral, and Durham Cathedral with Christ Church Grosse Pointe (Scott Hanoian, director of music); soloist in the Great Lakes Chamber Festival with CCGP; Rose Maybud in the University of Michigan's Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of Ruddigore; singer and soloist in the Temple University Concert Choir (Paul Rardin, conductor); singer and soloist in the University of Michigan Chamber Singers (Jerry Blackstone, conductor); soloist for the premier of two song cycles by composer Tucker Fuller in Ann Arbor, MI (Murder, 2010; Love, 2011).

Ali also enjoys working as an arranger of choral music, largely for treble ensembles under her own baton. Three of Ali's works have been premiered by the USC Oriana Choir, including an adaptation of Lili'uokalani's "Ahe Lau Makani,” Flory Jagoda's "Ocho Kandelikas,” and The Roches' "Hammond Song."

For More Information: Kyrstin Ohta, Managing Director k.ohta@choralartsinitiative.org

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