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Press Release: From Wilderness Album Release

For more information:

Amanda Sweet/Bucklesweet



A Meditation on the Pacific Coast Trail

Brandon Elliott conducts Choral Arts Initiative in new Jeffrey Derus work for chorus, soloists, crystal singing bowls and cello, out on Navona Records April 22, 2022

New York, NY – March 29, 2022 – On April 22, Navona Records will release From Wilderness: A Meditation on the Pacific Coast Trail, composer Jeffrey Derus’ new concert-length work and meditation on the transformative experience of traveling the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650 mile scenic coastal hiking pathway that stretches the length of the pacific coastline of the United States and traverses the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.

Written for SATB chorus, soloists, cello, and crystal singing bowls, From Wilderness marks the eighteenth commission from Artistic Director Brandon Elliott and his award-winning Choral Arts Initiative, who have premiered over seven works throughout the past decade. The ensemble was set to premiere this work in March of 2020, but due to the nationwide shutdown, turned to the studio to capture it in recorded form after sixteen months apart. Choral Arts Initiative will perform the world premiere of From Wilderness live in concert on Sunday, April 24th at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA.

Spanning landscapes from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail inspired this latest composition by Southern California native Jeffrey Derus. The work is structured in five movements, each reflecting a section of the trail: Southern California, Central California, Northern California, Oregon and Washington. Cellist Kevin Mills accompanies the chorus as they navigate the beauty and serenity of each stop. A sound bath created by crystal singing bowls guides the listener along a meditative path, with each micro-movement designed to align with the healing properties of the seven chakras. Featured vocal soloists include soprano Anna Kietzman, alto Genie Hossain, tenor Taylor Jacobs, baritone Kirk Averitt, and bass Timothy Cervenka give identity to the spirit animals one may encounter along the trail.

“I love landscapes,” says composer Derus in a recent interview with the Pacific Crest Trail Association. “They’re very close to soundscapes and I wanted to create this imagery through the music. The trail really taught me how to write this piece, and how it would flow.” The composer, who speaks fondly of his environmentalist father and the family memories made along the Pacific Crest Trail, offers in this piece a moment of self-discovery and self-healing. When crafting From Wilderness, Derus had wellness on his mind, and the importance of “taking a break from our hectic lives, recharging and reconnecting with nature.” Derus adapted texts from Rumi, James Whitcomb Riley, Lucy Eddy, Robert Frost, Marjorie Allen Seiffert, John Muir, John Clare, Kate Chopin, Carl Sandburg and others to represent destinations along the trail, choosing words that “were very openminded and that could be interpreted in a few different ways so that the listener can really paint their own story onto the music.”

It was in this spirit that the work opens with Rumi’s question: “When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” “This really opens up the whole work,” says Derus, “and creates the idea of the trail being a journey, and your mental and spiritual self having its own journey.”

From Wilderness: A Meditation on the Pacific Crest Trail by Jeffrey Derus

Choral Arts Initiative

Brandon Elliott, Conductor

Kevin Mills, Cello

01 Root: Survival Chakra & Journey Into Yourself

02 Sacral: Emotions Chakra

03 Southern California: No 1 Campo & No 2 Warner Springs

04 Southern California: No 3 Cajon Pass

05 Southern California: No 4 Agua Dolce & No 5 Tehachapi Pass & No 6 Walker Pass

06 Southern California: No 7 Kennedy Meadows

07 Solar Plexus: Vitality Chakra

08 Sierras: No 1 Crabtree Meadows & No 2 Muir Pass & No 3 Tuolumne Meadows

09 Sierras: No 4 Sonora Pass

10 Sierras: No 5 Echo Lake

11 Heart: Love Chakra

12 Northern California: No 1 Donner Summit

13 Northern California: No 2 Belden

14 Northern California: No 3 McArthur-Burney Falls State Park

15 Northern California: No 4 Castle Crags & No 5 Etna Summit

16 Northern California: No 6 Seiad Valley

17 Throat: Creativity Chakra

18 Oregon: No 1 Crater Lake

19 Oregon: No 2 Mt Thielsen Wilderness 20 Oregon: No 3 Diamond Peak Wilderness

21 Oregon: No 4 Mt Washington Wilderness

22 Oregon: No 5 Mt Jefferson Wilderness 23 Oregon: No 6 Mt Hood Wilderness & No 7 Cascade Locks

24 Third Eye: Intuition Chakra

25 Washington: No 1 White Pass & No 2 Snoqualmie Pass

26 Washington: No 3 Stevens Pass

27 Crown: Cosmic Chakra & Washington: No 4 Rainy Pass

28 British Columbia: Manning Park

About Jeffrey Derus, Composer

Jeffrey Derus is an American composer, educator, and singer. His music has gained national and international presence with commissions and performances from a variety of ensembles such as Choral Arts Initiative, INSPIRARE, Inversion Ensemble, KC VITAS, Constellation Men’s Ensemble, the Nova Scotia Choral Federation, QED Vocal Ensemble, Magpies & Ravens, the Afternoon Singers, Temple University, Vanguard University, Saddleback College, and the Temecula Master Chorale. Hailed as “elegant” by the Voice of OC, Derus’s music is recognized by critics, performers, and audiences for its lyrical voice and lush soundscapes.

He is the recipient of the composer residency with the Britten-Pears and Holst Foundation in Aldeburgh, United Kingdom. He is also a founding board member and choral artist of Choral Arts Initiative. Derus holds a B.A. degree in Choral Music Education and Conducting with a Secondary Music Education Credential from California State University of Fullerton and a M.A. in Education and Curriculum Design from Brandman University. He is currently the Vocal Music Director at Canyon High School with an award-winning choral, vocal, guitar, and composition program. His music is available at MusicSpoke and J.W. Pepper marketplace. From landscapes to soundscapes, learn more at

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.

Choral Arts Initiative is a non-profit 501(c)(3) choral organization comprised of some of the most talented and passionate musicians in the Southern California region. Widely recognized as a champion of new music, Choral Arts Initiative has been praised as “gracefully lyrical” (Voice of OC), hailed as one of Orange County’s “Best Choirs” (CBS News, Los Angeles), and noted for its “sublime” and “triumphant” performances (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 and excellence. Their inaugural album, How to Go On: The Choral Works of Dale Trumbore, ranked #6 on the Billboard Charts (Traditional Classical Albums), and #4 on the iTunes Best Seller Classical Charts. Their passion for new music has led to the commission of nineteen compositions and the premiere of over seventy works.

About Brandon Elliott, Conductor

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 70 works.

Equally passionate about teaching, training, and mentoring musicians, Elliott is the Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Moorpark 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 and 2017 Chorus America national conferences and was a panelist for the CCDA Choral Leadership Academy. He currently serves 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

About Kevin Mills, Cello

Kevin Mills, a native of Southern California, has been residing in the Los Angeles area since completion of his schooling. With an Artist Diploma from Oberlin Conservatory, a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School, and a Bachelor of Music degree from California State University of Fullerton, Kevin has been working in the world of classical music in all facets. He acts as Assistant Principal Cellist of Las Vegas Philharmonic and Rogue Valley Symphony as well as a member of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. Frequent recording studio appearances have allowed him to work at prestigious studios such as Capitol Records and Sony Pictures. An avid chamber music player, Kevin travels often across the country as well as overseas to perform with organizations such as The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York and The Greenhouse Foundation in Seoul, Korea. He is most fortunate to have been gifted a coveted instrument, a 1779 Renault & Chatelain, from his dear first cello teacher. For more information visit

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