A choral garden grows in Queens
by Philip Skabeikis for Vocal Area Network
Posted July 27, 2011

Todd WachsmanWhen asked about the Forest Hills Choir, artistic director and conductor Todd Wachsman describes it as a "community of people who appreciate and take joy in the creation of high-quality choral music. The choir's mission is twofold: to explore standard works in the choral repertoire and to seek out new pieces and new artists to deepen the expressive range of the ensemble. We are a group of people from all over who share a common vision--to enjoy excellent music and perform it with distinction and integrity."

Wachsman goes on to express his determination to explore "... lesser known works that are worthy of attention. There is a host of music that goes unheard except by small groups and in academia. I want to bring these works into the light. They deserve the opportunity to reach people as much as the better known works. My life has been transformed by works such as these and I'd like the chance to share that experience."

The FHC is the newest jewel in the growing choral community of Queens. The seeds were sown in the fall of last year when a group of friends and co-workers urged Wachsman to "return to his roots" as a choral conductor and teacher. The FHC completed its first demi-season this past spring with performances of its inaugural program in Forest Hills and Astoria. True to its mission, the programs featured works as far ranging as Schubert, Elgar, Rutter, Fauré, Bruckner and Aguiar.

Wachsman is a child of musical parents and earned his BA in music education from Northern Arizona University.  He moved back to Tucson for his first professional music jobs in various churches and leading the choral program at Tucson High Fine Arts Magnet School where he stayed until deciding to move east. Since arriving in the Big Apple, he has performed in musical theater, served various congregations as cantor and soloist, and stepped in to conduct various professional ensembles. He also serves as the assistant conductor of the Astoria Symphonic Choir.

Wachsman is particularly passionate about the "community" aspect of a choir. "The assembly of a group of people to pursue with integrity a musical vision holds a powerful allure for me. Directing such a group is a mighty experience. The privilege to sculpt the collective input of diverse individuals until the ensemble feels a visceral resonance is exhilarating. I strongly feel that any work that draws us closer to understanding the people around us is work worth pursuing." This passion and enthusiasm for the music and the desire to communicate it successfully to an audience imbues every one of his rehearsals with an intensity that encourages the singers to excel while remaining ever supportive.

The FHC looks forward to its first full season with rehearsals every Tuesday evening from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM at the Church-In-The-Gardens, located at 50 Ascan Avenue in Forest Hills Gardens, NY beginning September 13. The fall concert on Saturday, December 10 will feature Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria.

Director Wachsman stresses that "our audition process is ongoing. I am always interested in hearing new voices for the choir. We are particularly in need of tenors and basses at this time." If you would like to audition for FHC, contact Todd at info@foresthillschoir.org. To learn even more about the Forest Hills Choir and follow its sophomore year, visit its webpage at www.fhchoir.org/.

Philip Skabeikis sings with St. Mary Gate of Heaven Choir in Ozone Park, Queens; St. Matthias Concert Choir in Ridgewood, Queens; and with the Forest Hills Choir of Forest Hills Gardens, Queens. He also had a great time singing with the Hunter College Choir (Manhattan) during the past spring semester.
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