The 2020 Pan-Orthodox Music Symposium will feature 8 masterclasses led by experts in the field of Orthodox liturgical music.

Registrants for the Symposium will attend one masterclass for 2 hours each day of the 2020 ISOCM/SVS Symposium. 

When registering for the 2020 Symposium, you will have the opportunity to select your top 3 preferences for the masterclass sessions. Our goal is to match everyone with their preferred masterclass, however some masterclasses have limited seating - early registration is therefore recommended.

Below you will find an abstract for each of the masterclasses, along with participant criteria and class sizes. Each of the presenters' names link to their biography.

Once registered, participants will be contacted beginning in mid-March, as organizers confirm masterclass assignments, and any pre-event assignments or instructions from the faculty.


Robin Freeman, co-chair

2020 Symposium Local Organizing Committee

David Lucs, co-chair

2020 Symposium Local Organizing Committee


Vocal Techniques

This group voice class is appropriate for many skill levels and types of voice users, especially choral singers, chanters, clergy, and leaders in liturgical services. You are welcome whether you are a beginner or an experienced singer. We will review and explore techniques for healthy singing, focusing on breath, posture, and clear vowels to create beautiful, free tone. We will incorporate ear training and tuning, and our discussions will explore best practices for vocal health and longevity. 
This class builds a repertoire of vocal exercises applicable to both solo and ensemble church singing, whether in a choral or chant context. We will apply new techniques immediately through singing repertoire relevant to the services held during the Symposium, applying inherited and new skills learned during this masterclass. 
Participants are encouraged to bring already prepared music (solo or ensemble) for feedback and exploring ways to improve, as there will be regular opportunities for performance and individualized training in an open, encouraging masterclass setting. 
Through this class, participants will build upon their existing knowledge and use of healthy singing with vocal skills every church musician can apply, skills to practice with, and inspiration to seek out more.

Masterclass Instructor: Katie Boardman

Participation limit:  25 students

Criteria for the Vocal Techniques Masterclass: None.

Choral Leadership

Learning from our peers is incredibly valuable. As a part of this intermediate conducting course, topics including rehearsal techniques, what singers really need from conductors, error detection, and incorporating expressive elements will be explored. Conductors will come away feeling they are stronger leaders as a result of the masterclass and singers will be more confident in their abilities and role in the choir. And both outcomes can take many forms!


While this workshop can touch on things for directors, like selection of settings, directing tips, pitching, service order, planning, rehearsals, concerts, etc., church singers are also encouraged to register for this masterclass, as it will be of interest and use for them as well. The course will build upon a basic understanding of liturgical order and choral techniques, enabling them to grow into section leaders or even assistant directors in their home parishes, or at a minimum, a more proficient and capable member of the choir.


This masterclass will provide a place for singers and directors to intersect in a co-learning environment benefiting all participants.

Masterclass Instructor: Tamara Petijevic

Participation limit:  none

Criteria for the Choral Leadership Masterclass: Participants should have at least a basic understanding of, and an ability to read music, with at least a basic familiarity of the order of divine services throughout the church year. 

Introduction to Liturgical Conducting

Are you a new or beginning choir director, or a singer who wants to learn basic conducting techniques? This masterclass is designed to help you become more comfortable in front of a choir.


Group sessions will focus on expanding your conducting knowledge and abilities through exercises, demonstrations, and observations. We will define the role of the conductor as communicator, paying special attention to liturgical contexts. You will learn the mechanics of conducting, such as body alignment, efficient use of hands/wrists/arms, elements of gesture, initiating and releasing sound, establishing and maintaining a steady beat, and beat patterns.


Together we will discuss topics particular to Orthodox liturgical repertoire, such as pitching from a tuning fork and conducting unmetered chant. Students are encouraged to bring music from their home parishes so that techniques can be applied to familiar repertoire.


A basic knowledge of music theory and music reading skills is helpful, but not necessary.

Masterclass Instructor: Robin Freeman

Participation limit:  none, auditors welcome

Criteria for the Introduction to Liturgical Conducting Masterclass: Experience singing in a choir, though no experience directing is required. Experience reading music is helpful, but also not required.

Advanced Liturgical Conducting

The role of a church choir director embraces numerous skills, among them knowledge of theological precepts, church rubrics and meaning and purpose of Orthodox hymnography, music literacy, musicianship, leadership and organizational skills, and fluency with rehearsal techniques. From this plentiful array of skills needed to successfully lead a choir, manual technique is often neglected.


What is manual technique? It is the ability to communicate musical information to the singers with the use of one's arms and hands. Like dance, this form of communication is developed through an understanding of the arm joints and muscular control of those joints. The ability to conduct in various tempos, dynamic levels, and articulations (legato, staccato, marcato, etc.) is the basis of manual conducting technique and is developed through a discipline of systematic practice.


A conductor with a developed conducting technique is able to convey not merely the timing (keeping the ensemble together in time) but the expressive content of the music, and this ability is the focus of our masterclass. The applicants who are accepted into the class will be given 90 minutes of podium time, plenty of individual attention, and the chance to direct the assigned repertoire at a Divine Service.


Students will work under the guidance of Dr. Peter Jermihov to perfect their ability to communicate in a non-verbal manner and develop a life-long path towards self-betterment as conductors.

Masterclass Instructor: Dr. Peter Jermihov

Participation limit:  6 students, auditors welcome

Criteria for the Advanced Conductor Masterclass:

  • Working knowledge of music notation, key signatures, all forms of scales in tonal music, staff notation, and the ability to hear and discern pitches and all intervals and basic chord structures;

  • Ability to analyze a choral score and be able to sing any voice part of a 4-part choral score. It is desirable, though not necessary, to be able to play a 4-part choral score at the piano (not at a performance level);

  • Some experience, past or present, conducting a choir; and

  • Preferably, though not necessarily, completion of some formal training in music–an undergraduate or graduate degree in music or the equivalent of 2 years of study with basic music theory and ear-training sequence.


These criteria are not meant to discourage participation, but to allow students to receive optimum benefit from the language used in the teaching process.

Composing in the Orthodox Context

These sessions are comprised of lectures, analysis, and workshopping. Participants will be exposed to a comprehensive array of musical techniques to supplement their arranging and composition skills and will engage in an ongoing discussion about the role and nature of Liturgical Music.


Knowledge of musical notation and theory, while beneficial, is not required for this workshop as the goal is to ignite our passion for Orthodox Music so that it may be to the glory of God alone. Participants of all ages and all levels of musical experience are welcome!


Topics covered include:

  • The Basics of Part-Writing: An introduction to Counterpoint and 4-Part Writing and a survey of how these techniques became implemented in our musical language.

  • 4-Part Trappings and Solutions: An analysis into how standard 4-Part arrangements can inhibit various aspects of a hymn, and how Orthodox composers have successfully solved these problems in their work.

  • Formulas in Orthodox Music: A survey of musical formulas and their uses within in the traditions of Georgian, Byzantine, Russian, and Bulgarian Orthodox music.

  • Text Analysis: An analysis of various hymns in use by the Orthodox Church that exhibit great use of poetry and symbolism and how they can be translated into a musical context.

  • Workshop: Participants will be given the opportunity to arrange a given chant and compose an original hymn. 

Masterclass Instructor: Nazo Zakkak

Participation limit:  15 students, auditors welcome

Criteria for the Composing in the Orthodox Context Masterclass: Comprehension of western musical notation and intermediate theory. Participants can either work on a new original setting during the masterclass or bring 1 existing composition for development and critiquing by the instructor.

Byzantine Chant for Beginners

This class will begin with a brief overview of the characteristics and development of Byzantine chant and then shift to more practical matters.  Students will learn to chant on parallage (the Greek equivalent of solfege) and learn to identify and execute basic interval and rhythm symbols in Byzantine notation.


They will play games to improve their symbol identification and reading fluency skills.  At the end of the course students will study a hymn in the Plagal Fourth mode that they will then chant together in one of the services at the conference.


Prior to the conference, students will receive an email with some hymnography to listen to and one half-hour audio lesson about parallage. Upon completing the class, students will be prepared to chant hymns in Byzantine notation while chanting with an experienced cantor. 

They will also be equipped with various strategies for future study.  

Masterclass Instructor: Amy Hogg

Participation limit:  15 students, auditors welcome

Criteria for the Byzantine Chant for Beginners Masterclass: No prior chanting experience is necessary, only an appreciation of Byzantine chant and the desire to learn.

Advanced Byzantine Chant

The vast treasury of the melodic tradition of Byzantine Music comes alive only in the performance practice of the singer.  How we execute the melody is as important as the melody itself.  This "how" is achieved by a deep understanding of the melody's connection to its liturgical text and of the music's theoretical modal structure, as well as in sophisticated, nuanced execution of the modes' tuning and fluid, expressive articulation of the melody through ornamentation, all within the idiomatic application of proper vocal technique.  These elements can only be properly achieved by connecting with an experienced teacher in real time.

The masterclass will provide individual instruction and coaching in a group setting for two hours per day over three days. Intermediate and advanced students in Byzantine Music will have the opportunity to hone their skills in advanced performance practice, focusing on tuning, ornamentation, expression, modal theory, and vocal technique. Students are to prepare two sets of repertoire from Byzantine notation, each a maximum of 6 minutes in length, to perform for the class and for critique and coaching by the instructor.  

Masterclass Instructor: John Michael Boyer

Participation limit:  8 students, auditors welcome

Criteria for the Advanced Byzantine Chant Masterclass: Students are required to be already facile in the Byzantine melodic tradition and notational system (although not necessarily virtuoso cantors), and demonstrate this facility in audition recordings.

Engaging Young People with Music

In the modern age of mediated culture we rely more and more on a specialized class of artists to create the art we consume. This is especially the case for music, as we all (including children) have instant access to the high quality recordings of highly produced performances by exceptionally talented musicians, performances most of us could never hope to reproduce.

And so, the average American parent and child are disincentivized to devote time to musical training. And the absence of musical training makes halfhearted attempts at singing socially awkward and often physically uncomfortable. So children stop singing.

One necessary consequence of this is that there are fewer and fewer competent younger singers in churches, one of the last places in our culture where people gather regularly to sing together. 


This workshop series will discuss how to incentivize children to sing socially, and to study singing (and music generally) at three age levels, with the goal of nurturing them into participation in church singing.


The sessions will present a sample rehearsal for each of three age groups, roughly corresponding to the Trivium (Grammar, Logic & Rhetoric). The instructor will present a lesson format for each group that can be adopted and adapted to suit workshop participants’ home communities and ensembles.


Discussions will focus on instructional priorities for each age group, the psychological and physical considerations that make instructing each group both challenging and rewarding, and will provide sample repertoire and suggestions for how to find repertoire on one’s own.

Masterclass Instructor: Maria Sheehan

Participation limit:  none

Criteria for the Engaging Young People with Music Masterclass: A level of musicianship corresponding to the age of the hypothetical students.  Fundamentally: keep a steady beat and match pitch.