The Sacramento Master Singers (SMS) is a group of 50 singers, ages 18 and older, from the greater Sacramento area who are dedicated to the advancement of choral music. Established in 1982, the group is known for its commitment to delight, challenge, and inspire audiences with seasons programmed to include premieres, classics, and a wide variety of musical periods and styles.
SMS offers profound thanks to the numerous guest directors who have conducted the choir. These include Joseph Jennings, Perla Warren, Moses Hogan, Maria Guinand, Oscar Escalada, Brian Stratton, Alice Parker, and Vance George. We are also grateful to the numerous individuals and ensembles with whom we have had the opportunity to collaborate. These include the Boston Pops, Sacramento Philharmonic, Sacramento Youth Symphony, Lynn Stevens and the Sacramento Children’s Chorus, James Wheatley and Celebration Arts, Linda Goodrich and the Sacramento Black Art of Dance, Sacramento Opera, Gershwin expert and pianist Richard Glazier, the Folsom Symphony, and Celtic music duo Men of Worth.
SMS has performed many area premieres such as the Robert D. Levin completion of the Mozart Requiem and the Alfred Schnittke Requiem. We have commissioned and performed new works such as Elements by David O, If Music Be the Food of Love by Clifford Shockney, and How Can I Keep From Singing? by Larry Shackley. We often contract with instrumentalists to provide additional accompaniment, including such outstanding performers as Grammy award winning Native American flutist Mary Youngblood.
SMS plays a leadership role in bringing high-quality choral music to area youth through outreach programs, collaboration with college choirs, scholarships for young singers, and children’s holiday concerts. The Sacramento Master Singers was one of three North American choirs selected to perform at the international choral festival America Cantat in Venezuela. We have toured the Carolinas and participated as the headliner choir in the Maui Choral Festival. SMS was the only community choir invited to perform at the American Choral Directors Association 2012 convention in Reno, Nevada. We remain committed to advancing the art and lifting the soul.
Dr. Ralph Edward Hughes has served as Conductor of the Sacramento Master Singers since 1986. His leadership during this period has generated increased recognition for the group’s high performance standards, innovative programming and interest in serving the community. This growth is evidenced by the numerous invitations extended to these singers to perform and by the tremendous increase in audience. Dr. Hughes’ direction has helped fulfill the community’s need for a professional-caliber chamber choir.
Ralph Hughes received his Bachelor’s Degree and teaching credential from California State University, Sacramento in 1983. He taught music and drama for seven years at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks and, from 1990 to 2021, he taught choir, voice and piano at American River College. He was awarded his Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from CSUS in December 1992 and his Doctoral Degree in Conducting in 2002 from the University of South Carolina.
In recent years, Dr. Hughes has focused on extending the Master Singers’ impact on the community through an emphasis on multi-cultural music and programming designed to stimulate interest among the area’s young people. Regular participation in the World Symposium on Choral Music has introduced him to the world’s leading choral directors and composers of choral music, and he has responded by programming many exciting new works. These activities have exposed the singers and the Sacramento community to several West Coast or American premieres of important new works. In addition, the reputation he and the Master Singers have developed for high-quality programs and performances culminated with the invitation to join choirs from all over the world at the prestigious America Cantat choral festival in Venezuela. The Sacramento Master Singers were one of only three groups from the United States in attendance.
Ralph Hughes is a member of the California Music Educators Association, the American Choral Director’s Association, and the International Federation for Choral Music. In 1995, he was recognized as “Outstanding Music Educator of the Year” by the California Music Educators Association Capitol Section.
Accompanying is Heidi Van Regenmorter’s passion. She enjoys playing piano and organ as the accompanist for the Sacramento Master Singers. She enjoys the challenge of reading the minds of conductors and soloists and the requisite non-verbal communication that yields a good performance. She has worked with countless soloists and ensembles in the Sacramento region including the California State University, Stanislaus (Stanislaus State) Concert Chorale, the Camellia Symphony, and the River City Chorale.
Heidi has been active as an accompanist, solo performer, and educator for over forty years. Heidi studied piano with Phyllis Tieck, Dr. Richard Carpenter at CSU-Sacramento, as well as piano and harpsichord with Sylvia Ghiglieri. She also studied organ with Steven C. Grubb at Stanislaus State. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in music (piano performance) in 1984 from Stanislaus State. In addition to her keyboard studies, Heidi played clarinet in the Stanislaus State Symphonic Band as well as alto saxophone in the CSUS Jazz Band.
After teaching piano lessons privately for many years, Heidi began teaching all levels of piano classes as an adjunct music professor at American River College in 1996. She worked with Dr. Ralph Hughes as the ARC Choir accompanist for 30 years. She retired from ARC in May of 2022.
Heidi has served as an organist for many churches and ensembles in Sacramento and Modesto, including serving as organist/pianist for Northminster Presbyterian Church in Sacramento for over 35 years.
Lia has been involved with visual and performing arts since the tender age of six and has always believed in the power of live performance. She is a sculptor, performer, stage manager, dramaturg, and instructor of American and World history at the undergraduate level. Lia has worked in regional and college theatres in the Sacramento area since 2005. One of the greatest joys of her work is connecting with patrons over a shared love of the arts. Ensuring our patrons have a wonderful experience at our concerts is her top priority!
Emily began singing with the Sacramento Master Singers in 2009, three years after moving to California from her hometown in upstate New York. While in NYS, she earned her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the Crane School of Music and her Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Binghamton University. Emily has enjoyed her experiences conducting various college and community groups, but she finds nothing can surpass the feeling of actually being one of many voices striving together to create magic. She feels incredibly fortunate to be a part of SMS as both soprano section leader and assistant director, and she continues to marvel at the consistently high caliber of the group.
Though Emily spends her days working as an operations officer at a community bank, her evenings and weekends are filled with music in a different capacity. Emily and her husband Cameron, a professional musician, own a retail music store, El Dorado Hills Music. The couple purchased the store in 2018 and have been working diligently and harmoniously together to improve and grow the business ever since. (Naturally, you are invited to check them out at EDHMusic.com.)
Caroline Firman joined the Sacramento Master Singers in 2015. With a passion for the arts as both a performer and administrator, Caroline holds her BA in Music from UC Davis and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Arts Education from California State University Sacramento. Caroline worked for six years in a variety of roles at the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO) and returned in 2016 as a contractor to manage the organization’s Annual Conference. She holds a full-time job as Events and Programs Manager for the Department of Viticulture & Enology at UC Davis.
Ian Tillman joined the Sacramento Master Singers in 1997. Ian has BS in Information Technology Management. He is a systems administrator at the Student Health Center at UCD. Ian studied music at ARC with Perla Warren and Ralph Hughes. He enjoys singing, playing guitar, piano, and solving interesting problems.
Carol joined the Camelia Concert Chorale in 1984, then under the baton of Ken Winters, shortly before the group changed its name to the Sacramento Master Singers. She is a retired music educator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal performance and a Master of Arts in education. Her studies focused on opera, but her first love has continued to be choral music. Carol’s numerous experiences as a soloist and choral singer include performances under Roger Wagner in the Southern California Honor Choir, and under Seiji Okawa and Edo de Waart with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
In her retirement, Carol returned to sing with the Sacramento Master Singers for a decade and retired from singing in 2022. Carol’s many years as a choral singer, including her time with SMS, help her to provide insightful feedback and guidance as a Governing Board Member.
Chris Winger is a retired nonprofit executive. Her career experience is with small to medium size nonprofits where she led organizations in human services and the arts. Her expertise includes nonprofit operations, programming and fund development, with an emphasis on the development of earned income revenue streams. Chris enjoys spending time with family and is an avid novice quilter. Originally from Perth, Australia, travel has been an avocation for most of her life.
Laura is in her 35th year as an educator where she has served as an elementary teacher, reading coach, principal and director. Currently, she supports 15 school sites with their behavior management systems and interventions. She is honored to sing Alto with the Sacramento Master Singers for the last 30 years and proud to serve on the Board as Choral Liaison.
Lynn Stevens began her choral music career while a student at the University of Southern California. She sang professionally and toured internationally with the Ray Coniff Singers, singing in concert with the Norman Luboff Choir, and later performed and recorded with the Carpenters.
Lynn received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from the University of Southern California and began her teaching career in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Following a move back to her hometown of Sacramento, Lynn taught for 25 years in local elementary and middle schools.
While undertaking more advanced studies at California State University, Sacramento, Lynn founded the Sacramento Children’s Chorus and received her master’s degree in choral conducting. Lynn served for many years as the Artistic Director and Conductor with the Sacramento Children’s Chorus, Lynn teaches in the music education department at California State University, Sacramento.
It was a special treat that both the Sacramento Master Singers and the Sacramento Children’s Chorus were chosen to sing at the 2012 American Choral Directors Association Western Division Conference. Go Sacramento choirs!
James Wheatley retired after 36 years of state government service. His idea of retirement, however, would exhaust most of us. James is currently both the President and Artistic Director of Celebration Arts. In addition to overall responsibility for the performing arts programs, he teaches dance, choreographs, composes music and directs the Celebration Chorale and is an integral leader of Celebration Arts’ children and teen programs.
James is also an actor and has appeared in major roles in a number of community theater productions. His credits include I’m Not Rappaport, Lilies of the Field, The Blood Knot, Lost in the Stars, Ragtime and numerous others. As a director he has been at the helm for many local productions including Ain’t Misbehavin, Eden, and Is the Color of Mississippi Mud. James has also composed music for several plays and wrote both book and music for the musicals We’re on Our Way and Stable in the Back.
James is active as an Arts advocate serving on several arts organization boards. Additionally, he has worked on committees and task groups for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. He serves as a volunteer consultant and advisor to many arts groups and individual artists. SMS has been fortunate to have James as not only an Artistic Advisory Board Member, but also a collaborative artist. He has choreographed for and danced in several concerts.