ChoralFest Adjudicators 2016

Senior Years School, Community and Church Choirs

Dr. Rachel Rensink-Hoff

Dr. Rachel Rensink-Hoff is Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at McMaster University, where she teaches courses in conducting and choral pedagogy.  Prior to her appointment at McMaster, she taught at The University of Western Ontario where she completed both her Doctorate in Music and Masters in Choral Conducting, with additional choral studies at the Eastman School of Music Conducting Institute, the Voice Care Network of St. Johns University, Minnesota, and the University of Toronto.  She has engaged in masterclasses under conductors Anton Armstrong, Helmuth Rilling, Joseph Flummerfelt, Dale Warland and the late Sir David Willcocks.

Under Rachel’s direction, the McMaster choral program has steadily gained recognition in the Hamilton arts community and beyond for its inspired performances.  The choirs have been featured on CBC Radio and have enjoyed collaborations with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the McMaster for Music and the Mind, Chorus Niagara, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Momentum Choir of Niagara, Toronto Mass Choir and (the former) Opera Hamilton. 

Rachel is the 2014 winner of the prestigious Leslie Bell Prize for Choral Conducting awarded by the Ontario Arts Council. In 2015, her McMaster Women’s Choir, founded in 2010, was awarded first prize in the 2015 National Canadian Choral Competition for Amateur Choirs of the CBC and Choral Canada.  That same year she was also nominated for the Excellence in Teaching Award at McMaster University.  Past-President of Choirs Ontario and Vice-President of Programs & Services for Choral Canada, she works frequently as guest conductor, adjudicator, conference presenter and workshop clinician across Canada.  

An active member of the McMaster Institute of Music and the Mind, Rachel is engaged as performer and researcher in the LIVELab, a new Research Performance Hall on campus.  She publishes regularly in the Choral Journal of the American Choral Directors’ Association as well as in Choral Canada’s Anacrusis and The Canadian Music Educator.  In March of 2017 she will be presenting a session on the works of Canada’s female choral composers at the National Conference of the American Choral Director’s Association in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


David Sawatzky

David Sawatzky is Adjunct Professor of Music at Providence University College in Otterburne, MB, where he directs the Providence Chamber Singers and University Choir, and also teaches conducting, music history and musicianship.  Along with his university teaching role, David is also the Artistic Director of Pembina Trails Voices, which is a choral program comprised of eight choirs for children from Kindergarten through Grade 12.  His PTV choir Cantemus (Gr. 9-12 women), have been awarded second place in each of the last two years for the George S. Mathieson award at the National Music Festival.  David holds music degrees from Canadian Mennonite Bible College, the University of Manitoba, the University of Alberta, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Illinois.

Raised in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, David has performed as a singer with a number of leading choral ensembles in the country, including Luminous Voices, Pro Coro Canada, the Winnipeg Singers, and Canzona. Conducting opportunities have seen David work with such conductors as Helmuth Rilling at the Toronto Bach Festival and Frieder Bernius at the University of Manitoba Summer Academy in Music. He has been principal conductor of the St. David's Welsh Male Choir in Edmonton, and the Central Illinois Children's Chorus where he prepared performances of Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. David spent five years as Assistant Professor of Music at Bluffton University in Ohio, conducting the women's and men's choirs, Bel Canto and Accent. He is a recipient of the Beryl Barns Memorial Scholarship in Music Performance and the Logie Drew Scholarship in Choral Conducting, both from the University of Alberta, as well as a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for doctoral studies in music.


Timothy Shantz

Chorus Master for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Artistic Director of Spiritus Chamber Choir and Founding Director of Luminous Voices, Timothy Shantz continues to garner critical praise for his work as conductor with both choral and instrumental ensembles. Kenneth DeLong of the Calgary Herald wrote, "Timothy Shantz led the choir with both energy and grace, drawing from the ensemble sounds that were refined, balanced, and filled with inner life."

Shantz is an experienced conductor, collaborator, and tenor soloist. As a conductor, Shantz is recognized for his work in early-music, contemporary works, as well as virtuoso unaccompanied choral music to large choral-orchestral masterpieces.

Under his direction, Spiritus Chamber Choir earned the Healey Willan Grand Prize from the Canada Council in 2013 and toured internationally earning second prize at the Fleischmann International Choral Competition in Cork, Ireland as well as second prize at the Florilège Vocal de Tours in France. His preparation of choruses for major orchestral works has been equally successful. In a review of Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Bill Rankin wrote, “The chorus, which was prepared by the CPO’s chorus director Timothy Shantz, distinguished itself in both the sonically elevated moments in Part I and in the many tricky tempi changes, as well as in the more subdued portions of the longer Faust section celebrating Goethe’s notion of the Eternal Feminine.” After a performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C, DeLong stated, “the well-prepared chorus (was) thrilling in the grand climaxes and sensitive in the softer Sanctus and Agnus Dei portions of the mass. The big fugal choruses always are a big sing for any choral group, and the CPO Chorus tucked into these most characteristic passages with relish. One could not help noticing the security of both the tenor and bass sections, and the way this contributed to the health of the total choral sound.” Shantz has collaborated with conductors Christoph Koenig, Matthew Halls, Paul Hillier, Nicholas McGegan, Roberto Minczuk, John Morris Russell, Yoav Talmi, Jean-Marie Zeitouni and more.

Shantz has several recordings to his name including, “Zachary Wadsworth’s The Far West” released in May 2016 of which Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote “beautifully sung, as everything here is, by the aptly named Luminous Voices under Timothy Shantz.” “Mendelssohn’s Te Deum,” released in Spring 2015 by Luminous Voices was named Outstanding Choral Recording from Choral Canada in May 2016.

Other recordings include, "James MacMillan's Seven Last Words" (Spring 2014) with Spiritus Chamber Choir and future releases planned from the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus and Luminous Voices. Performance highlights as tenor include Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall, soloist and ensemble singer at the Carmel Bach Festival since 2008 and twice with the Lucerne Festival Academy under Pierre Boulez. Shantz holds a Doctor of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music with a dissertation analyzing the unaccompanied choral work “Sun-Dogs” by composer James MacMillan.

Early Years School Choirs



André Heywood

Born in Trinidad, André Heywood grew up and studied in London, Ontario earning undergraduate degrees in both Biochemistry and Music Education, and a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from The University of Western Ontario. A former chorister of the renowned Amabile Boys' and Men's Choirs, Mr. Heywood served as the group's assistant conductor for two years before moving to Minnesota in 2007. Since then he has worked on the campus of Saint John's Abbey and University, serving as Artistic Director of The Saint John's Boys' Choir, conductor of the Saint John's Abbey Schola (monastic choir), Liturgical Music Director at Saint John's Preparatory School, and as an adjunct faculty member at the university where he directs two ensembles and teaches graduate choral conducting. He has twice been awarded by the American Choral Directors' Association of Minnesota - in 2011 with the VocalEssence Creative Programming Award, and in 2013 as the Outstanding Young Director of the Year.

A highly sought after clinician, adjudicator, and guest conductor, Mr. Heywood is a well-known specialist in developing young male voices, previously serving as Boychoir Repertoire & Standards Chair at both the state and division levels of ACDA. In 2013 he had the privilege of guest conducting the ACDA-MN Grade 7/8 Boys' Honor Choir. Choirs under his direction have performed at the Oregon Bach Festival, the International Choral Festival for Men and Boys, the Pacific International Children's Choir Festival, and at state and division conferences of the ACDA. Mr. Heywood is also an expert in sacred and liturgical music, having served as a church choir director for the past 15 years. He has sung, toured, and recorded with the Saint John's Gregorian Chant Schola, presented at the Collegeville Conference on Music, Liturgy & the Arts, and his current doctoral research focuses on the use of Gregorian Chant in training young voices. In 2016, he was appointed conductor of the National Catholic Youth Choir.

Mr. Heywood recently completed a two-year sabbatical in Canada where he served as director of the University of Toronto Men's Chorus, Junior Choir Conductor at St. Michael's Choir School, founding conductor of the boychoir program of the Hamilton Children's Choir, director of the 2014 Ontario Music Educators' Association Honour Choir, and as a member of the board of Choirs Ontario. He is currently a doctoral candidate in choral conducting at the University of Toronto, where he studies with Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt.


Doug Pankratz

Middle Years Clinician

Doug has been active in the Winnipeg choral scene for many years and is passionate about choral music.  Doug is a graduate of Canadian Mennonite Bible College Music program (now Canadian Mennonite University) with a major in voice and a minor in conducting. He is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg Education program. He has been employed by Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary/Middle School for over 20 years conducting Middle School bands and choirs. He is presently teaching K-8 Physical Education and Outdoor Education, his other passion. Doug has been a long standing member of Canzona, a Baroque choir,  and has sung with Winnipeg Singers for over twenty-five years. Doug is also a member of Encore Vocal Quartet. Encore performs several times a year in Winnipeg and in southern Manitoba. Over the past several years, he has performed with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, Mennonite Festival Chorus, Camerata Nova,  and the Manitoba Opera Chorus.

Debra Yacheson

Middle Years Clinician

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Debra grew up in a musically rich family. Her mother played the violin, her father played the accordion and guitar, and all 3 children in the Yacheson family played the piano and another instrument. She started her career in the St. James Assiniboine School Division and for the past 15  years has been teaching music and choral in the Pembina Trails School  Division. Debra is currently the music and choral teacher at Henry G. Izatt Middle School and Pacific Junction School.  She also conducts one of the divisional choirs, “Minnesingers” in the Pembina Trails Voices program. Her choirs have enjoyed many successes, some of which include various trophies in the Winnipeg Music Festival, a Provincial Scholarship award, and a recommendation to the Choral Competition of the Provincial Music Finals.

Debra has worked as a guest conductor for the Louis Riel School Division Honour Choir,  the Winnipeg  School Division Honour Choir,  Eastman Honour choir, as well as the choral clinician for Orff day.  Most recently, Debra was the honoured recipient of the “Michael Proudfoot Award” by the Winnipeg Music Festival.  Debra and her husband Barton Woodman have 2 daughters, Grace and Ellen.  

Vocal Jazz Ensembles


Kate Hammett-Vaughan

Acclaimed as “a revelation… a talent that all Canadians should recognize” (Toronto Star) and “the finest jazz vocal artist of her generation” (Chronicle Herald)., Vancouver-based Kate Hammett-Vaughan’s adventurous, assured and hip vocals have earned her three Juno nominations. The Toronto Star hails her as “a marvelous storyteller… with the knack of making everything she attempts sound newly minted”, while Coda Magazine simply calls her “the finest jazz standards singer in Canada.” A performing and recording artist for three decades, and one of the west coast’s best-known instructors of the art of jazz singing, Kate’s eclectic musical projects include jazz groups. improvising ensembles, and performance art.


John McMillan

John McMillan is on faculty at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton where he teaches in the composition department and conducts the MacEwan Acapella Ensemeble. John’s groups have been featured at regional and national festivals, performing jazz and contemporary genres.

John is in demand as a clinician, performer, vocal arranger and composer. He has performed across North America as a jazz artist and contemporary vocalist, lending his voice to numerous ensembles and studio sessions. His choral and band compositions and arrangements have been heard on stages in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. John is also a composer and support musician for film, television and video games. Select credits include Far Cry 3, Hawaii Five-0, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and CBC’s The Nature of Things.

Jonathan Alexiuk

Jonathan Alexiuk

Jonathan Alexiuk was born and raised in Winnipeg, MB.
After graduating from John Taylor Collegiate, he began performing in Winnipeg and Kenora, and soon after on Princess
Cruise Lines. He joined the Air Command Band in 2004 as pianist, trombonist and arranger until 2007.
Jonathan has performed and recorded as a pianist, trumpeter, saxophonist, trombonist, drummer, and is a largely self-taught
He has taught and conducted at the International Music Camp at the Peace Gardens for the past five years, as well as writing for their vocal jazz choir.
His arrangements have been performed by the Ron Paley Big Band, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, the Memory Lane Orchestra, local a capella group Those Guys, the U of W Downtown Vocal Jazz Choir, the Air Command Band, and numerous other ensembles and singers.
His own groups which he performs with and arranges for- Conga Jim, Big Sap and the Sugar Shack, and 200 Aces-
perform regularly around Winnipeg. He has also performed with the singers and on the recordings below:

  • Kelly Robinson- My Foolish Heart (pianist)
  • Mike Petkau- Don't Say A Word (arranger on Winter Waits)
  • Big Sap and the Sugar Shack- Same But Different (piano, sax, trumpet, accordion, guitar, percussion, vocals, arranger)
  • Jodie Borle- Snow (piano, vocals, arranger)
  • Jaylene Johnson- Wish (piano and arrangements on 'Winter Wish' and 'It Could Happen To You)
  • Twilight Hotel- Bethune (piano, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, euphonium)
  • Dave Quanbury- No Vacancy (trumpet, euphonium, clarinet)
  • Various artists- Record of the Week Club (piano, trumpet, saxophone, and co-arranger on 'Steamed Chilis')
  • Marcel Desilets- There's a Story To Tell (trumpet and saxophone)
  • Helen White- Midnight Sun (piano, trumpet, sax)
  • Helen White- What the Hellsy (piano, keyboard, trumpet, tenor sax, clarinet, arrangements)
  • Neil Keep- Mr. E & The Jazz Gumshoes (piano, trumpet, sax, trombone)
  • Monika Loewen Wall- Parallel Mondo (piano, arrangements)
  • Seanster and the Monsters- YAY!  (trumpet, tenor sax, trombone, mellophone, arrangements)
  • Karen Hammarstrand- Late Blooming (piano, clarinet, trombone, arrangements)
  • Keith Macpherson- TBA (piano, synth)
  • Jayme Giesbrecht- To Keep You From Falling