Heather J. Buchanan, PhD


Australian born conductor Heather J. Buchanan is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities in the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University (MSU), New Jersey, USA. She conducts both mixed-voice curricular choirs, the 170-voice Chorale (symphonic choir) and 65-voice University Singers; and two extra-curricular project-based chamber ensembles, Vocal Accord and Prima Voce (women's choir). Choirs under her direction have earned critical acclaim for their “heartfelt conviction,” “new-minted enthusiasm and vibrancy,” being a “marvel of diction, tuning and rhythm”, “impeccable dynamics and diction,” “vibrant sound,” “eloquence”, and for singing with the “crispness and dexterity of a professional choir.” During her tenure, the MSU choral program has been recognized for its ongoing successful performances with world-renowned artists and celebrated professional musicians in national and international venues. Over the last decade MSU choirs have collaborated with a variety of renowned artists and organizations including Meredith Monk, Morten Lauridsen, Richard Alston Dance Company, Chen Yi, Tarik O’Regan, Mícheál ÓSúílleabháinRobert Livingston Aldridge, Sarah Hopkins, Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory, Joseph Flummerfelt, members of the Vienna Philharmonic strings, and conductors Neeme Järvi, Jacques LaCombe, John Maucceri and Susie Benchasil Seiter with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO). Her collaborative partner is pianist Steven W. Ryan.

           The MSU Chorale specializes in symphonic masterwork performances, and regularly collaborates with the NJSO presenting at a range of venues state-wide including Prudential Hall NJPAC (Newark), Richardson Auditorium (Princeton), NJ State Theater (New Brunswick) and Mayo PAC (Morristown). Highlights include Verdi Messa Da Requiem and Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mahler Symphony No. 3, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Howard Shore’s Academy Award winning score The Lord of the Rings Symphony. In MSU’s Alexander Kasser Theater Dr. Buchanan has conducted the Chorale in a range of innovative and classic choral-orchestral performances, including David Fanshawe’s electrifying African Sanctus in celebration of the composer’s 70th birthday and the 40th anniversary year of the work’s premiere, the East Coast Premiere of the new American symphonic oratorio Parables by Grammy Award winning composer Robert Livingston Aldridge, and the regional premiere of Let My People Go! by Don McCullough. Other masterwork highlights include Requiem’s by Fauré and Duruflé, Gloria (Poulenc), Saint Nicholas (Britten), Dona Nobis Pacem (Vaughan Williams), and Lux Aeterna (Lauridsen). The Chorale’s highly acclaimed performances of Orff’s Carmina Burana with the NJSO and Maestro Jacques Lacombe were also celebrated with a limited edition CD release in September 2011, and their 2014 Verdi Requiem collaboration was released on CD in December 2014. Their 2012 winter concert featuring the Rutter Gloria and Holiday music was recorded and broadcast on NJN television network in December 2012. Their 2014-15 season featured two exciting projects: the world premiere of Gifts of the Season, a choral cantata commissioned from New Jersey composer Martin A. Sedek; and two performances of the chamber version of Annelies by James Whitbourn, a special Holocaust work based on Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. In 2015-16 the MSU Chorale will perform Alzheimer's Stories by Robert Cohen (libretto by Herschel Garfein) with guest artists Adriana Zabala mezzo-soprano and Keith Phares baritone for the annual Beatrice Crawford Memorial Concert.


           The University Singers performs a wide variety of sacred and secular repertoire encompassing genres from the Renaissance to the 21st Century, with special interest in contemporary and emerging composers. Most noteworthy is their relationship with the iconic world-renowned composer and performing artist Meredith Monk beginning with their historic collaboration in December 2006. In March 2009 University Singers gave two performances of Songs of Ascension at the Guggenheim Museum (New York City) with Ms. Monk and Vocal Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Buchanan, which received outstanding reviews. They subsequently recorded Songs of Ascension on the prestigious ECM label under legendary producer Manfried Eicher, released May 2011 This collaboration was included in the Producer of the Year section of the 2012 Grammy nominations. Previous season highlights include New York Choral Festival Showcase Concerts performances at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall, Prelude Concert performances for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s annual Winter Festivals, presenting Bach’s Magnificat with the MSU Symphony Orchestra, Handel’s Saul in a unique opera performance, and commissioning, and premiering That Music Always Round Me by composer Tarik O’Regan. Internationally, University Singers has accepted invitations to perform in prestigious European venues including Rachmaninoff Hall (Moscow), the Russian Museum (St. Petersburg), the Ferenc Liszt Zeneakadémia (Budapest), and Church of St. Nicholas (Prague) during tours of Central Europe and Russia. In February 2012 University Singers gave their American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Eastern Division Conference debut performance in Providence, RI, featuring World Premiere performances of music by Chen Yi (Distance Can’t Keep Us Two Apart – the 2012 ACDA Raymond Brock Memorial Commission), and Martin A. Sedek (She Walks In Beauty). March 2013 saw their NJSO debut with three performances of the Mozart Requiem (Lacombe conductor). A 2013-14 season highlight was collaborating with esteemed American composer Morten Lauridsen on his Nocturnes during his November 2013 MSU residency. In 2014-15 season University Singers returned to the NJSO for three seasonally-inspired performances of Handel’s Messiah with Maestro Lacombe in December 2014, and will do so again in December 2015. They were the showcase choir for the 2015 New York Choral Festival at Carnegie Hall where they performed the World Premiere performance of Ubi caritas by Carlos Bandera, the winning score in the 2nd annual Cali Choral Composition Competition.


            The formation of Vocal Accord (mixed voice chamber choir) and Prima Voce (women’s chamber choir) occurred in response to professional-level performing engagements requiring specific vocal forces under her direction. They are project choirs comprising experienced singers auditioned primarily drawn from within the MSU community (current students and alumni). Vocal Accord made its debut performance in the Cali School of Music’s Leshowitz Recital Hall in January 2010. Their 2011-12 season culminated in a 14-day European Tour of Austria & Italy with performances in Vienna, Gleisdorf, Venice, Graz (as guests of the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst for a one-week residency), and performing with members of the Vienna Philharmonic strings in the HÖRgenuss 2012 festival in Ottendorf. A documentary of this tour, American Voices, was released in February 2013 and airs on NJTV network.  In August 2013 Vocal Accord performed The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses (1st Quest) with the NJSO as part of Nintendo’s 25th Anniversary global celebrations of the popular gaming series. A second invitation to perform Zelda (The 2nd Quest) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York City was accepted for November 2013. In March 2014 Vocal Accord will have their Carnegie Hall debut performance in Weill Recital Hall and the world premiere performance of Reflection (James Conrad Smith), the winning student score in the inaugural Cali Choral Composition CompetitionPrima Voce women’s choir was formed for the December 2012 performances of Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols on the Peak Performances arts series. This critically acclaimed collaboration with UK-based choreographer Richard Alston and his Dance Company (RADC) was also the US premiere of Alston’s production and part of the Britten Centennial Celebrations. In October 2014 RADC returned to Montclair for four performances of Rejoice in the Lamb (Britten) with Vocal Accord conducted by Dr. Buchanan to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Peak Performances. This collaboration was subsequently repeated at Sadler's Wells, London in January 2015 with two performances celebrating the 20th Anniversary of RADC. Other guest conducting highlights include the 2007 Dvořák Festival in Prague and Vienna, the World Premiere of Madison’s Descent (Mícheál ÓSúílleabháin), two Australian National Seniors’ Choral Festivals (Newcastle and Sydney), preparing the opera chorus for the regional premier of Elmer Gantry (January 2008), as well as numerous high school choral festivals in the US. In July 2014 she conducted the US-Australian choral festival Voices across the Pacific with performances in the iconic Sydney Opera House and St. John’s Cathedral, Brisbane. Her 2014-15 guest conducting engagements included the Malcolm Williamson Choir for the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University’s State Honours Education Program (October 2014); the Pacific Basin Music Festival in Hawaii (March 2015); and Fauré’s Requiem in Florence, Italy (June 2015).


           Dr. Buchanan holds degrees from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (BMus), Westminster Choir College of Rider University (MM), and the University of New England (PhD). As a licensed Andover Educator she specializes in the teaching of Body Mapping, a neuro-anatomical pedagogy developed for musicians. Dr. Buchanan’s qualitative Body Mapping research has the distinction of being the first published in this field. Her publications include the DVD Evoking Sound: Body Mapping & Gesture Fundamentals, octavos in the Evoking Sound Choral Series (GIA), and co-editing the landmark GIA choral series Teaching Music through Performance in Choir. Her chapter “Body Mapping: Enhancing Voice Performance through Somatic Pedagogy” was published in Teaching Singing in the 21st Century (Springer Publications 2014). Since July 2012 she has served as the Repertoire and Standards Collegiate Chair for Eastern Division ACDA. A recipient of a prestigious Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship (1996-97), Dr. Buchanan is a twice honored Paul Harris Fellow (1997 & 2003) and received a Rotary Foundation Education Award in 1998. A vibrant teacher, dynamic performer, and passionate musicians’ health advocate, Dr. Buchanan is in demand as a guest conductor, somatic educator and choral clinician in the US and abroad.



Updated May 16, 2015