James Bass, of UCLA and Seraphic Fire, joins Ryan today to speak about balancing out your education and conducting career with opportunities as a seasonal professional choral singer. We will dive into schedule, pay, sight-reading requirements, and so much more.

Episode 061: Breaking into the professional choral scene, with James Bass



Bio: James Bass

Director of Choral Studies – UCLA
Artistic Director – Long Beach Camerata Singers
Associate Conductor – Seraphic Fire Professional Chamber Choir and Orchestra

James K. Bass, Grammy nominated singer and conductor, is the Director of Choral Studies in the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA and the Artistic Director designate of the Long Beach Camerata Singers. Previously he was on the faculty at Western Michigan University and the University of South Florida in Tampa and served as the Artistic Director of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay: the official chorus of the Florida Orchestra. Bass received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Miami–Florida, where he was a doctoral fellow, Master of Music and Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of South Florida and is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy.

Bass was selected by the master conductor of the Amsterdam Baroque Soloists, Ton Koopman, to be one of only 20 singers for a presentation of Cantatas by J.S. Bach in Carnegie Hall, and was an auditioned member of Robert Shaw’s workshop choir at Carnegie. He is one of 13 singers on the Grammy nominated disc “A Seraphic Fire Christmas”. Dr. Bass is an active bass soloist and has performed at Winchester Cathedral in London, has sung three world-premieres of large works, and appears on CD recordings on the Albany and Seraphic Fire Media label. He has appeared with the New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, The Florida Orchestra, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Back Bay Chorale and Orchestra and the Firebird Chamber orchestra as bass soloist.

Bass is a bass member and Associate Conductor for Seraphic Fire, the Miami-based professional choir, and was appointed choirmaster for the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria. During the summer of 2011 he co-founded the Professional Choral Institute at the University of South Florida. In its inaugural year of recording, Seraphic Fire and PCI received the Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance  for their recording of Johannes Brahms’ “Ein Deuthches Requiem”. He has prepared choirs for Sir Colin Davis, Sir David Willcocks, Jahja Ling, Michael Tilson Thomas,  Stefan Sanderling, Markus Huber and Robert Shaw. He has served on the Executive Board of the American Choral Directors Association Central Division as College Repertoire and Standards chairperson. His professional affiliations include the American Choral Directors Association, Music Educators National Conference, American Symphony Orchestra League, Pi Kappa Lambda national music honor society, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity.

Show Notes

In this episode, James Bass speaks about his musical upbringing as a cellist at Interlochen Arts Academy, and his transition to a career as a music education major with vocal emphasis.

We also cover what it’s like to be a professional singer in groups like, Seraphic Fire, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Kansas City Chorale, Phoenix Chorale, Voces8, or Conspirare. He covers schedule, pay, musicianship requirements, etc.

Claudio Monteverdi – Monteverdi: Vespers of the Blessed Virgin 1610


James Bass’ website