Powell River Academy of Music
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2016 Jury & Guest Conductors

Paul CummingsPaul Cummings - Canada
Head of Jury

Paul Cummings, recipient of the BC Music Educators' 1995 Outstanding Music Educator Award, has degrees in Music, and Education from the University of British Columbia, and a Masters in Choral Conducting from Western Washington University, Bellingham. Paul was recently appointed Artistic Director of the International Choral Kathaumixw festival.

Paul studied trombone with jazz great Dave Robbins in the 80's before beginning his career as a music educator at Hatzic Secondary School in Mission, BC. In 1999/2000, Paul directed the Western Washington University Vocal Jazz Ensemble. His premiere vocal ensembles have enjoyed successful showcase performances at Festival Arnhem 2001 in Holland, Europa Cantat Choir Festival 1994 (Denmark), 1997 (Austria), 2003 (Spain), 2005 (Belgium), 2007 (Slovenia), 2010 (Spain), Canadian Rocky Mountain Music Festival, and the BC Vocal Jazz Festival. As coordinator of the BC Vocal Jazz Festival, Paul attracted artists such as Carol Welsman, Just 4 Kicks, and the New York Voices.

Mr. Cummings has enjoyed adjudicating at the Whitehorse Rotary Music Festival, Festival Nelson, Powell River International Vocal Jazz Summit, Surrey Jazz Festival, Salmon Arm Music Festival and the Langley District Jazz Festival.

Paul currently teaches music at Brooks Secondary School, the Powell River Academy of Music and is an instructor at Vancouver Island University.


Sanna Valvanne – Finland
Children's Treble Choir Common Song Director

Sanna Valvanne (photo by Tero Pajukallio)Introducing the Kathaumixw 2016 Children's Treble Choir Common Singing director, Sanna Valvanne! Sanna is an innovative conductor from Finland, specializing in children's and youth choirs. She is recognized worldwide for her holistic and creative choral method “Sing and Shine With Body and Soul”, which combines vocal expression with movement and drama. She is a popular clinician and guest conductor with choirs around the world. www.sannavalvanne.com

Scott Leithead - Canada
Adult Choir Common Song Director

Scott LeitheadScott Leithead is the founder and Artistic Director of Edmonton's Kokopelli Choir Association and TIME (Today’s Innovative Music Edmonton) Association. He has led provincial and state honour choirs on fifteen occasions in Canada and the United States.  Recent appearances include conducting the Alberta Youth Choir for the Alberta Choral Federation’s 40th Anniversary Season and the 2013 Ellison Canadian National Honour Choir. As lecturer and presenter, Mr. Leithead has appeared at major conferences, symposiums and universities across Canada and beyond. In addition he has adjudicated at numerous national festivals including the ACCC National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs.

Mr. Leithead has worked with choirs in South Africa and Namibia on numerous occations since 2005. His passion for innovative and unique choral music experiences has shaped the direction of the Kokopelli Choir Association. Currently the Vice Chairman of Choral/Vocal Division for MusicFest Canada, he is a longtime member of the advisory committee for the Canadian Rocky Mountain Music Festival. Mr. Leithead is also the President of the Brail Tone Music Society for persons with disabilities and serves on three national boards in Canada as well as the National Youth Music and Art Development Foundation of South Africa.


Andrew WithingtonAndrew Withington - New Zealand

A graduate of both the University of Canterbury and the University of Auckland, Andrew is in high demand as a choral conductor, clinician and adjudicator. He gained a Master of Music with First Class Honours, studying with Dr Karen Grylls in Auckland. He is currently the Musical Director of the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir, the conductor of the University of Canterbury Chamber Choir (Consortia) and Vocal Consort (Consortia 16), and has recently been appointed Music Director of the Christchurch City Choir. He is a Life Member, and a past Musical Director, of the Christchurch Boys’ Choir and the Christchurch Schools’ Music Festival. A singer himself, he has sung in Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and the New Zealand Youth Choir.


Ay-Laung Wang - Canada

EllenAy-Laung Wang is an active organ recitalist, conductor, adjudicator and teacher. Her outstanding musicianship, brilliant technique, and great personal charm make her a favorite with audiences and congregations wherever she performs. Currently Ms Wang is principal organist for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and First Baptist Church. In addition, she is a member of the faculty of Trinity western University and Assistant Conductor for the acclaimed TWU Chamber and Concert Choirs.

Ay-Laung graduated from Trinity Western University where she excelled in her piano and conducting studies. While at Trinity Western University, she served with great distinction as special assistant conductor to the TWU choirs. She continued her studies at UBC with Edward Norman receiving a Masters of Music with top standing in organ performance. She also holds performer and teacher ARCT diplomas from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto.

In 1995, the National Music Committee in her native Taiwan named her the New Musical Star. Since then, she has performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (for which she continues as Principal Organist), the Vancouver Bach Choir, the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio Brass, and the Taipei National University of the Arts Orchestra. Concert tours have taken her to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Ay-Laung is well known for her extraordinary versatility. She was featured on CBC national television for the Easter Sunrise Celebration of 2004 and for the nationally televised memorial service for Sgt. "Smokey” Smith, the last surviving Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross. She has accompanied the Taipei Christian Children’s Chorus in concert at the Vatican and has performed for the renowned composer Fu Yu-Lin on national television in Taiwan. Each summer, she participates in Festival Vancouver, and frequently performs as member of the "Fanfares N' Fugues", a trumpets and organ trio.


Chad Louwerse - Canada Chad_louwerse

Chad Louwerse is poised to take his place among the most important bass-baritones of his generation. He debuted in Europe with l’Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg as Bernadino in Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini and in Canada has been heard from Quebec to British Columbia.  With the Montreal Opera, he starred as Boniface in Haydn’s Il Mondo Della Luna, sang Talpa in Il Tabarro and covered Leporello in Don Govanni. As a member of Montreal Opera’s Atelier Lyrique, he was singled out by Gingras of La Presse in Chabrier’s L’Etoile, who stated that “for pure comedy, first distinction goes to Chad Louwerse”.

In 2007-2008 he sang Capulet in Roméo et Juliette with Montreal Opera and the Bonze in Madama Butterfly with Pacific Opera Victoria.  In 2008-2009, he was in Vancouver for Artesia in Eugene Onegin, a Nazarene in Salome and Monterone in Rigoletto and was also heard as Hortensius in Edmonton Opera’s La Fille du Regiment and as Palemon in Thaïs for Pacific Opera Victoria. Highlights of the 2009-2010 season include The Rake's Progress for Pacific Opera Victoria,  Alidoro in Cenerentola and is bass soloist in Johannes Passion for the Calgary Philharmonic. 

In past seasons Mr. Louwerse appeared with Pacific Opera Victoria as Harasta in Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen and Bonze in Madama Butterfly.  He performed the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro and Balthazar in Menotti’s Amahl and the nght Visitors with Opera NUOVA, Don Alfonso in Cos fan tutti with the Opera Project and Leporello in Don Giovanni with the Masterworks Festival.  He was a member of the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble singing Bartolo in Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!  based on Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Sviglia and Alidoro in La Cenerentola. He has been featured in Vancouver’s mainstage series in Macbeth, Werther and as Happy in La Fanciulla del West

He is a winner of both the CBC Westcoast Performance Pacific Spotlight competition and the Début competition and has given recitals broadcast on CBC Radio Two.  On CD, he can be heard in excerpts of Robert Turner’s opera Vile Shadow and Sylvia Rickard’s song-cycle Three Chinese Songs of Autumn for the Canadian Music Centre.  He was named to the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques in 2005 and received the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold award.  An active oratorio singer and recitalist, Mr. Louwerse’s concert repertoire includes the Bach Mass in B minor, the Brahms and Mozart Requiems and Mendelssohn’s Elijah

Megan Skidmore - Canada

megan_skidmoreMegan Skidmore obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Voice Performance from McGill University.  She continued her studies at the Wiener Meisterkurze in Vienna, the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the Franz Schubert Institut in Baden bei Wien.

While in Montreal she had great success as Feu and Rossignol in L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, Cunegonde in Candide and Sara Riel in Louis Riel with Opera McGill.  She also performed the title role in Princess Ida and Josephine in HMS Pinafore with McGill’s Savoy Society.  She has performed the role of Annina in Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of La Traviata and was also a member of the POV opera chorus for their productions of Erewhon and Il Trovatore.  Ms. Skidmore was solist in Schubert’s Mass in G major with the North Island Choral Society and in
R. Vaughn Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem at the 2009 Chorfest in Powell River. She has collaborated with pianist Sarah Hagen for a number of performances in the Comox Valley.

Ms. Skidmore was raised in the Comox Valley and returned in 2007 as a private voice teacher. Her students’ accomplishments include acceptance to the University of Victoria Voice Program and the Grant MacEwan College Musical Theatre program and performance in the Provincial Festival of the Arts. She was also a music director for Mel Brooks’ The Producers presented by Light Fantastic Productions in November 2008.

Ms. Skidmore joined the faculty of the Powell River Academy of Music in 2009. She teaches voice, is music director for the Musical Theatre Program and conducts the Powell River Girls Choir, Powell River Boys Choir, and the Academy Singers. 


Walter Martella - Canada

martellaWalter Martella, conductor and Music Director of the Powell River Academy of Music, has long been an integral part of Powell River’s musical community. He is an accomplished pianist, accordionist and trumpeter, starting lessons at age five, and soon joining the original Boys Choir conducted by Don James. Music remained his focus as he earned a Diploma in Jazz Trumpet from Malaspina College (VIU), a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Victoria and attended the Banff School of Fine Arts.

Conducting become a significant part of Martella’s life and career when he returned to Powell River to study at PRAM under Don James. He has participated in the British Columbia Choral Federation’s conducting program and has collaborated with world-renowned conductors. He has led noteworthy works like Holst’s Rig Veda for choir and harp, the Messiah, Schubert’s Mass in G, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. He conducts the Academy Chamber Choir, Chor Musica Men’s Choir and the Powell River Chorus as well as currently maintaining a full private teaching schedule.

Martella is a strong believer in the power of music as an important part of community. He has been an adjudicator for instrumental and choral festivals throughout British Columbia and is well known as an enthusiastic mentor, making room for his young students in his own public performances. He has recorded five jazz CDs, performed provincially with many well-known musicians in multiple genres and continues to be in demand all along the West Coast as a trumpet soloist and jazz pianist.