Honour Ensemble Directors 2017

Wind Ensemble: Dr. Ralph Hultgren

Ralph Hultgren AM      PhD (GU), MA (QUT), BA (UQ)

Ralph Hultgren was born in Box Hill, Victoria, Australia, and now resides in Newmarket, Queensland, with his wife Julie. Dr Hultgren is a freelance teacher, composer and conductor who began his professional music career as a trumpet player in 1970 with the Central Band of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Dr Hultgren was admitted as a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) on Australia Day, 2016, “for significant service to the arts, particularly music education, as an academic, composer and publisher, and to professional organisations”.

Dr Hultgren was honoured by being made ‘Patron of the Maryborough Music Conference’, Australia’s largest music education event, an honour which is the most prestigious accolade given by Education Queensland for significant contributions to music education in that state. He is also the recipient of the Midwest Clinic International Award, in recognition of his international contributions to music education, which was presented by the Board of Directors of the Midwest Clinic. He is a founding member of the Australian Band and Orchestra Directors’ Association and was the recipient of the Citation of Excellence, ABODA’s highest honour, which, joined with life membership of ABODA, sees him as one of the most esteemed members of that association.

Dr Hultgren’s most recent academic position was as Head of Open Conservatorium, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University where he lectured in conducting and instrumental music education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and conducted the Queensland Conservatorium Wind Orchestra. He currently holds an adjunct position at QCGU supervising postgraduate candidates in composition, conducting and music education. Prior to his QCGU residence he held a position at the Queensland University of Technology also lecturing in conducting and instrumental music education and conducted the Queensland University of Technology Wind Symphony.

As well as his tenure with the Central Band of the RAAF, Dr Hultgren also played with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Brass Choir and as a freelance musician for the theatre, opera, cabaret and recording studio. In a career spanning four decades has seen Dr Hultgren conduct across the globe. On many occasions he premiered or presented his own works and has been commissioned to compose new pieces by organisations and ensembles worldwide. His compositional output has been awarded, published, recorded and used in radio and television and his works have been featured in the concert and recording programs of ensembles from professional orchestras to beginner bands.

Composing and conducting are his preeminent musical activities today yet he considers teaching as that which has captured his heart most fully – along with the children and grandchildren who inhabit his life. Dr Hultgren loves to read, to immerse himself in listening to fine music of all genres and to spend time leading the men’s group in his church.

Concert Choir: Scott Leithead

Scott Leithead is the founder and Artistic Director of Canada's Kokopelli Choir Association and TIME Association from Edmonton, Alberta. He has been invited to conduct provincial, national and state honour choirs on twenty-five occasions and he has presented workshops in North America and beyond. Notable appearances include: conducting the Alberta Youth Choir for the Alberta Choral Federation’s 40th Anniversary; conducting the 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 Ellison Canadian Honour Choir; conducting the 2016 ACDA NW Regional Youth Choir in Seattle. He has adjudicated both the ACCC National Competition for Amateur Canadian Choirs, the Kathaumixw International Choir Festival (2014 and 2016) and most recently the prestigious Tampere Choir Festival 2017 in Finland.  Under his direction, Kokopelli was a winner of both the 2015 CBC National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs and the 2015 and 2016 Canadian National Music Competition.

Scott has a passion for music from southern Africa and he has been invited to work with choirs in South Africa and Namibia on numerous occasions. In 2008/09, Scott was on sabbatical in Namibia where he worked with the Mascato Youth Choir and many other choirs in southern Africa. Scott’s passion for innovative and unique choral music experiences has shaped the direction of the Kokopelli Choir Association.

Scott is a longtime member of the advisory committee for the Canadian Rocky Mountain Music Festival and the Cantando Festivals. as well as the National Youth Music and Art Development Foundation of South Africa. 

In 2017/18 Scott will present clinics and workshops across Canada, The USA and Africa and conduct numerous honour choirs including the 2018 Ellison Canadian Honour Choir (Toronto) the BCMEA Honour Choir (Vancouver) and the SMEA Honour Choir (Regina). He was the guest clinician at the University of Toronto Summer Conducting Symposium in July 2017 and he will be leading similar workshops at the Kansas Choral Directors Summer Symposium in July 2018. In February he will be guest conducting at the ISSEA (International Schools of South and East Africa) Festival in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also excited to be a part of the 25 th Anniversary Celebration of Newfoundland’s renowned Shallaway Choir Association in April 2018.

String Orchestra: Dr. Edward Higgins

Dr. Edward Higgins began his versatile performance career with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in Spoleto, Italy, where he served as Principal Trumpet on such works as the Grammy-winning recording of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra.  After two seasons Dr. Higgins went on to hold the Principal Trumpet position of the Sacramento Symphony.  He achieved comparable accolades in the Midwest as a professional tubist, holding principal positions in the La Crosse Symphony and St. Joseph Symphony Orchestras.

His educational career has seen similar successes with brass pedagogy and conducting positions at: University of California Davis, California State University Sacramento, Winona State University in Minnesota, Washburn University in Kansas and Portland State University in Portland Oregon.  

Dr. Higgins is currently Associate Professor of Music at Portland State University.  For over a decade, he held the position of Director of Bands before moving into the area of Distance Learning.  He also serves as Orchestra Conductor of the Portland Choir and Orchestra.  

Dr. Higgins is highly sought after as a conductor/clinician for state and regional honor ensembles.   He founded the Oregon Conductor’s Symposium and has been a featured guest with the Portland Festival Orchestra. Dr. Higgins served as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Portland Wind Symphony transforming it into one of the premiere ensembles of its kind on the west coast.  Dr. Higgins’ more recent appearances have occurred in such diverse locales as New York’s La Guardia School of the Performing Arts  (featured in the motion picture, “Fame”) and the Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou, China.

On the concert stage, Higgins has collaborated with notable artists such as: Glenn Dicterow (Concertmaster, New York Philharmonic), Charles Schlueter (Principal Trumpet Emeritus, Boston Symphony), Ronald Baron (Principal Trombone Emeritus, Boston Symphony) and world-renowned trumpet soloist Carl “Doc” Severinsen.

Dr. Higgins holds a Doctorate in Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in trumpet performance from the Juilliard School.

Jazz Ensemble: Fred Stride

Fred Stride as been an active professional musician in Vancouver, Canada for more than 30 years. A graduate of the UBC School of Music, Fred also studied in Los Angeles with Dick Grove at the Dick Grove Music Workshops. On his return to Vancouver Fred began his career in earnest, playing trumpet and arranging for various projects and ensembles. His skills soon brought him in contact with many prominent Vancouver band leaders including Bob Hales and Dave Robbins. Fred also spent about 10 years working with Tommy Banks on various television and theatre projects in both BC and Alberta, including the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.


As a trumpet player Fred performed a wide range of gigs including concerts and shows with local and visiting entertainers and recording for both radio and television. During his trumpet playing days Fred also worked with local ensembles led by Bob Hales, Tommy Banks, The Wildroot Orchestra, Dave Robbins, Ray Sikora, Hugh Fraser's Veji, Gary Guthman, Allan Matheson, the Stride-Bjerring Band as well as many other Vancouver based groups. Fred also had the good fortune to play his horn on a few very memorable jazz concerts with visiting artists such as Louie Bellson, Kenny Wheeler, Ron Collier and Muhal Richard Abrams.


Despite Fred's trumpet playing background it is his writing for which he has become best known. Equally at home arranging or composing, a few arranging highlights over the years have been: "The Music of Hoagy Carmichael" with singer Dee Daniels (CBC Radio), a pops show with the Winnipeg Symphony, "Showboat" (CBC Records), "1936: A Year and its Music" (CBC Radio), "Jazzy Bassoons Theme" for CBCs Disc Drive, "The Jazz Composers Suite" for the Curio Ensemble, a Paul Anka TV series (working with Don Costa), symphony shows for singer Almeta Speaks and The New Orleans Connection, recording with Aerosmith, the musicals "Unforgettable: The Music Of Nat King Cole" and "The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz," the Vancouver Symphony and CBC Orchestras, the Wildroot Orchestra and the 1984 Papal Visit to Vancouver.


Fred has now set aside his trumpet and has been concentrating on composition. Besides writing for his own big band, The Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra, Fred has received numerous commissions from many performers and ensembles over the years including much of the music for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and original music for the Opening Ceremonies of Expo 86. Fred has also composed works for the Vancouver Symphony, Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble, several Canadian Armed Forces bands, the Brampton Concert Band, the CBC Orchestra, saxophonist Julia Nolan, french horn soloist Martin Hackleman, various high school bands and many other solo performers and ensembles. Fred’s jazz compositions have been played and recorded around the world.


Besides his busy schedule as a composer and arranger Fred is also active as a guest conductor, teacher, clinician and adjudicator. He has been the leader of several ensembles in Vancouver over the years beginning in 1975 with his first professional big band - Bandwagon. This band eventually became the West Coast Jazz Orchestra and released the lp "First Time Out" in 1984. After a hiatus Fred regrouped in 1993 forming the Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra. Besides performing Fred's own compositions and arrangements, this ensemble has also performed several classic big band scores including Duke Ellington's "Black Brown And Beige" and Stan Kenton/Johnny Richards' "Cuban Fire." Both concerts were recorded and broadcast by CBC Radio. The FSJO has also performed several times at the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, recorded with Aerosmith and played a particularly memorable concert with clarinetist Eddie Daniels.


Fred has received several awards over the years including the 2008 IAJE/SOCAN Phil Nimmons Jazz Composer Award, first prize for The Center for Jazz Composition 2007 International Jazz Arranging Competition, the PRO Young Jazz Composer Award (1987), the Cornell University Jazz Composition Contest (runner up) and the Canadian Music Council Award For Best Documentary On A Musical Subject. Fred's most recent recordings include "The Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra: Forward Motion" (Cellar Live) which has received excellent reviews, "Trajectories: Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble Plays the Music of Fred Stride" (PSWECD 006) "Impressions" The University of Victoria Wind Symphony and "Romanza" Martin Hackleman with the CBC Orchestra (CBC Records).


Fred, who has a Master's degree in composition from the University of Victoria, also manages, "in his spare time," to teach jazz theory, jazz arranging and direct the Jazz Ensemble I at the University of British Columbia. Fred Stride is a associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. Some of Fred's jazz compositions are published by Sierra Music Publications.

Vocal Jazz Ensemble: Amanda Taylor

Amanda Taylor was born in Seattle, Washington. Growing up, she participated in a number of the city’s prestigious ensembles, such as the Seattle Youth Symphony, Vocalpoint! Seattle, and the Seattle Girls’ Choir. During these years of growth, she was accepted into the Grammy Jazz Ensembles (one of eight students selected from the USA). Through this organization, she was able to perform throughout Grammy week, at such events as the Blue Note Records party, the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute, and the Grammy Celebration After Party (which included performances with artists Cassandra Wilson, Terence Blanchard, and Herbie Hancock).

Amanda graduated from Central Washington University in Spring 2013 with her BM in Music Composition. She is an active studio singer, and has sung on soundtracks for games like World of Warcraft, Diablo III, Destiny, and more. She has recently moved back to Seattle from Nashville, TN, and is now teaching music at Mt. Si High School, the Northwest Choirs, the Seattle Girls’ Choir, and more.

To check out some of Amanda’s solo material, visit her website: www.amandataylorkunz.com

Amanda sings lead soprano in Seattle-based professional jazz ensemble, Groove for Thought. Groove for Thought was featured on Season Two of NBC’s show, “The Sing-Off”, which featured a cappella groups from all over the country. Groove for Thought tours all over the U.S. and Europe.