About this project

A consortium of ensembles to commission two SATB choral works on poems by Dana Gioia from composers Thomas LaVoy and Sarah Rimkus:

  • One work by Dr. LaVoy and one work by Dr. Rimkus

  • Both unaccompanied SATB choir, c. 3 to 5 minutes, moderate difficulty (some divisi)

  • Ensembles can sign up through July 25th 2019 (deadline extended)

  • Delivery of both pieces on August 1st, 2019

  • For performance anytime during the 2019-2020 season (August 2019-June 2020), separately or together

Thomas will be setting “The Stars Now Rearrange Themselves…” | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgOjqfoLuis

Sarah will be setting “The Burning Ladder.” | http://danagioia.com/the-burning-ladder/

This consortium is now closed. The pieces will be released from exclusivity with the participating ensembles in the 2020/2021 season.

About the words

Words are at the center of all vocal and choral music. As composers, a large part of our creative process with any piece involving the human voice takes place before a note of music is written: searching, selecting, analyzing, and sometimes compiling or editing texts and poems. This process should produce a relationship between the words and the music that is greater than the sum of its parts – all elements should work together in collaboration to produce something entirely new. 

Dana Gioia is no stranger to collaboration with composers and embraces the relationship between words and music: “Unlike most poets, I think of my verse in musical and auditory terms, so my sensibility is similar to a musician's.” We are both attracted to the musicality of Dana’s work, always featuring a keen sense of rhythm and often using particular meters, rhyme schemes or forms. In some ways, it is quite traditional. However, his poems never feel old or imitative in any way – the imagery and themes and the way these are coupled with his language are always contemporary and fresh. He often writes about the vast, stark landscapes of the American wilderness on a grand scale, as well as more intimate thoughts and internal conflict and questioning. We are honored to have him as a supportive collaborator, and we look forward to bringing his poetry to life for all of you through these musical works. 

-Sarah and Thomas

Read my first blog about writing “The Burning Ladder here, and the second one here.

Read about Tom’s experience with “The Stars Now Rearrange Themselves” here and here.



Jo-Michael Scheibe and the USC Thornton Chamber Singers | The USC Chamber Singers, formed in 1939, are one of the top collegiate choirs in the United States and feature c. 32 singers from various disciplines across USC from choral conducting to neurology, both graduate and undergraduate. The Chamber Singers have recently performed at the 2014 World Symposium on Choral Music in Seoul, 2015 National ACDA Convention, and with Dale Warland, Helmut Rilling, Sir Elton John and Barry Manilow, among many others. Jo-Michael Scheibe is renowned as a conductor and choral educator across the United States and around the world. He has served as national president and western division president of the American Choral Directors Association, and is in frequent demand nationally and internationally as a clinician, conductor, and adjudicator for choruses at the university, community college, community, and secondary levels. 

Jamie Sansbury and the Glasgow School of Art Choir | The Glasgow School of Art Choir is a non-auditioned ensemble of 115 singers, primarily consisting of past and present students and staff of the prestigious Glasgow School of Art. The choir performs repertoire from a wide range of genres and champions contemporary music by frequently commissioning new works, and has previously commissioned works from Jay Cappernauld, Ken Johnston and Sir James MacMillan, to name a few. Musical director and board chair Jamie Sansbury founded the choir in 2012, during his third year at Glasgow School of Art.

James Jordan and Westminster Williamson Voices | Grammy-nominated conductor James Jordan is recognized and praised throughout the musical world as one of America’s pre-eminent conductors, recording artists, writers, music psychologists and innovators in choral music. He was described as a “visionary” by Choral Journal, which cited his book Evoking Sound as a “must read.” His more than 40 books explore both the philosophical and spiritual basis of musicianship, as well as aspects of choral rehearsal teaching and learning, and they are considered to be essential references in the conducting profession. He is professor and senior conductor at Westminster Choir College where he conducts Westminster Schola Cantorum and the critically acclaimed Westminster Williamson Voices. He is also director of the Westminster Conducting Institute and co-director of the Choral Institute at Oxford. (rider.edu/Oxford) He is artistic director and conductor of the professional choral ensemble, The Same Stream (thesamestreamchoir.com) The Williamson Voices, founded by James Jordan, has distinguished itself in the choral world for its distinctive artistry, recordings, educational outreach and its mission to perform new music. The choir is also recognized as a living choral laboratory. It is one of the few ensembles in the world that use chant as the center of their musicianship study and performance.

about the poet

Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet. Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia is a native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent. He received a B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Gioia recently served as the Poet Laureate of California. Gioia has published five full-length collections of poetry, most recently 99 Poems: New & Selected. His poetry collection, Interrogations at Noon, won the 2002 American Book Award, and 99 Poems won the 2018 Poet’s Prize. An influential critic as well, Gioia’s 1991 volume Can Poetry Matter?, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, is credited with helping to revive the role of poetry in American public culture. In 2014 he won the Aiken-Taylor Award for lifetime achievement in American poetry.

As Chairman of the NEA from 2003 to 2009, Gioia succeeded in garnering enthusiastic bi-partisan support in the United States Congress for the mission of the Arts Endowment, as well as in strengthening the national consensus in favor of public funding for the arts and arts education. Business Week Magazine referred to him as “The Man who Saved the NEA.” 

Gioia has been the recipient of ten honorary degrees. He has won numerous awards, including the 2010 Laetare Medal from Notre Dame. He and his wife, Mary, have two sons. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Sonoma County, California.