About Lifting As We Climb
Lifting As We Climb is a 28 minute multi-movement choral work with narration by Joan Szymko that was co-commissioned by 17 GALA choruses as part of the Catherine Roma Commissioning Project. This is a conversation between Jane Ramseyer-Miller (Artistic Director, GALA Choruses), Joan Szymko (Composer), Dr. Catherine Roma (Conductor and Activist), and Dr. Tammy Kernodle (Musicologist)
Lifting As We Climb was the motto for the
National Association of Colored Women (NACW) in the late 1890s-early 1900s
When the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified to allow women to vote, many states had laws that discriminated against women of color. Lifting As We Climb acknowledges that while some women received the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920, many women were still excluded. Read more about the NACW and the fight for women's suffrage and empowerment at the links below.
About the Dr. Catherine Roma Commissioning Project
The mission of the Dr. Catherine Roma Women Composer Commissioning Project is to fund new collaborations between GALA member choruses and women composers, resulting in new works that celebrate diversity, promote social justice, and stir the human spirit.
For over 40 years, Dr. Catherine Roma has created vibrant choral communities that reach across barriers of race, religion, class, sexual orientation and age. She works to translate the values of social justice and inclusion into fundamental experiences of community for both audience and singers. She does this through music that spans a wide variety of styles and cultures and through strategic efforts to develop membership and audiences that reflect rich diversity.
Cathy Roma was one of the founding mothers of the women's choral movement, an international network of over 70 women's choruses, when she started Anna Crusis Women's Choir in Philadelphia in 1975. She founded MUSE Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir in 1984 after coming to Ohio to do graduate work at the University of Cincinnati's College- Conservatory of Music where she completed her Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in 1989. Catherine is Professor Emerita of Music at Wilmington College and has founded four prison choirs. She was co-founder and director of the Martin Luther King Coalition Chorale for 22 years. Honors include the Governor’s Award of the Ohio Arts Council; The GALA Choruses Lifetime Achievement Award, The Cincinnati Martin Luther King Legacy Award; and the Building Bridges Award given by Bridges for a Just Community.
About the Composer, Joan Szymko
Joan Szymko's choral music is regularly performed at national and international choral festivals and conferences. Using a familiar music vocabulary, she creates works that are nonetheless fresh and engaging; compelling and inspiring, her text selections are as notable as her music. Szymko
is widely recognized as a prominent composer
of exceptional repertoire for women's choir. The American Choral Director’s Association recognized Szymko's lasting impact on the choral arts in America by awarding her the prestigious Raymond W. Brock Memorial Commission in 2010.
Szymko lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. As resident composer she enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with Portland based Do Jump! Movement Theater, (1995-2012) creating vocal underscoring for major touring productions. A dynamic conductor she has served on the choral music faculty of Portland State University (2013-15) and has led Aurora Chorus as Artistic Director since 1993. As a visiting artist, Szymko workshops her compositions with choirs in a variety of educational and festival settings across the country and abroad.
Composing for vocal ensembles is an extension of Szymko's creativity as a choral director. Her passion for the singing voice, an embodied approach to sound, a dedication to craft and artistry, and her insistence on quality texts—all relate to her experience as a conductor and are reflected in her choral compositions.