benjamin Rivera, Guest Conductor
Benjamin Rivera has prepared and conducted choruses at all levels—from elementary school through adult, volunteer and professional—in repertoire from sacred polyphony and chant, choral/orchestral masterworks, and contemporary pieces to gospel, pop, and folk. He serves as Chorus Director and regular conductor of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and has appeared multiple times as Guest Chorus Director of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago and Guest Music Director of Chicago a cappella. Artistic director and conductor of Cantate Chicago, featured at Chorus America’s national conference in 2018, Rivera also serves as Choirmaster of the fully professional ensembles at Church of the Ascension and High Holidays Choir Director at Temple Sholom. He also served as Associate Conductor of The Washington Chorus and joins the conducting staff of the Chicago Symphony Chorus in the 2018-19 season.
A professional singer in the Chicago Symphony Chorus for over twenty seasons including twelve as bass section leader, Rivera also sings professionally with the Grant Park Chorus. He sang for many years with Chicago a cappella and several other ensembles, frequently appearing as a soloist in concert and recordings.
Rivera served on the faculty of several area colleges and universities, directs choirs and teaches conducting, voice, diction, music theory, and history. Additionally, he adjudicates solo and ensemble competitions, leads master classes and in-school residencies, and has presented at the Iowa Choral Directors Association summer conference.
Especially adept with languages, Benjamin Rivera frequently coaches German, Spanish, and Latin, among others. He holds degrees in voice and music theory from North Park University and Roosevelt University, respectively, and a DMA in choral conducting from Northwestern University. His studies include intense focus on German language in both Germany and Austria for which he received a Certificate of German as a foreign language. Other notable accomplishments include conducting African American spirituals with Rollo Dilworth and a variety of workshops, seminars, and performances in early music.
Dr. Rivera is a member of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), Chorus America, and the College Music Society (CMS).
Carling Fitzsimmons, Guest Conductor
A Chicago native, soprano and conductor Carling FitzSimmons is thrilled to be making music in the city she loves.
After receiving degrees in English and music at Kenyon College, Carling returned to Chicago and has established herself as a rising singer, conductor, and arts educator. As a conductor of young singers, Carling has worked for the Pro Musica Youth Chorus and the Merit School of Music, where she leads several choral ensembles and teaches private voice at the Conservatory.
In addition to singing with ensembles around Chicago including Bella Voce, Aestas Consort, the Rockefeller Decani, and the William Ferris Chorale, Carling serves as Artistic Director of La Caccina, a professional women’s vocal ensemble she co-founded in 2011. Under her guidance, La Caccina has grown from three voices to nine, and has established itself as the city’s premier treble-voice ensemble, collaborating with musicians including the Pavo String Quartet, harpists Lillian Lau and Alison Attar, bluegrass trio Glass Mountain, and the DuPage Symphony Orchestra, among others.
Through La Caccina, Carling has proven herself to be a champion of new music, commissioning a dozen pieces for the ensemble during her seven seasons as Artistic Director, and earning praise for her “visionary and generous” leadership. In 2016, Carling was awarded an Individual Artist Grant by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which enabled her to record La Caccina’s second album, Open Book.
She is honored to be working with the fine musicians of the William Ferris Chorale again this year, after conducting the ensemble in last year’s Christmas with the Chorale.