Hightower succeeds Betsy Cook Weber, who had held the role since fall 2014. Weber stepped down at the end of the 2021-22 season to focus on her work at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, where she is Professor and Director of Choral Studies, according to a press release.
Currently the Director of Choral Studies at the University of North Texas, Hightower has previously served as Weston Noble Endowed Chair in Music at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. As a high school educator in Texas, he has taught at Klein High School in Spring and at Odessa Permian High School in Odessa. He is also the former Artistic Director of the Houston Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra.
For the 2022-23 season, the Houston Symphony welcomes not only Hightower as the new Chorus director but Juraj Valčuha as the orchestra’s new Music Director in his highly anticipated inaugural season. Hightower will prepare the Houston Symphony Chorus in Valčuha’s Opening Night performance of Verdi’s Requiem on September 16, 2022, in addition to several other classical and pops concerts – including:
- Celebrating 75 Years of India’s Independence: August 6, 2022
- Juraj Valčuha Inaugural Weekend: Verdi Requiem: September 16–18, 2022
- Holst’s The Planets: November 11–13, 2022
- Handel’s Messiah: December 9–11, 2022
- Very Merry POPS: December 15, 17 & 18, 2022
- Bartók Miraculous Mandarin + Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto: January 13–15, 2023
- Perlman Conducts Mozart Requiem: April 1 & 2, 2023
- Stravinsky Oedipus Rex: May 19 & 20, 2023
The Houston Symphony Chorus is the official choral unit of the Houston Symphony and is a highly skilled volunteer group.
“I really do think it consists of the finest volunteer singers in the Greater Houston area,” said former director Betsy Cook Weber in a 2016 audio birthday card produced by Houston Public Media in honor of the Chorus’ 70th anniversary.
Founded in 1946 as the Houston Chorale, the Chorus has performed under numerous world-renowned conductors over the decades and has been led by seven directors – including Charles Hausmann (1986-2014), named Director Emeritus for his longtime contributions.
As its eighth director, Hightower will head a choral leadership team that includes pianist Scott Holshouser, principal vocal and diction coach Anna Diemer, and rehearsal conductors Kaitlin DeSpain, Julia Hall, Emily Jenkins, Matthew Lyon Hazzard, Janwin Overstreet-Goode, and Carlin Truong.
Information on auditioning for the Houston Symphony Chorus is available here.