DR SARAH PENICKA-SMITH
Artistic Director & Principal Conductor
Versatile, perceptive, and a passionate advocate for music as a force for change,
Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith is a unique and innovative voice in Australian music, who thrives working across genres & disciplines. Her reputation stands on her work with some of Sydney's finest choirs, but she has also founded or developed several grass-roots ensembles aimed at providing hard-to-find opportunities for musicians and music-lovers alike.
Currently Sarah holds the positions of Artistic Director & Principal Conductor of River City Voices, Director of Music at St Andrew’s College, Principal Conductor with the Macquarie Singers & Macquarie Chamber Orchestra, and Artistic Director of Pacific Pride Choir. Sarah is an alumna of the 2018 Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera, with whom she made her international debut.
Sarah’s opera credits include Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (the first opera staged by a queer choir, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir, 2009) & Dido & Aeneas (Macquarie Singers, 2017), Korie & Wallace’s Harvey Milk (Left Bauer/SGLC 2015), Phillip Glass’s Akhnaten (Ondine Productions, 2013), Campra’s Tancrede (2010), Cummins’ Anacreontea (2011) and Timor (2015), Krasa’s Brundibar (2014), Leon’s Monsoon (2015) and Menotti’s The Medium (2015), all with Opera Prometheus.
Sarah has appeared as guest conductor with Penrith Symphony Orchestra, the University of Sydney Intercol Orchestra, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra, and Sydney Chamber Orchestra. As part of the Symphony Australia Conductor Development Program (2012-2015), she worked with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the guidance of Maestri Asher Fisch, Johannes Fritsch, Marko Letonja and Christopher Seaman.
From 2005-2017, Sarah was the longest-serving Music Director of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir, where she worked on a range of pioneering projects. Sarah chorus masters for a range of ensembles and festivals, including Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Willoughby Symphony Choir (2010-2012), and in 2010 she directed the 61st Intervarsity Choral Festival in Canberra. She has been the conductor for ABC Sydney’s ‘Sing Out Sydney’ event since its inception.
Sarah has also served on the Musica Viva Artistic Review Committee, and as a juror for the Vocal/Choral section of the APRA/AMCOS Art Music Awards. As a singing teacher, she works privately and with Cate Madill Voice & Speech. In addition to her musical credits, Sarah holds a PhD from the University of Sydney, where she is a guest lecturer.
Su Choung is a dynamic and engaging collaborative pianist based in Sydney with a focus on vocal repertoire. She is currently a young artist with Melba Opera Trust and the current recipient of the Margaret Schofield Opera Scholarship and the Mel and Nina Waters Award.
In 2019, Su was the repetiteur as part of the Young Artist program with Pacific Opera and was the Music Director for The Other Theatre’s production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
Su has completed a Bachelor of Music (Performance) degree and a Graduate Diploma in Collaborative Piano at the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium of Music, under the guidance of some of Australia’s leading pianists; David Miller, Dr. Paul Rickard-Ford and Natalia Sheludiakova. During her studies, Su was elected to represent the Conservatorium at the Estivo Chamber Music Festival in Verona, Italy, where she received tutelage as both a solo and collaborative pianist.
Su has worked alongside renowned Australian musicians including: Anke Hoeppner, Alexandre Oguey, James Kortum, Dr. Neil McEwan and has performed alongside the Sydney Male Choir as a featured artist at the Angel Place Recital Hall.
Su has a great love for chamber music and in particular, vocal repertoire, ranging from Choral Music, Art Song, Opera and Musical Theatre.
Recently, Su has worked as repetiteur with the Blue Mountains Musical Society, Flamigo Opera’s debut double bill Mozart Opera production of Bastien und Bastienne and Apollo et Hyacinthus and has performed at the Fringe Festival as part of the Art Song for Kids show.
Our Team Artistic
Assistant Conductor Program
In 2019, River City Voices established its Assistant Conductor Scholarship program to foster and support theprofessional development of emerging choral conductors. REcipients observe, participate and received mentoring from RCV's Artistic Director, Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith, in addition to a stipend which was supported by Ars Musica Australis.
Here's what Alex Siegers had to say about the inaugural program!
"Working with Sarah and River City Voices was a truly wonderful experience. Not only did I learn a lot about choral conducting and how to run a symphonic choir, but I was welcomed as part of a family. I highly recommend this program for any conductor looking for more experience working with classical choral repertoire. I also encourage everyone to get involved to support this fantastic new program, bringing new experiences to the residents of Western Sydney."
Assistant Conductor 2020
Assistant Conductors 2019
Joanna Brooke is a vibrant singer and music educator based in Sydney. As a conductor, Joanna works regularly with multiple choirs, including Sydney Children’s Choirs Fairfield, Twist and Van Tienen Choirs; Forest Lodge Public School; and the Hannaford Singing Group. Joanna has also been the Artistic Director of the Jubilate Singers for the last five years, leading the group to perform at the Blackheath Choir Festival, the Belvoir Theatre and ABC Radio’s ‘Sing Out Sydney’.
As an educator, Joanna sings and composes for a children’s music group, Avocado Smash, winners of the San Diego Fringe Tour Ready Award 2019, the Inner West Council EDGE Development Award 2019 and nominees for the Sydney Fringe Festival NIDA Emerging Artist and Fringe Kids Awards in 2019.
Joanna’s highlights as a singer include performing as the soprano soloist in three productions of Vivaldi’s Gloria in D in 2018 in Sydney and Tasmania. In 2020, Joanna looks forward to performing as the mezzo-soprano soloist in ‘The Good Friday Messiah’ at Epping Baptist Church and Bach’s St. John’s Passion with the Orpheus Choir in Hobart.
Joanna holds a bachelor degree in social work with first class honours from the University of New South Wales. She tutors in Community Work at UNSW and her passion for community development frames her artistic practice.
Assistant Conductors 2019
Alexandria Siegers has amassed considerable experience as both chorister and soloist across jazz, sacred, classical and pop genres with leading ensembles throughout Australia.
Since relocating to Sydney in 2012, Alex has been a full time chorister with the Choir of St. James King Street. She has also performed with The Song Company, The Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney Chamber Choir, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Luminescence Chamber Singers, Cantillation, Vocal Australia Singers, and The Choir Lab.
In 2017 she completed a Bachelor of Music and Arts in Jazz Voice and Linguistics at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has performed and recorded with contemporary musicians including Felix Riebl, Ollie McGill, Julia Jacklin, Alex The Astronaut, Bobby Fox, Liz Hughes, Goldheist. When she isn’t singing and exploring conducting, Alex is the Operations and Communications Assistant at UNSW.
Engagement of these artists was supported by Ars Musica Australis
Dr PHILIP EAMES
A pianist with a penchant for 20th/21st century repertoire and an active composer, Dr Philip Eames has worked with choirs for over a decade, both as a director and accompanist.
His first leadership role was with the Greater Manchester Police Male Voice choir in 2012, and since moving to Sydney, he has conducted community choirs, in addition to becoming a presence in the musical theatre scene.
In 2017 he completed a PhD focusing on the choral polyphony of Percy Grainger at the Sydney Conservatorium, where he now lectures in musicology.
He holds two Master of Music degrees with a scholarship from the Royal Northern College of Music and the Queensland Conservatorium, also having been awarded the Bachelor of Music in Advanced Performance with First Class Honours. Most notably, Philip was a category finalist in the 2010 ABC Young Performers Awards, and has featured in the ANAM Piano! Festival, the Australian Percussion Gathering, the Per Nørgård Festival, and the Ligeti Academy in the Netherlands.
As a composer his commission highlights include writing for The Australian Voices, Queensland Ballet, the Australian National Piano Award and the Black Square Quartet. Philip was also a featured composer in New Music New York, Making Waves, the Music Box Project and the Flinders Quartet 2018 Composer Development Program.