Dr. Jace Kaholokula Saplan, Artistic Director

A Hawai'ian person with shoulder length curly hair wears a mustard shirt with a black print and long wooden earrings. Their arms are crossed and face turned slightly with a pleasant yet serious expression.

Dr. Jace Kaholokula Saplan. Photo by Andy Stenz

I believe choral music can change the world. Once text intertwines with melodic contour, magic is conjured. History comes alive. The present is enshrouded in beloved community. The future ignites us to hold each other in song, singing the infinite possibilities ahead. I have spent my life witnessing and facilitating this powerful art form. Choral music is how I love on my community, honor the traditions and stories of what has come before with relevance to our neighborhoods, and model the possibilities of a world united.

I spent my life in song and movement — I grew up studying voice, piano, ‘ukulele, and singing in the St. Joseph Church Choir and with the Kamehameha Schools Hawai’i Campus. At the same time, I embodied music through global dance traditions. I have spent my life dancing hula as a spiritual and cultural practice, and in the summers, I would learn Bon Dori and Tinikling with my family as we honored the seasons and our ancestors. My upbringing in Hawai’i was full of joy and fond memories in which music was a time machine to experience the world and a kaleidoscope of awe-inspiring discovery. On my tenth birthday, my parents took me to watch Seiji Ozawa conduct Orff’s Carmina Burana, and I thought to myself, “That’s it. That is who I am.” I saw three crucial components of what I value collide — music, movement, and community. The path was clear.

While many individuals have helped me on my journey, I credit three fierce women who helped me shape and refine my path. I thank Maya Hoover, who taught me to believe in my ideas, honor the collective vision, and care for my community as a conductor; Sharon Paul, who helped me see the endless possibilities in a score and who taught me to see the rehearsal as a sanctuary of joyful connection; and Karen Kennedy, who showed me that love of people and craft, imaginative gesture, and a tenacious spirit to find the perfect sound is all that is needed to ensure that a chorus can thrive.

I have been so fortunate to enjoy a career encompassing teaching at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of higher education and professional choral ensembles. I look back on these experiences with gratitude for those communities prepared me for who I am today— the music director of Nā Wai Chamber Choir, director of choral activities at Arizona State University, and the distinction of serving as the Artistic Director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington, where I inherit a responsibility to share the magic of choral music with the world.

Visit https://www.jacesaplan.com/ to view Jace’s upcoming engagements, recordings, curriculum vitae, and traditional bio.