While some have full plates, Bill Chin has an array of spinning plates that he artfully keeps balanced. Looking at his calendar in mid-April, he planned for future performances for the many musical groups he is involved with in Oak Park, River Forest and Chicago. But next month he will have one less group to plan for, Pro Musica Youth Chorus, the Oak Park based children’s choral program. Bill Chin is its artistic director and has been spinning that plate for the last 18 years.
“Bill has brought incredible talent, skill, patience and passion to Pro Musica,” said Karen Kitto, executive director. “He is perhaps first and foremost an incredible artist. He nurtures true musicianship in our singers, choosing difficult music, and somehow coaching the kids into being able to sing whatever he throws at them.”
For Chin, leaving the chorus now works for a couple of reasons.
“I feel like this is a good time for me to focus on some of the other things I’ve been doing,” he said. “…One of the reasons I feel good about leaving right now, I think, is because the people in place are very capable and the organization is going in a good direction.”
Chin has plenty of other musical endeavors to focus on. He is the founder and artistic director of the Chicago a cappella chamber choir The Oriana Singers; he is chorus director of the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest; he leads the annual “Sing We Joyous” concert performances and City Voices, a choir that participates in a holiday show; he records four times per years with GIA Publications, Inc.; and is the director of music ministries at First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St.
While all his other jobs usually involve working with adult performers, Chin said the transition away from the youth chorus will be a gentle one because he will continue to work with Pro Musica students at “Sing We Joyous” and at Symphony of OP/RF concerts that include a children’s choir.
As artistic director at Pro Musica, Chin has led the Harmonia and A Capella choirs, the two highest-level choruses. He has traveled with the group and performed with them internationally in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Morocco, as well as Carnegie Hall in New York City and regularly at the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker in Chicago. Chin created the Prelude Scholarship program to allow more students interested in singing to be able to afford and access the experience at Pro Musica.
During his time with the chorus, Chin has seen some of his former choir students grow up. He hears from their parents, or sometimes from the students themselves.
Chin reflected on working with the students while they were growing up, “seeing them develop as musicians.” But “when they are in college or after they’ve graduated and you see what wonderful individuals they’ve become,” he said, “it’s a good feeling to think maybe in some way, you were part of what made this wonderful person you’re talking to.”
Stepping into the artistic director role at the youth chorus is Laura Pinto, who is their current Primo Coro and Canterini conductor.
The final show of current season is its Spring Concert on Tuesday, May 17. That is also Chin’s last performance with the group as artistic director. The concert is at First United Church of Oak Park at 7:30 p.m. and will include a tribute to Chin. A simple reception follows.