About Us

Since 1961, the San Diego Master Chorale has presented inspiring and exhilarating performances throughout San Diego County. Featuring 130 of the region’s finest singers, the Chorale performs classical masterworks, new music by contemporary composers, and diverse works under the direction of Music Director John K. Russell.

Each year, the SD Master Chorale reaches tens of thousands of listeners, both on stage and off, through live performances across the county including collaborations with the San Diego Symphony and Mainly Mozart Festival, and through broadcasts on San Diego’s NPR station, KPBS.

The mission of SD Master Chorale is to connect all people to the joy of professional-caliber live choral music and enrich lives by sharing what we have in common – our voice. To further this mission, the Chorale hosts the region’s largest community Honor Choir program, engaging more than 100 outstanding young singers in workshops and culminating in a side-by-side concert with the Chorale each season. 

The SD Master Chorale is sponsored through grants and funding support from individuals and season sponsors including First United Methodist Church, the City of San Diego, Qualcomm, and the Conrad Prebys Foundation. For more information about the Chorale and upcoming events, visit sdmasterchorale.org


In 1961, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, Earl Bernard Murray, Music Director, was in its second season as a year-round performance organization. The orchestra had extended its summer schedule to include winter performances in the 2,500-seat Russ Auditorium on the campus of San Diego High School. With the additional concerts, it became clear to Murray that San Diego needed a permanent, year-round professional level choral ensemble.

San Diego Symphonic Chorale in 1961

Whenever the Symphony programmed a work involving chorus, the singers had to be recruited from various sources in the community, often resulting in inadequate rehearsal time and inconsistent quality. Music Director Murray authorized the orchestra’s concertmaster, Dr. Robert Emile, to organize the San Diego Symphonic Chorale. It was to be a “permanent choral affiliate of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

The San Diego Symphonic Chorale was the first year-round, non-church, non-school, chorus established in San Diego. In addition to appearing at least twice a season with the Symphony, the new ensemble was expected to present independent, or self-produced, concerts in order to extend its repertoire, maintain quality, and promote the choral arts.

Rehearsals began on May 2, 1961 in the Balboa Park Recital Hall; policies and procedures were developed and a dues assessment of two dollars a month was set to help defray expenses. The Chorale’s first concert was August 15, 1961 with San Diego Symphony at the Balboa Park Bowl with selections from My Fair Lady, Gigi, Brigadoon, and Camelot. The Chorale’s first self-produced concert program was in May 1962 and featured Bach’s Peasant Cantata, works by David Purcell, and Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning.” (Excerpted from SD Master Chorale Historian Patricia Hay’s “50 Years of Singing for San Diego: A Selective History”.)

In 1979, The San Diego Symphonic Chorale became the San Diego Master Chorale.

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access
-- Guiding Principles --

The San Diego Master Chorale aspires to share the highest possible levels of the choral arts with our community, by performing and celebrating music of many traditions for audiences of many traditions. We actively seek and welcome singers of all backgrounds and cultures, and to feature works by diverse composers. In doing so, we embrace the diversity of our local community and audiences, offering our music as a cultural crossroads to all.

To that end, the San Diego Master Chorale is committed to championing policies and practices of diversity, equity and inclusion which result in just, equitable and inclusive access to our programming and to our organization.

We define cultural equity as the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people are represented in the artists we engage and commission; in our audiences; in all levels of our administrative and production staff; in the vendors and contractors we engage; and in the Board of Directors that governs our organization in a way that is fair and inclusive.

Our definition of “all people” includes (but is not limited to) those who have been historically underrepresented in choral music because of race/ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion.

As an art form, the very substance of choral music is diverse voices. A diverse sound, produced by diverse vocal instruments. In our self-produced programs, we include works by excellent composers, historical and contemporary, from groups traditionally underrepresented in choral publishing (such as women, people of color, and diverse gender identity).

Adopted February 2023


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Interested in auditioning to join the SD Master Chorale? Learn more here. 

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