An Orchestra of Voices

China. Hungary. Italy. Touring the world as a baritone with Chanticleer, one of the world’s foremost choirs, has been exciting–and exhausting–for Ball State graduate Jace Wittig.

“My life just became one big choir tour in a way,” he says, laughing. “In a great way.”

“When you’re on the road almost half the year, you lose all sense of time. You wake up and do what you have to do. It’s been wonderful.”

Wittig graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance. He sang in his native Indianapolis with Cantabile and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir for two years before joining the San Francisco-based Chanticleer.

These days, he’s serving the choir as interim music director, running rehearsals, planning the music for future performances, and putting together programs for the 12-man group called “America’s favorite choral ensemble” by The New Yorker.

“I love it. It’s wonderful,” he says. “It’s also an enormous challenge. There is a huge legacy to continue. It’s a bit of a daunting task, but from a creative standpoint, it’s a wonderful task.”

Expectations are high, he says. Started in 1978, Chanticleer caters to a discerning audience who listens intently for interesting new arrangements of its repertoire, which covers genres from Renaissance to jazz.

His duties as music director don’t leave him time to sing or travel with the group, but the break from touring gives Wittig a chance to explore San Francisco in ways he couldn’t when he was shuttling around the globe or trekking from state to state. (He’s been to 48.)

Having seen the world, he wouldn’t change his roots and still appreciates the amenities of small towns and Midwestern living.

“Ball State was small enough that I always felt I had enough time with faculty and on stage, but large enough that there was a good talent pool and competition,” he reflects. "My voice teacher, Dr. Craig Priebe, had a huge influence on me. He was my life coach and motivated me to seek new opportunities."

Priebe, an associate professor of voice, helped Wittig polish his audition pieces for Chanticleer.
Wittig suggests that music students push themselves and take advantage of ensembles and other opportunities.

“Actively seek out opportunities to perform and to challenge yourself,” he says. “You can always do more than you think you can. The broader musical experience you have, the better when entering the professional world. There’s always going to be someone who can play the piano well, play the cello, or sing well. What makes you stand out is your ability to master a broad range of styles.”