(posted Fall, 2010)
Jana Ballard, the director of the New York City Labor Chorus since Spring, 2010, grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where she had good music teachers from elementary school on. She joined the school band, playing clarinet, and the chorus. Her first show was "A Christmas Carol" in second grade, and she had her first solo in 8th grade as the Muse of Music in "Pandora's Box".
Bowling Green is a college town with a great awareness of the arts, including a chamber orchestra and a professional theater. Jana is not from a musical family, but her younger brother grew up watching and following her and is now a choral singer in New York.
By high school, Jana stopped the clarinet and concentrated on singing, including taking singing lessons. After college, she started teaching music in elementary school and then high school in her hometown. Originally she saw herself as a singer who was planning to teach for a short time before pursuing her Masters degree as a professional musician.
Jana moved to New York City in July 2005, and teaches at LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. She used to see herself as just a singer, but she is not doing much singing now because, she explains, auditioning to sing in New York is a full-time job in itself. Many Labor Chorus members saw and were wowed by LaGuardia's performance of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" in June, 2010.
Jana became interested in the Labor Chorus after a friend emailed her information about the search for a new conductor. She looked at the website and liked the fact that the Chorus got together for a political and social purpose as well as to make good music. So far she has really enjoyed conducting us and is looking forward to the Chorus's tour to Cuba next April. In preparing for the trip she wants to focus on multicultural songs about peace, justice and unity in the world. She intends to help us improve our rehearsal and performance skills and our sound.
Looking to the future, Jana wants to do more and more conducting. "If I can keep teaching and conducting, I'll be happy." To which the Chorus says, "Go for it."