MUS Biographies

Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith, Principal Conductor

Versatile, perceptive, and a passionate advocate for music as a force for change, Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith is a unique and innovative voice in Australian music, who thrives working across genres & disciplines. Her reputation stands on her work with some of Sydney’s finest choirs, but she has also founded or developed several grass-roots ensembles aimed at providing hard-to-find opportunities for musicians and music-lovers alike.
Currently, Sarah holds the positions of Director of Music at St Andrew’s College, Principal Conductor with the Macquarie Singers, Principal Conductor & Artistic Director of River City Voices, and Artistic Director of Pacific Pride Choir. Sarah is an alumna of the 2018 Hart Institute for Women Conductors at the Dallas Opera. As a singing teacher, she works privately and with Cate Madill Voice & Speech. 
Sarah’s opera credits include Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (the first opera ever staged by a queer choir – SGLC 2009), Korie & Wallace’s Harvey Milk (Left Bauer/SGLC 2015), Phillip Glass’s Akhnaten (Ondine Productions, 2013), Campra’s Tancrede (2010), Cummins’ Anacreontea (2011) and Timor (2015), Krasa’s Brundibar (2014), Leon’s Monsoon (2015) and Menotti’s The Medium (2015), all with Opera Prometheus.
As part of the Symphony Australia Conductor Development Program (2012-2015), Sarah worked with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the guidance of Maestri Asher Fisch, Johannes Fritsch, Marko Letonja and Christopher Seaman. She has appeared as guest conductor with Penrith Symphony Orchestra, the University of Sydney Intercol Orchestra, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra, and Sydney Chamber Orchestra.
From 2005-2017, Sarah was the longest-serving Music Director of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir, where she worked on a range of pioneering projects. Sarah chorusmasters for a range of ensembles and festivals, including Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Willoughby Symphony Choir (2010-2012), and in 2010 she directed the 61st Intervarsity Choral Festival in Canberra. She has been the conductor for ABC Sydney’s ‘Sing Out Sydney’ event since its inception and is highly supportive of community choirs in Sydney.
Sarah has also served on the Musica Viva Artistic Review Committee, and as a juror for the Vocal/Choral section of the APRA/AMCOS Art Music Awards. In addition to her musical credits, Sarah holds a PhD from the University of Sydney, where she is a guest lecturer.

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Jo Allan, Rehearsal Accompanist

Noted Australian pianist Josephine Allan is much in demand for her chamber music and ensemble playing, and regularly collaborates with leading singers and instrumentalists.

Originally from Canberra, Josephine studied there with Ann Thompson, John Winther and Larry Sitsky before moving to Sydney for postgraduate work with David Miller and Nikolai Evrov. She combines a busy performing and teaching career with her work in the Ensemble Studies, Vocal, and Conducting Units at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

As the Sydney Symphony’s Principal Keyboard from 1996 to 2012, she has worked with many of the world’s leading conductors, including Lorin Maazel, Charles Dutoit, and Edo de Waart. She has also performed with a diversity of other companies, such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Australia Ensemble, the Song Company, Cantillation, the Seymour Group, Alpha Ensemble, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, and Opera Australia.
Her recordings include several CDs of Australian music with clarinettist Phillipa Robinson of Perehelion for the Innaminka label, as well as frequent live and studio broadcasts for ABC Classic FM. She is also featured on Sinfonia Australis’ Willow Spirit Song, Alpha Ensemble’s Clocks, and on the film tracks Sydney-A story of a City, Mao’s Last Dancer, and Happy Feet.

Josephine regularly appears as a Chamber Musician with many distinguished artists including Elizabeth Campbell, John Pringle, Michael Lewis, Nicole Youl, Paul Wright, Janis Laurs, the Australian String Quartet, the a capella group Syntony, and members of the Australia Ensemble. She works regularly with the contemporary music group Halcyon, formed by Jenny Duck-Chong and Alison Morgan, and is also a member of the newly formed Flametree, with Jenny Duck-Chong and Nicole Thompson.

As Sydney Philharmonia Choir’s Principal Accompanist for many years, Josephine has experienced all the major choral works both in rehearsal and performance. She also works with many other choirs, including Gondwana Choirs, Willoughby and Warringah Choruses, Cantillation and many others.

Recently Josephine has developed a keen interest in fostering young musical talent, commencing piano teaching at Wenona School in North Sydney, and UNSW as well as maintaining a private studio.

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