Honoring Diversity in Choral Music: A Conversation

with Dr. Madlen Batchvarova and Ja'Shon Burks

Wednesday, July 1 at 9:00am (EDT)

Check back soon for a full video of this session. Conference recordings may take up to 7-10 days to fully process and publish.


Dr. Madlen Batchvarova

Dr. Madlen Batchvarova is a dynamic conductor, pianist, singer, music educator, clinician, adjudicator and Grammy Award recipient who is equally adept with classical and multicultural repertoire. Currently, she serves as professor of music, director of choral programs and department of music chair at Hanover College, Ind., where she conducts the concert choir and chamber singers also teaches conducting, private voice and piano, as well as music history.

Batchvarova made her debut as a conductor with the Plovdiv Academy Women's Choir of Bulgaria. She has conducted the ensemble in concerts in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, French Cultural Institute in Plovdiv, as well as the International Choral Festival in Preveza, Greece.

Batchvarova has honed her ability to communicate with choirs while performing and recording under the baton of Maestro Robert Shaw and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus. Highlights of her participation with the ensemble include a Grammy Award, Carnegie Hall concerts and participation at the opening ceremonies of the centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.

In addition to her demanding teaching and performing schedule, Batchvarova maintains an active national and international career. In 2009, she made her conducting debut at the prestigious Musikverein Golden Hall, the home of Vienna Philharmonic, as part of the International Haydn Festival celebrating the creative output of the Viennese Classic. Recently, she conducted the Plovdiv Academy Women’s Reunion Choir in the world premiere performance of a new jazz-classical styles fusion choral work.

Batchvarova is a regular presenter of interest and reading sessions at the state and division conventions of the American Choral Directors Association. She also serves as a historical/performance practice of Bulgarian/Russian music consultant for choirs and other musical organizations across the United States. In August 2017, she joined the international editorial and scientific board of the journal, DEDiCA. Revista de Educação e Humanidades/Journal of Education and the Humanities at the University of Granada, Spain.

Batchvarova is in demand as a guest clinician and conductor. She has conducted festival, honor and all-state choirs in Canada, Austria, Bulgaria, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. She is also active as an adjudicator for national, regional and state vocal solo and choral competitions for the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA), American Choral Director Association (ACDA), and Music in the Parks, Inc. She has been a member of the jury at the International Choral Festival in Preveza, Greece, the student conductor’s competition at the 2007 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Convention and the 2016 ACDA National Convention Multicultural Honor Choir. She has also served on the American Choral Directors Association’s Indiana State and Central Division executive boards as the ethnic and multicultural perspectives chair.

Ja'Shon Burks

Ja’Shon Burks is the Director of Choirs at Lafayette Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Indiana. He received his Bachelor of Music Degree in Choral Music Education while at Huntington University. While at Huntington, Ja’Shon was also the founder and director of the Huntington University Gospel Choir where he finished his 18th year of directing gospel choirs.

Throughout his career, Burks has had the opportunity to serve as the musical director for various productions, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas” through the Huntington County Theater Guild, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” through the Pioneer Jr-Sr High School Theater Company, “The Little Mermaid” through the Logansport Junior Civic Theater, and “Annie” through the Logansport Junior Civic Theater. Throughout his career, Ja’Shon has had the opportunity to direct many wonderful students and help lead them to multiple GOLD ISSMA ratings in singing and sight-reading, First place/Grand Champion, and National Championship awards.

Also, during his career, Burks has performed professionally and has been featured as the tenor/baritone soloist in the 2014 performance of Theodore Dubois’s Seven Last Words with the Huntington University/Community Choir and Orchestra, as well as the featured tenor soloist in the 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 performances of Handel’s Messiah with the Huntington University/Huntington Community Choir and Orchestra; He also had the honor to serve as the conductor of the same choral work in 2015. He also had the opportunity to serve as the guest clinician/conductor for the 2020 Circle the State with Song Festival (district 3A).

Ja’Shon continues to work as a music educator, professional performer as well as a freelance choreographer, adjudicator, and clinician for various show choirs and concert choirs throughout the state of Indiana. He resides in Logansport, Indiana with his wonderful wife Larissa and their two fur-children, Samson and Sarabi. He is very humbled, honored, and privileged to be able to serve as a panelist/presenter for the 2020 ICDA Summer Conference.