Spring '12
Anne Gayler, Graphic Art Design
Anne Gayler, Graphic Art Design

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Janiece Kohler marks 20 years as artistic director of Choral Society

Jan Kohler of Monroe marks her twentieth year leading the Classic Choral Society in 2012.

MONROE — When Michigan native Janiece Kohler joined the Orange County Classic Choral Society more than 25 years ago, it was strictly to find a place to sing.

“They were regarded as the choral ensemble in the area,” Monroe resident Kohler recalled, “and I was hoping to also do some solo work with the group.”

She came to Orange County trained in voice and as an accompanist and choral conductor. Her job, at the Amercian Society of Composers and Authors (ASCAP) in New York limited her time for music, so the Choral Society, then under the direction of Walter Latzko, was a perfect fit.

As the years went by, Latzko turned to Kohler, an alto soloist, to fill in as accompanist and conductor if he was going to miss a rehearsal. Then, in 1992, Latzko’s resignation due to illness put Kohler in charge of the 60-plus voice choir.

“I thought it would be a temporary fill-in,” Kohler said in the press release announcing the society’s upcoming concerts. “I never expected that I was going to permanently take over for Walter.”

But that was exactly what happened.

During the years that followed Kohler brought a different approach to instructing the choir. “I understand singing from the singer’s point of view, and I had all this professional-level training that I wanted to share with the group. From breathing, posture, to how vowels must be shaped – there are many small but vitally important details that go into making a chorus sound truly exciting, and that’s what we strive for.”

None of this would have worked, however, if “Jan,” as her singers know her, didn’t make a connection with the chorus, and find ways to teach people of many different skill levels, all at once.

Kohler is known for her energy, sharp sense of humor, and unfailing ear.

Photographs by Meghan Maney Members of the Choral Society in concert are, from left to right: Jody Weatherstone of Warwick, Lillian Brown of Newburgh and Ellen Devlin of Harriman.

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