Sacramento Master Singers

Reviewed in 2022 by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation

Sacramento Master Singers is in its 37th year of presenting dynamic and diverse choral concerts under the direction of Dr Ralph Hughes. The 40-member ensemble has grown considerably in size and reputation since Hughes took up the baton from the late director, Ken Winter, in 1986. Thanks to Hughes' steadfast leadership and the singers' commitment to achieving artistic excellence in a myriad of musical styles, SMS is renowned for performing an ever-expanding repertoire that includes works by upwards of 350 composers. The auditioned chorus includes music teachers, choral directors, music students and a wide array of Sacramento-area professionals, homemakers, laborers, and retirees. Bound by their love of choral singing, our members volunteer countless hours in service to the Master Singers motto: "Advancing the art, lifting the soul."

SMS invites its audiences on ever-changing musical journeys that span continents and a thousand years of choral artistry: Depending on the season and concert theme, a program might include soaring a cappella motets, Medieval or African chants, American spirituals, pleas for world peace, odes to love, Scandinavian jazz, Celtic folk tunes, newly commissioned songs, or beloved master works re-imagined for Sacramento audiences. Local premieres have included Benjamin Britten's A.M.D.G.; Alfred Schnittke's Requiem, and compositions by more than a dozen contemporary composers including Eric Whitacre, David O, Jake Runestad, Ken Medema, Ron Kean, and Sir James MacMillan. Its most recent attempts to encourage young audience members to appreciate and enjoy singing choral music have been particularly successful in springtime outreach training sessions and performances with guest choirs from local high schools.

SMS has hosted numerous internationally acclaimed guest conductors and artists, including Venezuelan choral conductor Maria Guinand, Argentine composer Oscar Escalada; Vance George of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; Joseph Jennings, of Chanticleer; Alice Parker; Moses Hogan, and Grammy-winning Native American flutist Mary Youngblood. The choir proudly collaborates with local performers including Men of Worth, Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, Sacramento Children's Chorus, Folsom Symphony, ARC Jazz Bands, Capital Jazz Project, R.S.V.P., Celebration Arts, the Sac State Percussion Ensemble, and the Sacramento Youth Symphony. The ensemble performs joint concerts with college and high school choirs, and encourages young vocalists through its annual Sacramento Master Singers Scholarship for Young Choral Singers, which has awarded nearly $35,000 in music scholarships and hours of mentoring to area youth for singers ages 14-22.

The Master Singers marked Dr. Hughes' 30th anniversary season with the release of the choir's ninth CD, Sing a New Song. Recorded live and during gala concerts in May of 2016, the CD includes multiple premieres of compositions with music by Ken Medema and lyrics by many of our region's celebrated poets. The 2016 CD concludes with Ola Gjeilo's Sunrise Mass, a shimmering work with string orchestra that inspired SMS fans to leap to their feet with applause.

Another recent CD, Celtic Memories, showcases multiple collaborations through the years with Scottish/Irish duo Men of Worth. The choir’s tour history also includes concert performances in the Carolinas, Hawaii, Scotland, and South America. In the summer of 2017, SMS toured and performed joint concerts with the Cascadian Chorale in Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. Plans for touring in Eastern Europe (Austria, Hungary, etc.) are in the works now for summer of 2022, if allowed.

During the social isolation of COVID-19, SMS has remained active with virtual performances every so often during the year and a special advent calendar for December 1 through 25 in both 2021 and 2022. With the guidance of epidemiologist Dr Neha Nanda of USC's Keck School of Medicine and the preferences of our patrons, the choir performed live, while masked, for patrons who were socially distanced, masked and vaccinated. SMS had resumed in-person rehearsals outdoors with the entire choir vaccinated and masked in September. While in-person rehearsals may be on hold in spring, they anticipate performing in May, conducting their scholarship online, and collaborating with local high school choirs in April.

Their ongoing commitment to high quality choral singing and creative programming has earned the loyalty of thousands of local fans. Sacramento Master Singers strives to sing with passion and to express the full range of human emotion. SMS treasures their connection with audiences. Their tradition of surrounding the audience during a portion of most concerts, of having singers so close that they can be heard breathing as they tune themselves to the chords of the human heart, is as dear to the choral singers as it is for many concertgoers. It’s our dearest wish to have that connection again.


The mission of the Sacramento Master Singers is:

- To provide audiences in the greater Sacramento area with world-class concerts that engage and inspire

- To perform a diverse repertoire of music drawing on the best choral literature from early chant to avant-garde

- To offer an opportunity to accomplished choral Singers for musical growth, personal fulfillment and fellowship

- To ensure the advancement of the choral arts through outreach activities for area youth


New music commissions, including those that assist us in our youth outreach efforts: One mission of the Sacramento Master Singers is to present world class concerts that engage and inspire, performance of diverse repertoire and providing opportunities for singer growth. Newly commissioned literature is a significant feature of top-notch choirs internationally including Chanticleer, Conspirare and Voces8, and would satisfy each element of our mission mentioned above. A commission fee is based on multiple attributes: the length of the work, number of performers, the budget of the commissioning party, and, most notably, the composer's reputation. Commission fees for a 5-minute, a cappella choral piece by a composer of Eric Whitacre's stature would cost in the region of $15,000-25,000. A piece by a noted composer would garner great attention, excitement, and media attention within our region.

SMS operates remotely without a physical office. This requires our Patron Services Coordinator and Board Members to take multiple trips to the Post Office Box and storage unit each week, and means that our goods are scattered in various locations including members' homes and car trunks, and expensive storage lockers. In addition, board meetings are held at residences or professional offices of the members. A physical office space would allow us to eliminate multiple trips, receive our mail daily, store our equipment in one location, and for board and staff to meet and work simultaneously, which in turn would improve our efficiency. An office space with a private exterior door, dedicated parking spaces and, possibly, including wifi and an alarm system, would be hugely beneficial and cost in the region of $1200-2000 per month.

Recording space, rehearsal & performance venue hire, hiring instrumentalists & other guest soloists: Hiring recording, rehearsal and performance venues would greatly benefit the quality of performances we can offer. Rehearsal and performance venues vary a great deal, but costs for 3 rehearsals, 1-2 recording sessions, and 2 performances in a venue such as Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom would cost in the range of $6,000-12,000. An orchestra of 24 string players, if hired for 3 rehearsals and 2 performances, costs between $16,000-24,000. A smaller ensemble, such as a brass quartet or string quartet, would require funding of $4,000-5,000. A guest vocal or instrumental soloist may cost between $500-2,500. Professionally recorded pieces and concerts ($4000-7500) would be used in grant applications, marketing, and CD sales.

Guest conductor/clinician & outreach to youth: Simultaneously piquing the interest of audiences by presenting fresh takes on choral pieces as well as challenging SMS and youthful singers could be accomplished by the hire of a guest conductor. Five rehearsals and two performances, choral clinics in area high schools, air fares, hotels and meals for a guest director from outside of California would cost in the range of $12,000-17,000. Outreach to youth, by inviting youth choruses to be members of the performing ensemble and holding clinics in their high schools by the guest conductor/clinician, would allow this idea serve multiple points of our mission.

Combining outreach to area youth with the desire to present engaging and inspiring concerts via choral music is possible if the lyrics or poetry for a commissioned piece utilizes the word of teenage authors and poets such as the writers of 916 Ink, a hugely successful nonprofit in Sacramento, CA. Commission fees for a 10+ multi-movement piece would cost in the region of $14,000-30,000. The addition of instrumentalists, guest youth choirs, and special guest soloists would increase the price by $6,000-12,000. 916 Ink has already been approached and is interested in this project, if funded.

Personnel to create & execute a media campaign via various media: Our efforts to draw in audiences to hear exceptional music would be greatly enhanced by assistance by marketing experts, professional photographer(s) and videographer(s). Marketing professional(s) to plan and execute a marketing campaign would charge $4,000-7,000. A photographer could be hired for $1,500-4,500 to provide a CD of hi-res photos for use in programs, ads, marketing and online publicity campaigns. A videographer to record and edit performances of individual pieces for use in publicity and grant applications would cost in the region of $1,500-4,500. A video project that includes settings other than a studio, concept and editing would cost in the range of $4000-7,500.

Organization Data


Organization name

Sacramento Master Singers

other names


Tax id (EIN)


Mission Category

Arts & Culture

Operating Budget


Organization Need

Funding: Other, Funding: Program, Funding: Unrestricted, Space: Office or Other

Demographics Served

Seniors, Youth & Children


PO Box 15020
Sacramento, CA 95851-0020

Service areas 0

Sacramento, CA, US

Yolo, CA, US

El Dorado, CA, US

Placer, CA, US

Amador, CA, US



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