On Ming Luke

by Elaine (Hooker) Jackson
Co-chair, publicity committee

Although BCCO is a bit unusual for a non-auditioned chorus in that it performs choral masterpieces that exceed the ability of most amateur singers, and it offers free concerts, the truly remarkable aspect about BCCO at this point in its history is Music Director Ming Luke.

Ming Luke, BCCO Chorus director
Photo: Ama Torrance

He comes well-prepared as a graduate of Carnegie Mellon and the Westminster Choir College. But it’s his energy and enthusiasm, as well as his ability to coax angelic music out of a bunch of largely amateur singers, that set him apart. A longtime fan who has attended virtually every BCCO concert for 20 years wrote a letter to the board saying that BCCO’s performance of Dvorak’s “Requiem” last spring was the best BCCO concert he’d ever heard; it was “stunning” and “transporting,” he wrote. “When all the elements of great music come together in a single performance, as they did today, there is something magical and mysterious about the process and the experience,” he wrote. Yes, it was us. But it was Ming Luke who brought forth capabilities we didn’t know we had. Luke wrote that the root of the word “amateur” is the French word for “love.” That’s what he brings to the BCCO.

Under Luke’s leadership, BCCO is sponsoring a nationwide Young Composer Competition to encourage the next generation of choral composers. Compositions by the three finalists will be performed and recorded next spring, and the work of the finalist will be featured at the fall 2013 concert.

Luke is also director of the Berkeley Symphony’s music education program and is passionate about bringing music to school children. Under his direction, the Napa Valley Youth Symphony and the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra took top honors last year at the Los Angeles International Music Festival. And he took the Napa Valley Youth Symphony to Europe last summer. Some of Luke’s recent conducting engagements include the San Francisco Ballet, Opera San Jose, Sacramento Opera, Napa Regional Dance Company and Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra. Ming Luke is practically ubiquitous in music circles in this area. You can read more about him at mingluke.com.

Another of Ming’s accomplishments is that he has revived the choral program at Berkeley High School through BCCO's assistant conductor, Derek Tam (see his website dereksaihotam.com). Ming believes strongly in mentoring young conductors, so in addition to Derek, BCCO has an apprentice conductor, Mia Tsui. Good things are happening musically with BCCO.

Elaine (Hooker) Jackson
Co-chair, publicity committee