Solo Contest Judges

Dr. Joseph Ohrt

Choral Director

Dr. Joseph Ohrt is Director of Choral Activities at Central Bucks High School-West where he has presented over 500 world premieres written by composers from around the world.  West Choirs have performed in many of the greatest venues in the Unites States, including over 20 times at Carnegie Hall and 11 times at The White House. Performances have been for several heads of state, including: Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Joe and Jill Biden, Nelson Mandela, F. W. de Klerk, Shimon Perez, and Vaclav Havel.  Dr. Ohrt has collaborated with dozens of Broadway performers in the last decade as music director at various events.  Ohrt has served on the boards of the American Composer’s Forum, the American Choral Directors’ Association of Pennsylvania, Lights on Broadway and is a published author and composer.  The Joseph Ohrt Choral Series is distributed through Santa Barbara Music Publishing in California and the Joseph Ohrt ICON series is with Music Spoke in Kansas.  He was a contributing composer for the Broadway musical “Amazing Grace” and arranger for a Las Vegas showcase featuring the music of Michael Jackson.  He has received the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award by the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce and was the first recipient of the Doylestown Rotary Club’s Arts Award. He holds degrees in music and zoology from Westminster Choir College, Miami University, and the University of South Carolina. 

Peter Reynolds

Director

Peter Reynolds (Director): Artistic Director – Mauckingbird Theatre Company, Philadelphia; Head of Musical Theater, Temple University. Philadelphia area: Act II Playhouse, Media Theatre, Hedgerow Theatre, Candlelight Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Walnut Street Theatre, Curio Theatre, Cape May Stage and the Lenape Regional Performing Arts Center in New Jersey. Regionally: 6 years as Artistic Director of HealthWorks Theatre-Chicago, winner of the Award of Excellence in Prevention Education; Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, HotCity Theatre-St. Louis, Chicago Dramatists, Theatre Building Chicago, Maples Repertory; Villanova Theatre, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, Drexel University, Arcadia University, and Southern Illinois University. 

John Simpkins

Director

John Simpkins directed the three-time Drama Desk nominated Off-Broadway production of Bloodsong of Love:† The Rock and Roll Spaghetti Western (by Tony nominee Joe Iconis) at Ars Nova.† He also directed Iconis’ The Black Suits at Center Theatre Group (Kirk Douglas Theatre – starring Annie Golden, Will Roland, Veronica Dunne).† Upcoming projects with Mr. Iconis include the world premiere of Love in Hate Nation at Two River Theater.

New York credits also include the Off-Broadway productions of The Bus (59E59 Theatre); ReWrite (Urban Stages); The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks (Theatreworks, USA- Lucille Lortel Theatre); Things to Ruin (which he co-conceived and directed productions of at Second Stage, Le Poisson Rouge, Zipper Factory, Joe’s Pub, Ars Nova, NYMF) and The Black Suits (SPF at the Public Theatre – starring Annie Golden, Jason Tam, and Krysta Rodriguez).

International productions include the World Premiere of Legendale (music by Andrea Daly, words by Jeff Bienstock) at Fredericia Teater in Denmark.† Upcoming International projects include the World Premiere of A Hero’s Tale (music by Arthur Bacon, Book and Lyrics by Mads Nielsen) at Fredericia Teater in Denmark.

Regional productions include Raging Skillet (World Premiere – Theaterworks Hartford – starring Dana Smith-Croll, Marilyn Sokol, George Salazar); Legendale (American Premiere – Human Race Theatre Company – starring Max Crumm);† Hairspray (North Carolina Theatre – starring Dale Hensley, Dirk Lumbard); The Black Suits (Barrington Stage – starring Ben Platt, Will Roland, Annie Golden); Damn Yankees (Engeman Theatre – starring AndrÈ De Shields, Felicia Finley, Austin Miller); A Wonderful Life (Engeman Theatre – starring Will Reynolds); Annie (Sacramento Music Circus- starring Mark Zimmerman, Jim Walton, Adinah Alexander); Cabaret (Sacramento Music Circus- starring Teri Ralston, Jacquelyn Piro, Max von Essen); Evita (Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma- starring Kate Chapman, Eric Michael Gillet, Dan Cooney).

John was Artistic Director at Sharon Playhouse from 2011-2016- where he directed Quartet (starring Tony Winner Elizabeth Franz), Judge Jackie:† Disorder in the Court (Kooman/ Dimond – starring Klea Blackhurst), Nine Wives, True Love, Georgie (written by and starring Ed Dixon), Merrily We Roll Along (starring Jason Tam, A.J. Shively), Big River, Falsettos, Les Miserables, They’re Playing Our Song (starring Lauren Marcus, Eric William Morris), Damn Yankees, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Altar Boyz, Rent, A Funny Thing?Forum and The Wedding Singer.

A strong supporter of the development of new work, he has commissioned and directed Love in Hate Nation (Joe Iconis), The Last Day (Mike Reid/ Sarah Schlesinger), and The Lucky Boy (Kirsten Childs) through an initiative he created at Penn State Musical Theatre.† He has also directed NYC and Regional workshops/ readings/ productions of For Better, For Worse (Reed Arnold); Adam Lives (Goodspeed Opera House); ReWrite (Goodspeed Opera House); Hellraisers (Barrington Stage); Fantasy Football, the Musical; All the Kids Are Doing It; When the World Ends (Blaemire- Ars Nova); Ripper (NAMT); Party Come Here (David Kirshenbaum/ Daniel Goldfarb); Go-Go Beach (NYMF – 37 Arts); Pool Boy (Tsakalakos/ Allard); Next Thing You Know (Berkshire Theatre Festival); Queen Esther (Merkin Hall); Half Married (Cunningham/ Antin); Plastic! (Maddock/ Iconis/ Jacobs – York Theatre), You Don’t Know Jack (York Theatre), Bad Kid School (Barrington Stage), 29 (Alter/ Newman), Lyrical Langston Hughes (New Triad- Lincoln Center), Blood Drive (Rachel Sheinkin), Beasts and Saints (Mindi Dickstein) and Like You Like It (Buck/ Acquisto).

In addition to his directing life, John is Head of Musical Theatre at Penn State University.† Prior to joining Penn State, he was a member of the faculty at NYU – where he directed Sweet Smell of Success, Floyd Collins, A Man of No Importance, The Fix, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Violet, Urinetown, Merrily We Roll Along, Parade, Fiorello! and A New Brain.† His production of Parade was preserved and is on reserve at Lincoln Center’s Theatre on Film and Tape Archive.† He holds a Bachelor of Music from Miami University and a Master of Arts from NYU.† He is active in NAMT (National Alliance of Musical Theatre), where he is frequently a member of the Festival Reading and Selection Committee.

Dr. Ivy Walz

Vocalist

Dr. Ivy Walz joined the voice faculty at Ithaca College School of Music in 2011. Here she teaches voice lessons, vocal pedagogy and an opera immersion class as part of the Honors Program. Previously held teaching positions include Cornell University, the State University of New York at Cortland, and as a graduate assistant at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

For Ivy, teaching and performing have always gone hand in hand. As an experienced pedagogue, she believes in student learning centered teaching that is based in voice science and vitalized by integrative pedagogies, as well as her commitment to lifelong learning. Ivy believes in empowering students through guiding them to develop a healthy singing technique that spans across musical genre.

In voice lessons Ivy brings joyful dedication to working with each student individually. In the studio, students engage in processes for effective practice, proper care of the vocal instrument, and essential skills in the categories of articulation, resonance, breathing, healthy phonation, body awareness, and performance practice.

Ivy believes that diverse and inclusive learning environments are essential, and she is committed to creating and contributing to equitable, safe and welcoming spaces for all individuals. She is proud to serve on a collaborative faculty, and through her teaching leads students to discover connections between their vocal work and course work so that they may learn to synthesize across their chosen curriculum. 

In her vocal pedagogy course, Basics of Vocal Mechanics, she teaches the anatomy and physiology of the vocal instrument. Through class lecture, hands-on activities and reflective assignments students develop a working map of the singing instrument.  

Mezzo soprano Ivy Walz has been awarded numerous roles, solo performances and featured artist positions with opera companies, orchestras and chamber music groups nationally and internationally. She was a finalist for the American Prize in Art Song in 2019. For more information on her recent and upcoming performance activities, please visit www.ivywalz.com

Ivy is an active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She currently serves as Treasurer for the NATS Central New York Finger Lakes chapter. She is an engaged clinician who gives master classes on integrating healthy singing techniques with dynamic performance practice. She has been a guest clinician for Higher Voice Studio, TCO Teens, College Audition Advantage, Affiliated Choruses of Ithaca, Denver Art Song Project High School Competition and other schools, colleges and universities.

Ivy holds the DMA from the College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati and MM and BM in performance and education from Ithaca College School of Music.