James B. Kinchen Jr. has been music director of the Milwaukee Choristers since 1993.  He is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where he has been on the faculty since 1989.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, James has taught music and directed choral groups at Stanton High School, Jacksonville; Florida Community College at Jacksonville; Southern Illinois University; Southeastern Illinois College; Hampton University; and Winston-Salem State University. His degrees are from Jacksonville University, Southern Illinois University and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

James is in frequent demand as a guest conductor, adjudicator and clinician and has been a Wisconsin Teaching Fellow. A two-time recipient of UW-Parkside’s Stella Gray Teaching Excellence Award (2002-03 and 2014-15), he was also given the university’s 2005-2006 Faculty Distinguished Service Award and the 2011-2012 Campus Diversity Award. He received the Wisconsin Choral Directors Association Morris D. Hayes Award in 2021, recognizing his achievements and contributions in the choral arts.

An affiliate of the Center for Black Music Research, James holds membership in the National Association for Music Education (formerly Music Educators National Conference), the International Federation for Choral Music, National Collegiate Choral Organization and Chorus America. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he has served ACDA in several leadership capacities at state, regional and national levels. He has presented at state, divisional and national ACDA conventions and has written for and reviewed new music and new recordings for the Choral Journal. He has also served as president and vice president of the Wisconsin Choral Directors Association and the former North Central Division of ACDA, a region that embraced Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and the Dakotas.

Since 1993 James has conducted the Choristers in several significant performances including concert tours of Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy. He has led them in performances for the Wisconsin Choral Directors Association and in concert collaborations with the Decorah Chorale (Decorah, Iowa) and the Brazeal Dennard Chorale (Detroit, Michigan).

James’ travels as a choral conductor and scholar include trips to India, Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, and, on four occasions, Cuba. He made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut in 1998, conducting a concert of spirituals. He returned to that stage in 2004 to lead a 190-voice choir and orchestra in a performance of the Faure Requiem, and again in 2006 to conduct a performance of the Vivaldi Gloria.  In 2010 he directed the New York City premiere of Glenn Edward Burleigh’s Kwanzaa work, the Nguzo Saba Suite for chorus, tenor solo, and orchestra at Avery Fischer Hall in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In 2002 James was one of 18 Fellows selected for participation in the Chorus America-Chicago Symphony Choral/Orchestral Conducting Workshop and Master Class.

In addition to teaching and directing the UW-Parkside’s three choral groups, the University Chorale, Master Singers and Voices of Parkside. James teaches courses in basic and choral conducting, vocal materials and methods, and African American music. He is also on the music staff of Saint Paul Baptist Church, Racine.


Joan Nowaczynski enjoys a diverse career as a piano instructor, collaborative pianist, choral accompanist and liturgical music director.

As a collaborative pianist, she has spent six summers with the opera program, La Musica Lirica, five of them in Italy. She has also worked with the Florentine Opera Studio Artists Community Outreach Program and private voice studios. Through her work as an accompanist, Joan has played extensively for area high school choirs and at Wisconsin Music Education Association Conventions, Wisconsin Choral Directors Association Conventions and statewide choral music festivals. She is the accompanist for Women of Note as well as the Milwaukee Choristers.

Joan has been a rehearsal and performance pianist for the Milwaukee Opera Theater and multiple high school musical productions. She teaches piano and serves as music director and pianist at Faith Presbyterian Church in Franklin.
One highlight of Joan’s performing career was playing with a PianoTeams ensemble at the Well-Prepared Pianist Institute festival in Flagstaff, Arizona. Steinway artist N. Jane Tan founded PianoTeams, which feature five pianists playing repertoire composed, transcribed or arranged for five pianos.

Joan holds a bachelor of music degree in piano performance and pedagogy from Alverno College.


Christine Simon Halverson was named assistant conductor of the Choristers in 1994. She has been a member of the chorus since January of 1983 and, for most of that time, has been the first soprano section leader. She also performs regularly as a soloist.

Chris holds a choral music education degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Between 1988 and 2005 she was the director of music at Perseverance Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee, where she directed the Chancel Choir and two handbell choirs.

Chris currently serves as office manager for the Presbytery of Milwaukee.


President – James Schacht, Bass

President-Elect – Jeanne Tyszka, alto

Past President – Dan Heidemann, tenor

Secretary – Debbie Bernhardt, Soprano

Treasurer – Norman Wahn, Tenor


Ashley Grainger, Soprano

Kathryn Rasmussen, Alto

David Vargas, Bass