Donald Nally

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Donald Nally
Born (1960-12-27) December 27, 1960 (age 61)
Hilltown, Pennsylvania, USA
Years active1996–present

Donald Nally (born December 27, 1960) is an American conductor, chorus master, and professor of conducting, specializing in chamber choirs, opera, and new music. He is conductor of the professional new-music choir, The Crossing, based in Philadelphia. He teaches graduate students at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music.

Nally has been chorus master of Lyric Opera of Chicago,[1] Welsh National Opera,[2] Opera Philadelphia,[3] and the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.[4]

He has been nominated three times for the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, winning in 2018 and 2019. He has won numerous awards and is recognized as one of the leading commissioners of new music in the United States.

Early life and education[edit]

Nally was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and educated at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (BM, music education), Westminster Choir College (MM, choral conducting), and the University of Illinois (DMA, choral conducting). He has been Artist in Residence at Washington and Lee University and Shorter University, has been on the faculty of the University of Illinois, and has been guest lecturer at Indiana University and the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Professional life[edit]

Nally’s first professional chamber choir was The Bridge Ensemble which sang concerts 1996-1997; though it failed financially, it established a significant presence in Philadelphia, receiving a great amount of critical attention and laying the groundwork for the success of The Crossing.

From 1998 to 2002, he was Artistic Director of the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, during which time the chorus received Chorus America’s 2002 Margaret Hillis National Award for Excellence and was chosen as “The Best of Philadelphia” by Philadelphia Magazine.[5]

At the end of 2002, Nally left Philadelphia and moved to Wales to become the chorus master at Welsh National Opera. In 2006, Nally returned to the United States to become the chorus master for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.[6]

Nally has guest conducted the Latvian State Choir, the Grant Park Symphony Chorus,[7] and the Santa Fe Desert Chorale;[8] he has prepared choirs for the Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra (including the world premiere of Hannibal’s One Heart Beating),[9] the Pennsylvania Ballet,[10] the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and Spoleto USA.

The Crossing[edit]

The ensemble began in 2005 when Nally and a group of friends sang an informal concert together. At the end of the 2010-11 season, Nally left Lyric Opera of Chicago and moved back to Philadelphia to focus on his Philadelphia ensemble, The Crossing, which specializes in contemporary works. It has received numerous awards, including the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming[11] (2009, 2011 & 2017), the American Composers Forum 2017 Champion of New Music Award,[12] the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, and the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.

Northwestern University[edit]

In September 2012, Nally joined the faculty of the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois as a tenured professor and director of choral organizations.[13] He was appointed following the retirement of longtime professor Dr. Robert A. Harris, who held the position for the 35 years previous to Nally's appointment.[14] Upon arriving in Evanston in the fall of 2012 Nally founded the chamber choir BCE, a premier group of 26 singers dedicated to performing choral music of the 21st century and drawing relationships to its polyphonic roots in early music – primarily that of the Renaissance.[15]

In 2013, Nally rehearsed Howard Hanson's Song of Democracy, which sets texts from various poems of Walt Whitman.[16] An African American student objected to performing the work because he claimed Whitman was racist.[17] Nally told the student he would receive a failing grade if he did not perform the work.[17] The student claimed that a failing grade would have led to the loss of his scholarship.[18]

Awards and distinctions[edit]


  • "Gian Carlo Menotti: A Centennial Tribute", Voice Prints: Journal of the New York Teachers’ of Singing Association (January–February 2011).
  • Conversations with Joseph Flummerfelt: Thoughts on Conducting, Music and Musicians, Scarecrow Press, 2010.
  • "To immerse myself in words: Text and Music in the Choral Works of Samuel Barber." DMA dissertation, University of Illinois, 1995.
  • "Barber's Op. 42: The poetry and music as key to his musical animus; Part I: Laurie Lee's Twelfth Night; Part II: Louise Bogan's To be sung on the water." Choral Journal 47.4 (October 2006).



  1. ^ Carillo, Carmel. "Lyric Opera names chorus master, "Chicago Tribune", December 20, 2006.
  2. ^ "Welsh National Opera 2004/2005 Season". 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2015-04-22.
  3. ^ Stearns, David Patrick. "Donald Nally, and a choir with intelligence", "The Philadelphia Inquirer", December 25, 2006.
  4. ^ Valdes, Lesley. "Choral Group Forming Here Will Sing In Italy", "The Philadelphia Inquirer", December 23, 1993.
  5. ^ 2002. "Best of Philly 2002 Choral Group Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Philadelphia Weekly.
  6. ^ Schweitzer, Vivien. "Donald Nally Appointed Chorus Master of Lyric Opera of Chicago" Playbill, December 20, 2006.
  7. ^ Rhein, John von. "Grant Park chorus master readies singers for a busy festival summer", "The Chicago Tribune", June 11, 2013.
  8. ^ "Singers Lend "Glorious Voices" to Choral Concert". 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2015-04-22.
  9. ^ Dobrin, Peter. "Forgiveness Oratorio 1st Centennial Work", "The Philadelphia Inquirer", December 04, 1999.
  10. ^ Zimmer, Elizabeth. "A Dazzling Premiere And A Glossy Period Piece", "The Philadelphia Inquirer", March 19, 1999.
  11. ^ "Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming Past Awardees".
  12. ^ "Charles Amirkhanian, Donald Nally and The Crossing, The International Alliance for Women in Music to Receive Champion of New Music Awards". Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Donald Nally Joins Bienen School Faculty as Director of Choral Organizations: Bienen School of Music - Northwestern University". 2012-04-17. Archived from the original on 2013-07-28. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  14. ^ "Spring Tributes to Retiring Music Faculty Harris, Hemke and Kujala: Northwestern University News". 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  15. ^ "Bienen Contemporary/Early Chamber Choir: Bienen School of Music - Northwestern University". Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  16. ^ "Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra and University Chorale | Pick-Staiger Concert Hall". 2013-06-08. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  17. ^ a b Zakrzewski, Cat. "Bienen graduate student says he may fail class after 'racially insensitive' incident". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  18. ^ "Student skips music class in protest of "offensive" material". WGN-TV. 2013-05-18. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  19. ^ "Charles Amirkhanian, Donald Nally and The Crossing, The International Alliance for Women in Music to Receive Champion of New Music Awards".
  20. ^ "2017 Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
  21. ^ "Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal Past Awardees".
  22. ^ "Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence Past Awardees".