Ron Ka Ming Cheung
M. Mus. Choral Conductor | Tenor | Music Teacher
Born in Hong Kong and started piano lessons after hearing a neighbour playing the Blue Danube Waltz on the piano. From 1978-1982, Ron attended St. Stephen’s College, a boarding school in the village of Stanley. While at the college, Ron played percussion in the school orchestra and the brass band and he also sang in the school choir as a baritone. Ron also participated in numerous sports including basketball, volleyball, soccer, badminton and table tennis. In April 1982, Ron and his family immigrated to Canada and settled in the Toronto west end. Attending York Memorial C.I. for his high school years, Ron was often the only male singer in the school choir. Ron successfully auditioned for the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir in February 1983, and immediately had to prepare for a concert in less than a month, singing in German and Latin for the first time, as well as singing Tenor for the first time. It was a major learning curve, considering that he was also learning to speak English. In 1985, Ron moved to Hamilton and attended McMaster University, where he joined the McMaster University Choir while continuing to sing with the Youth Choir. He went on his first choir tour to British Columbia in 1986 for the World Exposition in Vancouver. After the tour, Ron left the Youth Choir and joined the Bach-Elgar Choir in Hamilton. In 1988, Ron went on another choir tour, this time with the McMaster University Choir to Europe. Arriving back from Europe, Ron was offered the position of section lead/soloist with the James Street Baptist Church, and then with the Westdale United Church until he graduated with a B. Mus (Education) in 1991. During that last year at McMaster, Ron was invited to be the second conductor with the McMaster University Choir for a performance of Gabrieli’s antiphonal works. At this point, Ron started to contemplate about choral conducting as a possible career.
After returning to Toronto, Ron worked at The Opera Store and continued singing. He joined the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (TMC) in 1991 until 1996 under the direction of the late Dr. Elmer Iseler. Ron also became the tenor lead at Grace Church on-the-Hill from 1991-1994. During the years singing with the TMC, Ron’s thoughts on choral conducting intensified and with the encouragement of Dr. Iseler, Ron founded Voices in 1996. In 1998 Ron took Voices for their first tour to perform at the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors (now Association of Canadian Choral Communities) in Halifax. In 2000, Voices was invited to participate in the International Choral Kathaumiux in Powell River, BC, where the choir took 2nd place in the chamber choir category. Since then, the choir has received numerous awards from other music festivals. That same year, Ron returned to school and officially studied choral conducting at the University of Toronto and graduated with his Masters of Music in 2002. Before Ron graduated from the University of Toronto, he was appointed as the conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir from 2001-2005, and the director of the Newman Centre Chapel Choir from 2002-2006. During his Masters degree, Ron participated in a masterclass led by maestro Helmut Rilling (whom Ron had studied with before at the Oregon Bach Festival), and with Sir David Willcocks. Other teachers included Jon Washburn at the Choral Conductors Symposium with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and most recently with Richard Nace at the Ontario Vocal Festival in 2011.
In 2004, Ron founded his second choir, the Healey Willan Singers to honour the 125th birthday of the dean of Canadian composer in 2005. The choir was originally set up as a youth choir, and eventually changed into a women’s ensemble in 2007. This women’s choir has developed a program that encourages community participation, especially in promoting music written by women and that change has allowed the choir to flourish as it is becoming an established choral organization in Toronto’s Bloor West/High Park Area. In 2006, Ron was appointed as the conductor of the Xiao Ping Chorus, a non-auditioned Chinese community choir in Markham for five years, and it became one of the best Chinese choir in the GTA. In 2008, Ron was appointed the artistic director to the Yip’s Children’s Senior Choir (Canada) in Markham, a Canadian division of the world famous Yip’s Children’s Choir in Hong Kong. Since the appointment, the children’s choir went on a successful tour to Ottawa for the UNISONG festival in 2011, and also made a recording of Chinese folk songs for the Shanghai Restoration Project (the CD was released in early 2012).
In addition to the three choirs that Ron is currently directing, he’s also teaching singing and theory at Pro Music Conservatory in Markham, as well as private students in singing and conducting at home. He also provides choral workshops to schools and other community choirs in the GTA, as well as adjudication in singing at various competitions.