Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence

The Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence is given in memory of Margaret Hillis, founder of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and its conductor for 37 years, for her more than 40 years of professional achievement and outstanding contributions to the choral art. This award is presented annually to a member chorus that demonstrates both artistic excellence and a strong organizational structure with financial stability for a significant period of time. The awardee also exhibits a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities.



The award winner will be selected by a panel of judges consisting of the Chairman of Chorus America or an appointed delegate, the President of Chorus America or an appointed delegate, a member of the Board of Directors of Chorus America, and a conductor or singer from a Chorus America member chorus, who is not presently serving on the Chorus America Board and whose chorus will not be under consideration for the award.

The winner receives an engraved plaque and cash award of $5,000.


Eligibility rotates through a three-year cycle:

  • 2023: Professional and professional-core choruses: fully professional choruses that pay 100% of their singers and choruses with a core of professional singers (25% of singers, or 12 singers, whichever is fewer)
  • 2024: Adult volunteer choruses
  • 2025: Children/youth choruses

A chorus may win this award only once.

Deadline & How to Apply

The deadline to submit via the Chorus America Application Portal (CAAP) is Thursday, January 26, 2023 at 11:59PM ET.

Choruses may nominate themselves or another worthy organization.

A complete application consists of:

  • a completed nomination form, including narrative (see below for additional details).
  • a repertoire list from the last three completed seasons and current year.*
  • financial statements from the last three complete seasons.*
  • a year-to-date budget vs. actual finance report for the current season.
  • a track listing for the representative recording.
  • a representative recording.

Season brochures, programs, and critical reviews are not required as part of this application and will not be considered. 

The online application will ask for the following information:

  • Name of Choral Ensemble
  • Year Founded
  • Nominee Address
  • Name of Artistic Director
  • Total Number of Singers in Ensemble
  • Number of Paid Singers

Your application narrative should include the following and not exceed five (5) pages in length:

  • Mission Statement
  • Excellence: State why you believe the chorus nominee has distinguished itself in the area of performing excellence over at least the last three complete seasons.* Be as specific as possible about the artistic achievement of the chorus.
  • Repertoire: Briefly comment on the chorus' programming philosophy and programming highlights from the past three complete seasons.*
  • Financial History: Briefly comment on the chorus' fiscal management and current financial position, including plans for maintaining stability in the future. If deficits occurred in any given season, explain the efforts made for debt reduction.
  • Education Outreach Programs: List and briefly describe all programs involved with education, outreach or reaching new audiences in your community.

Your application must also include:

  • A list of repertoire performed during the last three complete seasons* and current year. Give dates of all performances. 
  • Financial statements for the last three complete seasons* and a year-to-date budget vs. actual finance report for the current year.
  • Representative recordings following these guidelines:
    • The total recording time must be limited to a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 30 minutes.
    • The recording must be uploaded in MP3 format only.
    • All selections on the recording must be from the last three complete seasons* or the season in progress.
    • Clearly label the file itself with the chorus name.
    • At least one selection should be a complete piece.
    • At least one selection must be an unedited live performance or rehearsal. 
    • Applicants are encouraged to exclude long orchestra introductions.
    • Applicants are encouraged to include a variety of compositional styles and choral techniques.
  • Provide a play list separate from the recording itself, listing composer, title, date performed/recorded, and timing of each selection. Note which are live recordings and which are edited recordings.

*For the 2023 Awards Cycle, the past three completed seasons can be any between the 2018-2019 season - 2021-2022 season, depending on the chorus' performance schedule throughout the pandemic. 

Applications will only be accepted through CAAP

Past Awardees

2023 Volti
2020 Young Women's Choral Projects of San Francisco
2019 Chor Leoni
2018 Houston Chamber Choir
2017 Young People's Chorus of New York City
2016 The Washington Chorus
2015 The Crossing
2014 Los Angeles Children's Chorus
2013 Atlanta Master Chorale (formerly known as the Atlanta Sacred Chorale)
2012 Los Angeles Master Chorale
2011 Boston Children’s Chorus
2010 Choral Arts (Seattle, WA)
2009 Cantus
2008 Anima (formerly known as the Glen Ellyn Children's Chorus)
2007 National Lutheran Choir
2006 Grant Park Chorus
2005 Conspirare The Rose Ensemble
2004 SHALLAWAY-Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus (formerly known as Newfoundland Symphony Youth Choir)
2003 Mormon Tabernacle Choir Seattle Pro Musica
2002 Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia
2001 Gregg Smith Singers
2000 San Francisco Girls Chorus
1999 Master Chorale of Washington (formerly known as Paul Hill Chorale)
1998 Vancouver Chamber Choir
1997 Detroit Concert Choir
1996 VocalEssence (formerly known as Plymouth Music Series)
1995 Chanticleer
1994 Susquehanna Chorale
1993 Pacific Chorale
1992 Dale Warland Singers


Questions? Contact Karyn Castro at 202.331.7577 x246 or [email protected]

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