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Yong Mao

Yong Mao

Dolce Canto, Missoula’s auditioned community choir, will bring its new director to town this weekend to begin auditions in advance of the 2018-19 season.

University of Oklahoma doctoral candidate Yong Mao will take over as artistic director for this season, according to a press release.

Mao will begin in August, technically as part of an internship from the University of Oklahoma, until he finishes his doctorate program, board member Michael Marsolek said. Mao is committed to staying with Dolce Canto in upcoming seasons.

“Even though he’s just going to complete his graduate studies in conducting in December, he’s conducted for over a decade,” Marsolek said in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s not as simple as ‘we hired a new artistic director,’ because it’s not the same situation … But he’s the guy, he’s the leader.”

Former director and Dolce Canto founder Peter Park left the choir earlier this year, after being suspended by the board of directors.

Park had told the board the 2017-18 season would be his last, according to board Chair Chris Tweeten. Once the Missoulian started investigating allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct in February, the board suspended Park for the rest of the season and began searching for his replacement.

At the time, Tweeten and Marsolek said they would change contract language to allow the director to be punished for allegations of misconduct, as well as update internal conduct codes and complaint procedures.

“The organization, I can say, has been working really hard,” Marsolek said Thursday. “We have a new code of conduct policy.”

From the director and board members to singers and volunteers, Marsolek said, “we have procedures in place to have a wonderful culture.”

The Canto board chose from four finalists, and what put Mao over the top was his innovation in practice and rehearsal techniques, Marsolek said.

Mao studied engineering and directed choirs in China before coming to the United States in 2012 to continue schooling, according to his biography in the release. In 2007, the International Federation for Choral Music selected Mao as one of the world’s most promising young choral conductors.

The release credits his engineering background for his meticulous attitude and creative thinking.

 “There’s an intangible thing that you look for in a leader in a position like this,” Marsolek said. “There’s something about this excitement about music-making and choral singing that’s contagious.”

Dolce Canto will hold a public reception for Mao Saturday, June 16, at 6 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus, 312 E. Pine St.

Auditions for the 2018-19 season are Sunday and Monday, June 18 and 19. Details on auditions can be found at

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City, County Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Missoulian.