the PALS staff

Andy Icochea Icochea
Artistic Director

Andy Icochea IcocheaAndy Icochea Icochea became artistic director of PALS Children's Chorus in July 2011. Before joining PALS, Icochea Icochea was Kapellmeister with the Vienna Boys Choir for six years, during which time he prepared the choir to sing regularly with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera. He also conducted more than 400 concerts and led the choir on tours across 27 countries and four continents. Reviews typically commented not only on the performances' musical brilliance, but also on Icochea Icochea's spirited energy and conducting style and the vibrant connection he creates with his choristers and audience.

Icochea Icochea conducted the Vienna Chamber Orchestra with the Chorus Viennensis in the bi-monthly concert series Mozart and More. He has collaborated as choral conductor and accompanist for choral symphonic works with Riccardo Muti, Georges Prêtre, Adam Fischer, Franz Welser-Möst and Bertrand de Billy among others. Together with Jennifer Borkowski, Icochea Icochea co-founded the Ensemble Vienna Nova, a chamber opera orchestra, which led the world premieres of three operas in Austria and Italy. Also with this ensemble, Icochea Icochea directed Mozart operas in Vienna's eclectic opera theater scene. His own compositions and arrangements have been performed internationally.

Born and raised in Peru, Icochea Icochea began piano and music theory studies at the age of 7, held his first post as an accompanist at age 14, and started conducting children's choirs the following year. His professional training began in Peru at the National Conservatory of Music and continued at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. Later, he studied orchestra, opera and choral conducting at the Vienna Conservatory in Austria. He lives in Brookline, MA with his family.

Read more in the Boston Globe.

Johanna Hill Simpson
Artistic Director Emerita
Johanna Hill SimpsonOne of the nation’s preeminent children’s conductors, Johanna (Jody) Hill Simpson has worked with young people of all ages and levels –from kindergartners through graduate students— at Dartmouth College, Lincoln Elementary School, Harvard University and the New England Conservatory. She founded the PALS Children's Chorus in 1990 and served as Artistic Director for 16 years, during which time PALS earned the reputation as one of the finest youth ensembles in the country. She has prepared children for performances under the batons of Seiji Ozawa, James Levine, Tan Dun, James Conlan, Marek Janowski, Keith Lockhart, Benjamin Zander, Stefan Asbury, and David Hoose. She also has supervised the preparation of children for the acclaimed world premiere of Shadows of Time by Henri Dutilleux, performances of Carmen on the Common, Tosca and The Little Prince with Boston Lyric Opera, and the world premiere performance of Boris Goudenow with the Boston Early Music Festival. Jody is a champion of new music and has commissioned several major works for PALS.

 She received her BA in music from Dartmouth College and her masters in choral conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Lorna Cooke DeVaron. She was a member of the board of trustees of the New England Conservatory for ten years where she received an Outstanding Alumni Award in 2006. Jody is on the board of the Monadnock Music Festival, and most recently founded the Norway Pond Festival Singers and the Music on Norway Pond Concert Series. Though she retired from PALS in 2006, Jody currently serves as Artistic Director Emerita, continues to offer guidance to the current staff and chorus, and occasionally conducts PALS. Most recently, Jody hosted a VOICES concert in winter 2009 near her home in Hancock, NH, where she lives with her husband, Rick, and her standard poodle, Pearl.

Alysoun Kegel
After four outstanding seasons as PALS’ Artistic Director, Alysoun Kegel has recently relocated to Pittsburgh to pursue further studies in conducting at Carnegie Mellon University, under Maestro Robert Page.

Jill Carrier
Executive Director
Jill Carrier is a life-long New Englander. She was born in Boston and grew up in Burlington, Vermont. She graduated from Tufts University and earned a PhD in theoretical linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After a hiatus when she taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey, she returned to Boston and taught linguistics at Harvard University for nine years. She then moved from academia to industry, working on speech recognition software, most recently at Nuance Communications.

In 1999 Jill started volunteering for the youth chorus in which her daughter sang, Boston City Singers. Her role rapidly expanded to that of program manager. It was there that she discovered her love of children's choral music and a passion for helping children blossom into accomplished and confident musicians and performers who can transfer these skills into other areas of their lives. During her tenure at BCS, the chorus underwent tremendous growth. It also traveled to choral festivals in Denver and Niagara, Ontario, and it went on tour to New Zealand and Australia.

Jill has earned a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Institute for Nonprofit Management & Leadership at Boston University's School of Management. She joined PALS in July 2009, as its fourth executive director.


Christina Chao
Collaborative Pianist

Christina ChaoA passionate collaborator, Christina Chao is a versatile pianist having performed in various genres ranging from solo piano, art songs, and chamber music to opera, choral, and orchestral repertoire. She has appeared in performances at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Jordan Hall, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Music Academy of the West, Vancouver International Song Institute, and Franz Schubert Institut in Austria. Renowned conductors Chao has worked with include George Manahan (New York City Opera), Joseph Flummerfelt (Westminster Choir), and John Hopkins OBE (University of Melbourne). She has also played in Masterclasses with distinguished artists such as Elly Ameling, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Warren Jones, Margo Garrett, and Martin Katz.

Chao was the Principle Repetiteur at Heidelberg Choral Society in Victoria, Australia for three years before relocating to Boston in 2008. She has remained active in the choral activities at New England Conservatory (NEC), having played for the NEC Concert Choir and Chamber Singers, and is currently the pianist for Youth Chorale and Youth Camerata. Chao is also engaged in Boston Lyric Opera’s partnership with Wheelock Family Theatre in their opera workshops for high school students.

A recipient of the Maude Harrington Prize for Accompanying, Chao obtained her Bachelor of Music (Honors) in Piano Performance from The University of Melbourne. She then completed her Master of Music (Academic Honors) and Graduate Diploma in Collaborative Piano at NEC, and is currently in the Doctor of Musical Arts program under the guidance of Cameron Stowe and John Moriarty. She resides in Brookline, MA, and has been a pianist for PALS since March 2012.


Brett Hodgdon
Collaborative Pianist
Brett HodgdonBrett Hodgdon is a versatile collaborative artist, vocal coach, and teacher living in the Boston area. He has performed both song and instrumental recitals at venues and festivals throughout the United States, including The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory (NEC), the Aspen Music Festival, and the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival. He has appeared with NEC’s Contemporary Ensemble for the Boston premiere of John Harbison’s Milosz Songs for soprano and piano. An avid performer of new music, Hodgdon made his New York City debut in 2008 with the Mimesis Ensemble in its opening season at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufmann Center. Away from the recital stage, Hodgdon is the vocal director and music advisor for Guerilla Opera, a Boston-based contemporary chamber opera company. In April 2008, he participated in the company’s world premiere performance of Andy Vores’ No Exit, and will coach the world premieres of two operas for the group’s upcoming season. Currently, he serves as a music coach for the NEC Undergraduate Opera Seminar, as well as the Opera Seminar for graduate students. He is also a pianist for Emmanuel Music (Boston), where he was named a Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellow for the 2008-09 season. This summer, Hodgdon performed regularly as a fellow at the Tanglewood music festival. A doctoral candidate at New England Conservatory, Hodgdon has studied collaborative piano with Irma Vallecillo and Cameron Stowe. Brett has been a collaborative pianist for Senior PALS since 2007.