In November, the Ridgefield Chorale premiered “The Gift to Sing,” a piece by composer Thomas Lavoy to celebrate and honor Daniela Sikora’s 20th year as the Ridgefield Chorale’s artistic director.
Sikora represents the chorale at cultural and civic events and cultivates and grows relationships with both the town of Ridgefield and her cultural colleagues, who are all a part of the arts scene blossoming in Ridgefield.
“I hold no degrees in conducting, but it feels as natural to me as breathing,” she said.
Sikora is thrilled that there seems to be a greater sense of the arts as the economic driver of Ridgefield, as well as a desire to reach out beyond the community and have the town be recognized as an arts destination. She also loves that the arts groups are much more collaborative and supportive of another and understand the value of cooperation.
Sikora was born Germany and moved to the United States, where she was raised in Chicago. As a young immigrant, she did not speak English until she learned it at elementary school. Her education took her from the Rheinische Hochschule für Musik in Germany, to Northwestern University, then to the graduate school of music at Indiana University. Sikora moved to New York in 1984 to continue her career as an opera singer, but “through the most indirect path possible, I found myself on the conductor’s podium,” Sikora says. She began to seek out anyone who would take her as a private student, then attended summer programs at Eastman and Oberlin, and was accepted to the Choral Institute at Oxford.
“The training I received was hands-on and practical,” she explains.
In 1991, Sikora moved to Ridgefield and sang with the chorale for a year or so, before the artistic director at the time, Ernestine Holmes, heard about her schooling and asked her to assist with the chorale. Before directing the Ridgefield Chorale, she ran a support department in an international intellectual property law firm. “It was great because I could use my languages, enjoyed reading publications from all over the world, interfacing with clients and honing some management skills that serve me to this day,” she explains.
Sikora was raised in a family who cherished music and went to many different performances as a child, but her first, real rock concert was to see Eric Clapton. When she has free time, she enjoys cooking with friends and sharing really casual, spontaneous time together. She also loves building things (using power equipment to do so included) and is a skilled pastry chef.
These days, Sikora makes the artistic decisions to support and further the mission of the chorale. Such responsibilities include selecting repertoire, teaching, designing programs and programming, choosing and coaching soloists, supporting musicians, and overseeing all design work pertaining to the concerts. She ensures that she always “stands before her singers with love,” which is her mantra for directing any group of singers and musicians. Her compassionate approach to directing creates a comfortable ambiance among the chorale and its members, as well as other organizations she helps with. She also directs the Founder Hall Singers, works with ACT and Throw Stone Theatre Company, partners with SPHERE Inc., and gives her time to many community events.
Sikora mentioned that success can be measured by “a job honestly and well done, that benefits many and hurts no one.” Under her direction, the Ridgefield Chorale is a loving choir, tolerant and accepting, that serves its community — one that she helped to create.
To learn more, visit ridgefieldchorale.org or visit the group on Facebook at @RidgefieldChorale.