Richard Bjella has distinguished himself as a conductor, clinician, choral pedagogue, and choral arranger around the world. In 2014 Bjella was appointed Artistic Director of the San Antonio Chamber Choir. Their most recent CD, UNFROZEN: A Baltic Christmas received Grammy attention in 2018.
He retired from Texas Tech University in 2017, but previous to his work in Lubbock, Bjella served 25 years as Director of Choral Studies at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, leading the Concert Choir in an acclaimed performance at the 2009 National ACDA Convention. The Texas Tech University Choir has been celebrated for its excellence in Carnegie Hall, Orchestra Hall, at TMEA convention appearances, and at the 2013 ACDA Convention.
Bjella has presented workshops at several ACDA national and regional conventions and has been a headliner for countless events from Alaska to Florida for teachers and students alike. It has also been his honor to conduct and present masterclasses around the world and at over 400 festivals and workshops in 34 states, including several appearances at Lincoln Center, Orchestra Hall, and Carnegie Hall. He has also presented workshops and conducted in South Korea, England, France, Switzerland, Lithuania, Columbia, Haiti, Estonia, and Italy. In 2019 he conducted and led workshops in 11 universities from Colorado to Florida, doing countless festivals with high school students before the Covid -19 pandemic hit in 2020.
He is the choral editor for the Richard Bjella Choral Series with Hal Leonard that began this year and has presented countless sessions on programming for teachers throughout the country. He has also written over 50 choral arrangements for choral ensembles throughout the world. His setting of IDUMEA has sold over 70,000 copies worldwide. Recent work with FESTIVAL OF THREE included conducting performances with the Brigham Young Men’s Chorus, the Texas Women’s University Concert Choir, and the Iowa State Singers in Sweden, Estonia, and Riga with a commission by Ērics Ešenvalds in May of 2022. He also was the producer of an album about to be released with Mirabai, a professional women’s choir under the direction of Sandra Snow. University workshops this academic year include the University of Georgia, the University of Missouri, Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wartburg College, Louisiana State University, and Morningside College. He just returned from working in Anchorage, Alaska, and will be the conductor for the West Texas Kodaly Initiative in Lubbock Texas in June. He has been selected as the conductor for the Texas Choral Directors Summer International Tour in 2024.
He is also active in the promotion of creative choral programming and is a contributing writer for The Oxford Handbook of Choral Pedagogy (2017) with his chapter, The Art of Successful Programming: Study, Selection, and Synthesis. He also served as Distinguished Guest Professor at Carthage College (2021).
Bjella was the recipient of a “2017 Professing Excellence Award” at Texas Tech University and the Lawrence University teaching award in 2008. This award is given to outstanding faculty who go “above and beyond,” both inside and outside the classroom, to impact student learning and academic success. He was also honored to receive the “Morris Hayes Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Wisconsin Choral Directors. He is the father of three amazing children and a proud GPA of another five.