Meet Joseph Caulkins

Adventurous is a fitting descriptor for Joseph Caulkins. It has been used to describe his reputation for bold programming, world premieres and unique collaborations on the conductor’s podium, to his knack for vibrant storytelling as a freelance writer and music critic, to his pursuits as an experienced alpinist. These diverse interests shape the quality of his music making, writing, climbing and life. Whether it be a professional orchestra, singers, dancers, high school students, circus artists, Parkinson’s patients, or his own symphonic chorus Key Chorale, he is fueled by bringing out the best in everyone.

For the past 12 seasons as Artistic Director, Joseph Caulkins has consistently delivered innovative concert experiences. His performances of new and rarely heard works in styles as diverse as masterworks, pops, contemporary, Baroque – even ballet – has become his trademark. His passion for education and community outreach has shaped much of the chorale’s programming and mission during his tenure.

Key Chorale was catapulted onto the national stage in 2017 when it was invited to perform Cirque des Voix®, an innovative concert experience with the Circus Arts Conservatory, for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, which the Washington Post named one of the top five events of the entire 10-day festival. The chorale also sang two performances at the historic National Cathedral and released their latest CD, ARISE – Choral Music of Ola Gjeilo, featuring two world premiere recordings.

From 2001-2010, Joseph was the Associate Conductor/Director of Choruses for the Southwest Florida Symphony where he created the Stained Glass Series, led annual Messiah and Holiday Pops concerts and conducted on the Pops, Family, Chamber and Masterworks series. Prior to his arrival in Southwest Florida, he was Artistic Director/Conductor of the Bach Chamber Choir (Rockford, IL) and directed the St. Procopius Chamber Orchestra and Choirs at Benedictine University (Lisle, IL). With his choruses, Mr. Caulkins has produced/released numerous CDs, led European concert tours, conducted world and regional premieres and commissioned new works from Dale Warland, Eric Whitacre and Ola Gjeilo among others.

An experienced alpinist, Mountain Joe has climbed more than 200 peaks throughout the US, Canada, France, Switzerland and Italy including Mount Rainier, Grand Teton, Mont Blanc and the iconic Matterhorn. He has enjoyed the occasional unplanned bivouac high on the mountain, knows what lightning “feels” like, glissades with uncanny skill and speed, and once had a marmot eat most of his gear.

Joseph is also a freelance writer and Music Columnist for Florida Weekly, named the best weekly newspaper in the state by the Florida Press Association, and loves writing humorous short stories about life, his love of the mountains and growing up as a young boy in rural Iowa.

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