Members of the CCCS come from all backgrounds, drawn together by a love of performing choral and other music, including classical, sacred, folk and contemporary. In addition to works from Croatia’s rich musical heritage, we also sing in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Greek. New members of all ages are warmly welcomed, and aside from a love of singing, no formal musical training is required and members do not need to speak any language other than English.
Led by Artistic Director Mia Milicevic and supported by Accompanist & Music Arranger, Adam Mezgec, the CCCS was established in 2013 under the artistic direction of Edward Mavrinac. Choir members rehearse bi-weekly in person and virtually to learn new works, blend their voices to produce their uplifting sound and prepare for large annual Spring and Christmas concerts, smaller festival performances, special events and volunteer at sing-alongs at seniors’ residences across the GTA.
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The Canadian Croatian Choral Society is led by a volunteer board of directors elected by choir members. Each board member serves two calendar-year terms, renewable for a maximum of four years. The board is responsible to members for establishing and executing the choir’s strategic plan and overseeing sub-committees, including concert planning, fundraising and membership.
President: M. Helena Solin
Vice President: Michael Valic
Director of Policies and Grants: Hilde Mesić-Fuchs
Director of Special Events: Katerina Marek
Director of Memberships: Mary Ursa
Treasurer: Branko Radisic
Secretary: Anita Gross
A musical background that includes strong performance, academic, leadership and teaching credentials led the choir’s board of directors to hire Mia Miličević to serve as its new Artistic Director in early 2023.
Mia first met the choir in 2019 when she received its annual Merit Award scholarship, which helped fund her Queen’s University music studies. She first performed solo with the choir at a 2019 spring concert when she received her award, and was a guest performer throughout that year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mia helped keep the choir going when members couldn’t meet in person by developing and leading online rehearsals. Between 2020 and 2022, she worked as the choir’s sectional leader for all four vocal range groups – soprano, alto, tenor and bass – and began leading full-choir rehearsals in 2021.
As Artistic Director, Mia works alongside the choir’s board planning for concerts, selecting and modifying music and choosing song sequences, costumes, guest performers and musicians. Her main job is preparing choir members for performances and to do this, she works closely with the choir’s new Accompanist and Music Arranger, accomplished pianist and 2017 Merit Award winner Adam Mezgec.
Mia explains her key challenge: “I must ensure that all the voices blend, and that members understand the dynamics and cadence of the songs. Music is like telling a story, and to captivate the audience, everyone must hit the right notes, or they’ll sound like they’re singing in tin cans! Pronunciation, diction and musical emotion all must come together powerfully to reach into people’s souls. We want our audience to feel the music and become part of it.”
Mia is thrilled to be leading the choir and looks forward to helping members learn together and find the joy that comes from performing live choral music together.
Mia and Adam work together to teach the choir new songs and create their best sound. When necessary, the tech-savvy duo uses online meeting tools to work with members, as well as the online rehearsal tool Digital Audio Workspace.
“To learn a new program, members have to listen, learn and sing,” says Mia, “and that means rehearsing weekly, bi-weekly and sometimes even more often. Adam and I work with each vocal range group in person and online when necessary to deliver focussed, efficient rehearsals. And members appreciate the flexibility of not having to come out in bad weather or when they’re not able to rehearse in person.”
The team also work together online to research songs the choir would enjoy singing together. “If members like the music, it’s more likely their best abilities will shine through” she adds. “And at the same time, we try to find music that will challenge and inspire everyone to do their best and improve their individual skills.”
“Music education is more rare in schools today. Not every child is a sports kid; many love music and they just need some help to find their passion and realize they’re good at something. Once they’re engaged and motivated, that’s when the real fun and learning begins. And as a bonus, music boosts learning skills and strengthens math skills.”
“Anyone can develop a new skill at any age. Helping people learn collaboratively and have fun together gives them a sense of joy and purpose. And then helping them improve vocal abilities really boosts their spirits.”
Working alongside the artistic director is Accompanist and Music Arranger Adam Mezgec. The choir’s 2017 Merit Award recipient is an accomplished pianist, composer, music teacher and professional music supervisor.
As music arranger, Adam’s work begins well before the choir starts rehearsing. He first deconstructs each performance piece and composes custom vocal and instrumental arrangements for the sopranos, altos, tenors and bass voices, as well as his own piano accompaniment. Once the complex arranging process is complete, he and Mia teach the choristers their parts, first by singing and playing the melody lines themselves for each voice group. Using new technology, the pair also create digital recordings for the choristers to listen to and practise at home to learn and refine their parts.
So he’s part creator, part teacher, part role model and full-time musician – and he loves it all. “I believe in the work of the choir,” Adam enthusiastically explains. “Sharing music with others has many benefits and can be impactful and bring such uplifting joy to people.”
Adam is motivated to bring out the best in each choir member, working to improve vocal technique by listening and providing constructive feedback. He says he loves jumping in on piano and singing with a section that needs a little help to hit the right notes. The friendly, upbeat musician has coached many groups and individuals throughout his life, teaching piano, swimming, voice, choir and tamburica, Croatia’s traditional string instrument.
Adam’s musical journey began at age 5 with lessons in piano and traditional Croatian folklore music and dance. At 10, he was accompanying St. Michael’s parish choir’s Sunday masses, which he continues to do on sacred holidays. He began giving private piano lessons at age 12, and still does today, and has taught 4- to 80-year-olds at every skill level. Throughout high school, he served as band percussionist and choir accompanist.
Adam first met the CCCS as a Western University music student when he was selected as its 2017 Merit Award winner. Supported in part by this funding, he completed a Bachelor of Music in piano performance in 2018 and earned a Gold Medal for achieving the highest graduating average in his program. During his studies, he also accompanied dance faculty classes and performances, and at his final solo concert, debuted a self-composed theme and variations based on a Croatian folklore melody.
Since graduating, Adam has worked for Steinway & Sons, gaining valuable knowledge about piano manufacturing and tuning and completed an audio production program at The Harris Institute for The Arts, Toronto’s internationally recognized leader in music industry education. This led to his current job as music supervisor for Corus Entertainment’s animation studio Nelvana, where he works with composers, lyricists and songwriters creating original music for children’s animated TV series.