A Short History of the San Luis Obispo Master Chorale

In the summer of 1984, Dr. Ernest Cementina, Dean of Humanities at Cuesta College invited Dr. Thomas Davies to start a community choir that would be offered to San Luis Obispo residents as a part of Cuesta College’s performance opportunities. After much deliberation and many discussions with Cuesta College, the Cuesta Master Chorale was formed in the fall of 1984. Its unique niche within the performing ensemble community would be that of a choir that would perform works for chorus and orchestra.

Starting with 40 members in the ensemble, the Chorale grew steadily over its first 12 years in both the number of choir members, and in the difficulty of the works performed. Performances were held all over San Luis Obispo County from Cambria, Morro Bay, and Atascadero, to Los Osos, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, as well as various locations in San Luis Obispo and on the campus at Cuesta College.

Beginning in the Fall of 1996, The San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center became the “home” of the Master Chorale. The choir joined with members of the San Luis Obispo Symphony, SLO Mozart Festival Orchestra, and The SLO Vocal Arts Ensemble, the opening performance in the Performing Arts Center in September of 1996. It was the featured choir for the Dedication Concert for the Forbes Pipe Organ in June of 2007.

Now the San Luis Obispo Master Chorale, this energetic ensemble has performed over 150 works from its inception in 1984. Well-known composers such as J. S. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Verdi, Poulenc, Orff, and Benjamin Britten are programmed along side contemporary offerings by Dave Brubeck, Leonard Bernstein, John Rutter, Arvo Pärt, Igor Stravinsky, Lou Harrison, and Phillip Glass. Local composers have also been featured including works by Antonio Barata, Meredith Brammeier, Gary Eister, and Earle Blakeslee. In 1990, the choir was honored with a performance at the American Choral Directors Association Western Division Convention held in Fresno, California. During the summer of 1992, the choir toured Spain with the Russian Radio and Television Orchestra, giving performances throughout the country.

The San Luis Obispo Master Chorale now enjoys a membership of 100 members. Thomas Davies is in his 34th year as conductor and his wife, Susan, continues as the group’s accompanist. The ensemble rehearses weekly and membership, by audition, is open to all. Currently, members come from Santa Barbara as well as San Luis Obispo counties.

On May 20, 2018, a new work titled, “The Journey of Harriet Tubman” with be featured. Composed by Bakersfield resident, Ron Kean, this work tells the miraculous story of Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Kean uses the music of African Spirituals, as well as a moving video produced by his daughter, Hannah, to tell this incredible story.

San Luis Obispo Master Chorale adds beauty to the world by presenting concerts of inspiring masterworks, which touch the hearts and souls of listeners. Singers and other musicians come together with a mutual love of music and its capacity to fill the heart and soul with joy. Our ensemble offers the emotional expressiveness that only the human voice can communicate. We delight in sharing our talent and passion for music with the sophisticated audiences of the central coast.


  • Performing concerts of the highest artistic quality through musical growth and development of its members.
  • Connecting with the community to expand our diverse, appreciative and loyal audience and to educate younger singers about the art and opportunity of choral ensemble singing.
  • Ensuring sustainability of the chorale into the future.