Herbert Washington is the Harvey K. Smith Artistic Director of the Phoenix Boys Choir. He recently served as the Director of Middle and High School Choral Activities at Gilbert Christian Schools and previously directed for the Chandler Children's Choir and Phoenix Children's Choir. With culture and roots deeply grounded in and molded by Arizona choral pedagogy, Mr. Washington is an alumnus of the Phoenix Boys Choir. Recognized for his dynamic teaching style and his ability to instill a love for the choral arts, he is a frequent choral clinician, conductor, lecturer, and adjudicator for regional festivals, workshops, and conferences around the country.
Beyond the scope of choral music education, Washington is a champion and an advocate for diverse styles of music. He has ongoing efforts in producing, composing, and arranging radio and commercial music. Mr. Washington has collaborated with leaders in the music industry, including Grammy Award-winning Tori Kelly, Jordin Sparks, Bret Michaels, and Jason Derulo. While working toward his B.A., he was a tenor, counter-tenor, and soloist in the St. Olaf Choir, conducted by Dr. Anton Armstrong, and he directed “Voices of Praise,” the St. Olaf Gospel Choir. Upon graduating from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and earning a dual B.A. in Music and Fine Arts, Mr. Washington went on to receive an M.M. in Choral Conducting from the University of Arizona. While under the mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Schauer and Dr. Bruce Chamberlain at UArizona, Washington founded the all-male award winning ensemble, Cat-Call A Cappella before graduating in 2009.
With a continuous thirst for knowledge and development of his craft, Washington created and founded the Choral Window. This international crowdsourcing online resource engages, educates, and inspires directors to connect with each other and share innovative or learned choral and music literacy techniques that aim to energize and enhance the rehearsal environment.
Washington is a proud member of the Arizona Music Educators Association (AMEA), former ACDA Western Division Chair board member (WDACDA), and currently serves as the Repertoire and Resource Chair for Children’s Choirs & Community Youth for the Arizona American Choral Directors Association (AzACDA). Recently, he was selected to join the Phoenix Chorale taskforce to focus on social and racial equity within choral ensembles and non-profit organizations. Herbert resides in Phoenix with his beloved wife, Yadira, and their two sons.
Leah Ries Is the Artistic Director of the Mankato Children’s Chorus serving singers in the Greater Mankato, Region 9 area. She began directing with the Mankato Children’s Chorus in 2000, founding the Kodaly based Training and Intermediate Choirs which provide an early choir opportunity for children in the first through third grades. In her tenure with MCC, Ms. Ries has directed all five Choirs and is currently directing the upper elementary Youth Choir and middle school age Concert Choir. She has been a music educator for 35 years in Oklahoma and Minnesota teaching elementary, middle school, jr. high and high school general and choral music as well as private piano and voice.
After completing a Bachelor of Music Education from Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City, Ms. Ries completed a Kodaly Certification with emphasis in choral conducting at the University of Oklahoma. Her choirs have been invited to sing at the OMEA annual conference in Oklahoma City, Minnesota ACDA Fall Convention, MMEA Mid-Winter Conference and Honors Choirs of Southeast Minnesota Youth Choir Festival in Rochester. Her choirs have also performed in festivals in Boston, Washington D. C. and Chicago and are the current guest youth choir with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Ries has been active as a clinician, adjudicator and workshop presenter and in addition to directing MCC choirs, is currently teaching elementary music in the Mankato Area Public Schools where she lives with her family.