Dr. Christopher G. McGinley is a dynamic conductor and music educator based in the upper Midwest where he serves as Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Music Director of First Congregational UCC (Eau Claire), and Artistic Director of the Apollo Club of Minneapolis.
His choirs are noted for their vibrant and nuanced interpretations of works from diverse eras and genres. A strong advocate for community music, McGinley has served intergenerational choirs in Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Oregon. He holds degrees in conducting and music education from the University of Minnesota, the University of Oregon, and the University of Delaware and pursued further studies in conducting at the Frost School of Music. His conducting mentors include Kathy Saltzman Romey, Matthew Mehaffey, Karen Kennedy, Sharon Paul, and Paul D. Head.
Maria A. Ellis is a passionate music educator and conductor. She is the owner of Girl Conductor LLC, which specializes in diverse music education resources and serves as the Artistic Director of The Sheldon’s All-Star Chorus and the University of Missouri-St. Louis Voices of Jubilation Ensemble. Maria is a highly sought after clinician, adjudicator and presenter throughout the United States and abroad. She holds a B.M. in Music Education emphasis on Voice (K-12 Certified) Degree from the University of Missouri- St. Louis, Level 3 Certification from the CME Institute for Choral Teacher Education. and is currently pursuing her Masters of Arts Degree with emphasis on Choral Conducting from Webster University.
Maria is the host of the Award-Winning Radio Show "Bach and Beyoncé" and "American Gospel with Maria A. Ellis" on Classic 107.3, The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis. This past June Maria made her Carnegie Hall Debut as a conductor and was awarded The St. Louis Arts and Education 2023 Arts Innovator Award as well as the St. Louis Suburban Music Educators Association 2023 Merit Award Winner. Maria is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association, National Association of Music Educators, Missouri Alliance for Arts Education, where she is chair of the RIDE (Race, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity) Committee and a member of the Chorus America Board. Maria is the wife of Marion Ellis and the mother of Aria, Kendal and Noah Ellis.
Dr. Kira Knutson is an assistant professor of music at Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota. Prior to that she was assistant professor of music at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota where she conducted The Concordia Chapel Choir, Kantorei, and Cantabile. Dr. Knutson taught courses in conducting, aural skills, voice technique, and serves as campus supervisor for student teachers. In addition to her work in the classroom, Knutson advised the student chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association and was an associate editor for MN ACDA’s Star of the North publication. She is an active guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator, having most recently conducted North Dakota ACDA’s Middle Level Treble Honor Choir.
Alongside her work at Valley City State University, Dr. Knutson serves as Organist and Choirmaster at Gethsemane Episcopal Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota. Before returning to the midwest, Knutson served on the conducting staff at Harvard University as Resident Conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and was Assistant Conductor for the Boston Choral Ensemble. Additionally, Dr. Knutson has held teaching positions at The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and was a visiting instructor and interim director of choirs at Macalester College where she toured domestically with the Concert Choir.
Dr. Knutson has previously led congregational music at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Farmington Lutheran Church, as well as churches in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. During her time in Massachusetts, she taught general music and chorus at the middle and high school levels (Beaver Country Day School) before starting a new music program at the Health and Human Services High School in Lawrence, MA. Knutson is a two-time recipient of the Sontag Prize in Urban Education for her work in Lawrence, MA.
An accomplished vocalist, Knutson has sung with Lorelei Ensemble, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Boston New Music Initiative, Vox Futura, Twin Cities-based Border CrosSing and the Bach Roots Festival. Knutson sang as part of the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, performing Bach’s Mass in B Minor, St. John Passion, and St. Matthew Passion. Knutson was the chorusmaster for University Opera Theatre productions of Mozart’s Idomeneo and Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld during her time at The University of Minnesota and recently prepared the chorus for Fargo Moorhead Opera’s production of Don Giovanni.
Knutson holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting with a secondary area of study in vocal performance from The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities where she studied with Kathy Saltzman Romey, Matthew Mehaffey, and Wendy Zaro-Mullins; a Master of Music degree in choral conducting from Boston University where she studied with Ann Howard Jones; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from St. Olaf College where she studied with Anton Armstrong.