2020 Master Conductors

2020 Master Conductors


Sandra Snow
COA Masterworks Series
The Music of Dan Forrest

NYC + Lincoln Center
March 19-21, 2020

As conductor, teacher, and scholar, Sandra Snow’s work spans a wide variety of ages, abilities, and music. She holds appointments in conducting and music education in the Michigan State University College of Music, where she interacts with undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of conducting, choral pedagogy, and choral singing. In 2007 she was a recipient of MSU’s Teacher-Scholar Award, which recognizes devotion to and skill in teaching as well as scholarly promise.

Snow conducts the Michigan State University Women’s Chorale, an ensemble that has appeared at consecutive conferences of the American Choral Directors Association (the Central Division conference in 2008 and the National conference in 2009). She conducts All-State and honor choirs across the United States. Professor Snow conducted the 2012 MENC National Honor Choir at the Kennedy Center. She regularly presents at state conferences, headlining sessions for the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association for Music Education.

Professor Snow is author of the DVD “Conducting-Teaching: Real World Strategies for Success” (GIA, 2009), a resource for conductor-teachers at all levels of teaching. In addition, she is a contributing author of Teaching Music Through Performance in Choirs, Vol. 3 (GIA, 2011) and Conducting Women’s Choirs: Strategies for Success (GIA, in press). She edits the choral music series In High Voice by Boosey & Hawkes and is a member of the Choral Music Experience Choral Teacher Certification Board.


André Thomas
COA Nationals for Top Choirs

NYC + Carnegie Hall
April 16-18, 2020

André J. Thomas, the Owen F. Sellers Professor of Music, is Director of Choral Activities and Professor of Choral Music Education at The Florida State University. A previous faculty member at the University of Texas, Austin, Dr. Thomas received his degrees from Friends University (B.A.), Northwestern University (M. M.), and the University of Illinois (D.M.A). He is in demand as a choral adjudicator, clinician, and director of Honor/All-State Choirs throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.

Dr. Thomas has conducted choirs at the state, division, and national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). His international conducting credits are extensive. They include conductor/clinician for the International Federation of Choral Musicians, summer residency of the World Youth Choir in the Republic of China and the Philippines, winter residency of the World Youth Choir in Europe, and a premier performance by an American choir (The Florida State University Singers) in Vietnam. He has been the guest conductor of such distinguished orchestras and choirs as the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in England, and guest Conductor for the Berlin Radio Choir in Germany.

Dr. Thomas has also distinguished himself as a composer/arranger. Hinshaw Music Company, Mark Foster Music Company, Fitzsimmon Music Company, Lawson Gould, Earthsongs, and Heritage Music Company publish his compositions and arrangements. Dr. Thomas has produced two instructional videos “What They See Is What You Get” on choral conducting, with Rodney Eichenberger, and “Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice” on adolescent voices with Anton Armstrong.


Z. Randall Stroope
COA Nationals for Top Choirs

NYC + Carnegie Hall
April 23-25, 2020

Z. Randall Stroope is one of the most active choral conductors and composers working today, conducting recently at the American School in Singapore, Canterbury Cathedral (England), Berliner Dom (Germany), Salzburger Dom (Austria), Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and National Presbyterian Cathedral (Washington, D.C.), Carnegie Hall (New York), and four performances at the Vatican in the past three years. He is also the Artistic Director for two summer music festivals in Europe.

Dr. Stroope has toured 21 countries with ensembles under his direction, including China, South Africa, Japan, and Russia. In 2013, he will conduct a tour of France and England with the Oklahoma State University Concert Chorale. Stroope has also directed 37 all-state choirs (Michigan and Florida in 2013).

As a composer, Stroope has published 125 musical works (instrumental, solo voice, and choral), and sells over a quarter million copies each year from his own catalog (zrandallstroope.com), as well as other U.S and English publishers. His We Beheld Once Again the Stars was recently performed by the Philippine Madrigal Singers in their win of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing. In the United States, his works have been performed by the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Oregon Bach Festival, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Paul Hill Chorale (Washington, D.C.), and other esteemed ensembles. His composition teachers were Normand Lockwood and Cecil Effinger, both students of the famous French teacher/composer, Nadia Boulanger (student of Gabriel Fauré).

Dr. Stroope is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he conducts the Concert Chorale, Chamber Choir, and Women’s Chorus. He is also the head of the Choral and Vocal Studies Division and coordinates the undergraduate and graduate choral conducting program. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Stroope completed a Master of Music (Voice Performance) degree at the University of Colorado – Boulder, and Doctor of Musical Arts (Choral Conducting) degree at Arizona State University. He did post graduate work with Margaret Hillis, Chorus Master of the Chicago Symphony. As a recipient of the Australian-American Fulbright, he has also done work in western Australia. He and his wife, Cheryl (a junior high choral teacher), love to travel and spend time with their sheltie.


Andrea Ramsey
COA Nationals for Top Choirs

NYC + Carnegie Hall
June 26-27, 2020

Dr. Andrea Ramsey enjoys an international presence as a composer, conductor, scholar, and music educator. Her teaching experiences range from work with adolescent and children’s voices to high school and collegiate voices. She enjoys regular opportunities to conduct all-state and divisional level honor choirs, festival events at Carnegie Hall, and serves as a principal conductor for the Pacific International Young Women’s Choral Festival in Eugene, Oregon. Before leaping into full time composing and guest conducting, Andrea held positions in music education and conducting at The Ohio State University and the University of Colorado, respectively.

An ASCAPlus award-winning composer, Andrea believes strongly in the creation of new works. Her compositions are available with traditional publishers and also through MusicSpoke, a digital sheetmusic marketplace. She enjoys residency collaborations with ensembles and festival choirs, some of which have included: the Allegro Choirs of Kansas City, Ithaca College, and the Crescent City Choral Festival in New Orleans.

As a scholar, she has presented for state, divisional, and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, the 6th Annual Symposium on Sociology in Music Education, as well as The Phenomenon Singing Symposium in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. She has co-authored articles published in the Choral Journal, as well as the Journal of Research in Music Education. A native of Arkansas, she has experienced in her own life the power of music to provide a sense of community, better understanding of our humanity, and rich opportunities for self-discovery.


Doreen Rao
National Festival for Children’s & Youth Choirs

NYC + Carnegie Hall
June 26-27, 2020

Doreen Rao is celebrated internationally for her moving concerts and inspirational teaching. Her pioneering career changed the landscape of music education in America. Linking the standards of performance and the goals of education with the values of diversity and social responsibility, Rao’s seminal work teaching children to sing inspired a generation of conductors and teachers to lead young choirs in schools and communities around the world. In a national tribute presented to her by the American Choral Directors Association, the eminent conductor Robert Shaw wrote: “The world of choral music owes her special thanks. She is preparing our future.”

As Artistic Director of the Chicago Chamber Choir, Rao is committed to global-style programming, inter-generational performance projects, and innovative collaborations across the city. She founded The Rao Center for Choral and Contemplative Arts in 2014 to mentor emerging conductors, singers and music educators in the practice of mindfulness-based conducting and choral teaching. She is the author of Circle of Sound – A Contemplative Approach to Voice Education which serves as the philosophical and practical foundation for her mindfulness-based approach to conducting and teaching.

Doreen Rao holds the University of Toronto Elmer Iseler Chair in Conducting Emeritus. During her tenure as Director of Choral Programs, Rao founded Toronto’s International Bach Festival with Bach conductor-scholar Helmuth Rilling. She led the Faculty of Music’s graduate program in choral conducting with Canada’s Elmer Iseler Singers as University Artists-in-Residence. Her award-winning MacMillan Singers and Bach Festival Singers performed and broadcast regularly with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestros Rilling, Peter Oundjian, Gianandrea Noseda, and Bernard Labadie.

From 2008, Rao served as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, working in close collaboration with the Grammy Award-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta. Rao conducted numerous choral concerts with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Chautauqua Institute Symphony Orchestras. For her inspirational leadership in Western New York, Rao was named Buffalo Woman of Influence. In 2012 she was honored to be named Music Director of the Year by the WNY Gospel Music Association. Rao currently serves as Artistic Director of the Buffalo Master Chorale in association with Buffalo Niagara Choirs, Inc., an urban community of adult and youth choruses.

During Rao’s association with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, she prepared the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus (now Anima Young Singers) for concerts and four Grammy Award-winning recordings. She also served as Assistant Conductor to Margaret Hillis, preparing the Symphony Chorus for Sir Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado, James Levine, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her choirs performed regularly with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony, the Grant Park Orchestra, and with Helmuth Rilling at the Oregon Bach Festival.

Rao is the Founder-Director of CME Institute for Choral Teacher Education, a professional development and choral certification program for emerging conductors and choral music teachers. Her distinguished history of commissioning and premiering new choral music has championed a new generation of American and Canadian composers.

As editor and choral advisor to music publisher Boosey & Hawkes, Rao’s award-winning Choral Music Experience series of music and educational textbooks helped set the standards for quality concert repertoire for music education. Her popular edition of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS met with unprecedented accolades: “Rao’s performing edition should be widely heard by audiences everywhere, though it might be foolish to expect a better performance than the one Rao gave tonight.”

Rao regularly conducts choral festivals, music conferences, and special events worldwide. She received the prestigious Harold A. Decker Award, presented by the Illinois-ACDA to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the field of choral music. The Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia awarded Rao their National Citation for her “significant and lasting contribution to the cause of American music.” The American Choral Directors Association has honored Rao for her “commitment to choral excellence” and a CBS television documentary called her musical achievements “extraordinary.”

Doreen Rao was taught by beloved teachers, Harold Decker and Colleen Kirk, at the University of Illinois. She earned her PhD from Northwestern University and was generously mentored by Margaret Hillis and Robert Shaw during the formative years of her career. Doreen lives in Chicago where she enjoys a vibrant urban lifestyle with family and friends while continuing to conduct and teach worldwide.


Deke Sharon
A Cappella Palooza Festival

Chicago, Illinois
April 3, 2020
Los Angeles, California
April 17, 2020

Born in San Francisco, Deke Sharon has been performing professionally since the age of 8, and as a child toured North America and shared the stage in operas with the likes of Pavarotti. Heralded as “The Father of Contemporary A Cappella,” he is responsible for the current sound of modern a cappella, having created the dense vocal-instrumental sound in college, subsequently spreading it around the world.

Deke produces “The Sing-Off” worldwide (USA, Netherlands, China, South Africa), which had the highest ratings of any new, unscripted television show in the US in 2009, and was the third highest rated show on NBC in 2010. In addition, Deke served as arranger, on-site music director and vocal producer for Universal’s “Pitch Perfect” & “Pitch Perfect 2” starring Anna Kendrick & Rebel Wilson.

Deke founded the Contemporary A Cappella Society while in college, and is responsible for many seminal a cappella programs, including the CARAs (Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, ICCAs (International Championship of College A Cappella), BOCA (Best of College A Cappella Compilation), the first contemporary a cappella conferences (the A Cappella Summit), the Contemporary A Cappella League, the professional ensembles Voasis and Vocalosity, and Camp A Cappella.

He is also contemporary cappella’s most prolific arranger, having arranged over 2,000 songs, with many of them in print worldwide with Hal Leonard/Contemporary A Cappella Publishing. He has written 3 books: “Acappella Arranging” (2012), “A Cappella” (2015) and “The Heart of Vocal Harmony” (2016). He is also the vocal orchestrator for the Broadway’s first a cappella musical: In Transit (2016).

As the founder, director and arranger for the House Jacks for almost 25 years, the original “Rock Band Without Instruments,” Deke shared the stage with countless music legends, including Ray Charles, James Brown, Crosby Stills and Nash, Run DMC, The Temptations, LL Cool J and the Four Tops, and performed for luminaries including President Bill Clinton. The House Jacks have eight albums, and dozens of international tours to their names, including multiple appearances Carnegie Hall, and performed the Monday Night Football Theme with Hank Williams Jr. in 2011.

He has produced dozens of award winning a cappella albums (including Straight No Chaser, Committed, Nota, Street Corner Symphony and the Tufts Beelzebubs), created a cappella groups for Disneyland and Disneyworld, and frequently tours the world teaching a variety of topics to students and professional singers. His voice can be heard in commercials and video games, including “Just Dance Kids 2.” He is one of only 20 honorary members of the Barbershop Harmony Society since 1938, as well as an honorary member of BYU Vocal Point, and received CASA’s lifetime achievement award in 2016. You can see him on television on Lifetime’s “Pitch Slapped” (aka “Pitch Battle” in the Philippines, and “A Cappella Battle” in Israel).