2017-2018 Guest Artists
The Bridge String Quartet
The Bridge String Quartet, formed in 2014, is a passionate group of music students that attend the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. The quartet consists of violinists Wendy Lai and Cally O’Leary, violist Jaryn Danz, and cellist Jordyn Marcou. They regularly play for weddings and parties, and greatly enjoy the opportunities to perform alongside jazz bands and choirs. Audiences in the Eau Claire area seek out this professional student quartet, as their captivating performances never fail to impress.
Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra
The Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) celebrates in 2017-2018 its twentieth season as one of the area’s leading orchestral ensembles, drawing members from as far as Madison and the Twin Cities. This season’s concerts are being performed at Grace Lutheran Church under the baton of Frank A. Watkins, now in his second season as Music Director. Next season, the ensemble will take up residency at Eau Claire’s new Confluence Center.
ECCO performs works written for small orchestral ensembles from all periods of music history, both familiar and less well-known, as well as newly composed works and world premieres. Its performances feature local performing artists and the works of local and regional composers, including those of its Music Director Emeritus, Ivar Lunde, Jr. The ensemble partners with other area arts organizations (such as The Master Singers, Eau Claire School of Dance, Wisconsin Public Radio, and University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire faculty and students). As part of its mission, ECCO includes educational programming through its annual free afternoon family concert and evening pre-concert talks. Concerts also showcase the work of a regional visual artist.
Hanna Hermanson, soprano saxophone
Hanna Hermanson is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she studies instrumental music education. On campus, she plays saxophone with the Wind Symphony and occasionally performs with the Symphony Orchestra. She is currently the Wind Symphony TA as well as directs the Blugold Athletic Band, which plays at the University's sporting events. Off campus she can be found performing with local groups such as The Master Singers, the Eau Claire Children’s Theater Pit Orchestra, Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra, and various big bands. During the summer, Hanna organizes Concerts in the Park in her home town of Buffalo, Minnesota, performs saxophone at the local Farmer’s Market and teaches private lessons.
Connor Koppin, composer-in-residence
Connor J Koppin (b.1991) is an award-winning composer and conductor of choral music. His music is known to be "exceptionally crafted" (Melisma) and is able to closely tie music and text. His compositional output consists primarily of choral music but also includes works for instrumental ensembles, film scores, and songwriting. In 2016 Koppin was announced winner of the Nathan Davis Prize in composition as a part of the Young New Yorkers' Chorus Composition Competition. Additionally, he was announced winner of the 2014 Capital Hearings Young Composer's Competition.
He has written for ensembles such as The Wartburg Choir, Luther College Collegiate Chorale, Luther College Norsemen, and The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus. In 2014 his piece, "i carry your heart" was selected as repertoire for the Iowa All-State Chorus, and was previously performed at Carnegie Hall. Koppin's music has been selected as All-State repertoire in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. His music has been included in reading sessions at the following conferences: TCDA, ICDA, MCDA, and WCDA. He currently has music published with Walton Music, Morning Star Music Publishers, ECS Publishing, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Music Spoke, and CJKMusic.
In addition to his work as a composer, Connor is also a teacher of choral music as well as a publisher of his own music. He was appointed as the chair for Self-Published Repertoire and Standards as a part of the Iowa Choral Director's Association, an inaugural position. Koppin is an honor graduate of Wartburg College where he studied and sang with Dr. Lee Nelson. He is working towards a master's in choral conducting in the graduate program at Michigan State University where he studies conducting with Dr. Jonathan Reed and Dr. David Rayl. Koppin currently lives in Des Moines, IA with his wife Chelsea and their two dogs Arvo and Ezra. He is a choral director at Valley High School in West Des Moines. For more information about Connor and to purchase his works please visit connorjkoppin.com.
Brian Maki, narrator
A native of Virginia, Minnesota, Brian Maki has called Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley home since April of 1992. A UW-River Falls graduate, Brian has worked in the marketing and advertising business for over twenty-five years, and presently serves as the Advertising & Business Development Manager for Volume One and Chippewa Valley Family magazines. Brian and his wife, Lupé enjoy raising their 10-year-old son, Jake, while his daughter Samantha will be a junior at UW-Eau Claire this coming fall.
Kevin Miller, narrator
This past summer Kevin was revealed to be the inaugural Executive Director for the Confluence Arts Center of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He is the current chair for the Wisconsin Arts Board and former director for Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts (THELMA) in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Miller studied theater at UW-Eau Claire in the 1980s (his on-stage roles included Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire) before receiving a master’s degree from UW-Milwaukee in 1992. Later, he worked as a professional actor where his credits include stints at the Cleveland Playhouse, First Stage Children’s Theatre of Milwaukee and The Pearl Theatre (NYC). His wife, Ann, is a native of Chippewa Falls, where they now have relocated on the shores of Lake Wissota.
Charles Tibbetts, French horn
Charles Tibbetts is a French horn player who performed professionally for over thirty-six years in Germany. He is a native of Beloit, Wisconsin, and at the age of thirteen studied eight years with the legendary New York freelance French horn player John Barrows at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 1967–1970, he played principal horn in the Wisconsin Youth Orchestra in Madison under its founder, Marvin Rabin. In 1974 Tibbetts left for Europe to study briefly with Alan Civil, Hermann Baumann and Barry Tuckwell. At age twenty-two, he won his first principle horn position with the Philharmonia Hungarica Orchestra under the direction of Antal Dorati. In the course of his thirty-six year career, he held principle positions in four professional orchestras. Tibbetts retired to Eau Claire in 2010 where he subbed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and played principle horn in the Eau Claire local orchestras. He has since recorded two CD’s of Alec Wilder music with Albany Records. This is Charles’ seventh season with The Master Singers.
Frank A. Watkins, conductor
Frank A. Watkins, conductor is assistant professor of music and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. A native of Omaha Nebraska, Watkins taught secondary choral music in Texas for six years. He holds degrees in piano performance from Jackson State University (BM), the University of Arkansas (MM), and choral conducting from Northwestern University (MM) and Michigan State University (DMA).
Watkins is in demand as guest conductor and clinician. Recent engagements include the 2013 Mid-Michigan Honor Choir, University of Nebraska Omaha Collegiate Choir Concert Series (2014), Dunn St. Croix Honor Choir (2015), Lakeland All-Conference Honor Choir (2015), University of Nebraska Omaha Middle School Honor Choir (2016), Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra (2016), Red Cedar Honor Choir (2017) and the Big Nine Festival Honor Choir (2017). Future engagements include the Great Northern Conference All-Conference Choir (2017), Cloverbelt All-Conference Honor Choir (2018), and the 2018 Men’s Choir Festival in Stillwater, MN. He has presented workshops on choral methods for the International Music and Christian Arts Conference, Michigan State University, and the Ohio State University. In 2015, he presented at both the Wisconsin Music Educators State Convention and the National Collegiate Choral Organization National Conference.
In 2016, Dr. Watkins completed a summer research trip to Corsica studying ancient Corsican polyphony. In 2017, Watkins led an International Fellows Trip to Dakar, Senegal to study the use of hip-hop and rap as a form of non-violent political protest. Watkins’ research interests include the intersectionality of race, class, and gender in the music of African-American Women in the 21st century.
Watkins joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2014. In 2016, he was appointed Conductor and Music Director of the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra. A dynamic young conductor, Watkins’ love and passion are teaching. He believes that to educate, you must first inspire! It is his goal to make an impact…not just an impression on the lives of those that follow his baton.