MEET THE TEAM
Dr. Jaclyn Normandie
Modern Conducting Academy, founder
About Jaclyn Normandie
Dr. Jaclyn Normandie (formerly Jaclyn Johnson) is a professional conductor and founder of the Modern Conducting Academy, an online learning platform that gives access to people seeking to expand their musicianship by offering live workshops with some of the most sought-after conducting professionals. Her study of yoga, meditation, and eastern philosophy led her to author The Mindful Musician: Finding a Healthy Balance, offering strategies in balance and stress management to performers.
Dr. Normandie's research includes mindfulness in the music classroom, Latin American folk music, and teaching the adult male voice. She currently resides in Costa Rica studying Pachamama Earth Music and leads community ensembles for youth and adults. Her mission is to use ceremonial folk music to build a bridge between the different ethnicities and socioeconomic groups in the small jungle beach town of Nosara. Her private voice instruction focuses on the energetic and emotional principles of vocal development, awareness of the chakra system, Reiki healing, and unlocking the fullest potential of one’s communication.
After earning her doctorate at the University of Michigan with Dr. Jerry Blackstone, she taught at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Oakland University. Ensembles under her direction, including Murrieta Valley High School, have performed around the globe and at American Choral Directors Association National, Western, and Central Division conferences.
She has presented lectures at over twenty conferences, as well as guest conducting at the regional and state level. Her deep appreciation of movement biomechanics is rooted in her multidiscipline background of conducting, dance, martial arts, and yoga; and her studies have taken her to such locations as China, India, and Brazil.
Dr. Jerry Blackstone
Professor Emeritus of Music
University of Michigan
About Jerry Blackstone
GRAMMY Award winner Jerry Blackstone is a leading conductor and highly respected conducting pedagogue. Now emeritus professor of conducting, he served on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance for thirty years where as director of choirs he led the graduate program in choral conducting and oversaw the University’s eleven choirs. In February 2006, he received two GRAMMY Awards (“Best Choral Performance” and “Best Classical Album”) as chorusmaster for the critically acclaimed Naxos recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The Naxos recording of Milhaud’s monumental L’Orestie d’Eschyle, on which Blackstone served as chorusmaster, was nominated for a 2015 GRAMMY Award (“Best Opera Recording”). Opera Magazine reviewer Tim Ashley wrote: “the real stars, though, are the University of Michigan’s multiple Choirs, who are faced with what must be some of the most taxing choral writing in the entire operatic repertory. Their singing has tremendous authority and beauty, while the shouts and screams of Choéphores are unnerving in the extreme. Their diction is good too: the occasions when we don’t hear the words are Milhaud’s responsibility, rather than theirs. It’s an extraordinary achievement, and utterly mesmerizing.”
The University of Michigan Chamber Choir, conducted by Blackstone, performed by special invitation at the inaugural conference in San Antonio of the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO) and presented three enthusiastically received performances in New York City at the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). As conductor of the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club from 1988-2002, Professor Blackstone led the ensemble in performances at ACDA national and division conventions and on extensive concert tours throughout Australia, Eastern and Central Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States.
In 2017, NCCO presented him with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Membership Award and, in 2006, for “significant contributions to choral music,” he received the ACDA-Michigan chapter’s Maynard Klein Lifetime Achievement Award. From 2003-2015, Dr. Blackstone served as conductor and music director of the University Musical Society (UMS) Choral Union, a large community/university chorus that frequently appears with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and the Ann Arbor Symphony and presents yearly performances of Handel’s Messiah and other major works for chorus and orchestra. Choirs prepared by Blackstone have appeared under the batons of Valery Gergiev, Neeme Järvi, Leonard Slatkin, Hans Graf, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Adams, Helmuth Rilling, James Conlon, Nicholas McGegan, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Peter Oundjian, and Yitzak Perlman.
Professor Blackstone is considered one of the country’s leading conducting teachers, and his students have been first place award winners and finalists in both the graduate and undergraduate divisions of ACDA’s biennial National Choral Conducting competition. His 2016 rehearsal techniques DVD, Did You Hear That? (GIA Publications) deals with the conductor’s decision-making process during rehearsal. Santa Barbara Music Publishing distributes Blackstone’s acclaimed educational DVD, Working with Male Voices and also publishes the Jerry Blackstone Choral Series.
Blackstone is an active guest conductor and workshop presenter and has appeared in forty-two states as well as New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Sicily. In the summer, he leads the Adult Choir Camp and the Choral Conducting Institute at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Prior to coming to the University of Michigan in 1988, Dr. Blackstone served on the music faculties of Phillips University in Oklahoma, Westmont College in California, and Huntington University in Indiana.
Maria A. Ellis
Girl Conductor, founder
About Maria A. Ellis
Music Educator, Choral Conductor, with over 20 years of choral music experience. I have been called a Master Educator and a Force of Nature by Dr. Jim Henry, University of Missouri- St. Louis. I hold a B.M. in Music Education emphasis on Voice (K-12 Certified) Degree from the University of Missouri- St. Louis.
I have served as the Arts and Administrative Fellow for The St. Louis Symphony and I currently serve as the Community Engagement Manager for The St. Louis Children’s Choirs. I am the Founding Conductor of The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries' newly formed City of Music All-Star Chorus.
Dr. Joshua Habermann
Santa Fe Desert Chorale
About Joshua Habermann
2011 marked Joshua Habermann’s first year as chorus director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus, the official vocal ensemble of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Habermann is also music director of The Desert Chorale, a professional chamber choir based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prior to his DSO appointment, Habermann was assistant conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, where he prepared the chorus for performances with conductors Michael Tilson Thomas and Charles Dutoit. Recordings as a singer with the SFSC include Christmas by the Bay and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, a Grammy nominee for Best Choral/Orchestra Recording.
Habermann has appeared at numerous conferences and festivals, including international engagements in Brazil, Cuba, Costa Rica, Germany, Czech Republic, France, China, and Singapore. As a singer (tenor), he has performed with the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus under Helmuth Rilling, and made three recordings with Austin-based Conspirare: Through the Green Fuse, Threshold of Night, and Requiem, a Grammy nominee and Edison Music Award winner for Best Choral Recording. Recent conducting projects include Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Haydn’s The Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass, Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil and a collaboration with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in Aaron Copland’s rarely-performed masterwork, In the Beginning.
A passionate advocate for music education, Habermann has served on the faculties at San Francisco State University and the University of Miami, and worked with young singers and conductors in master classes and workshops throughout the United States and abroad. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Texas, where he teaches conducting and choral literature. A native of California, Habermann is a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Texas at Austin, where he completed doctoral studies in conducting with Craig Hella Johnson. He lives in Dallas with his wife Joanna and daughter Kira.
Christopher James Lees
Charlotte Symphony Orchestra
About Christopher James Lees
Emerging American conductor Christopher James Lees brings passionate and nuanced orchestral performances to the stage, a fierce commitment to contemporary music, and a natural charisma to audiences all around the world. In 2018, Mr. Lees began an appointment as Resident Conductor of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra. In addition to the more than 50 annual concert appearances with the CSO, he has stepped in to conduct Subscription Classical performances on four occasions, including a gala weekend with Grammy Award winning artist Branford Marsalis in May 2021.
An active guest conductor, Mr. Lees has returned for performances with the Los Angeles and Rochester Philharmonics, the Houston, Detroit, Milwaukee, North Carolina, Portland, and Flint Symphonies, and conducted debuts with the Indianapolis, Kansas City, Toledo, and Vermont Symphonies. Additional engagements have taken him to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestra de Chambre de Paris, Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and at the Music in the Mountains Festival & Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordão in Brazil. Only the second American Gustavo Dudamel Conducting Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mr. Lees made his debut with the orchestra in April 2013 and returned for concerts in February 2015. With the New York Philharmonic, St. Louis & Atlanta Symphonies, among others, Mr. Lees has served as a assistant conductor for the world’s leading conductors, including: Gustavo Dudamel, Paavo Järvi, Herbert Blomstedt, Leonard Slatkin, David Robertson, Robert Spano, Marin Alsop, Pablo Heras-Casado, Stéphane Danève, Susanna Mälkki, and Nicholas McGegan.
After two summers of study with Robert Spano at the Aspen Music Festival, Mr. Lees was named winner of both the 2011 James Conlon Conducting Prize and the 2012 Aspen Conducting Prizes, respectively. In 2013, Mr. Lees returned for a third summer as assistant conductor for the Aspen Music Festival and School. An active pianist, and equally comfortable in the opera pit, Mr. Lees has served as Music Director or Assistant Conductor for a wide array of operas: Aida (Atlanta Symphony), Peter Grimes & John Harbison's The Great Gatsby (Aspen Opera Theatre Center), Louis Andriessen's De Materie, and Philip Glass' the CIVIL warS (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Don Giovanni & Mark Adamo's Little Women, (University of Michigan Opera Theatre), and Nino Rota’s Il Capello di paglia di Firenze (AJ Fletcher Opera Institute). A recipient of a Career Assistance Grant from the Solti Foundation US, Mr. Lees was also chosen for showcase on the Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation National Conductor Preview, hosted by the League of American Orchestras and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
A dedicated advocate for music of our time, Mr. Lees has premiered more than one hundred fifty new works by a diverse range of composers, and collaborated closely with Pulitzer Prize winners John Adams, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon, Joseph Schwantner, Steven Stucky, Caroline Shaw, Roger Reynolds, and Julia Wolfe. An equally passionate advocate for music education, Mr. Lees has brought inspirational energy to student orchestras across the country, from the Colburn School to the New England Conservatory, and previously served on the faculties of the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Lees holds bachelors and master's degrees from the University of Michigan, and has studied conducting with Larry Rachleff and Robert Spano, as well as having participated in masterclasses with Lorin Maazel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustav Meier, and Jorma Panula. When not performing, Mr. Lees can be found building Lego sets with his six year old son, Rowan, reading through a stack of books on his nightstand, and training outdoors for his next 10K race.
Choralosophy Podcast, creator
About Christopher Munce
Chris Munce is an accomplished choral performer, conductor, educator, clinician and arts administrator. As a performer/conductor he is a member of Kantorei KC, as well as its founder and Artistic Director. Under Mr. Munce’s direction, Kantorei has recorded and published three albums, and has been an invited featured performer at National and State ACDA conventions as well as the National American Guild of Organists convention. At Lee’s Summit High, Mr. Munce has lead his choirs to performances at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, the Missouri Music Educators Convention, Alice Tulley Hall at Lincoln Center and on a Masterclass with the multiple Grammy Award winning vocal group Chanticleer. Most recently, his school district awarded him with its “Excellence in Teaching” award for 2019.
Media reviews of his directed recordings with Kantorei KC include praise from the KC Star for “Music and Sweet Poetry” for its “lush and full bodied sound…gorgeous singing.” The Observer (London) called “To Bethlehem” one of the best Choral albums of the year and “the most interesting festive album.” He has also performed with the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, and the Grammy Winning Kansas City Chorale. Chris was fortunate to be a part of the Chorale’s Grammy Nominated album, “Rheinberger: Sacred Choral Works.”
Chris received a Bachelor’s of Music Education and a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. His graduate research focus was the performance practice of early Baroque choral singing in the French and Italian styles. Chris has studied with Eph Eely, Charles Robinson, Ryan Board, William Dehning, Peter Bagley and Jerry McCoy. He also served as adjunct faculty at the Conservatory teaching choral arranging, and at Blue River Community College as a professor of voice.
He has been an active private voice instructor since 1999. Last year Chris launched the Choralosophy Podcast which has quickly become a top rated Fine Arts Podcast reaching the top 25 on the iTunes charts in the US. Chris is married to Beth, a soprano and voice teacher. They live in Lee’s Summit, Missouri with their two children, Clara (13) and Colin (9).