Guest Conductors

Michelle Perrin Blair's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person, smilingMICHELLE BLAIR is our featured conductor for the August 24 & 26, 2017 concerts.

Director of Orchestras and Assistant Professor of Music at Coe College, Michelle Perrin Blair is one of 85 women nationwide to be recognized as a leader in her field with the prestigious 2014 PEO Scholar Award. Blair’s other recent honors include the Beahl and Irene H. Perrine Faculty Fellowship, the Richard and Nancy Schissler Fellowship in Orchestral Conducting, and the Bernard Osher Scholarship (Monteux School). Blair holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Houston, where she studied with Maestro Franz Anton Krager and served as Assistant Director of the AURA Contemporary Ensemble for three years. Blair earned her Master of Music degree from the University of Texas at Arlington under the tutelage of her lifelong mentor, Dr. Clifton Evans.

One of Blair’s greatest passions is new music, and she relishes every opportunity to work closely with contemporary composers. Blair’s recent new-music collaborations include Two Czech Folk Songs (Jerry Owen), Joie de vive (Josh Reznicow), Hinge (Blake Wilkins), Memoir of Dong-Hak (Hee Yun Kim), Push (Rob Smith), Burn (Jeffrey Ryan), Of Shrapnel and Blood (Mark Buller), Amichai Songs (Daniel Asia), and The Crisis Engine (Joshua Zinn).


NICHOLAS ALEXANDER BROWN (conducted our first concert, 2016)Nicholas A Brown by Tristan Govignon

Nicholas Alexander Brown is a Honduran-American conductor, musicologist and producer based in Washington, DC.


MARTHA HORST is a composer who has devoted herself to the performance, creation, and instruction of classical music. Her music has also been performed by performers and groups such as the Fromm Players, CUBE, Earplay, Alea III, Empyrean Ensemble, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Susan Narucki, Left Coast Ensemble, Dal Niente, The Women’s Philharmonic, Composers, Inc., members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Eric Mandat, and Amy Briggs. Ms. Horst has won the Copland Award, the Symphony Number One Commissioning Prize, the 2005 Alea III International Composition Competition for her work Threads, and the Rebecca Clarke International Composition Competition for her work Cloister Songs, based on 18th century utopian poetry. She has held fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Wellesley Conference, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Dartington International School in the UK. Her work Piano Sonata No. 1, recorded by acclaimed pianist Lara Downes, was released nationally by Crossover Media.

Dr. Horst currently teaches composition and theory at Illinois State University and has also taught at the University of California, Davis, East Carolina University, and San Francisco State University.

Composer and mezzo-soprano LISA NEHER writes theatrical, story-driven music for instruments and voices. Trained as a stage actress, her compositions are shaped by her keen sense of dramatic timing and feature aching, lyrical phrases, energetic rhythmic motives, and intense harmonies.

 Lisa’s particular passion for text and poetry has led to works such as her chamber opera White Horizon, about a nineteenth-century Arctic expedition gone wrong, and her song cycle Snapshots, which she performed at the Cortona Sessions for New Music in Italy. She draws inspiration for her instrumental works from the natural world, evoking the joyous bubbling of streams, the delicacy of sprouting plants, and the eerie mystery of deep ocean life with evocative timbres. Born just south of Seattle, Lisa is an outdoor enthusiast and triathlete. She spends her free time distance running, watching science fiction movies, and baking delicious treats involving copious amounts of chocolate. For more information, visit her website,

LAURA SWCHARTZ is a composer and music theorist. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, she grew up in a much warmer place: Carlsbad, dsc_0208editedCalifornia. She attended the University of California, Davis (B.A. 2013). Laura completed her Masters in Music Composition from Illinois State University (M.M. 2015). Currently, she is a PhD in Music Composition and Theory student at the University of Pittsburgh studying with Mathew Rosenblum. Her dissertation research is on time systems and the exteriorization of internal performance systems in verbally notated music.

Laura’s music was performed during the Oregon Bach Festival Composer’s Symposium (2014), the Oregon Symposium of Graduate Musicians (2015), Nief Norf festival (2015), and the Yarn/Wire Institute (2016). She was artist in residence with the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physics and Astronomy (2016), culminating in System Cooling, an illustrated set of six miniatures for clarinet, baritone saxophone, violin, and double bass. Her piece, For My Mother (2017) was commissioned by Durward Chamber ensemble to raise money for breast cancer research. Her collaborations with solo performers include Sarah Pyle, flute(s), Aaron Hydns, tuba, and Devon Tipp, bassoon. The Tuba piece she wrote for Hydns, entitled Left Out, is set for release in Summer 2017 on the album Colossus: Recordings of New Music for Tuba.

Laura is interested in acoustic noise floors, Pauline Oliveros, verbal notation, and electric fans.


Will be writing a piece for the spring of 2018.

The first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin Prize, LAURA SCHWENDINGER is a Professor of Composition at UW Madison. Her music, performed by leading artists of our day, Dawn Upshaw (on tour 1997-2013; TDK/Naxos DVD), Arditti& JACK Quartets, Jennifer Koh, Janine Jansen, Miranda Cuckson, Matt Haimovitz, ICE, Eighth Blackbird, New Juilliard Ensemble, Collage, StonyBrook Premiere, Boston Musica Viva, Aspen Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Trinity Choir NOVUS, American Composers Orchestra and Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, and at Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln-Center, Times Center, Symphony Space, BargeMusic, Corcoran Gallery, Institute of Advanced Study-Princeton and Tanglewood, Aspen and Ojai Music Festivals; and at the National Arts Centre Canada, Théâtre Châtelet, Wigmore Hall, and Berlin Philharmonic. Her honors include a Guggenheim, Koussevitzky (2), Fromm, Radcliffe Institute, Copland House, Harvard Musical Association, Chamber Music America, League of American Orchestras, New Music USA, two American Academy of Arts and Letters awards (a Goddard Leiberson Fellowship for “mid-career composer of exceptional gifts” and Ives scholarship), First-prize ALEA III, MacDowell (9), Yaddo (7), Tyrone Guthrie Center(5), Bogliasco and Rockefeller Bellagio Centers. Premieres include a Miller Theater commission, ACO UnSafe Commission, Sounding Beckett (Off-Broadway, Classic Stage Co.), and a National Opera Center award for her opera Artemisia, which will be produced in NY and SF. For more information go to




Nathaniel, Bio PicNathaniel studied music composition at Brandeis University and Classical guitar at the College of Charleston. Currently Nathaniel is the artistic director of Salty Cricket Composer Collective and founding partner of Grace Notes@Salty Cricket. Salty Cricket is based out of Salt Lake City Utah.



Brooke-Joyce-portrait Brooke serves as composer-in-residence at Luther College in Decorah, and is a faculty member of the International Music Festival of the Adriatic.




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ZACH ZUBOW is Assistant Professor of Music and the Director of the Bachelor of Music program at Queens University of Charlotte.