Gregory Ristow, Acting Artistic Director
Gregory Ristow is associate professor of conducting and director of vocal ensembles at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. Prior to joining the Oberlin faculty, he served in similar roles at the DePauw University School of Music and the Rochester Institute of Technology. For sixteen years, he taught on the faculty of the Interlochen Arts Camp, where he conducted the Interlochen Singers and World Youth Honor Choir. He has sung professionally with Quire Cleveland, Cleveland Chamber Choir, Mercury Baroque and the Houston Chamber Choir and conducted professionally as artistic director of Encore Vocal Arts in Indianapolis, and as a guest conductor with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Voices: A Professional Chamber Choir (Rochester, NY), Foundation for Modern Music (Houston, TX), and the Gregory Kunde Chorale (Rochester, NY). He is active internationally as a teacher of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a method of music education that teaches music through movement. He holds degrees from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the Eastman School of Music
Jelani Watkins, Assistant Conductor
Jelani Watkins is the Department Chair for Performing Arts for Grades Preschool through 12 at Hawken School, the Director of Middle School Choral Activities at Hawken, the Head Age Group Coach for the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, and the Board President for the Creative Spaces Cultural Arts non-profit arts organization. As an Atlanta native, he moved with his wife upon completing his first year of teaching choral and general music at Haynes Bridge Middle School, where he was recognized as a finalist for the Teacher of the Year award. Watkins received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Morehouse College under the direction of Dr. David Morrow, a Master of Music in Choral Conducting at Georgia State University under the direction of Dr. Deanna Joseph, and a Post-Baccalaureate certificate in Music Education at Cleveland State under the direction of Dr. Heather Russell. He has performed as a music conductor, bass vocalist, and piano accompanist internationally with the Cleveland Chamber Choir, Cleveland Orchestra Children's Choruses, Georgia State University Singers, and the Morehouse College Glee Club. In addition to his work as a musician, Watkins has coached swimming for about ten years, instructing hundreds of swimmers from several different aquatic programs. Over the summer, Watkins will step into his new administrative role as Co-Director of the Middle School at Hawken School as he continues to further his educational capabilities, combining skills in athletic training, administration, and music performance to structure an innovative style of teaching and learning in Ohio.
Kira McGirr, Executive Director
Noted for “her clear, focused sound,” mezzo-soprano Kira McGirr performs regularly in Northeast Ohio, including as frequent soloist and member of Cleveland Chamber Choir; soloist and section leader with Trinity Chamber Singers and Cathedral Choir at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland; frequent substitute section leader and cantor for numerous other Cleveland-area churches; as part of Trinity Cathedral’s BrownBag Concert Series; in the chorus and for outreach events with Cleveland Opera Theater; as part of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Creative Fusion: Composers Series. She is frequently requested to join regional orchestras and choirs for special choral performances. Ms. McGirr has been featured as alto soloist in Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Requiem, Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia and Rejoice in the Lamb, Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes, and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, among many other choral works. She made her 2018 debut with the BlueWater Chamber Orchestra as soloist in their performance of John Corigliano’s Fern Hill. Additional operatic experience includes Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro), Dorabella (Cosi fan tutte), and Giannetta (L’elisir d’amore), as well as a variety of opera choruses. She has performed in festivals and conferences in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Ms. McGirr is the Executive Director of the Cleveland Chamber Choir. She holds a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Oberlin College & Conservatory of Music.
Scott MacPherson, Founding Artistic Director
Scott MacPherson, founding Artistic Director of the Cleveland Chamber Choir, is currently Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He also serves as Artistic Director of the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble in Madison, Wisconsin, a position he has held since founding the group in 2002. Additionally, MacPherson is the founding Artistic Director of the San Antonio Chamber Choir, a professional choral ensemble he directed from its beginning in 2005 until 2014. He has consistently earned critical acclaim for the high standards of performance of choirs under his direction and is in demand as a choral clinician and guest conductor throughout the country and abroad. MacPherson’s research of contemporary choral music in Germany has resulted in guest conducting appearances with the Vokalensemble Kölner Dom of the Cologne Cathedral, the award-winning Modus Novus Chor based in Cologne, and the renowned male vocal ensemble Arcanum Musicae in Dresden. His international reputation has also drawn acclaim in Taiwan, where he has conducted festival choirs and led workshops at conferences in Pingtung City and Taipei. Choirs under his direction have been featured at conferences of the National Collegiate Choral Organization; National, Divisional and State American Choral Directors Associations; and State Music Educators Associations.