Artistic Staff

Allyss Haecker

Artistic Coordinator, Conductor of Concert Choir

Dr. Allyss Haecker is Artistic Coordinator and Conductor for Concert Choir for the Northfield Youth Choirs.

This past season, Allyss was on the voice faculty at St. Olaf College and was the conductor of Cantorei which she directed at the 2018 St Olaf Christmas Fest.  She has served as an Associate Professor of Music and the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Emory & Henry College (VA). Allyss has also served as the Director of Vocal and Choral Studies at Newberry College (SC) and the National Music Conservatory in Amman, Jordan. For sixteen years, she served on the vocal and conducting faculty of the Performing Arts Institute, a summer festival for students of music, dance, and theater.

Allyss  received her doctor of musical arts in choral conducting and literature from the University of Iowa, her master of music degree in choral conducting from the University of Illinois, and her bachelor of music education degree from Converse College (SC). She is a frequent clinician and guest conductor for district, state, and regional choral festivals.

Allyss’ ongoing research includes contemporary South African choral music and its impact on social and political change. She was a recipient of the T. Anne Cleary International Research Fellowship which allowed her to study and perform throughout South Africa. Most recently, Allyss presented her research at the 2018 Annual African Conference. Her time in the Middle East has also led to research and performances of unpublished Arab choral music. She has twice presented at the Virginia Music Educators Association Annual Conference on topics of vocal pedagogy and courageous music-making.

As an active soprano soloist, Allys has performed many classical works on stages throughout the world.  She is currently a professor singer with the Minnesota Chorale and the See Change Treble Choir.

Allyss  lives in Northfield, Minnesota with her husband, Arthur, and their son, Kai.

Michelle Bendett

Conductor of Anima

Michelle has directed choirs at the high school, middle school, and elementary school levels since beginning her career in 2000. Most recently she was the choir director at Champlin Park High School in Champlin, MN, Michelle is the new choir director at Northfield Middle School for the 2019-20 school year.

Prior to relocating to Minnesota, Michelle was choir director at Lake Nona High School and Avalon Middle School in Orlando. Her choirs consistently earned the highest ratings at performance assessments and were selected to perform at the 2015 State Florida Music Educators Association Clinic-Conference in Tampa and the 2014 Florida American Choral Directors Association Fall Conference. Her choirs earned state student enrollment awards on multiple occasions and her students have sung in state, regional and national honor choirs.

Michelle received her Bachelor of Choral Music Education and Master of Music Education from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Michelle is a member of the Minnesota Music Educators Association, American Choral Directors Association, and serves as an adjudicator, clinician and honor choir guest conductor. She is currently serving her second term as National Honor Choir Chair for the American Choral Directors Association .

Michelle lives in Northfield with her husband Tesfa and daughter Aida.

Dr. Therees Hibbard

Conductor of the Chorale

Dr. Therees Hibbard Therees Tkach Hibbard serves as the director of the Manitou Singers and St. Olaf Chamber Singers. She is presently an Associate Professor of Music at St. Olaf College where she teaches choral conducting, choral literature, and voice. She holds a bachelor of music honors degree in voice and music education from Longwood University, Virginia; a master of music degree in voice and choral conducting from Colorado State University; and a doctor of musical arts degree in choral conducting and vocal music education from the University of Oregon School of Music.

She has conducted choirs ranging from young children to professional singers; and has served as adjudicator, workshop leader, and guest conductor for numerous choral organizations throughout Great Britain, Europe and North America; as well as Greece, Hong Kong and Muscat, Oman. Dr. Hibbard has worked as a choral conductor, singing tutor and senior lecturer at several United Kingdom colleges and universities in the London area including the London College of Music, the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and Roehampton University where she served as Programme Convener for the M.A. in choral music education, establishing the first BBC Singers Conducting Master Class Residency program. She has also served as a tutor for the Choral Conductors Training Course for the Association of British Choral Directors that she helped develop and implement throughout the United Kingdom. Dr. Hibbard was the artistic director of the Choir and Chamber Choir of the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London; both non-audition ensembles made up of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who presented three major choral/orchestral concerts each year. Highlight performances have included the Bach “St. John Passion” and B Minor Mass, Requiems of Brahms, Mozart, and Verdi, Elgar’s “The Dream of Gerontius,” Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, and Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, as well as premiering a variety of new compositions and chamber works during her eight years of tenure with the choirs.

Her work as a movement specialist in the training of choral singers has created unique opportunities for her to work with choirs and conductors from around the world. Her research on enhancing choral performance through movement training has led to the development of a comprehensive choral education philosophy, most clearly demonstrated through her work with a broad range of vocal ensembles including the Oregon Bach Festival’s Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, The Animato Choir of Lesvos, Greece, and The American Boychoir. In addition to her work as a conductor, she has also performed professionally as both vocal soloist and chorus member in London and the United States. She has sung for composers and conductors such as Aaron Copland, Helmuth Rilling, Mistlav Rostropovich, and Sir David Willcocks; and has had the opportunity to premiere works by Arvo Pärt, Krystof Penderecki, and a vocal chamber piece by Shostakovich conducted by Rostropovich in Carnegie Hall. She has been a member of the Oregon Bach Festival Berwick Chorus for many years, and while under the direction of Helmuth Rilling, were recipients of the Grammy award in 2000 for their performance of CREDO by Penderecki. Prior to her appointment to the St. Olaf faculty, she served for ten years as Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Jonathan Kopplin

Principal Conductor of the Troubadours

Jonathan Kopplin Jonathan Kopplin is a choir director, voice teacher, and church musician based in Lakeville, MN. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. His interests outside of the musical world include outdoor activities: running, hunting, snowshoeing, and hiking. Additionally, he harbors a lifelong obsession with baseball.

Jonathan currently serves as the Director of Music at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lakeville, MN, and teaches a studio of private voice students in his community. He has taught middle school and high school vocal music extensively in private and public school settings in Minnesota and Iowa. Jonathan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Luther College, and a Master of Music Degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Northern Iowa. His interest in the male changing voice came from his formative choral experiences singing in the St. John’s Boys’ Choir under the direction of Br. Paul Richards OSB.

Nicole Thietje

Conductor of the Treble Choir

Nicole Thietje is Choral Director at New Prague High School. She directs four curricular choirs and three extra-curricular groups, including an auditioned, competitive show choir. She is also Music Director and Choreographer for the musical at NPHS. Prior to teaching at the high school, she taught choir at New Prague Middle School and general music and choir at Raven Stream Elementary in New Prague.

She is a native of Louisiana and spent some of her youth in Florida, graduating from high school in Pensacola. After graduation, she spent three years in the performing and outreach group called The Young Americans, teaching and traveling on five national and international music outreach tours, including tours in the U.S., Germany, Luxembourg, and Japan. She then received her Bachelors of Arts in Music Teaching/Performance from the University of West Florida. Nicole is currently studying choral music education at the University of St. Thomas in the Masters of Music Education Program.

Nicole is an active choral musician and has sung in a variety of choirs. She has served as section leader at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola, FL and at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, MN. She is a member of the Oratorio Society of MN in St. Paul, MN and the American Choral Director’s Association of MN. She lives in New Prague with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

Ann C. Kay

Conductor of the Junior Singers and Poco a Poco

Ann_Kay_0142_WEBSIZEAnn C. Kay is a music education consultant at the Center for Lifelong Music Making, a business she started with the goal of launching initiatives to get the population making music, such as the Great American Singing Challenge that uses software to help children learn to sing in tune, and the Teacher-to-Teacher Mentorship Program, a free program that pairs retired expert teachers with new music teachers. She recently co-founded The Rock ‘n’ Read Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children read at grade level through singing that was awarded $100,000 by the MN legislature in 2016 to run a state pilot in schools with software that uses singing to boost reading. Ann also teaches courses for classroom teachers called “Want to Teach Reading and Math? Try Singing!” with Dr. Elizabeth Olson based on Olson’s Affirming Parallel Concepts™ model.

Ann holds a bachelor of music education degree from Lawrence University and a master of arts in liberal studies with Kodály emphasis from Hamline University. Formerly, she taught elementary and junior high music, and was associate director of graduate music education at the University of St. Thomas where she founded and directed the Kodály certification program for music teachers. She also founded the Kodály Chapter of Minnesota, and served as president of the Midwest Kodály Music Educators and the national Organization of American Kodály Educators. Ann has presented over one hundred workshops for music teachers in the U.S. and Taiwan. She loves to play competitive women’s doubles tennis, bike, read, and sing in her church choir.

Zach Kubasta

Intern Conductor of the Troubadours

Zach Kubasta

Zach Kubasta is a senior at St. Olaf College completing his Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Education. A native of Wautoma, WI, Zach is very involved in music at St. Olaf and in the Northfield community. He conducts a children’s church choir at First UCC of Northfield, teaches a class at Pinnacle Performing Arts, and is also the Tenor Section Leader for the St. Olaf Choir.

Outside of school and music, Zach loves to spend time outside with his friends and family, and loves watching any form of Wisconsin sports. After school, Zach plans to teach music and pursue his graduate degree in education.

Mary Carpenter Davis

Accompanist for Junior Singers, Treble Choir, Anima, and Concert Choir

Mary Carpenter Davis, composer in residence and accompanist for Junior Singers, Treble Choir, Anima and the Concert Choir, is in her 20th season with the Northfield Youth Choirs. In addition to her work with young singers, she is the performance librarian at St. Olaf College, is active as a piano teacher, accompanist and church musician.

Compositions written for and inspired by the Northfield Youth Choirs include:

Daffodils (2003), Sicilian Lullaby (2004), Emergence (2004), I Will (2005), Froggy (2006), Cherokee Blessing (2006), Whirligig! (2007), Sussex Carol (2007), A Christmas Folk Song (2007), Sea Fever (2009), Cats According to Sark (2010), Get on Board, Little Children (2013)

Shana Hodel

Accompanist for Chorale

Shana HodelWith a background in piano pedagogy, Shana now works as a teacher at Montessori Children’s House in Northfield and is the Children’s Music Director at First United Church of Christ. She has enjoyed playing for several different NYC choirs over the years.

Thomas Pearson

Accompanist for the Troubadours

Thomas PearsonThomas Pearson is a senior piano performance major at St. Olaf College. He has performed as a soloist, winning the Schubert Club’s Bruce P. Carlson Scholarship Competition, 18-college senior division in 2016. He also frequently accompanies across campus. He has performed as member of the St. Olaf Choir, Ole Vocal Jazz, and an on-campus jazz quintet.