Artistic Staff

Michelle Bendett

Co-Artistic Coordinator, Conductor of Anima

Michelle Bendett has directed choirs at the high school, middle school, and elementary school levels since beginning her career in 2000. Michelle is serving as NYC’s Artistic Co-Director and Conductor of Anima. In addition to her NYC roles, Michelle teaches choir and voice at Northfield Middle School in Northfield, Minnesota.

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, where she studied with Dr. Andre Thomas, Dr. Judy Bowers, Dr. Clifford Madsen, Dr. Kevin Fenton and Professor Roy Delp.

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 recently completed her second term as National Honor Choir Chair for the American Choral Directors Association.

Leigh Ann Garner

Conductor of Junior Singers

Dr. Leigh Ann Garner is an Assistant Professor of Music Education at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Prior to her appointment at St. Olaf, she taught elementary classroom and choral music for 23 years in the Hastings Public School District (ISD#200). Garner also serves as the Director of the Kodály Institute at the University of St. Thomas, where she teaches pedagogy courses Levels I and II, Folksong Analysis and Materials, and Kodály Master Class.

A sought-after clinician, leader, and facilitator, Garner teaches interactive workshops throughout the United States specializing in early childhood music, Kodály-inspired pedagogy, curriculum development, standards-based assessments, and undergraduate music pedagogy. In 2016 she was honored as a Teacher of Excellence, and respectively in 2017 as an Employee of the Semester by the Hastings School District.

Over the past 20 years Garner has served in leadership roles at the state and national level for a number of music organizations. Currently, she serves on the Teacher Education Committee of the Organization of American Kodály Educators. In 2019 she and colleagues throughout the country co-authored Kodály-Inspired Benchmarks for Grades 3-5 that align with the National Core Arts Standards.

Garner is also the co-author of Music and Movement: a music curriculum for children ages one-five. Her most recent publication, Cultivating Creative Musicians is a resource designed for elementary music teachers. In addition, she is a contributing author for MacMillan McGraw/Hill music textbook series. Garner holds an EdD from the University of St. Thomas, an MA in Music Education from the University of St. Thomas, and a BA in Vocal Music Education from St. Olaf College.

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.

Reid Larsen

Conductor of Troubadours

Reid Larsen is a choir director at Apple Valley High School and Valley Middle School of STEM. He directs Apple Valley High School’s annual review show “Broadway” as well as other curricular and co-curricular ensembles. In addition to his teaching duties, Reid is a freelance arranger and adjudicator.

Previous to his current role, Reid was a Choir and Theater director at Cottage Grove Middle School and was an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas. In 2017 Reid was awarded the Outstanding Young Choir Director award from ACDA of Minnesota. An active member in ACDA, he co-chairs the annual 7th-8th Grade TTB Honor Choir and previously served as the Repertoire and Resources Chair for Middle School/Jr. High Choirs in the state of Minnesota. Previously, Reid presented at the ACDA National Conference, the North Central ACDA Regional Conference and served as guest clinician for the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Middle Level Honor Choir Festival.

Reid holds a Masters in Music Education from the University of St. Thomas where he studied with Dr. Angela Broeker and a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. While attending UW-Eau Claire, he acted as assistant director to Dr. Alan Rieck and a student conductor of The Singing Statesmen under the direction of Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff.

Reid and his wife, Laura, are the proud parents of two incredible boys, Kai and Eli.

Nicole Thietje

Co-Artistic Director, Conductor of the Treble Choir

Nicole Thietje is Choral Director at New Prague High School, where 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 NPHS, 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.

Nicole is an active choral musician and member of See Change Treble Choir in St. Paul, MN. She is also an active member of MMEA and the ACDA of MN, currently serving as Repertoire and Resources Chair for Show Choir/Contemporary Commercial music and is a member of the Diversity Initiatives Committee. She has presented and conducted honor choirs for both MMEA and ACDA Conferences and her choirs have been selected for performances. Her students have also been chosen for state, regional, and national honor choirs.

She received an undergraduate degree in Music Teaching/Performance from the University of West Florida, a Masters of Arts in Music Education- Choral emphasis from the University of St. Thomas, and is currently working toward a Certificate in Teaching World Music from UST. She lives in New Prague with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

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

Instructor for Poco a poco, 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.