Meet the Directors
Our directors have conducted and performed locally and nationally, as well as in some of the most prominent international venues.
Emily Threinen is the director of bands and associate professor at the University of Minnesota. She holds a doctor of musical arts degree in conducting from the University of Michigan, a master of music degree in conducting from Northwestern University, and a bachelor of music dual degree in clarinet performance and K-12 instrumental music education from the University of Minnesota.
Jerry Luckhardt, associate professor of music at the School of Music, conducts the Symphonic Band and Chamber Winds and teaches courses in conducting. Luckhardt has appeared as a guest conductor and clinician with ensembles throughout the US, Europe, and Asia.
Elizabeth (Betsy) McCann
Elizabeth (Betsy) Kerns McCann is the assistant director of bands/director of marching and athletic bands at the University of Minnesota. She holds a bachelor of music (flute performance and music education) from the University of Minnesota and a master of music (conducting) from Northwestern University.
John Leonard is the assistant director of marching and athletic bands at the University of Minnesota. He holds a bachelor of music degree in instrumental music education from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, a master of music degree in jazz arranging and composition also from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, the master of music degree in wind conducting from Western Michigan University, and a doctor of musical arts degree (wind band conducting) from the University of Kansas.
Matthew Mehaffey is a professor of choral music. He also serves as artistic director of the Oratorio Society of Minnesota. Recent engagements include work with Washington National Opera, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, VocalEssence, Minnesota Chorale, and Turner Network Television.
Brian A. Schmidt
Brian A. Schmidt is a GRAMMY©️-nominated conductor with a twenty-year career focused on developing meaningful musical experiences for audiences and artists alike. Schmidt currently serves as artistic director on the team of Gateway Music Festivals & Tours, helping design life-changing performance tours for bands and choirs nationally and internationally.
Gospel Choir director Adrian Davis is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis, and his Master of Music degree from the University of Saint Thomas. He was nominated as a quarterfinalist for Grammy Music Educator of the Year in 2014 and 2016 and was featured on Classical MPR in January 2014 for excellence in music education. He was also selected as a top educator in the Celebration of Teachers for Minneapolis Public Schools in 2016. In 2017, he was nominated finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year.
Mark Russell Smith
Mark Russell Smith is a music director and conductor for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of orchestral studies. He is a graduate in cello performance from the Juilliard School and a graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied conducting with Max Rudolf and Otto-Werner Mueller.
Dean Sorenson is the director of jazz studies, and he is a prolific and highly sought-after composer, arranger, trombonist, educator, and clinician. He received his bachelor’s degree in trombone performance from the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree in jazz arranging and composition from the Eastman School of Music.
Philip C. Hey
Philip C. Hey, drummer and affiliate faculty member, was born in New York City and grew up in Philadelphia. Several years of study at the University of Minnesota in American Studies and Afro-American Studies and private study with Edward Blackwell led Hey to a career in jazz.
Fernando Meza is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Music, where he has been the Director of Percussion Studies since 1993. Meza holds a master's degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and has studied with Stuart Marrs, John Soroka, Larry Vanlandingham, and Michael Udow. He was in charge of the percussion department at The Ohio State University in Columbus prior to his arrival in the Twin Cities and has also served on the faculties of the National Center of Music and the University of Costa Rica.
David Walsh, associate professor of opera theatre and native of Toronto, has worked as a production stage manager with the Canadian Opera Company, Stratford Festival, and the Scottish Opera. He has also worked with the English Music Theatre, English National Opera, Frankfurt Opera, Nederlandse Opera, Brussels Opera, the Royal Opera House, Santa Fe Opera, and Vancouver Opera.
Scott Currie earned bachelor’s degrees at Swarthmore College (physics and political science) and the State University of New York College at Old Westbury (African-American music), master’s degrees at City University of New York (education) and New York University (ethnomusicology), and his PhD in ethnomusicology at New York University. His research to date has focused on ethnographic studies of avant-garde jazz practice in New York City and Berlin, as well as historical/ethnographic studies of Ornette Coleman’s collaborations with the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Morocco.
Sowah Mensah is an ethnomusicologist, composer, and a “Master Drummer" from Ghana, West Africa. Sowah has taught music in both Ghana and Nigeria. He is currently a music professor at both Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul where he also directs each school’s African Music Ensemble. He is currently a James Marsh Professor at Large at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT. In addition, he also directs the African Music Ensemble at the University of Minnesota.