Artistic Staff

Steven D. Davis
Symphony Orchestra Conductor

Conductor Steven D. Davis is a lauded, versatile, and cosmopolitan conductor who has inspired ensembles around the world. In constant demand as a guest conductor, he has conducted across four continents, working with ensembles in cities such as Bangkok, Beijing, Lisbon, Sydney, and regularly conducts in his favorite city, Kansas City.

Davis has worked to break down barriers as a conductor by leading performances across many genres. He has been celebrated as a conductor of wind ensembles, orchestras, opera, ballet, and cutting edge new music ensembles. In addition to conducting symphonic repertoire of historically significant composers, such as Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky, Davis is fervently committed to performing new repertoire. This commitment has been praised by prominent contemporary composers including Robert Beaser, Chen Yi,  John Corigliano, Michael Daugherty, Osvaldo Golijov, Stephen Hartke, David Lang, James Mobberley, Narong Prangcharoen, Bernard Rands, Paul Rudy, Steven Stucky, Frank Ticheli and Zhou Long.

Davis currently serves as professor of conducting, and conductor of the Conservatory Wind Symphony at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. As conductor of the UMKC Conservatory Wind Symphony, he has initiated countless collaborations with other artists and genres, including dance, theater, visual art, and film. Numerous world premieres have been dedicated to the ensemble during his tenure as artistic director.

Davis is a proud advocate for artistic music education and has been a guest lecturer, conductor, and clinician at numerous music and music education conferences across the world.  Most notably, he has performed at five Midwest Clinics in Chicago, and has led a myriad of All-State ensembles across the United States. His most recent guest conducting and teaching engagements include the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Beijing Modern Music Festival, and the Texas All-State Symphonic Band.  Davis also serves on the Orchestra and Wind Ensemble conducting faculty of the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp.

Davis is now in his ninth season as the conductor of the Youth Symphony of Kansas City’s Symphony Orchestra. Under his direction, the Symphony Orchestra has performed at the Kansas and Missouri Music Educators Conferences, the Midwest Clinic and on its 2016 Ireland Tour. Davis is also the resident conductor of newEar, Kansas City’s premier new music ensemble. Annually, he hosts the Kansas City Conducting Symposium, one of the largest conducting symposiums in the country.  He has received many awards and honorary memberships in professional organizations.

Russell E. Berlin, Jr.Russell E. Berlin, Jr.
Academy Orchestra Conductor
Conductor Russell E. Berlin, Jr. is active as a clinician and adjudicator in the Midwest. He was instrumental music instructor in the Lee’s Summit School District from 1969-1999, working at the elementary and secondary levels. During his tenure, Mr. Berlin built the national reputation of the Lee’s Summit orchestral program. Under his direction ensembles performed for the Missouri Music Educators’ Association, the Midwest-International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago and the Music Educators’ National Conference. Mr. Berlin’s orchestras have performed at Carnegie Hall and the International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna, Austria. Mr. Berlin has received many honors, including the Excellence in Teaching Award given by Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri School Music Educator of the Year Award given by the Missouri Chapter of the American String Teachers Association and the Silver Shoe Award given by Lee’s Summit North High School for significant contributions to the students and staff of Lee’s Summit North High School. Mr. Berlin received his BME from Kansas State University and his MME from Kansas University. He completed advanced orchestral training at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Michelle DavisMichelle Davis
Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor

Michelle Davis has been a music educator, clinician, and performer for over 20 years.  During this time, she taught beginning strings and middle school orchestra in Oak Park, Ill., and middle school orchestra in Farmington Hills, Mich.  Currently, she is the conductor of four orchestras at Liberty High School in Liberty, Mo.  She plays viola in many community orchestras and string quartets in the area and she has maintained a private lesson studio of aspiring violinists and violists.  Michelle is highly sought after as a guest conductor/adjudicator in many school districts, and has presented workshops at state and national conferences, including the Michigan Music Educators Association Conference and the American String Teachers Association National Conference.  In 2008, she was Liberty Public School District’s “Teacher of the Year.”  She is currently serving a two-year term as Missouri Music Educators Association Orchestra Vice-President.  Michelle is a graduate of The University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in viola performance and a master’s degree in music education.  She is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and American String Teachers Association (ASTA). She lives with her husband of 10 years, Steve Davis, and her awesome, yet stubborn, yorkie mix, “Thomas The Man.”


Russ Pieken
Debut Orchestra Conductor

Russ Pieken has been a music educator for 20 years in Kansas and Missouri. During this time he taught strings/orchestra at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Russ has been privileged and honored to have conducted performances in Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and for the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.  Groups under his direction have also performed for the Kansas Music Educators Association Conference and National Association for Music Education. In 2008 he was awarded the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts/National Symphony Orchestra National Music Educator Fellowship.  Russ holds a bachelor of music education degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and a master of education degree from Baker University. Russ is proud to be an alumnus of the Youth Symphony of Kansas City.  Russ is married to his wife of 20 years, Laurie, and they have two wonderful, kind and compassionate kids, Joseph and Norah.
sheri-webSheri Cain
Overture Program
Sheri Cain was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. and attended Hazelwood Central High School. After graduation, she went to William Jewell College where she studied violin under Dr. Penny Thompson Kruse and graduated with a bachelor of science in music education. Sheri also earned a master’s degree in education from Baker University.  Sheri has taught privately for over 20 years. Sheri brings 10+ years of classroom experience teaching string students in grades 5-12. She currently teaches in the North Kansas City School District.  Sheri has been actively involved with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony in Liberty, Mo. for over 15 years. She has served as co-conductor, audition adjudicator and sectional coach.  Sheri and her husband, Michael, are raising two daughters, Madeline and Rebecca, in Olathe, Kan. Both are wonderful musicians and avid equestrians.
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