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 fifteenth 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.
Spring 2022 Academy Orchestra Conductor
Conductor Russell E. Berlin, Jr. is active as a clinician and adjudicator in the Midwest. He was an instrumental music instructor in the Lee’s Summit School District from 1969–1999, working at the elementary and secondary levels. 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 was a conductor of the Youth Symphony from 1998-2018. He also co-founded and conducts the Lee’s Summit Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Berlin was recently honored by being inducted in the Missouri Music Educators Association Hall of Fame. He considers it an honor to return to work with Youth Symphony’s young musicians!
Youth Symphony Director of Operations
Spring 2022 Academy Orchestra Conductor
Russ Pieken is currently in his 28th year in music education. Currently he is the Director of Operations for the Youth Symphony of Kansas City. Prior to that, he spent 21 years teaching elementary, middle level and high school orchestra in the Olathe and Lee’s Summit School Districts. He is in constant demand as an adjudicator and guest clinician throughout the Midwest. This year he will be adjudicating state festivals and clinics in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Indiana. Groups under his direction have performed at the Kansas Music Educators Association Conference, American String Teachers Association National Convention, and the National Association for Music Education National Conference. He is also proud to have conducted ensembles in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC as well as Kansas City’s own Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. In 2004 the Olathe East Orchestra, under his direction, performed for the opening and dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. In 2008, Russ was awarded the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts/National Symphony Orchestra prestigious National Music Educator Award and Fellowship which culminated with a five week residency in Washington, DC.
Russ’ wife, Laurie, is an elementary art teacher at Meadow Lane Elementary in the Olathe School District. They have two wonderful, kind, and compassionate children Joe and Norah. The Pieken family also includes their canine buddies Sally, Royal and Bowie (a pandemic foster failure!)
Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor
Michelle Davis has been a string orchestra educator for over 25 years in Illinois, Michigan and Missouri. She has taught strings/orchestra at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Currently, she is the conductor of the Liberty High School Orchestras in Liberty, Missouri. In addition, she teaches private lessons to aspiring violin and viola students. Previously, she taught beginning strings and junior high orchestra in Oak Park, Illinois, and middle school orchestra in Farmington Hills, Michigan. She just finished a two-year tenure as Orchestra Vice President of the Missouri Music Educators’ Association.
Michelle has been a guest conductor in school districts across the state, and has presented clinics at state and national conferences, including The Michigan Music Educators’ Conference and The American String Teachers’ National Conference. In 2008, she was Liberty Public School District’s “Teacher of the Year.” 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, Steve Davis, and her awesome, yet stubborn dogs, “Thomas the Man,” and “Henri the Doodle.”
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.
Clif Walker is an active arranger, clinician and composer with original works performed at PASIC, The Midwest Band Orchestra Clinic, TMEA, DCI, BOA, WGI and the Sydney Opera House. He is currently a design team member and front ensemble arranger with The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps from Rosemont, IL, the director of the University of Missouri Marching Mizzou Drumline and adjunct percussion faculty at Missouri Western State University.
Clif was a percussion faculty member for the 2019 Music For All Summer Symposium and is a member of the WGI Percussion Adjudication Roster. He served as the director of percussion, design team member and arranger for BOA Grand National Finalist Blue Springs High School (2011-2015), and director of percussion at Timber Creek High School in Orlando, Florida (2001-2008), who performed at the Percussive Arts Society International as the high school International Percussion Ensemble Competition winners in 2005.
Clif holds an MME from the University of Central Florida and is published with Musicon Publications, Tapspace and is proud to endorse Yamaha Musical Instruments, Evans Drumheads, Zildjian Cymbals, Beetle Percussion and Innovative Percussion Sticks and Mallets.
Brass and Woodwinds Specialist Amanda Kremer is originally from Springfield, Mo. She graduated from Missouri
State University with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education. Amanda played horn with the Minnesota
Symphonic Winds and completed her master’s degree in educational leadership from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Ms. Kremer conducted with the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony for three years, and prior to that was a GTCYS sectional coach for several years. She also has 12 years of classroom teaching experience. Amanda and her husband Nate moved to Overland Park, Kan. in 2015 and are enjoying life with their three daughters.
Artistic Staff Contact
Steven D. Davis