Third-Year DMA Student
Shichu Xie, a native of Beijing China, is currently a second-year Doctor of Musical Arts student at the University of Florida, where he studies Choral Conducting with Dr. Will Kesling. He has served as the Associate Conductor of the Creative Summer’ 22 B choir at UF. During his first year, he conducted the Concert Choir, Chambers Singers, Women’s Chorale, and Gainesville Master Chorale.
Previously, Shichu served as the director of Chinese Community Choir and OMUSE Children’s Choir at Latham, NY. Before coming to the U.S. he conducted the Aurora Chorus of the Capital Medical University where he led the choir to earn a Second-Place Award at the College Choir Festival of Beijing (2014). Mr. Xie was appointed summer clinician of Jinfan Choir of Guangqumen Middle School (summer 2017 & 2018).
As a singer, he was a frequent soloist of the Burnt Hills Oratorio Society in NY, as well as a member of the Auriel Camerata (professional) in Glenville, NY. Shichu was the first-place winner of the 2016 ENY/NATS Art Song Festival.
Mr. Xie received his Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal performance from the State University of New York, where he studied with Fran Wittmann and Dr. William Jon Gray. He received his Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro under Dr. Welborn Young and Dr. Carole Jean Ott Coelho.
In addition to his music, Shichu enjoys stage acting, movies, cooking, and fishing.
Second-Year DMA Student
Zerrin Ağabigüm Martin is active as conductor, educator, and professional singer. She is a first-year Doctor of Musical Arts student in Choral Conducting at the University of Florida. Previously, she held the positions of Director of Choirs at the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School at the University of Florida, Director of Choirs at the Tower Hill School in Delaware, and the Director of the Trouvères and Troubador choirs with the Pennsylvania Girlchoir organization in Philadelphia.
Consistently, her middle and high school choirs have received top awards and accolades. In 2019, her 7th and 8th Grade Tower Hill Concert Choir presented a solo concert at the National Association for Music Education All- Eastern Division Conference. Her high school choirs have presented solo concerts at the Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, won numerous festival competitions, and have won First and Second Place Awards at the Maryland ECAS Choral Competitions. In 2013, she founded the Delaware Independent Schools Choral Festival, providing hundreds of high school choral singers opportunities to work with leading collegiate choral conductors on choral masterworks. Ms. Martin won the Top Educator Award of Delaware Mainline Today among other distinctions.
Her Master of Music degree research has encompassed topics of sexuality, gender identities, and archetypal portrayals in American popular music of the 1950s and 1960s. Ms. Martin has presented at the New Jersey Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium and the Stony Brook University Graduate Studies Music Symposium, and won First Place in the Consortium competition.
As a solo artist, her engagements include Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, Schütz’s Symphoniae Sacrae III, Copland’s In the Beginning, Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri, and Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions.
An avid ensemble singer, Ms. Martin performs regularly with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, and Solaria Singers. She has performed with Seraphic Fire, True Concord Voices, The Crossing Choir, the Weimar Bachakademie Ensemble, the JSB Ensemble of the Internationale Bachakademie in Stuttgart, Norfolk Music Festival Chamber Choir.
Ms. Martin received her Bachelor of Music degree in voice performance with teaching certification from the University of Michigan, where she studied with Freda Herseth, Dr. Jerry Blackstone, and Dr. Paul Rardin. She received her Master of Music degree in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College where she studied with Dr. Joe Miller, Dr. Andrew Megill, and Dr. James Jordan, and Margaret Cusack.
In her spare time, she loves to spend time with her partner, travel, read, knit, bake, run, hike, and is a fan of mystery and fantasy fiction. Her ideal afternoon always involves coffee and pastries from local bakeries while reading.
First-Year DMA Student
Travis Kern was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. Growing up with U.S. Diplomats Ivan and Shirley Kern, He spent his formative years moving every two years from country to country. Costa Rica, England, Israel, El Salvador, Korea, Cuba, Poland, Denmark, Jamaica provided him with a cosmopolitan upbringing and the source of his passion for music. His first memorable music experience was performing the boy solo to Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in Warsaw, Poland.
Retired after 30 years of public-school teaching, he is currently a first year Doctor of Musical Arts student at the University of Florida. Previously, he was the Director of Choral Activities at Colquitt County High School where he conducted the A Cappella choir, The Serenaders, the Women’s Chorale, The Men’s Ensemble and the Camerata Choir. He founded the Community men’s choir of Colquitt County, he was the artistic director for the Albany Chorale and is still the Music director for the First United Methodist Church of Moultrie, Georgia
His choirs consistently were rated superior at GMEA LGPE, and he had more than 400 students participate in the GMEA All State Choirs over the course of his career. His choirs have won numerous awards throughout the Southeast and have performed in: St. Paul’s at the Vatican, St. Marks in Venice, St. Francis Basilica in Assisi, Carnegie Hall, St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and the Kawaiaha’o Church in Honolulu. He has conducted choirs in Austria, Scotland, France and Italy.
An accomplished theatrical director and actor, Travis has directed or starred in more than 40 musicals. His favorite shows he has directed are Phantom of the Opera, Aida, Titanic, Les Miserables and Newsies to name a few. As an actor his favorite roles have been: Adam in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the title character of Jekyll and Hyde, Lancelot in Camelot, Dr. Carrasco in Man of La Mancha and Daddy Warbucks in Annie. Last year he was pleased to take the role of Don Alfonso in Valdosta State Universities production of Cosi fan tutte.
In his spare time, Travis enjoys reading, swimming, golf, riding his Harley-Davidson and spending time with his family. Married to Robin Kern, he has two sons, Kellen and Aidan and is thankful for their love and support.
Second-Year PhD Student in Musicology/Cognate in Choral Conducting
John-Peter S. Ford is a first year PhD student at the University of Florida where he serves as the President of the Student Society for Musicology. He received his Bachelor’s in Music Education with a concentration in voice from Mississippi State University and Master’s in Musicology at the University of Mississippi under the tutelage of Thomas Peattie. His thesis, George W. Chadwick and Robert A. Barnet’s “Tabasco” is available through ProQuest. His research interests include American Comic Opera, the comic operas of Robert A. Barnet, and George W. Chadwick. John-Peter is also interested in composers of the Second New England School, Reginald De Koven, and music’s evocation of landscape.
Second -Year Master Student
Kenrick Alexander Watkins is a Master of Music student in Choral Conducting under the mentorship of Dr. Will Kesling at the University of Florida.
Kenrick’s love of music began to blossom during his final year of secondary school. This is in no small part due to the warm and patient guidance of the newly appointed director of bands at C. Leon King High School in Tampa, FL. While earning his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the University of Florida, he performed in the UF Concert Choir, UF Chamber Singers, Voices of Orpheus, Men’s Glee Club, Jazz Choir, Gainesville Master Chorale, GCC Chamber Choir, Pride of the Sunshine Fightin’ Gator Marching Band, Symphonic Band, and Opera Workshop. Kenrick served as a pit musician and an ensemble member for School of Theatre and Dance productions and performed the title role for the world premiere of the opera The Golem of Prague by UF Professor and Head of Composition, Dr. Paul Richards.
Mr. Watkins completed his post-baccalaureate work in music at the Berklee College of Music. Kenrick’s vision is to use his education and skills honed during his time in the graduate program to enhance the access for all people who wish to participate in musical ensembles.
Master Student -- Graduated 2023
Richard L. Arens is a conductor, singer, and educator who is now in his second year of study in the Choral Conducting Master’s program at the University of Florida. Originally from Montgomery City, Missouri, he earned his Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Missouri- Columbia (2020). While at MU, Richard sang with MU Glee Club, Concert Chorale, Hitt Street Harmony, Choral Union, and University Singers. Richard studied voice with Dr. Steven B. Jepson. In 2018 he sang with the SWACDA Collegiate Honor Choir and the Phi Mu Alpha National Convention Select Men’s Chorus.
As a conductor, Richard has worked with several community choral organizations including serving as co-Director of the retired persons choir, OSHER Sings!. He served several important positions, including Board Member and Interim Director, with The Booneslick Chordbusters Barbershop Chorus, and as the Music Director for the Zeta Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.
Since coming to Gainesville, Richard has worked with the Gainesville Master Chorale, UF Concert Choir, UF Chamber Choir, Shabbatones (Jewish Choir of North Central Florida), and works as a choral Scholar for First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville.
Master Student -- Graduated 2023
Alek Naúl Concepción Rivera is a conductor, tenor soloist, and music educator from Puerto Rico. He is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Choral Conducting at the University of Florida, under the direction of Dr. Will Kesling. At UF, he has conducted the Women’s Chorale (Spring 2022) and performs with Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and Gainesville Master Chorale. He is a visiting vocalist at the First Lutheran Church of Gainesville under the musical direction of Hye Jin Park.
Since 2020, Alek has worked as a voice teacher at a private academy of arts in Puerto Rico. He sang professionally with Orfeón San Juan Bautista during the ensemble’s 2020-2021 season. Additionally, he has been a member of the San Juan Philharmonic Chorale and Lyric Chorale of Puerto Rico, and performed regularly with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. Alek has sung with the University of Puerto Rico Choir, Camerata Coral, Chamber Choir Illumino and UPRA Men’s Choir.
Alek Naúl made his conducting debut in the Christmas concert, Suena a Navidad with the UPR Choir in 2019. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from the University of Puerto Rico, where he studied voice with Zulimar López-Hernández and choral conducting with Dr. Carmen Acevedo Lucío.
Master Student/Cognate in Choral Conducting -- Graduated 2023
Brianna Meissner is pursuing a Master of Music degree in Instrumental Conducting and Choral Conducting at the University of Florida.
Ms. Meissner received her undergraduate degree in instrumental music education with choral certification in 2018 from the University of North Dakota (UND). During her time there, she served as principal flutist and section leader of the UND Wind Ensemble. She was an active member of the UND Allegro Women’s Choir, Hockey Band, Basketball Band, Flute Ensemble, and Pride of the North Marching Band where she was a member of the color guard for two years and Drum Major for two years. Ms. Meissner had the opportunity to guest conduct performances with both the UND University Band and Flute Ensemble. She was also selected as a finalist in the Bismarck Mandan Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition.
After graduation, Ms. Meissner became the director of bands and choirs at Cavalier Public School in Cavalier, North Dakota. She was responsible for teaching General Music and directing Beginning Band, Middle School Band, Middle School Choir, High School Choir, High School Band, and Pep Band. Brianna’s professional affiliations include National Association for Music Education, North Dakota Music Educators Association, and American Choral Directors Association.