Alumni (1990-1999)


John Arata (B.S. in Ed, 1994) has been the band director at Eureka High School since 1999. Prior to that he was the band director at Rolla High School and Houston (MO) High School. In 2003, he was commissioned as an officer in the Missouri Air National Guard, and he serves as the commander and conductor of the Air National Guard Band of the Central States from St. Louis.

Paul Baur (B.S. in Ed) is in his ninth year as Director of Bands at Camdenton High School. Paul was also Director of Bands for the California School District in California, Missouri.

Tom Bough (B.S. in Ed., 1990) Tom is the new director of Athletic Bands at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb. Tom says, "We are a top-tier football program, which will provide my band with opportunities for much greater visibility. We will play football on national tv 7 times this fall, and last year accompanied the team to a bowl game." Tom's new e-mail address is, phone 815-753-7978. Tom, his wife, and son bought a house in Aurora, a Western suburb of Chicago. He received the MM in tuba performance and DMA in tuba performance from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, where he studied with Sam Pilafian and Dan Perantoni. From 1992 to 1999, he served as the director of bands at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona. Tom was a featured clinician at the 2005 MMEA convention in Missouri. (7/05)

Jonna Ditto (BS in Ed, 1991)
is currently teaching band and percussion for Coppell ISD in Coppell, TX. She also hosts a weekly radio program called Music From North Texas- performances from the College of Music at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. The program airs Sunday mornings at 11am on KNTU 88.1 FM ( She has also recorded several CDs with the North Texas Wind Symphony, directed by Eugene Migliaro Corporon, on the Klavier label. (3/05)

Chris Dolanc (BM Performance, 1996) and Christina Dolanc (Brice) (BM Performance, 1999) were married May 2000. They each graduated from Miami University in Oxford, OH, with their Masters degrees in the summer of 2002. Chris was in the Botany department with a teaching assistantship working toward a Masters in Plant Ecology. He was able to do his thesis research in the Amazon jungles of Peru. Christina had a graduate assistantship in the music department as a member of the Graduate String Quartet working toward a Masters in Violin Performance. While at Miami, she was coached by the resident Oxford String Quartet and briefly by Kronos Quartet and traveled to Luxembourg twice to perform recitals with the graduate quartet and in the Echternach Festival Orchestra. In 2002, Chris and Christina relocated to Fresno, California. Chris served as the plant ecologist on a research team for the U.S. Forest Service constructing his project in Yosemite. Christina built up a full time violin lesson studio at home and played in 3 area symphonies. (Chris played his cello in a few of the groups, too.) They had a baby girl in May of 2004. They then moved to Davis, California, in 2005, where Chris started his PhD in Plant Biology at the University of California in Davis. Christina is starting a new lesson studio, is the first violinist for a well known Sacramento string Quartet and plays in 4 area symphonies around Sacramento and San Francisco. (February, 2006)

Michael Fenn (1999) is the Director of Bands in Camdenton, MO.

Craig Finger (BS in Ed, 1994) is the director of Bands at Nixa High School. Before that, Craig was the band director at Mt. Grove. He is working on his masters in Educational Administration. Craig is married to Shawn Kuhn, an SMS graduate of 1995. (11/00)

Toni Gates-Grantham (BS in Ed., 1993) In 1996, Toni accepted a position as Graduate Assistant in the Vocal Jazz Department at the University of Kansas, where she received her Master's Degree in Choral Conducting in 1998. While at Missouri State, Toni was the featured vocalist for the Missouri State Dues Band, and she says that her experience in that group prepared her for her role as a vocal music and music theory teacher with the Paseo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts' Choral and Jazz Programs. She has also taught at the 18th and Vine Jazz History and Performance Summer Camp, has worked as Development Officer at the De La Salle Education Center, an alternative school program for at-risk youth, and served as Volunteer Services Manager with the Jackson County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a program for abused and neglected children.
In October of 2003, Toni released her first solo CD, Outside the Lines. (2/04)

William Gower (BS in Ed., 1999) is currently in his third year teaching at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, MO. He currently teaches three choirs, band, guitar, and piano. Billy previously held positions at Salem, MO and Lockwood, MO. He is pictured below with his wife, Cally, and their daughter, Lucy. (Sept. 2006)

Daryl Groetsch (BM- Music Composition, 1998) lives in Portland, OR where he records experimental electronic music on independent record labels and performs locally. Daryl completed a degree in Applied Science, Computer and Electronics Engineering Technology at ITT Technical Institute, Portland, Oregon in 2003. For more information contact Daryl at (2/04)

Andy Johnston (MM-Performance) teaches at Glendale High School and directs the Springfield Junior Youth Symphony.

Debra (Turk) Hemphill (BS in Education, 1990) works for DAH Enterprises and has returned to the Christian music field after an extended break. (8/05)

Sam Kallaos (B.S. in Ed, 1997) Sam has just finished his first year of full time teaching in Nashville Tennessee as Band Director at Neely's Bend Middle School. During the year Sam toured with the Wayne Avers Jazz trio and did selected dates with John Fishell. Sam recently won an audition to tour this summer with Nashville recording artist Jesse Lee Jones and his band Brazilbilly. When not on the road Brazilbilly plays every Friday and Saturday night at Roberts Western World in Downtown Nashville from 10 PM - 2 AM. A full schedule of tour dates and local dates is posted on the Brazilbilly website hosted by Roberts home site. (5/05)

Brett Kristofferson (BM in Composition, 1992) received a Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre from Texas Tech University in 1996. He currently resides in New York, where he works for Disney's The Lion King. In the fall of 2001, a revue of his theatre songs entitled "Beginnings: The Music of Brett Kristofferson" was produced by The Storefront Theatre Company at Don't Tell Mama. His song, "The Whole Wide World" was nominated for Song of the Year (2002) by the Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs (MAC). In the spring of 2005, Brett was musical director for Into The Woods at the Professional Performing Arts School in New York City. Reviewer John Kenrick says, " Kudos to Brett Kristofferson for flawless musical direction. I have never heard this demanding score sound better." (8/05)

Lori Lewis (BM Vocal Performance, 1996) currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden. Since January 2007, she has been on tour with a Swedish operatic metal band, Therion, singing as their "stylistically classical" lead soprano for their 2007 World Tour. Since joining Therion, Lori has traveled extensively throughout Europe. In June 2007, she was invited with Therion to participate in the Miskolc International Opera Festival in Miskolc, Hungary. This performance was recorded live and will be available sometime in 2008 as a DVD which will also include a previous classical performance by Therion in Bucharest, Romania. The second extended portion of Therion's World Tour kicks off in Spetember 2007, which will find the band performing in South America, North America and Japan. During her studies at Missouri State (1991-1996), Lori studied with Johnnie Johnson and Dr. Pearl Yeadon. She was actively involved with the SMSU Opera Workshop program since its inception in (1993-1994) and sang lead roles in several productions. She particularly enjoyed performing roles of Jennie in Kurt Weill's "Down in the Valley," Gretel in Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel," and Lucy in Menotti's "The Telephone."

Lori still holds close ties to Minnesota; she is the lead singer of a band based in Minneapolis: Aesma Daeva. Aesma Daeva is a symphonic metal band. They released their fourth album in early 2007, entitled Dawn of the New Athens. Therion and Aesma Daeva will be touring together across the US and Canada throughout the fall of 2007. Visit for a full list of performance dates.

In the classical realm, Lori has sung with several ensembles in the Twin Cities, most notably the Dale Warland Singers (1998-2000), the Rose Ensemble (2000-2002) and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers (2001-2007). With VocalEssence, Lori regularly performed as a featured soloist each season, having teamed up with ensembles such as Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Chorale and the World Voices. She has performed under the baton of such noted artists as Nick McGegan, Bobby McFerrin, Philip Brunelle and Helmut Rilling. Since 2006, she has participated each summer in the Oregon Bach Festival as a Festival Chorus member. She's currently on sabbatical from her teaching position at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has taught at NCU since early 2005. She is a soprano soloist with the Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with friends and family over a good cup of coffee and a slice of rhubarb pie. (10/07)

Eric Matzat (BS in Ed, 1993, MM in Music Ed, 2001) is in his ninth years as the Director of Bands at Branson High School. Prior to that, he was the woodwind soloist and musical arranger for the Shoji Tabuchi Theater in Branson from 1992-1996. Eric's band performed at the MMEA Conference in January, 2002. (1/05))

Laura Maune (1998) completed graduate school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where she has been working with Marjorie Bennett Stephens and Carroll Freeman. In the fall of 2003 she understudied the role of Turandot and in the spring of 2004 she sang Marcellina in Le Nozze Di Figaro. Laura is currently the Education Outreach Coordinator with the Knoxville Opera.

Mark McGeehee (BS in Ed, 1994) taught for one year as the band director at Califorina, MO. After taking two years off to work as an assistant golf pro, he was the band director at Bolivar for three years. He currently is the Assistant Principal at Nixa Junior High. He is married to Holly Davis. (11/00)

Bjorn Mercer (1999), is a past Missouri State Concerto Winner and was awarded a DMA in bassoon performance (Spring, 2003) at Arizona State University.

Rob Nichols (BS in Ed, 1990; MM, 1992) Rob is in his seventh year as the Director of Bands at Columbia Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri. Previously, he was band director at Hillcrest high school in Springfield, Missouri. Rob serves as Coordinator of Instrumental Music for Columbia Public Schools and is the current President-Elect for the Missouri Bandmasters Association.(1/05)

Martha Nivens (BME, 1992) Martha is currently teaching music in San Antonio, Texas. She teaches a 100 member childrens choir and is a member of the San Antonio Municipal band. Martha continued her education in music with a Masters from the University of Texas. (7/01)

Anjie Nowell (BS in Ed, 1995; MM in Clarinet Performance, 1997) Since September of 1998, Anjie has been the Coordinator of the Center for Arts in the Schools at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

Dan Purgason (1992) received his MM in English horn performance from The Juilliard School. A prizewinner of the NYC Artists International Young Artist Competition, he gave a solo English horn recital at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall. He has authored two articles in The Double Reed Journal, and is currently Solo English hornist of the Greenwich Village Orchestra. He is employed by Newmark Global Real Estate in New York City.

Jill Andrews Robinson (1999), has held the solo English horn position in the Springfield (MO) Symphony Orchestra since 1998.

Angie Shell (Mefford) (B.S. in Ed. 1994) is currently the Director of Bands, Rockwood Summit High School in the Rockwood School District. Her e-mail address is (Jan. 04)

Jason Sifford (Bachelors in Piano Performance, 1995) is Assistant Professor of Piano Pedagogy at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. During the summer of 2001, he also taught at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. Jason completed his Masters degree at Louisiana State University in 1997 and is in the Doctorate of Piano Pedagogy program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Jason taught at Interlochen during the summer of 1998. (9/01)

Steven Spooner (M.M., 1997) is Assistant Professor of Music at Idaho University in Moscow, Idaho. He served as guest artist in residence at the Institute for Advanced Vocal Studies, Paris Conservatory in Paris, France during the summer of 2001. He has also been on the faculties of Indiana University and Indiana State University. Steven completed his D.M. at Indiana University in December of 2003 and his debut solo recording of Liszt Transcriptions was released on EMR Classics. A sampling of his awards and honors includes:
1st prize, piano, Paris Conservatory, Institute for Advanced Vocal Studies, 1997, Paris, France.
2nd prize, Hilton Head International Piano Competition, 1996, Hilton Head Island, SC.
5th prize, Artlivre International Piano Competition, 2001, São Paulo, Brazil.
Critic's Commendation, Liszt International Piano Competition, 2002, Wroclaw, Poland. (8/05)

Michael Stine is currently teaching music at Willard Central Elementary, and is second trombonist with the Springfield Symphony. (09/00)

Vicki (Ray) Strode (B.S. in Ed, 1994; M.S. in Ed., 2001) is currently teaching elementary music in the Wentzville School District. She and her husband, Bob, have one child, Taylor, who was born in January, 2005. Her email address is

Sarah Tannehill (B.M. in Vocal Performance, 1997) received her M.M. in Music Performance from the Univ. of MO, Kansas City, in 1999. While at Missouri State, Sarah studied voice with Mr. Dale Everett and Dr. Pearl Yeadon-Erny. Sarah performed at Missouri State many times with Missouri State Opera Workshop, notably as Sophie in the Ensemble Evening's presentation of the Rosenkavalier Trio, and as Peter Pan in the Lander's production. While in Kansas City, she performed with the Kansas City Chorale, Civic Opera, Lyric Opera Express, a traveling opera group for children, and sang in the Conservatory Mainstage opera productions, including Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos. Sarah has performed with the Aspen Music Festival, The Des Moines Metro Opera, and recently, with Opera Theatre St. Louis (2001) where she sang the role of Young Estella in the revival of Argento's Miss Havisham's Fire. ". . .Sarah Tannehill, in a remarkable performance as Estella in bud, a disturbingly knowing child."She has been invited back to St. Louis in April 2002 to sing Papagena in The Magic Flute. Dierbach, Germany is Sarah's goal for the autumn of 2001. Sarah will be learning German and auditioning for agents and opera houses. She will be attending a program featuring intensive training in German Repertoire, language studies and preparation for European auditions. At the end of the two week course, the students will perform a concert for the town of Dierbach, and important agents and directors that have been invited. (9/01)

Katie Taylor (Kusterer) (B.S. in Ed. 1998) was married in January 1999 and taught vocal music at Ervin Middle School in Kansas City, MO during the 1999-2000 school year. She moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in July 2000 and took a position as the Director of Education and Outreach with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.
You can e-mail Katie at

Ken Tucker (B.S. in Ed., 1994) is the Choral Director at Union High School in Union, Missouri, where he teaches choir, music theory, music appreciation, and assists the marching band. His Men's Chorus from Union High School performed at the 2001 Missouri Music Educators Conference. Mr. Tucker is also the director of the youth choir at Zion United Church of Christ. Previously, he taught in Hermann, Missouri, and at Grandview Schools in Hillsboro, Missouri. Tucker received the Master of Music degree in conducting from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in August of 1999. He was also awarded the Missouri Choral Directors Association Prelude Award in 1999.

Melissa (O'Rear) Whipp (1997) is currently teaching elementary music at Stetson Elementary in Colorado Springs, CO where she and her husband, Fletcher, live with their two cats, Lars and Simba. (7/07)

Carla Wooton (Fisher) (BS in Music Ed with a Piano Performance Certificate, 1990) has taught at Pleasant View Middle School for the past 6 years. After graduation, she taught at Marion C. Early for four years, then taught at Pleasant Hope for six years. At Pleasant Hope, her bands received honors not only in the state of Missouri but in Washington, DC and Florida. She received the Master's in Conducting degree from MSU in the summer of 2005. Carla been a guest clinician, conductor, and has judged music festivals around the state of Missouri. She conducted Mozart's Magic Flute with the Heartland Opera Theatre Company in Joplin in the spring of 2005 and has conducted Puccini's Il Tabarro and Sour Angelica with the MSU Opera Workshop. Carla is currently married to Tim Wootton, another MSU graduate who is receiving his master's in trumpet performance from ASU, studying with David Hickman. Carla has two sons, Clay and Cole, who are 9 and 12.