IMEA All-State Conductor Biographies

Dr. James Bankhead, Logan, Utah

Dr. James M. Bankhead became the Music Department Head at Utah State University July 1, 2011. He held this position until June, 2015 when he retired.

He was Director, School of Music at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas from 2006-2011. He was an active leader in several statewide music projects and instrumental in the contstruction of the new Gaetner Performance Arts Center on that campus.

Dr. Bankhead received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC; the Master of Arts degree is from Central Michigan University; and, the Bachelor of Music degree from Utah State University.

Before going to Sam Houston State in 2006, he was the Chairman of the Music Department at California State University, Chico, 1994-2006. In addition to his administrative leadership, he was director of bands, master’s degree advisor and conductor of the Opera Workshop orchestra. He was also principal guest conductor of the Shasta Symphony Orchestra in Redding, CA.

He is a frequent guest conductor, clinician and music specialist at music events throughout the country. He has conducted in all 50 states and 18 foreign countries.

Dr. Bankhead is on the conducting staff of the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, and Board Member/conductor at the American Band College and Western International Band Clinic.

Prior to his appointment at CSU, Chico, Dr. Bankhead was Executive Director of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and Producer at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. He produced shows, concerts and festivals involving artists ranging from Bill Cosby to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Bankhead completed 22 years of military service in the Air Force retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He served as Commander/Conductor of the United States Air Force Band in Washington 1985-1991 and Deputy Commander/Assistant Conductor of that organization from 1976-1985. Prior to that, he was Chief of Bands and Music for the Air Force stationed at the Pentagon.

Dr. Bankhead and his wife, Lyn, reside in North Logan, Utah.

Kirk Marcy, Edmonds Community College, Washington

Kirk Marcy is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Northern Colorado. He began his teaching career in 1983 at Lake Washington High School. In 1987, he joined the Four Freshmen, singing and playing keyboards and brass. In 1988, Kirk returned to the Pacific Northwest to become the Director of Choirs at Edmonds Community College.

In 2008, Kirk was inducted into the Washington Music Educators Hall of Fame. In 2013, he received Edmonds Community College’s “Excellence in Education Award” for outstanding teaching. Recently, he was selected as the 2017 Washington Interscholastic Activities Association ‘Music Educator of the Year’. 2017-18 marks his 30th year at the college.

Kirk has been honored to conduct All-State Choirs in fifteen states, and served as guest conductor of the 2014 ACDA Northwest Division Honor Jazz Choir. He is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator at choral and vocal jazz festivals throughout the United States and Canada.

Kirk’s choral and jazz compositions and arrangements are published through UNC Jazz Press, Walton and Sound Music Publications, and he recently formed his own publishing company, Kirk Marcy Music. Professionally, Kirk sings with Just 4 Kicks and Male Ensemble Northwest.

Dr. Sarah Graham, Lewis and Clark State College, Lewiston, Idaho

Sarah J. Graham is Assistant Professor of Music at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, where she teaches courses in music and the humanities, and conducts the Concert Choir. Dr. Graham earned both the Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in conducting from Michigan State University, in East Lansing, Michigan, the Master of Arts in English and Classroom Teaching from Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, Washington, and the Bachelor of Arts in Music Education with a minor in Church Music from Whitworth, in Spokane, Washington.

Dr. Graham spent the early part of her career teaching public school choral music in Washington State, and most recently returned to the Northwest after ten years of collegiate teaching in Illinois. She has conducted choirs in both domestic and international performances and is a frequently presents sessions for her professional organizations and serves as an adjudicator and guest conductor for contests, festivals, and retreats. She is an active member of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, the National Association for Music Education, and the American Choral Director’s Association, where she is a board member for both the Northwest division and for the state of Idaho.

Graham is the artistic director and conductor of the Palouse Choral Society’s Chorale and Chamber Choir, and also serves as the music director for the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Lewiston.

Dr. Steven Admundson, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

Steven Amundson joined the music faculty at St. Olaf College in the fall of 1981. Under Amundson’s direction, the St. Olaf Orchestra has become recognized as one the finest undergraduate orchestras in the United States. In addition to his duties as conductor of the St. Olaf Orchestra, he teaches courses in conducting, aural skills, and music theory.

Prior to his appointment at St. Olaf, Amundson held conducting posts at the University of Virginia and with the Tacoma Youth Symphony in Washington. He is the founding conductor of the Metropolitan Symphony in Minnesota and served as Music Director and Conductor of the Bloomington Symphony from 1984-1997. He has been both a resident conductor and guest conductor for the well-known Interlochen National Arts Camp and has served as guest conductor for many All-State Orchestra festivals throughout the United States. Amundson has guest conducted professional ensembles in Minnesota including the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra, the Fargo/Moorhead Symphony, and the renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

A commissioned composer and arranger, Amundson is published by Lauren Keiser Music and the Neil A. Kjos Music Co. Tempo Music Resource distributes his self-published works. His orchestral compositions have received hundreds of performances by professional orchestras including the Atlanta, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Oregon, Phoenix, San Diego, and Utah Symphonies in the United States, and internationally with orchestras including the Toronto Symphony in Canada and BBC Concert Orchestra in the United Kingdom.

Amundson did his studies in orchestral conducting at Luther College, Northwestern University, the University of Virginia, the Aspen Music School in Colorado, and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. He has enjoyed the tutelage of notable conductors including Maurice Abravanel, Milan Horvat, and Erich Leinsdorf.

In the 1980 International Conducting Competition hosted by the Mozarteum and Austrian National Radio, Amundson placed first, earning the Hans Haring Prize. In 1992 the Minnesota Music Education Association named him “Minnesota Orchestra Educator of the Year.” In the fall of 1995 Amundson received the Carlo A. Sperati Award from Luther College in recognition of his meritorious achievement in the field of music.

Desiree LaVertu, Occidental College, Los Angeles, California

Desiree La Vertu is an accomplished conductor, soloist, and voice teacher in the greater Los Angeles area. Ms. LaVertu is the Director of Choral & Vocal Activities at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where she has taught since 2009. Previously, she was the Director of the Glee Clubs at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Additionally, she was on the voice faculties of Chapman University and the summer graduate program at California State University, Los Angeles. She is one of the solo vocal coordinators and is on the choral-vocal faculty of the Idyllwild Arts Summer Festival Choir. She began her teaching career at the secondary level, teaching middle school and high school for 10 years.

As a soprano, Ms. La Vertu specializes in the oratorio repertoire, and has been soprano soloist in Poulenc’s Gloria and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, both at Disney Hall, Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, and Bach’s Magnificat, among others. She was a long-time member of the Donald Brinegar Singers, and was a founding member of the female a capella quartet “Diva Complex.”

Initially trained as a pianist, her Bachelor of Music degree is in Accompanying from California State University, Fullerton. She received her Master of Music in Choral and Vocal Studies from the University of Nevada, Reno, where she studied with Bruce Mayhall and Donald Brinegar. Ms. LaVertu maintains a private voice studio in Pasadena, where she lives with her husband and two wonderful children.