Dr. Karen Kenaston-French
Artistic Director + Conductor
Karen Kenaston-French is Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas Arlington, where she conducts the A Cappella Choir, teaches graduate and undergraduate conducting, and heads the Vocal Area. Under her direction the UTA A Cappella Choir given invited performances at prestigious conferences including National Collegiate Choral Organization (2019), Southwestern Division American Choral Director’s Association (2022 & 2016), the Texas Music Educators Association state convention (2019 & 2014), and served as Choir-in-Residence for the undergraduate and graduate conducting competition at national ACDA (2015). She has prepared the choir for numerous regional guest appearances, including with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Texas Ballet Theatre, Fort Worth Chorale, the Rolling Stones and The Eagles. Under her direction, the UT Arlington A Cappella has been named a finalist in the American Prize for Choral Performance in 2021 and 2014. In 2019 Dr. Kenaston-French assumed the position of Artistic Director/Conductor of the Fort Worth Chorale, only the fifth conductor in the organization’s 57-year history.
Prior to her arrival at UTA, Dr. Kenaston-French served as Director of Choral Activities at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where she led the Chamber Singers in two appearances at the Tennessee Music Education Association state conference, and in master classes with Chanticleer, Cantus, and Libby Larsen. She taught conducting at Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas, and served as director of music ministries at Plymouth Park United Methodist Church in Irving, Texas from 1986-1998. Dr. Kenaston-French has been guest conductor for honor choirs in Colorado, Tennessee, and for many TMEA region choirs. A frequent lecturer and adjudicator, she has given presentations on choral tone, conducting, rehearsal technique and performance practice for SMU, Choristers Guild, Texas Choral Directors Association, and various universities, school districts and local churches.
A native of Huntington, WV, Dr. Kenaston-French holds a B.A. in vocal performance from West Virginia Wesleyan College, M.M. and M.S.M. degrees in choral conducting from Southern Methodist University, and a D.M.A. in choral conducting from the University of North Texas, where she was named outstanding graduate student in conducting and ensembles and the Pi Kappa Lambda outstanding doctoral student. She studied conducting with Jerry McCoy, Mel Ivey, Lloyd Pfautsch, Jane Marshall, and Larry Parsons, and in 2011 was a conductor for the Choral/Orchestral Master Class of the Oregon Bach Festival, under Helmut Rilling and Jeffrey Kahane. Vocal studies include graduate work with Lynn Eustis at UNT and Linda Baer at SMU. Her article “The Teachings of Jean‐Antoine Bérard” was published in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Journal of Singing in November 2009. She sang in the Dallas Symphony Chorus from 1993-2003, and was selected for the first Robert Shaw Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall in 1991.
Mason Cress is a conductor, singer, and composer/arranger from Arlington, Texas. He received his Bachelors in Vocal Performance and Masters of Music in Choral Conducting at the University of Texas at Arlington, studying under the direction of Dr. Kenaston-French. Mason is currently the Director of Music and Worship at Aledo United Methodist Church. Mason works with several ensembles at Aledo UMC, including the Chancel Choir, Handbell Choir, Contemporary Praise Band, and the Children's Choir. He has conducted over 20 choirs in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, including the Fort Worth Chorale, both choirs at UT Arlington and several church choirs. He has sung with many esteemed organizations, including the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Texas Ballet Theater Company, The Eagles, and several others. He has performed at several music conventions including the Texas Music Educators Association, American Choral Directors Association, South Western American Choral Directors Association, and the National Collegiate Choral Organization. He has composed and arranged music for various churches and the University Singers at UT Arlington for about a decade. Mason is currently a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, and the American Choral Directors Association.
Alan Buratto is the long-standing accompanist for Fort Worth Chorale and choral director for the Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth. His past teaching and accompanying experience includes twenty years as a director of the Texas Boys’ Choir, and, in an administrative capacity, six years as director of Fort Worth Opera's education program. A pianist with a love of the human voice, he has served as adjunct faculty and coach/accompanist for the TCU and Texas Wesleyan University Opera Theaters. He has recorded as accompanist on MMG, Vox Turnabout, and Resmiranda labels and served as pianist for the Gregg Smith Singers, Metropolitan Opera stars William Walker and Jean Kraft, and the Texas Music Educator Association’s All-State Choir. He has served as clinician and guest conductor for Arlington, Plano, Richardson, Fort Worth and Temple school districts and statewide TMEA and Orff/Kodaly conventions.