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Artistic Staff

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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.

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Jazmin Almendarez

Associate Conductor

Jazmin Almendarez is a conductor and educator born in Harlingen, TX. She is serving as Associate Conductor for the Fort Worth Chorale, which she first joined in 2021. Jazmin is  currently earning her M.M. in Choir Conducting at the University of Texas at Arlington, studying under the direction of Dr. Kenaston-French. In 2020, she completed her undergraduate studies at UTA, receiving a B.M. with Teacher Certification. Upon graduating from UTA, she began her first year teaching at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, TX. She served as the head director of the Nolan Catholic High School Choir from 2020-21, where she led students to competitions such as TMEA, TPSMEA, and Solo & Ensemble. Jazmin has conducted choirs at UTA, including A Cappella Choir and University singers, and was a Student Conductor for the 2018 TCDA Convention. Jazmin has attended numerous conventions such as TMEA, NCCO, and SWACDA during her time singing in the UTA A Cappella Choir. She is a member and former president of the Sigma Alpha Iota Zeta Nu chapter at UTA, and received a Sword of Honor in 2019. 

Former Artistic Directors