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.
Pianist Jeff Lankov has been hailed for his “superb, fearless, ferocious, and sensitive” (New York Times) “performances of brilliance and dedication…there seems to be nothing that eludes his grasp” (New York Concert Review). His playing has been described as “muscular and moving” (Dallas Morning News) and “shimmering and assertive.” (Portland Tribune). Writes Fanfare: “This is a superb performance of the very highest standard…beyond criticism.”
Lankov is an enthusiastic advocate for living composers and for advancing the music of our time. As a soloist and sought-after collaborative artist, Lankov has performed in major concert venues throughout the world, including solo recitals at Lincoln Center and the critically acclaimed world premiere of Robert Xavier Rodríguez’ Caprichos at Carnegie Hall and subsequent recording of Rodríguez’ complete solo piano works. Lankov has recorded works by composers including John Adams, Michael Finnissy, George Gershwin, Morton Lauridsen, Olivier Messiaen, Astor Piazzolla, Jake Runestad, and Melinda Wagner. His repertoire includes works by composers as diverse as Blind Tom, Henry Cowell, George Crumb, Morton Feldman, Frederic Rzewski, and Jacob TV, along with music for toy piano and prepared piano, and Lankov’s own solo-piano transcriptions of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and The Firebird.
In the musical theatre genre, Lankov has performed on Broadway in Mary Poppins and Newsies, served as musical director for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular; and performed on Broadway national tours including Phantom of the Opera; The Book of Mormon; Miss Saigon; Jesus Christ Superstar; Beauty and the Beast; Spamalot; Beautiful, the Carole King Musical; and Wicked. Lankov is a respected cabaret arranger and coach, and has worked internationally with vocal artists of diverse styles. Lankov has collaborated with choral artists in invited performances at American Choral Director’s Association national conferences; has toured and recorded with Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and, in 2016, was appointed pianist of the Dallas Symphony Chorus.
Lankov’s multimedia performance pieces combine music with theatrical elements, visual art and computer-generated sounds and images, often in unusual juxtapositions that explore the synthesis of popular and classical forms. Dr. Lankov is Professor of Music and head of Piano Studies at Tarrant County College Northeast, and received a Ph.D. in Piano Performance from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University.