Guest Directors


2022 Guest Teacher-Conductor

Jefferson Johnson
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Jefferson Johnson of the University of Kentucky will be the 2022 NextDirection guest teacher-conductor!

Jefferson Johnson is Director of Choral Activities at the University of Kentucky where he was recently named Endowed Professor of Choral Music.  At UK Johnson conducts the University Chorale and Men's Chorus. He also teaches advanced choral conducting, choral methods and literature, and directs the graduate program (MM and DMA degrees) in choral music. A native of Atlanta, Johnson received the Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Georgia (magna cum laude, 1978), the Master of Music from the University of Tennessee (1981), and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Colorado (1992), where in 2017 he was the third recipient of the “Distinguished Choral Alumnus Award.”  While living in Atlanta, Johnson was a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus conducted by Robert Shaw.

University of Kentucky choirs under Johnson’s direction have performed at twenty-seven conventions of choral music educators, including national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO), Music Educators National Conference (MENC), and Intercollegiate Male Choruses (IMC).  Most recently the UK Men’s Chorus was featured in performance at the 2018 ACDA Southern Division Convention (Louisville), the 2015 ACDA National Convention (Salt Lake City), the 2013 NCCO National Convention (Charleston, SC), the 2012 ACDA Southern Division Convention (Winston-Salem), and the 2011 ACDA National Convention (Chicago). They will also be featured at the 2020 ACDA Southern Region Convention in Mobile, AL.  The UK Chorale performed at the 2016 ACDA Southern Division Convention in Chattanooga, TN.

The UK Chorale, a select mixed choir, has toured extensively with recent performances in Paris (Cathedral of Notre Dame, Chartres Cathedral, American Cathedral, and Cathedral of La Madeleine), Washington, D.C. (Kennedy Center), the Bahamas (private performance in the Presidential Palace), and New York City (Carnegie Hall).  The Chorale has collaborated with numerous artists including The King Singers, violinist Mark O’Connor, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Cantus, and acclaimed conductor/composer James Burton. In 2015 the UK Chorale became the first university choral ensemble in the world to perform the soundtrack for the ground-breaking film 2001: A Space Odyssey with music by Gyorgy Ligeti.

Johnson is Music Director of the Lexington Singers. The 180-voice multi-generational community chorus annually performs major works with orchestras. The Singers have toured internationally, most recently to South Africa, Spain, Brazil, France, Italy, and Austria.  In 2000 the chorus performed Mozart’s Requiem with the Vienna Mozart Orchestra in the famous Hofburg Palace and sang the evening mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. In 2003 the chorus performed in St. Marks Cathedral in Venice and sang mass at St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City. In 1999 the Lexington Singers celebrated its 40th anniversary with a performance in New York City as Johnson made his Carnegie Hall debut conducting the Singers and orchestra in Faure’s Requiem.  The Lexington Singers returned to Carnegie Hall in 2014 for an acclaimed performance with bluegrass super group “Dailey and Vincent.”

In 2019 Johnson was selected to conduct the TTBB Honor Choir at the ACDA National Convention in Kansas City, and in 2018 he conducted the SATB Honor Choir at the first-ever joint conference of the Central and North Central Divisions of ACDA held in Chicago.  Johnson has conducted honor choruses in 33 states and 7 countries and has appeared as a featured clinician at conventions in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In March of 2017 Johnson’s graduate student, Cameron Weatherford, won first place in the ACDA National Conducting Competition.  In December of 2013 the acoUstiKats, a select ensemble from the UK Men’s Chorus, were chosen as finalists on NBC’s a cappella competition “The Sing Off.”

Johnson is a contributing author to several books: Rehearsing the Choir (2019), Brothers, Sing On (2014), and the soon-to-be-released Conducting Men’s Choirs (2020).  He has an editorial series with Hinshaw Music and with National Music Publishers.  Additionally, his article “The What, Why, and How of Young Adult Male Choirs” appeared in the Choral Journal in 2012.  His instructional video “Ready...Set...Sing!” is published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing and has been featured at music educators’ conventions from Ohio to Hawaii.

In 2019 Johnson was recognized as the first Endowed Professor of Choral Music at the University of Kentucky.  

2022 Collaborative Pianist

Rhonda Kwiecien
We are also pleased to announce that Rhonda Kwiecien of Carroll University will be the 2022 NextDirection collaborative pianist!

Rhonda Kwiecien is a widely recognized and highly respected collaborative pianist in the greater Milwaukee area. In her 23rd year at Carroll University, where she is the senior member of the collaborative piano team, she works with students, colleagues, and choral ensembles presenting recitals and concerts. Rhonda also serves as the University Organist, playing for convocations, Baccalaureate, and other special events.

In addition to her position with Carroll University, Mrs. Kwiecien is the Keyboard Artist for First Congregational Church in Wauwatosa and the Collaborative Pianist for the Choral Music Department of Muskego High School. She has shared the stage with featured ensembles from Muskego at several choral conventions.

During her career, Rhonda has worked with and premiered compositions by renowned composers Vijay Singh, Joseph Martin, Craig Hella Johnson, Eric Barnum, Jim Bassi, Robert Harris, Paula Foley Tillen, and Zachary Moore. As a pianist for the Wisconsin NATS competitions, she has traveled state-wide to play for both semi-finalists and finalists. Mrs. Kwiecien is also a board member for the Brew City Opera in Milwaukee. She and her husband are long-time residents of Waukesha.