Conductor, composer, and tenor Steven J. Knell is Visiting Director of Choral Activities at Davidson College where he leads the Davidson Chorale and Singers in an innovative approach to safe choral rehearsal and performance during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. He is founder, program director, and chair of choral music at the Conductors' Collective at Escalante and artistic director of 67hundred, a professional chamber chorus and orchestra and resident ensemble of the Collective. He earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was the assistant conductor of the University of Texas Chamber Singers and Concert Chorale. At Texas, he taught courses in choral literature and conducting and conducted the UT Chamber Singers, UT Concert Chorale, and UT Bach Cantata Project. Dr. Knell previously served as Emerging Artist in Choral Directing at the Pennsylvania State University-Altoona where he was the conductor and vocal instructor of the chamber choir Ivyside Pride, afterward serving on the faculty of the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. He is currently active as a clinician, guest conductor, and researcher. Dr. Knell received his Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Georgia and his Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Utah.
A versatile choral and orchestral conductor, Dr. Knell has conducted the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the orchestra of the University of Texas Bach Cantata Project, the orchestra of Conductor's Retreat at Medomak, and the University of Georgia Symphony Orchestra. He is a senior clinician in instrumental music at the Conductors' Collective at Escalante and the conductor of the orchestra of 67hundred. Exercising his passionate advocacy for new music, Steven has led premieres of new and rarely performed choral and instrumental works. He also has an extensive background in the education of young musicians and associated pedagogical innovation, particularly in the areas of conducting, movement, and voice, and has instructed students in seminars and private lessons as well as serving as music director and teacher for students aged 5 to 18 at the University of Utah's YouthTheatre. Formative instructors and mentors include James Morrow, Daniel Bara, John P. Lynch, Kenneth Kiesler, Suzanne Pence, Michael Tusa, Carol Ann Allred, and Neil Varon.
Dr. Knell is a seasoned composer of choral and vocal music. His breakout piece for violoncello and soprano, Anthemoessa, was premiered across the United States by cellist Justin Dougherty and soprano Meredith Mecum in 2012–2014 as part of a touring recital series, Queering the Pitch. This piece is currently touring the US and Canada with the duo Juxtatonal featuring soprano Jocelyn Zelasko and cellist Bryan Hayslett. Juxtatonal has commissioned a new piece from Steven to be premiered in 2020. Steven’s collaboration with Dr. Dougherty continued with a new piece for solo cello, Fantasia (Come out, ye Saints), for the Queering the Pitch recital series, premiered in the fall of 2013 with additional performances in 2019 and 2020. Dr. Knell is also an experienced and versatile tenor, and has performed extensively in new music projects, such as Jennifer Higdon's Ruminations with the UT New Music Ensemble, as well as early music as a prolific soloist for the UT Bach Cantata Project. He appears regularly as a tenor in choral masterworks, opera, and musical theatre.
Steven is passionate about diversity in music and academia, particularly championing the work of queer students and artists, as well as the artistry of women and people of color. In addition to his work conducting and composing, Steven enjoys philosophy, travel, hiking, wine, the culinary arts, and the company of his beloved German shepherd, Maks.