Our professional staff has many years of experience with music, both as performers and as teachers.
A Vocal Music Education graduate of the University of Maine, Topher Keene also participated in graduate studies at New England Conservatory and has completed coursework for his Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instructional Design from Western Governor’s University. Topher is a level III certified Kodály educator and has served as president of the Arizona chapter and as a board member of the national Kodály organization, OAKE. He has presented workshops at schools and universities as well as state, regional, and national educator conferences and was a Quarterfinalist for the 2020 Grammy Award for Music Educator of the Year.
Topher directs several other choruses and is active as a music theater director in shows across the Valley and is the former Director of Education and Town Choir Director for Phoenix Boys Choir. He founded and serves as CEO for ChoirUnlimited, a sheet music publishing company. He has taught private voice lessons for over a decade in Phoenix and via Skype and Zoom to students around the world.
Topher's artistic vision guides our entire choir, and he is the principal conductor for Aria and Allegria, our high school and adult ensembles.
Associate Artistic Director
Emily Keene has her BSEd in elementary education from Northern Illinois University with a specialty in structured English immersion. Emily sang as a choir member and soloist in the #1-ranked US high school show choir, as well as serving as a section leader and choir assistant.
Emily has founded and directed multiple competitive a cappella choirs with both female and mixed-gender singers since 2012. She wrote the curriculum and was the inaugural director of the Minuets program for preschoolers at the Phoenix Boys Choir.
Emily is our early childhood music educator, directing our preschool Tot Choir, and is the principal conductor for Angeli and Amabile, our elementary-age ensembles. She also sings with Allegria, our adult ensemble.
Anima Conductor, Music Literacy Instructor
Karli Anderson first stepped into the world of professional musicianship in middle school when she began performing with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. She has been a part of well-known ensembles across the nation, including the Oberlin Women's Chorale, Interlochen Intermediate Honors Choir, and the San Antonio Mastersingers. Karli earned her Bachelor's in Musical Studies from Oberlin College, where she worked as Assistant Director to the Oberlin Treble Choir. She earned a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from UTSA, where she also served as Assistant Director for the San Antonio Children's Chorus. She acted as the Assistant Director for the Texas Yellow Rose Singers on their tour through Greece and has worked with many churches as director of music, founded and directed multiple a cappella ensembles, and teaches private vocal and piano lessons.
Currently, Karli is the 8th-12th grade music teacher and choir director for Great Hearts Anthem Preparatory School. She serves as the principal conductor for Anima, our junior high ensemble, and also teaches in our music literacy education program.
Mary Purcell Wagner
Principal Collaborative Pianist
Native Arizonan Mary Purcell Wagner has extensive education and experience as an accompanying and collaborative pianist. Mary began teaching private piano lessons at the young age of 13 and continues in her private home studio today. For over three decades she conducted some of the finest middle school/junior choirs in the state of Arizona, specializing in the changing male voice, and her choirs performed throughout the southwest. In addition, Mary has maintained a steady church music career as organist, pianist, and choral director. Mary has a Masters of Music from ASU and studied extensively at Columbia University in New York.
Mary is the pianist for our high school and adult ensembles, Aria and Allegria, and also serves as our principal concert pianist.
Janet Norman, Ph.D.
Collaborative Pianist, Director of Music Literacy
Janet Norman, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, completed her Doctorate of Musical Arts in 2009 from Arizona State University; she has been teaching music and playing piano in Arizona since 1996. She also holds music degrees from Bowling Green State University and Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio. She has performed in various states and countries, including Italy, New York , Ohio, and Chile. Honors for her performances include winner of Most Distinguished Music Award with IBLA foundation in Ragusa IBLA, Italy; third-place winner in the Klatzkin Competition; first-place winner in the inaugural ASU Contemporary Music Society Competition for performers in 1999; two-time winner of the Three Arts Club of Lakewood, Ohio, in both 1987 and 1988; and winner of the 1986 Baldwin-Wallace College/Conservatory Concerto Competition.
Currently Janet teaches music with the Mesa Public Schools, offers private piano lessons, and works as a freelance accompanist. She accompanies our elementary and junior high ensembles and directs our music literacy education program. She also sings with Allegria, our adult ensemble.
Collaborative Pianist, Music Literacy Instructor
Jeanne Holt grew up in a household of pianists whose mother told her and her siblings that they only had to practice on the days that end in the letter y! She began teaching piano in 8th grade and has never stopped. She received a Bachelor of Music in Piano Pedagogy from the University of Utah and fell in love with ensemble playing while performing around the state in a piano duo. After graduation, she was accepted into the Potomac Organ Institute of Washington DC to study organ, where she discovered that while the organ is truly magnificent, her true love is still the piano. Jeanne maintained a large private piano studio in Oregon for many years, and many of her students received collegiate music scholarships and went on to become lifelong musicians. She was an accompanist for Mallory Music Vocal Studios as well as a highly sought-after accompanist and pit orchestra keyboardist for local high school choral programs and spring musicals. When her daughter and family moved to Phoenix, Jeanne and her husband followed.
Currently Jeanne has a growing private piano studio, plays organ for her church services, and performs in the piano duo J². She is the pianist for our elementary ensembles, Angeli and Amabile, and also teaches in our music literacy program. She also sings with Allegria, our adult ensemble.
Music Literacy Instructor
Hannah Shenk sang with the Arizona Girlchoir from ages 11 to 18 before attending Providence Christian College in California, where she recently graduated with a BA in English and Education. She has now returned to Arizona and teaches literature arts, drama, and poetry in grades 7-9 at Great Hearts Maryvale.
Hannah has rejoined the choir to sing with Allegria, our adult ensemble, and also teaches beginning music literacy for Angeli, our youngest singers.
Prior to accepting the position of Executive Director, Charlene Shenk spent six years on the Board of Directors, with one year as secretary and three years as treasurer. She is a graduate of the University of the Pacific with a BA in English. After a ten-year career in technical writing, Charlene stayed at home and homeschooled her four children. She was the Children’s Ministry Director for her church in San Jose for nine years, managing all aspects of children’s programming, including planning and executing yearly Vacation Bible School. Her passion for supporting mothers and babies led to volunteer work with La Leche League International and Breastfeeding USA, where she led meetings, managed over 200 breastfeeding counselors nationally, and assisted with branding, marketing strategies, and organizational development. She has also served on leadership teams for both her church in California and here in Arizona. In her spare time, she facilitates a monthly support group for mothers at Maggie’s Place. Charlene knows firsthand the important role that choir can play in development and growth of young women (and men) as her children have been in choir since they could talk.
Director of Communications
Carma Paden's BSEd in elementary education has never been put to its intended professional use. From work in the English department and then assistant to the editor-in-chief of an international architectural journal as a college student, Carma moved into secretarial and then freelance proofreading and editing work. She has handled all aspects of writing, proofing, editing, layout, and graphic design of multiple international newsletters and publications. She eventually became production editor at an educational publishing firm, managing manuscripts from the first draft, to hiring and overseeing editors and artists, to personally designing the layouts, all the way to the final publishing. Later, as a stay-at-home mom, she found many outlets for her creative and technical sides, continuing to freelance edit as well as volunteering her time, graphic design, and management skills to many organizations in which her children were involved. She led a local homeschool group for more than a dozen years; assisted in the founding and administration of a dozen online homeschooling and parenting groups with up to 50,000 members; and is a contributing author to a published homeschooling manual. Her two daughters have sung with the Girlchoir since 2012, and Carma began serving on the board of directors at the same time . While on the board, she volunteered her services as Director of Communications for several years; in 2021 she stepped off the board to become an official staff member. She also sings with Allegria, our adult ensemble.
Director of Development
Conay Huizar is a native Californian who attended York College in Nebraska. She completed her studies at Cedarville University in Ohio and World Harvest Bible University in Ohio. She has 20 years of experience as a realtor and in investment strategy in the Phoenix area. She also has considerable fundraising experience, including a multi-year stint as director of development with the Phoenix Boys Choir.
Conay currently serves on the Board of Trustees for York College, her former alma mater, a private Christian College. She is a current volunteer and member of the Mother’s Guild for The Phoenix Ballet. She served as a Human Relations Commissioner for the city of Scottsdale in Arizona. She is a past volunteer for Great State 48 Alliance, Patriot Pack Arizona, National Charity League, and Shepherd of The Desert Church and School, where she served as Youth Director. She served on the Executive Committee as a parent board member for BASIS Charter Schools, Anasazi Elementary, and Chaparral High School.
Conay was a stay-at-home mother for 15 years. She and her husband have three children.
Board of Directors 2021-2022
Leah Horton, Board President
Shirly Gonzales, Board Vice President
Autumn-Rose Titone, Board Secretary
Caridad Legere, Board Treasurer
Lucas Gutierrez, Board Member