Meet the Music Directors
Dr. Rachel Dirks is an active conductor, clinician, researcher, and educator. As Director of Orchestral Studies at Kansas State University she conducts the KSU Symphony Orchestra and teaches graduate and undergraduate string education courses, as well as applied cello. As a conductor, Dr. Dirks has been invited to collaborate with orchestras and honor ensembles throughout the United States, most recently in New York, Georgia, Nevada, and Oregon. As a featured clinician and educator, she has been invited to present for numerous music education conferences throughout the U.S. and Europe.
A Kansas native, Dr. Dirks holds cello performance degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and Bethel College, and a Ph.D. in music education, with an emphasis in orchestral conducting, from the University of Kansas. Her current research in music student and teacher mental wellbeing has led her to join the national committees on health and wellness for both ASTA and NAfME. Throughout her experiences as a conductor and educator, her fundamental goal is to encourage musicians to seek and create community through music.
Dr. Matthew O. Smith is Associate Director of Bands at the University of Kansas, where he conducts the Symphonic Band, the Marching Jayhawks, and teaches courses in the School of Music. He is also the director of the nationally renowned Midwestern Music Camps held at KU. He has held similar positions in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Iowa State University, Baylor University, and the University of Michigan.
Raised in Fairfax, Virginia, Smith holds degrees in music education from the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Michigan State University. During his tenure at Iowa State, Smith conducted the Central Iowa Symphony on numerous occasions. Additional interests include conducting pedagogy and the training of instrumental music educators.