Michael Sander is a 1994 & 1995 Kids alumnus and was overjoyed of becoming a board member in 2014. During his five-year tenure he is most proud of leading the alumni 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Prior to being selected as the Executive Director he worked at Wells Fargo as their Legal Liaison. During his time at Wells he started an anti-bullying campaign "Safe Space Milwaukee." He was invited to schools, in the area, to discuss the importance of safe spaces in school settings to ensure all students had the opportunity to feel supported and respected. He is also responsible for bringing back the "PRIDE FLAGS" to the city of Milwaukee in honor of Pride Month. Michael was awarded the 2021 Milwaukee Best LGBTQ Advocate Award. To Michael, inclusiveness and visibility are two important descriptives and this is his driving force in leadership of the KIDS organization.
An active member in the non-profit community of Milwaukee, he could not be prouder to spend his time with a group he holds close to his heart. He always finds himself reflecting on the memories and especially the life skills that the KIDS program rewarded him. He gives his time to the organization so that others can have an experience as meaningful and rewarding as his was as a KID FROM WISCONSIN.
"Once A Kid, Always A Kid!
Prior to becoming the Director of Development Tina served as the Executive Director and then Managing Director as the organization onboarded a new Executive Director.
As Director of Development, Tina will now work to enhance our donor relations and seek new opportunities for growth through business and foundation support. "Through our expanded community enrichment programs and continued success of the iconic production, we are able to offer unique ways to build financial support through our year round programing."
Tina served three years with as the Executive Director of the Muskego Chamber of Commerce and ten years at the public libraries as a reference librarian and small business/marketing liaison.
Tina has a continued passion and vision and will contribute to helping build on its foundation and financial health.
Operations Director and Choreographer
A proud alumna, Peggy has served Kids from Wisconsin since 2014 in many capacities, most notably a founding leader of the emerging Community Enrichment division and Head Choreographer since 2017. With the organization growing to offer year-round performance education opportunities for youth, her vast experience supports both the traditional and creative development of its core programming.
Peggy's spectrum of work, primarily as a choreographer and director, includes large scale musicals, adjudications, workshops, clinics and master teaching artist. She has trained hundreds of performers ranging from beginners to professional artists in various dance styles. Peggy was chosen as a primary teaching artist for Disney's Musicals in Schools, and a multiple recipient for "Outstanding Choreography" for Madison WI's Overture Center of the Arts's Jerry Awards, achieving excellence in high school musical programming in numerous productions, as well as a choreographer for their award recipient production for PBS. She has collaborated with numerous artist teams and is a trusted consultant nationally in dance and performance. Peggy also serves on faculty at the Academy and Pre-Professional level for Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy.
Peggy received her intense dance education from the legendary Jean Wolfmeyer in Manitowoc, WI, while also studying as a scholarship student at the former National Academy of the Arts, Gus Giordano Dance and Lou Conte Dance Studio of Chicago. Peggy enjoyed over 15 years as a professional dancer/entertainer in multiple productions for Disney World, in Las Vegas, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and large productions around the World and TV commercials.
& Chief Orchestrator
In addition to being the Artistic Director and chief orchestrator for the Kids From Wisconsin, Taras Nahirniak is an arranger, composer, and clinician who has numerous published works. He has written and composed for many vocal groups, drum corps, and marching bands in the United States, Europe and Japan. He is also an alumni and arranger for the UW Madison Wisconsin Singers. Taras is a sought-after composer who won the Wisconsin Choral Directors Association composers award and was commissioned to compose a 5 movement fully orchestrated piece for the Madison Ballet. The piece, "Night Dances" was performed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the opening of the Overture Center. In 1997 his full-scale musical "Everyman" was debuted in Madison and was later performed in California. Taras has directed and performed in a number of musicals around the area. In his free time he is either traveling to watch his kids performing in Broadway national tours or performing himself with Piano Fondue, a dueling piano group and a Billy Joel tribute band, 52nd Street. In 2020 he and his wife moved from the Madison area to Oconomowoc where Taras became the director of music for Our Savior's Lutheran Church.
Community Education Director
An alumnus of the Kids From Wisconsin as a Principal Singer/Dancer in 2014, Ashley served as the Tour Director for eight seasons from 2016 to 2022 before moving into her role as the Community Education Director in October of 2022. Previously, she had served as a Community Enrichment Coordinator for our Realize Your Dream programs and was the Lead Project Designer for our first Music In Me Residency Program.
Ashley holds a B.A. in Theater Arts-Acting from the University of Northern Colorado and is currently pursuing an M.A.T. in Secondary English Education from Western Governors University. In addition to her work with the Kids From Wisconsin, Ashley is a freelance choreographer, actor, singer, and theater educator in southeastern Wisconsin where she teaches with First Stage and serves as the Artistic Director and Lead Choreographer for Main Street Song and Dance Troupe.
Her recent choreography credits include: MAMMA MIA! and MARY POPPINS (Sunset Playhouse), MATILDA (Waukesha Civic Theater), THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Marquette University High School), THE LITTLE MERMAID (University School of Milwaukee), and JOSEPH AND THE TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Nathan Hale High School). And if that isn’t enough, she is also the lead vocalist for the local band, Smart Mouth!
With her extensive background in the arts, Ashley is passionate about working to close the disparity in music education access for students in Wisconsin by providing music and arts education to young people across the state through our Realize Your Dream programs. She thoroughly believes in the transformative power of the arts, and is dedicated to ensuring all students have the opportunity to harness their creative potential, and learn to express themselves and communicate with others through music, dance, and more.
Meg Strobel is a marketing professional, commercial photographer, and artist from Milwaukee, WI. After nearly two decades of professional experience, most recently as the Director of Marketing and Community Engagement for Sculpture Milwaukee, she has developed her own freelance business with the aim of helping nonprofits and businesses thrive. Her commercial work has been featured in dozens of local and national publications, and her creative work has been featured in galleries and film fests across the country. On her new role with Kids from Wisconsin Strobel quips, "I've enjoyed watching their performances at the State Fair since I was a kid. The caliber of their showmanship and skills are inspirational, and I love what they do for music education across the state; I couldn't be more excited to get to work for this vital, dynamic group."
Administrative Assistant, Librarian
Keven Riggle has been volunteering with the Kids organization since 1991. A graduate of Badger High School (Lake Geneva) he received hi Library Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. After 36 years he recently retired from Marquette University where he worked in the Library's Information Technology department.
Whether it's auditions, Kids camp, performances, taking photos, moving equipment and wardrobe, preparing music for distribution and just recently, digitally archiving 50 years of music, Keven can be found doing just about anything and everything. Also known as "the cookie man" he bakes 1600+ cookies every summer for Kids camp and the tour season.
Michael Stanek, a Wisconsin native, is a freelance Director/Choreographer and Arts Educator snd excited to return to Kids From Wisconsin for the 2023 Season. Recent director/choreographer credits include: The RIDE NYC!, (Drama Desk Nominee) 70, Girls, 70, starring Olympia Dukakis (City Center Encores), Stanek has also served as Artistic Director of The Broadway Theatre, Wohlfahrt Haus Theatre, Broadway Kidz Wisconsin, Origin Theatre and Kids With Heart, seen on the Rosie O'Donnell Show. Selected performance credits include: Ed McMahon's Star Search (Finalist), 42nd Street (European Tour), Sophisticated Sing and Swing, starring Mercedes Ellington (National Tour), Camelot, starring John Rubenstien and Ken Page (The MUNY) and Oklahoma! starring Rue McClanahan (Broadway Series of Charlotte). Stanek proudly originated the role of the Prince in Beauty and the Beast (Disney-Hollywood Studios). He is a proud Member of Actors' Equity Association and an Associate Member of The Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers.
Katlin Gerlach is overjoyed to join the Kids from Wisconsin production team. She is a freelance Costume Designer, Technician, and Alterations Specialist. She graduated from UW Parkside in 2014 with a BA in Theatre Arts, specializing in Costume Technology and Design. Professional Technician Credits include: American Players Theatre, The Florentine Opera, Skylight Theatre, and The Milwaukee Rep. Professional Design Credits Include: UW Parkside: As You Like It; The Prairie School: The Little Mermaid, Once on this Island, Chicago (Jerry Award for Best Costume), Elf Jr. the Musical, Into the Woods, Suessical, Mama Mia, Drowsy Chaperone (Jerry Award for Best Costume). Formerly Alterations Manager with David’s Bridal, Katlin runs her own alterations small business in Delevan where she lives with her family.
Technical and Tour Director
Matt has been the Technical Director for Kids from Wisconsin since 2011 and continues to thoroughly enjoy working with the organization. Outside of his role with Kids from Wisconsin, he is the sound designer and engineer for several high school theater productions each year and operates his own company, Pinnacle Audio. When he's not working, he loves spending time with his wife, Megan, son, Jayden, and the rest of his family and friends.
Band/Tour Director and Community Enrichment Lead
Alex Knoepker is Director of Bands at Tomah High School in Tomah, Wisconsin. At THS, he conducts the auditioned wind and percussion ensemble, directs the jazz ensembles, coordinates pepe band, and co-directs the THS marching band each fall. He also serves as the theory area coordinator, teaching courses in music theory, AP music theory, and music appreciation. During summer break, Alex serves as director of the stage band and as a tour director for the KIDS from Wisconsin- a position he is honored to hold, He is an active pianist, accompanist, percussionist, and church organist throughout Wisconsin and is involved with many musical endeavors around the state. Originally from Warrens, in the heard of Wisconsin's cranberry country, he holds a degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Alex's professional affiliations include the Wisconsin School Association (WSMA), the National Association for Music Education, the Wisconsin Chapter of Percussive Arts Society, The Wisconsin Music Educators Association, and the National Band Association- Wisconsin Chapter. He serves as a WSMA adjudicator, facilitates district and state solo and ensemble festivals in western Wisconsin, and adjudicates at show choir competitions throughout the state.
An Alumnus of Kids From Wisconsin himself, Alex is excited to be part of another year of musical excellence that the troupe brings to dozens of communities around the state. With a focus on the KIDS stage band, he strives to give audiences the iconic clean, crisp sound they have come to know from many past years of excellence. Enjoy the 55th edition of the KIDS from Wisconsin!
Ray is thrilled to be a part of the Kids organization again, joining the staff as the Production Manager. They are a Principal Singer/Dancer alumnus from 2017-2019, and served as Student Leader in their final season.
Ray has spent the last five years living in Eau Claire, WI. They spent four years at UW-Eau Claire studying music, dance and arts administration. They were involved in many of the main stage productions during their time there, including shows such as Don Giovanni, Company, Head Over Heels, and Medea. They also had the opportunity to choreograph some of the smaller productions, such as musical theater revues at the Viennese Ball, and the student-run production Cabaret: Forces of Nature. Ray now spends their time working jobs in the community, as well as continuing to privately study new instruments and styles of dance.
Matt Mealey has toured all across the country as a freelance trumpet artist. Performing credits include: lead trumpet for Wayne Newton, the New York Voices, the Irish Tenors, the Temptations, The Four Tops, Frankie Valli, Johnny Mathis, Jimmy Dorsey, Mannheim Steamroller, Steve Lippia, Charles Langley, Gap Mangione, Five by Design, and the National Broadway Tours of 42nd Street and Monty Python's Spamalot. He has also appeared as a guest soloist with the Chippewa Valley Concert Band, the St. Croix Jazz Orchestra, the Robert Baca Jazz Orchestra, as well as several other college and high school bands throughout the country. Matt holds a degree in music education from UW–Eau Claire, and a Master’s degree in trumpet performance from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.
In addition to performing, Matt has also been quite involved in music education. He has served as a jazz and trumpet instructor at the Shell Lake Arts Center, The International Music Camp, and the Northland Youth Music Program. Matt has an extensive history serving as a clinician and adjudicator for jazz festivals and music contests throughout the Midwest. For the past 20 years, Matt has been the Director of Bands at New Richmond High School, where he is fortunate to work alongside his Choir Director wife Jodi. Both
alumni of Kids From Wisconsin, Matt (92-95; stage band coach 96-98) and Jodi (96-98) like to think their experiences from KIDS inspire their collaborative efforts in musicals and concerts. Matt is very exited to be a part of the KIDS organization again, and he hopes to inspire the next generation of young artists.
Assistant Technical Director
Born and raised in Galesville, WI, Hunter is very excited to be reuniting with the KIDS organization after performing with the group in 2012 and 2013.
Graduating from GET High School, Hunter went on to receive his Music Education degree from Viterbo University in 2018. Hunter served 2 years as the Choir Teacher at Independence School district from 2018-2020, and now finishing his 2nd year at Brookwood School District as their Chori and General Music Teacher (2020-present).
In his free time, he enjoys creating Acapella music, recording music challenges on TikToc, going to the movies and escape rooms, and taking solo trips around the country! He's ready to help make this year EPIC for the KIDS From Wisconsin!!
Assistant Technical Director
Ethan Hanson is excited to join KIDS Organization as the Light Board Operator for the 2023 Tour! He is originally from Wausau, graduated from D.C. Everest in 2020, and was in the KIDS 2022 Tour as a Principal Singer/Dancer. Ethan will start his Senior year at North Dakota State University in the fall and is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and Music Minor.
In his free time, Ethan likes to listen to music, rank movies with his roommates and friends, play video games and read history books. He can't wait to make this year awesome for the KIDS From Wisconsin!
Originally from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Hannah is currently the Instrumental Music Teacher in the New Lisbon School District in New Lisbon, Wisconsin where she teaches General Music and 5th-12th Grade Band!
Hannah is a member of the following professional organizations: Wisconsin School Music Association, the National Band Association-Wisconsin Chapter, and the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME). Hannah holds a degree in Music Education from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where she served as the Music Department’s Student Representative, NAfME President, and other leadership roles. While at UW-La Crosse, Hannah also served on the NAfME Intercollegiate Student Board.
This will be Hannah’s first summer with the KIDS organization and she is SO excited to begin working with the phenomenal staff and cast!
Hope Riesterer is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, with a BFA in Musical Theater and a Dance Minor. She grew up studying dance with the Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy and theater with First Stage’s Young Company, where she was able to perform at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
Hope is a Kids from Wisconsin Alumni, 2015 -2018. Other recent performance credits include: Lisa in Mamma Mia at Skylight Music Theatre, Frog in A Year with Frog and Toad at Hope Summer Repertory Theater, Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray, Sophie Sheridan in Mamma Mia, and Cassandra in Trojan Women. Hope also has a passion for choreographing and teaching. She is a recent recipient for “Outstanding Choreography” from Overture Center of the Arts’ Jerry Awards and is a teacher of Musical Theatre Dance classes and workshops with The Studio at Water Street Dance Milwaukee.
She can’t wait to be back with her Kids from Wisconsin family for a second summer in the role of Dance Assistant!