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Executive Director

Tara Johnson joins us with more than 20 years of organizational and administrative leadership experience in financial management firms. This includes a variety of skills essential to the role of executive director such as: process improvement and workflow design, corporate communications and information management, strategic marketing and brand building, comprehensive accounting and financial systems, as well as having strong client engagement and relations skills. In addition, Tara has been an active organizer and supporter of the arts, serving on multiple committees and boards. Her connections to the Kids from Wisconsin run deep as well, being a parent to a troupe member the last several years, leading the parents' group, coordinating a large-scale, sponsored performance opportunity for the Kids in Madison, and recently becoming a member of our Kids Board of Directors.




Programming Operations Director

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.


Morgan Strimple


Artistic Director
& 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.




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 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 or digitally archiving 50+ years of music, Keven can be found doing just about anything and everything. Also known as "the cookie man" he bakes 2,000+ cookies every summer for Kids camp and the tour season.





Michael Stanek, a Wisconsin native, is a freelance Director/Choreographer and Arts Educator and is excited to return to Kids From Wisconsin for the 2024 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.




Costume Designer

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.




Production Manager/ Tour Manager/ A1

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, kids, and the rest of his family and friends.




Stage Band Director / Tour Assistant

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 pep 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 56th edition of the KIDS from Wisconsin!




Camp Band Director

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.




Production Assistant/A2

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!!




Stage Manager

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!




Dance Assistant

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!



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