Producer and Orchestrator
In addition to being the producer 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.
Head Choreographer/Community Enrichment Coordinator
Peggy's spectrum of work as a director and choreographer includes large scale musicals, visual adjudications, clinician workshops and a sought-after teaching artist. She trains over 1000 performers a year trained ranging from beginners to professional artists. She 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.
A Kids From Wisconsin Alumna, Peggy has proudly served the organization since 2014 as its Head Choreographer. The production shows are seen across the Midwest by over 100,000 people during a summer. Also, for the organization, she designs and coordinates, as the Community Enrichment Coordinator, the "Realize Your Dream" projects offering FREE experiential programming for all ages and abilities inspired by the performing arts, including residencies for underserved areas. Peggy serves on faculty at the 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, Las Vegas and cruise ships and revues around the worked, commercials, and films, mostly in featured roles and invited to collaborate and consult for many productions and producers around the nation.
Michael Stanek, a Wisconsin native, is a freelance Director/Choreographer and Arts Educator, he is excited to return to Kids From Wisconsin as a guest choreographer for the 2022 Season. Recent director/choreographer for the 2022 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 25 year Member of Actors' Equity Association and an Associate Member of The Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers.
Updated Bio Coming Soon!
Matt Mealey has toured all across the country as a freelance trumpet artist. Performing credits include: lead trumpet for Wayne Newton, New York Voices, The Irish Tenors, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Frankie Valli, Johnny Mathis, Jimmy Dorsey, Mannheim Steamroller, 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 also has a passion for music education. He has served as a jazz and trumpet instructor at the Shell Lakes Arts Center, International Music Camp, and the Northland Youth Music Program. Matt has an extensive history servicing as 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) and Jodi (96-98) like to think their experiences from KIDS inspire their collaborative efforts in musicals and concerts. Matt is very excited to be a part of the KIDS organization again, where he hopes to inspire the next generation of young artists.
Guest Music Arranger
Gio Washington-Wright holds a degree in English and Psychology (with Honors) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his Bachelor Of Arts in Music (with Jazz Emphasis) from the University of North Texas, where he studied under James Riggs, and performed with the world renowned One O'Clock and Two O'Clock Lab Bands. He also hods a Masters and Doctorate degrees from Fort Hays State University and has done post-graduate work at Columbia and Harvard Universities. Outside of academia, he is an in-demand performer, composer, and arranger and has worked and/or performed with music legends such as Gladys Knight, Mary Wilson (of the Supremes), and Meghan Trainor. Gio is also a Grammy Award nominee and a 4-time Grammy Educator Award nominee. Gio is currently the Director of Bands at Prince Of Peace. Prior to POP, he taught in Wylie ISD for 6 years and Carroll ISD (Southlake) for 16 years.
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.
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
Isaac Norman is thrilled to join Kids From Wisconsin as Lighting Designer and Master Electrician for the 2022 season! He attends the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point with a major in Theatre Design and Technology. His work includes Red Velvet, Cabaret and Saturday Night Drag (2022). He also works in the University Event Planning and Administration offices in the Event Technical Services department.
In addition to his work with Kids From Wisconsin, he works as a freelance lighting designer and stagehand. He has worked with IATSE 470 as an overhire technician on shows including Dear Evan Hansen, Waitress! and Beautiful: The Carol King Musical as well as performances including Slipknot's Knotfest Roadshow tour and Shinedown's The Revolution's Live Tour.
When not in school or working, he enjoys playing bassoon and spending time outdoors with 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 54th edition of the KIDS from Wisconsin!
Originally from Menomonee Falls, Carley is a Wisconsinite at heart and is honored to join the staff of this amazing organization.
Carley graduated from Valparaiso University in 2019 with a theater major and communication minor. She is also a proud graduate of the Open Jar Institute Summer Intensive in New York City.
As an active member of Accompany of Kids, Carley currently serves as choreographer and backstage help for the group. She believes that the stage is the best way for kids to learn and grow and is beyond excited to be joining the Kids From Wisconsin on tour this summer!
Tour Director and Community Enrichment Lead
An alumnus of Kids From Wisconsin as a Principle Singer/Dancer in 2014.
Ashley has been Tour Director since 2016 and couldn't be more honored to continue her work at this incredible organization year after year. Over the years she has taken on more roles with KFW, and now serves as the Lead for 'Realize Your Dream" and is a Project Designer for our "Music In Me Program."
Ashley holds a B.A. in Theater Arts-Acting from the University of Nothern Colorado and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Secondary English Education from Western Governor's University. In addition to her work with Kids From Wisconsin, Ashley is a freelance choreographer, actor, singer, and theater educator in southeastern Wisconsin: her primary focus being teaching with First Stage and serving as the Lead Choreographer for Main Street Song and Dance Troupe. Her recent choreography credits include: MAMMA MIA! and MARY POPPINS (Sunset Playhouse), NINE (Theater Red), THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Waukesha Civic Theater), MATILDA (Franklin High School) and ALL TOGETHER NOW! (Nathan Hale High School). On top of all that she is also the lead vocalist for the local band, Smart Mouth, and dabbles in cabaret shows.
Hope is a singer, dancer, actor and a KIDS alumni! She is beyond excited to be back working with them, but on the other side of the table. She has trained with Milwaukee Ballet, First Stage, and received her BFA in musical theater with a dance minor through the PECK school of the arts at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She hopes to continue performing and choreographing professionally as well as finding ways to grown and learn. If she could teach and inspire kids to become performers too, that's a win as well.
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!
Director of Development
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.
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.
Eric is a freelance graphic designer and former Kid. A graduate of UW-Whitewater, Eric is passionate about giving organizations their voice. A 2013-2014 alum, Eric is excited to share his talents with the organization in a new way. www.ericalandesigns.com