Dr. Clinton Desmond
Director of Choral Activities
Assistant Professor of Music
Music Department Chair
B.M.E. Valparaiso University
M.M. Illinois State University
D.M.A. Michigan State University
Clinton Desmond joined Dakota Wesleyan in 2011 as the director of choral activities, assistant professor of music, and chairman of the music department.
Desmond is a native of the Chicago suburbs. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Valparaiso University, a master’s degree in choral conducting from Illinois State University, and a doctor of musical arts degree in choral conducting from Michigan State University. He has studied both choral and orchestral conducting under Christopher Cock, Karyl Carlson, Glenn Block, Jonathan Reed and David Rayl.
His vocal repertory includes musical theatre and opera. He has sung leading roles in “Die Zauberflöte,” “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Gallantry,” “Trouble in Tahiti,” “The Will Rogers Follies,” “A Chorus Line,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Damn Yankees,” and “The Book of the Dun Cow.” He debuted the role of Doctor Higgins in the 2005 world premiere performance and recording of Nancy Van de Vate’s “Where the Cross is Made.” Fanfare Magazine described him as “a fine character tenor” and that “his detached, somewhat bemused delivery works perfectly.”
During his studies at MSU, Desmond was the director of music at First Presbyterian Church of Lansing, Mich. He also conducted the MSU Collegiate Choir, taught conducting for undergraduate performance majors, and assisted with the State Singers.
He served as the director of music at Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish in East Lansing and Saint John Student Center of MSU, where he administrated an enormous music ministry at two vibrant churches, including an adult choir, smaller vocal/instrumental ensembles, children’s choirs, high school choir and Schola Cantorum. He also was a guest conductor for the Saginaw Choral Society.
Instructor of Voice and Piano
Director for Mitchell Area Children’s Choir
B.M.E. Valparaiso University
M.M. Illinois State University
Erin Desmond the instructor of voice and piano at Dakota Wesleyan University and is the founder and artistic director for the Mitchell Area Children’s Choir.
Before moving to South Dakota in 2010, she taught general and vocal music at Belvidere South Middle School in Belvidere, Ill. During her one year of teaching in Belvidere, she doubled the size of the choral program. Desmond also taught vocal music for four years at Willowcreek Middle School in Portage, Ind., where her students received superior and excellent ratings at yearly contests. She also acted as the Area One Representative for the Circle the State with Song Choral Festival, and was the assistant and accompanist for the Southlake Children’s Choir from 2005-2007. She serves as the R&S chair for Junior High/Middle School Choirs for SD-ACDA.
Instructor of Keyboard
Director of Strings Program
B.A. South Dakota State University
M.Ed. with emphasis in music South Dakota State University
Elizabeth Soladay grew up in Fulton, S.D., and received her degrees at South Dakota State University, Brookings. During the 1970s she maintained a private lesson studio in Mitchell, played in the Sioux Falls Symphony, and worked as an accompanist for Dakota Wesleyan University and South Dakota State University.
Soladay moved to Los Angeles in 1981. During her years in L.A., she studied viola with Joel Lish, Lawrence Sonderling and Myra Kestenbaum. She studied organ with Dr. Thomas Harmon and Dennis Gano.
She was also organist and director of choirs at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Beverly Hills, for 17 years. She was a member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, serving on the chapter’s board of directors from 1997 to 1999. She played in orchestras in the Los Angeles area, and worked in recording studios, playing on the soundtracks for such shows as “Columbo,” “Matlock,” and various television movies. Soladay was the principal violist of the Pacific Palisades Symphony Orchestra, and served on its board of directors. With Joel Lish, she founded Con Brio Players, a professional string ensemble that for many years was the primary contractor and string ensemble for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In 1989 she became the director of operations for Belmont Music Publishers, the publishers of the music of Arnold Schoenberg in the United States. During her time with the Schoenberg family she also edited “Three Arrangements,” which was published by Belmont.
Since her return to South Dakota in 1999, Soladay is again maintaining a private teaching studio. She is the organist and director of choirs at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Alexandria, S.D., and is a member of the board of the South Dakota chapter of the American Guild of Organists. She is a violist in the South Dakota Symphony, serving on the players’ association board. With her sister, Mary Wipf, Soladay is co-owner and craftsman in Con Brio Studio Bow Restoration and Rehairing. This is a shop that specializes in work on stringed instrument bows.
Wesleyan University/Community Band Conductor
B.M.E., Northern State University
M.M.E., University of Minnesota at Mankato
Specialist degree in technology, University of South Dakota
Endorsement in school administration, University of South Dakota
Brad Berens is a native of Gregory, S.D. He is the principal at Mitchell Middle School. He was the director of bands at Mitchell High School, Riggs High School in Pierre, and both band and choir director in Eureka. He is also active as an adjudicator and guest director.
Berens and his wife, Lisa, have four children.
Instructor of Guitar
B.M.E., Houghton College
Before opening his full-time private lesson studio, Jason Zehr served as worship pastor at Mitchell Wesleyan Church from 1997 through 2002. He continues to serve on the worship team for Sunday services at Northridge Baptist Church in Mitchell.
He has taught middle school through high school band and chorus, arranged and composed many songs for various vocal groups, and has taught privately fulltime for the last eight years.
Jason has written and recorded two albums of original music, releasing "Without" in 2000 and "Bricks & Mortar" in 2007. He is currently working on a third album and performs at various churches and coffeehouses in the area.
Joseph F. Pekas
B.S., Southern State Teachers College, Springfield, S.D., 1960
M.M., University of South Dakota, 1963
Navy School of Music, Little Creek, Virginia
Pekas has been directing bands since 1957. He composes and arranges music, and he is an instructor, clinician, adjudicator and performer. He has published 23 works for band and various instrumental solos and ensembles.