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School of Music, Theatre, and Dance

Faculty Biographies

Dr. Rachel DirksRachel

Rachel Dirks, Director of Orchestral Studies, is an active conductor, clinician, and educator. In addition to her work with the KSU Symphony Orchestra, she teaches applied cello and string education at K-State. 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.  As a guest conductor Dr. Dirks has been invited to conduct orchestras throughout the United States, including recent appearances in Kentucky, Oregon, New York, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and throughout Kansas.  As a featured clinician, she has presented at the National Convention of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA), the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, and the state music education conferences of Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Kansas. Her most recent research has been accepted for presentations at the International Society of Music Education (ISME) and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

Along with her work at Kansas State, Dr. Dirks serves on the national ASTA committee on health and wellness with a focus on mental health. Her writing has been published in the American String Teacher, the Kansas Music Review, and several volumes of the instructional publication, Teaching Music Through Performance in Orchestra. She has led performance tours to Italy, Austria, Ireland, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, and as a cellist, she has enjoyed performing in a wide array of ensembles and venues, including Carnegie Hall.  And, as an educator, she has been honored with awards from the Kansas Music Educators Association, the American String Teachers Association Kansas Chapter, the Lawrence Schools Foundation, and the Newton Public Schools.  Throughout her work, her fundamental goal is to encourage musicians to seek and create community through music. 

Dr. Cora CooperCora

Cora Cooper teaches violin, viola, chamber music and string pedagogy at K-State. She studied violin with Peter Salaff, Charles Castleman, Karen Clarke and Eliot Chapo, and short-term with Linda Cerone and Simon Fischer. Cooper recorded for NAXOS American Classics and has professional symphony experience playing with the Vermont, Austin and Tallahassee Symphonies, and the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra. Research on music by women composers led to multiple performances at the Festival of Women Composers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and lectures in the United States and England. Cooper publishes violin and viola music by women composers and assorted chamber music editions. Her latest project is a new chamber music series, Developing Contemporary Techniques, with two volumes published in 2018.

Cooper served on the violin committee for two editions of the ASTA String Syllabus, and has been a frequent contributor to the AST Journal. She has presented sessions at the national ASTA conferences four times. Cooper has attended the Starling-DeLay Symposium on Violin Pedagogy at the Juilliard School, the Teaching Violin to Children workshop, and is certified in the Sassmannshaus Method. She is a member of the founding education committee of the Boulanger Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting women composers.

Visit Dr. Cooper’s website Violin Music by Women Composers: A Graded Anthology.

Staff Biographies

M. Evan Ricker, Jr.Evan Ricker - Graduate Student

M. Evan Ricker, Jr., Graduate Assistant Conductor, is a native of Wichita, Kansas. He earned both a Bachelor of Music in Wind Conducting/Music Journalism and a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Wichita State University. While at WSU, Mr. Ricker served as an Undergraduate Conducting Assistant to Dr. Victor Markovich and a Graduate Assistant Conductor to Dr. Mark Laycock. From 2016 to 2019, Ricker served as the Director of Bands and Instrumental Music at Cowley College. At Cowley, he helped establish the Tiger Beat Pep Band and develop a new scholarship structure. Before his appointment at Cowley, Ricker taught classes in music appreciation, general music, and public speaking at Butler Community College for two years. In 2019, Mr. Ricker arrived at K-State to begin work toward his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. His research focus is on the workplace dignity experiences of LGBTQIA+ collegiate level ensemble directors. Remaining active as an adjunct instructor, Ricker also is passionate about music appreciation pedagogy.

His professional affiliations include; The National Association for Music Education, The National Educators Association, The College Band Directors Association, The Kansas Music Educators Association, Kappa Kappa Psi National Band Fraternity, and Tau Beta Sigma National Band Sorority.