The Detroit MYS Conductors
Detroit Metropolitan Youth Symphony hires amazing Conductors to mentor, teach and direct students in grades 2-13, in our four orchestras. Our Conductors are highly qualified musicians chosen for their expertise in working with young people.
CONDUCTOR, SYMPHONY Orchestra
Doug Bianchi is currently in his 23rd year as Director of Bands at Wayne State University where he conducts the Wind Symphony, Concert Band, and Chamber Winds, and teaches both undergraduate and graduate conducting courses. In addition, he is serving his eighth year as Music Director of the International Symphony Orchestra (Port Huron/Sarnia). With degrees from both Wayne State University and Oakland University, Doug continued advanced studies in conducting at the Conductors Institute and in Europe. He is in demand as a guest conductor and clinician, working regularly with high school bands and orchestras. He is a MSBOA adjudicator and has performed at the Michigan Music Educators and College Band Director National Association conferences several times.
His extensive conducting experience includes orchestral, choral, ballet, opera, and musical theatre, and his portfolio includes numerous premier performances and commissions and published articles. Doug has guest conducted in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England, Italy, Moldova, Romania, and Taiwan. This summer he guest conducted the National and Ballet Orchestra in Constanta, Romania in a performance of Verdi’s opera, “Il Trovatore” and in Moldova he lead a broadcast performance with the Moldova National Radio Symphony Orchestra. He has had the privilege of having several of his compositions performed nationally. In the spring of 2018 his "Three Shakespearean Sonnets" for Soprano and Orchestra was premiered as part of the International Symphony Orchestra's 60th anniversary celebrations. Previous to his current position at Wayne State, he taught for 19 years in the public schools, 15 of them as a high school band and choir director at L'Anse Creuse High School North in Mount Clemens, Michigan. He was conductor of the Warren Concert Band for 25 years and was the first conductor for Detroit MYS Concert Orchestra in 1982.
CONDUCTOR, CONCERT ORCHESTRA
Mr. Paul Shawver, the 2012 and 2015 District IV MSBOA Orchestra Teacher of the Year, graduated cum laude from Wayne State University in 2002 with bachelor’s degrees in both Instrumental Music Education and Double Bass Performance. He received his master’s degree in Humanities in 2008 from Central Michigan University. Mr. Shawver is currently in his eighteenth year as the Director of Orchestras for both Groves High School and Berkshire Middle School in the Birmingham Public Schools.
Under his direction, the Groves High School orchestra program has grown by 200%, a second orchestra was created for the first time in the Groves’ history, a parent booster group was established, and the extremely popular Groves Electric Mayhem (an all-electric rock orchestra) was created.
The Groves Orchestras have been very successful at Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) competitions under the direction of Mr. Shawver. The Groves Symphony Orchestra has received straight first division ratings at District IV Band & Orchestra Festival for fourteen consecutive years, since Mr. Shawver began teaching. He also sends several students to participate in the Michigan Youth Arts Festival (MYAF) Honors Orchestra on a yearly basis.
Additional accomplishments for Mr. Paul Shawver include the Groves Symphony Orchestra performing at the prestigious Michigan Music Conference in 2008, as well as receiving straight first division ratings at every MSBOA State Band & Orchestra Festival in which it competed (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).
The Groves Orchestras have also competed/performed in Washington D.C., Boston, New York, Chicago, Toronto, Munich, Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, Florence and Rome. “Mr. Shawver is a stellar teacher. He is mature and responsible, friendly and engaging, demanding and prepared. Wylie E. Groves High School is a better educational institution because Mr. Paul Shawver is part of the faculty.” –Mr. Fred Procter, retired Principal, Wylie E. Groves High School.
When Mr. Shawver is not on the podium, he is an avid basketball player and fan, he enjoys all things automotive and, when the rare opportunity presents itself, he enjoys a bit of gaming on his PS4. Most of all, Mr. Shawver enjoys spending quality time with his wife, Laura, and his four children Paul, Lincoln, Owen and Alice.
CONDUCTOR, STRING Orchestra
Geoffrey Benes has served as a conductor for DMYS since 2009, conducting the Concert Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra and now lending his talents as Conductor of the String Orchestra.
Mr. Benes began a successful career as an orchestra teacher in the Troy School District in 1988 and just retired this past June. He now works at Wilson Fine Violins in Birmingham, learning stringed instrument repair and set up. He continues to perform as the violist in the VSO String Quartet. During the summers of 2017 and 2019 he also began learning the art of violin building at the University of New Hampshire Violin Craftsmanship Institute. When he’s not working in the violin shop, working on his current violin in his basement workshop, or practicing for quartet, he enjoys reading, being outdoors, and spending time with his wife and 2 adult children.
CONDUCTOR, Junior StrinG Orchestra
Natalie Frakes is a Detroit-based violinist and music educator who believes deeply in using music as a vehicle for social change and making quality string education more accessible to underserved youth. She graduated cum laude from Wayne State University's music program where she studied with Dr. Laura Roelofs. She enjoys performing an eclectic mix of genres and has had the privilege of performing with some of Detroit's best jazz musicians and other current artists (Evanescence, Lindsey Stirling, Kygo, Disturbed, Eminem, and more). Natalie is also a core member of electro-pop violin band NUCLASSICA.
Natalie is a passionate educator. She was Director of Orchestras for Oxford Community Schools and also works with both DMYS and MSU Community Music School. She has been a teaching artist with the Sphinx Organization, the Detroit Symphony's Civic Youth Ensembles, and El Sistema programs including BSO's OrchKids, Costa Rica's SiNEM, and the Archipelago Project.
Aside from teaching and performing, Natalie loves to travel, play tennis, and ride her moped.