Performing Artists

2022 232 Dsc 2735 Dxo
2022 423 Dsc 2591 Dxo
2022 487 Dsc 4809 Dxo
2022 110 Dsc 6476 Dxo


Maria Kanyova, Soloist

Maria has been compared to Teresa Stratas as an extraordinarily gifted singing actress. Critics have hailed Maria for her ability to capture the essence of a character while maintaining exquisite singing. Robert Trussell of the Kansas City star wrote simply about her portrayal of Pat Nixon, “Her voice could stop time.” Throughout Maria’s extensive and busy performing career, she has performed leading roles with Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Boston Lyric Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, San Diego Opera, Opera Pacific, Portland Opera, New Orleans Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Central City Opera, Opera Colorado, Madison Opera, Tulsa Opera, Wexford Opera Festival and Canadian Opera Company along with many other prestigious opera companies.

Of the many leading roles Maria has performed, one of her signature roles has been “Pat Nixon” in Nixon in China, which has been recorded on the Naxos Label.  Of her many career highlights, one remains the PBS telecast as “Mimi” in La bohème at New York City Opera’s Live from Lincoln Center National Broadcast. Maria's favorite role to perform continues to be Madama Butterfly for the role itself and the many times she has performed it with her own children as Butterfly’s child, Sorrow.

Maria has enjoyed the opportunity of premiering new operas and reviving more recent operas. She has created the role of "Mary" in Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene for San Francisco Opera. For Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Wexford Opera, Maria reimagined the newly reworked role of "Marie Antoinette" in the restaging of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles. Maria enjoyed singing "Blanche" in Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire for Kentucky Opera. She has also recently premiered the role of “Krystyna” in Jake Heggie’s newly reworked opera Out of Darkness with The Atlanta Opera. Other recent engagements include “Nedda” in I pagliacci and “Violetta” in La traviata with Imperial Symphony Orchestra, “Pat Nixon” in Nixon in China with San Diego Opera, the title role of Suor Angelica with Intermountain Opera Company and Opera Santa Barbara, the title role of Madama Butterfly with San Antonio Opera.  Along with Maria’s extensive operatic career, she has also been a soloist with Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, Baltimore Symphony, Ravinia Music Festival, Grant Park Music Festival, Minnesota Symphony, Elgin Symphony and Kansas City Symphony. With years of training at the beginning of Maria's career, she is a proud alumna of Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (Ryan Opera Center), The Santa Fe Opera Apprenticeship Program, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Chorus Apprenticeship, Opera Colorado Young Artist Center and Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony now known as Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point. Maria received her MM/Voice and DMA/Voice from The University of Kansas and her BME/Choral degree from UMKC where she is currently an Associate Voice Professor. Additionally, she is a visiting artist teacher at Judson University’s DCWPA. She is the founder and currently the General and Artistic Director of Midwest Opera Theater. Most importantly, Maria and her husband, Robert Kania are dedicated and proud parents to four amazing children.


Matthew Sheppard, Conductor

Matthew Sheppard is a Chicago-based conductor and educator. For the 2022-23 season, he is the Guest Resident Conductor at the Bienen School of Music, where he conducts the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra. He is also the Artistic Director of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Hyde Park Youth Symphony, Education Conductor of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the University of Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company of Chicago.

As the Artistic Drector of the award-winning Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, Sheppard leads a team of dedicated educators in providing a comprehensive music education to nearly 400 students and families each year. Their innovative approach to music education led to EYSO being named 2021 Youth Orchestra of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras (ICO) and to Sheppard being awarded ICO Conductor of the Year in 2022.

Sheppard currently serves as president of the IL Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (IL CMP) Committee as it encourages teaching with intention, and performing with understanding. He studied with Donald Schleicher as a doctoral candidate in orchestral conducting at the University of Illinois, and before that he earned graduate and undergraduate degrees at Penn State University.

Sheppard will be conducting the combined orchestra of the ESO, EYSO and Judson Civic Orchestra.


The Elgin Symphony Orchestra is one of the preeminent regional orchestras in the United States. The Orchestra is led by Chad Goodman, who was named the ESO’s Music Director – the fifth in the Orchestra’s history – in May 2023. Since its founding in 1950, the organization has developed a reputation for artistic excellence and innovative programming, as demonstrated through its long history of highlighting the works of world-renowned conductors, composers, and musicians and of promoting the advancement of women in the arts. The ESO became a professional ensemble in 1985 in good part due to the leadership of the late Margaret Hillis, who served as the ESO’s music director from 1971 to 1985. Hillis was one of the first females to break through the male-dominated world of conducting and is credited with being the impetus behind the creation of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra Association, the formation of the ESO’s volunteer core – the Elgin Symphony League, and the start of the ESO’s commitment to music education and enrichment for youth. Today, the ESO continues to draw its creativity and artistry from the Elgin area and gives back to the community through its Adopt-a-School program that provides supplemental music education and in-school performances to local schools; Musicians Care program that brings live music performances to local hospitals, hospices, and retirement homes; informational Listener’s Club events and other free programs at public libraries; In Harmony Program in places of worship; Ainsworth Concerts for Youth; free tickets for youth under 18; open rehearsals; and free community concerts throughout the region. The Illinois Council of Orchestras has named the ESO Orchestra of the Year four times (1988, 1999, 2005 and 2016). The ESO is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To learn more or to support the ESO, visit

The Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra has a national reputation for providing not only an engaging musical experience for its students, but also a comprehensive learning environment that promotes curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and collaboration. With six large ensembles, three small ensembles, and a thriving Chamber Music Institute, EYSO creates musical opportunities for hundreds of students each year with its rigorous methods of inquiry and “expert noticing.”

Students in EYSO explore a comprehensive curriculum each season—one that aims not only to help these students develop artistically and technically, but also to prepare them for a future of complex ideas, creative risk-taking, and leadership as global citizens. The dynamic and engaging rehearsals foster musical and personal growth as students develop into well-rounded and thoughtful communicators, and leaders in their sections, ensembles, schools, and communities. EYSO is an in-residence ensemble at Elgin Community College.