Kira Zeeman Rugen
Kira is a composer, conductor, academic professor and professional soprano. She founded and is the Artistic Director for Solis (Choir of the Sun), a professional choir, in 2011. Originally composed of ASU students, Kira converted the group from an amateur collegiate choir to a fully paid professional vocal ensemble in the Phoenix area. Now in their ninth season, their collaborations include high-profile performance opportunities with the Phoenix Symphony for Zelda, Symphony of the Goddesses, Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy, and performing three with the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience at Talking Stick Resort Arena and Gila River Casino Arena under the baton of composer Ramin Djawadi. Additionally, they performed with Irish band, The Chieftains, for their 50th-anniversary tour and they were invited to perform at the American Choral Directors Association Conference in Pasadena California. Furthermore, Solis has collaborated with Catholic Phoenix, Bartholomew Faire, Cornua Irae, the Irish Cultural Center, Arizona Pro-Arte Orchestra and the Arizona Bach Festival. With Solis Camerata, Kira has conducted William Byrd’s “Mass A’5,” Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespers 1610,” Giacomo Carissimi’s “Jepthe,” Charpentier’s “Messe de Minuit Pour Noel,” Gabrieli’s “In Ecclesiis,” Bach’s “Jesu Meine Freude,” Josef Rheinberger's “St. Crusis Mass” and Handel’s “Ode to St. Cecilia’s Day.” Kira creates unique concert programs that tell the history of music through distinctive points of view. A few of those musical experiences include “Songs of the Saints,” “Origins, Tracing the Ancient Liturgical Rite” and this year her theme is “A Celtic Christmas.” She equally supports new music through her commissioning program, as Solis premiers new choral compositions every year, often highlighting local Arizona composers.
Kira worked as the Director of Choral Activities and Musical Director for Musical Theater at Arizona Christian University. At that school, she music directed “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat,” “Oklahoma” and “Music Man.” She took her students on tours to Southern California for the Firestorm Summit in Torrey Pines Resort at the Ritz Carlton at Dana Point. In December 2018, Kira prepared the ACU Firestorm Chorale to perform with Andrea Bocelli at Talking Stick Resort Arena and with Irish band, The Chieftains. Previously, she worked as a faculty member at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix where she taught Music History, Conducting, and Fundamentals of Music and Culture for Diverse Learners. As Faculty Associate at Arizona State University, Kira conducted Choral Union, the 100+ community member choir, and Schola Cantorum, the SATB choir predominantly for music majors. Her success at ASU included recordings that were used by Walton Music for their 2011 CD Sampler and Caldwell and Ivory for their promotional videos.
In addition to her work as a conductor, Kira has amassed a wealth of experience as a soprano soloist and is noted as having an “angelic and supple” voice, yet with an ethereal quality also described as “haunting.” In February 2008, she sang in the Carnegie Hall Young Artist Concert Series under the direction of Ton Koopman, performing the music of G.F. Handel. Now in her sixteenth season with the Grammy awarding-winning Phoenix Chorale which was under the direction of Charles Bruffy, and is now led by Christopher Gabbitas (former King’s Singer) she is a soloist on their Spotless Rose album, which won a Grammy for Best Small Ensemble in February 2009. Kira is also the featured soloist on their album “Eternal Rest,” a recording held on the Chandos label. She went on to sing the solo, “Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae” by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, in the Phoenix Chorale's concerts at the Incheon International Choral Festival in Korea, at, in Salt Lake City’s Assembly Hall, Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church, Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall and in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. She received a favorable mention in the New York Times in review for the NYC concerts. Kira sang on the Phoenix Chorale’s album highlighting the music of Ola Gjeilo, “Northern Lights,” released in February 2012, which climbed to Top 10 on the Classical Billboard Chart and Top 20 on the Gramophone Classical Chart 2013. Furthermore, she sang on the Phoenix Chorale’s album Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night-Vigil,” which was released in March 2015 and debuted at #1 on the Billboards Traditional Classical Chart, and #2 on iTunes Classical Top Albums and went on to win the Grammy for Best Choral Performance in February 2016.
As a member of Anúna (Ireland’s National Choir) under the direction of Michael McGlynn, Kira toured throughout Japan, Ireland and China culminating in a performance at China’s National Center for the Performing Arts. She sang for several seasons with Arizona Opera and Utah Opera in such shows as “Lucia Di Lammermoor,” “Romeo et Juliette,” “La Traviata,” “La Boheme” and “Il Pagliacci.” Kira has had the honor to train as a conductor or singer under Anton Armstrong, Joshua Habermann, Christopher Gabbitas, Peter Rutenburg, Brian Schmidt, Jenny Wong, James Bass, Weston Noble, Henry Leck, Allen Pote, Mark Hayes, Keith Hampton, Ken Medema, Vicki Hancock Wright, and Helen Kemp. She has received several vocal awards including first place in Arizona and Utah NATS competitions and has toured as a soloist in the glorious performance halls of Santo Stafano al Ponte Vecchio, Florenze; SS. Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso, Rome; Basilica Dei Frari, Venice.
Kira’s work as a composer include premieres and performances by the Phoenix Chorale, Kansas City Chorale, Vox Musica, Master Chorale of Flagstaff, Rennes France Children and Youth Choir, Solis Camerata, Inspirare Nova, Pasadena Chorale, San Diego Choral Scholars, ASU Men’s Choir, Orpheus Men’s choir, and Pinnacle Presbyterian’s Chancel, Youth and Children’s choirs. In December 2016, Charles Bruffy and the Phoenix Chorale commissioned her “Silent Night, Stille Nacht.” In November 2017, Kira traveled to France to conduct the premiere of her composition, “Saint-Brieuc Magnificat,” with the Saint-Brieuc Cathedral Children and Youth Choir. Under the direction of their conductor, Goulven Airault, they went on to perform the work in Saint-Malo de Dinan, Sainte-Croix de Sant Malo, Saint-Martin de Janze, Saint Sauveur La Rochelle, Sanctuaire de Rocamadour, Castell de Callonge, and for the Pueri Cantors in Congrès de Barcelone, 2018.
Kira taught high school choir and orchestra for six years in the Phoenix area. She served as the children and youth choir director for eleven years at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in North Scottsdale where she gave recitals for the church’s concert series, “Time out for the Arts.”
Kira received her Bachelor of Arts at Weber State University in 1998 where she studied choral conducting, viola performance and vocal performance. She earned her Masters in Music Education with an emphasis in Vocal Performance at Arizona State University in 2002. She then graduated with a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting and a cognate in Vocal Performance at Arizona State University in May 2013 under Dr. Gregory Gentry.