Susan Tevis

Artistic Director & Conductor


Susan Tevis, Founder, Artistic Director and Conductor of the five choirs of the Children’s Choir of Chico, Ms. Tevis holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in piano pedagogy and music education from California State University, Chico. She completed a Kodály Certificate at the Kodály Institute at McNeese State University (Lake Charles, Louisiana) and completed advanced studies both at the McNeese Institute and at the Kodály Pedagogical Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary.

Ms. Tevis has been an adjunct faculty member at McNeese State University, CSU Chico, Capital University Conservatory of Music (Columbus, Ohio), and the Kodály Pedagogical Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary. Susan has been on the faculty at the Kodály Institute at McNeese and the Kodály Institute at Capital University, teaching in summer courses for professional music educators.

As a choral specialist, Susan is active as a guest clinician and conductor for treble choirs, and is frequently invited to present music education workshops for various state and national music organizations and at regional, state & national music conferences. In addition to clinics and workshops, she also presented a scholarly paper, in conjunction with two colleagues, at the 1999 Symposium of the International Kodály Society. The Classroom Music Project, founded by Ms. Tevis at Citrus Elementary School in Chico, provided a field studies opportunity for music education majors at CSU, Chico for 5 years.

Founded in 2001, Children’s Choir of Chico has served over 1000 children, young people and women in the greater Chico area, performing for numerous organizations and community events each year. Bel Canto and Cantiamo have traveled to central and southern California, performed in Disneyland, and delighted audiences in Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and San Francisco; and Bel Canto members have sung on the historic stage at Carnegie Hall.

Christine Buckstead

Assistant Conductor


Christine Buckstead comes to Children’s Choir of Chico with over 20 years experience singing and teaching music. She has directed adult and high school choirs and taught elementary music in Palestine, TX. She also taught applied voice as Assistant Professor of Music at Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX. She has music-directed community theater productions and maintains a private voice and piano studio. 

Ms. Buckstead earned a Bachelor of Music Degree from St. Olaf College, in Northfield, MN. Her Master of Music and Doctor of Music degrees come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Ms. Buckstead loves singing French art songs and Baroque chamber music. She has toured nationally with the St. Olaf Choir, and has performed in over a dozen operas and musicals. She looks forward to sharing her love of music with the Children’s Choir of Chico!

Dr. Michelle S. McConkey

Assistant Conductor

Michelle Bio Photo copy.jpg

Dr. Michelle S. McConkey, is an Associate Professor of music education at California State University in Chico.  She teaches courses in Music Education, Aural Musicianship, and Music for Children for Liberal Studies students. Michelle received her doctorate degree from ASU, a Masters of Music at BYU, and a Bachelor of Music from the Crane School of Music, all in Music Education.

Michelle taught for nine years as an elementary music specialist in public and private schools in New York State, Utah, and Arizona. She has completed Kodàly certification, and has presented professional development workshops and research sessions at various state, national and international conferences. Michelle’s research interest includes the music teacher’s role in the emotional development of children.

Patricia Kelley



Patricia Kelley began accompanying the Children’s Choir of Chico in the spring of 2014. She  started accompanying music students and choirs while attaining her Bachelor of Music Education degree at Central Michigan University. She has over 30 years experience teaching piano and accompanying choirs and soloists in churches and community events.

Currently, Patricia serves in Paradise, California as the accompanist for the Paradise Intermediate School and Paradise High School choirs, as well as the Paradise Community Chorus. In addition, she is the accompanist for the annual CMEA Northern Section Junior High Honor Band and Select Choir Festival. Patricia is the director of a church choir in Paradise.

Laurie Knifong


Laurie Knifong started accompanying Bella Voce in August of 2015. She was born and raised in Paradise, CA where she continues to live with her husband. She has two children, Lance and Larissa, who also live in Paradise. 

Laurie started taking piano at age 6. When she was in high school she started playing for her church youth group choir and continued that throughout her high school and college years. Laurie then left Paradise to attend Azusa Pacific University and was involved in many aspects of their wonderful music program. She accompanied the conducting class and many voice lessons. She was also a singer in their own Bel Canto Choir and University Choir. While in the University Choir Laurie was able to record an album with 30 others at Capitol Records. She also traveled to London, England where she and 200 others recorded a classical album along with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. When she returned to Paradise, she married the love of her life, Larry Knifong, and continued to play at Paradise CMA Church for many choirs, groups, and individuals. 

From 2000 - 2008 she was hired by the Paradise Unified School District as a Music Aide and accompanied the Junior High Chorus. This was a very fun and rewarding job for her. Also from 2002 - 2008 she accompanied the Paradise Community Chorus, along with Sam Gronseth. The range of music during this time was pop, jazz, broadway, classical, and spirituals. 

Laurie now continues to play 2 - 3 times a month at Paradise CMA Church as well as several community functions around town. Her other hobbies include quilting, sewing, traveling in her RV, and being with her family.