Faculty & Staff Directory
Willard Ray Kesling
Professor and Program Director
School of Music/Choral


Coro del Ministerio de Educación y Deportes de la Nación, Argentina
We know that Dr. Will Kesling believes in creating music at a high artistic level. He is a strong advocate for choral music and believes that singing is a tool for uniting people of the world. Dr. Kesling is a strong leader and musician and we are proud that we have been under his baton and counsel.
Lic. Federico Neimark, Director       Letter dated 17 July 2017     Buenos Aires

Philharmonic Orchestra “Mihail Jora”, Bacău, Romania
Hence I have had the opportunity to collaborate with one of the best conductors of vocal symphonic repertoire and a leading figure of the international performing arts. Therefore, we express our hope that Will Kesling will participate in future programs of the Philharmonic Orchestra “Mihail Jora” from Bacău.
Pavel Inescu-Ambrosie, Manager      Letter dated 14 September 2016  

Festival Coral de Medellín José María Bravo Márquez, Medellín, Colombia
Dr. Will Kesling is one of the people who have contributed most to Colombia’s musical, specifically choral, development. Since his first visit to Colombia approximately 7 years ago, he sparked a change in the manner of conducting, interpreting, and educating in the medium of choral singing.
Jorge Hernán Arango García, Director   Corporación Ensamble Vocal de Medellín   Letter of 13 September 2016  


Kesling baton perfect for Brahms
The star of the evening, as well as Brahms of course, was absolutely the conductor Will Kesling: you rarely have the opportunity to perceive in a maestro a clear vision of the work which is evident by the gestures, at the same time expressive with great precision.  In the interpretation of Brahms, Kesling tends to expand time and respects the autographed indications with regard to the dynamics: in fact it is a requiem, not only that, but the sound research is linked to the tradition of German conductors through the first half of the twentieth century. In his way, convulsed in today's perception of time and space, here is a vision of personal, almost intimate, of great beauty and courage . . ..
L’ARENA    10 Giugno 2013   Verona, Italy        by Chiara Zocca
Croatian National Chamber Orchestra & Gainesville Master Chorale with Coro Pueri Cantores del Veneto, Italy

Definitively Dvořák
Will Kesling’s conducting was truly inspired and impeccably paced; the orchestra played superbly; the massed choruses from Florida, Texas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, New Jersey, and Utah produced stirring sounds.
New York Daily News     19 June 1990    Carnegie Hall    Manhattan Philharmonic

Majestic & powerful and he is not Russian?
How can American conductor interpret Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky with such depth of understanding and with such passion? This was the question that I posed to Maestro Will Kesling after last night’s concert in Tchaikovsky Hall.
Provda - Evgeny S. Barankin, Music Critic, Secretary of the Composers Union of Russia
Moscow State Philharmonic & Bolshoi Opera Chorus, January 1992


What a Magnificent Evening of Music
. . . the chorus, soloists and orchestra electrified the audience. If the Georgia Music Hall of Fame ever gets built, this auspicious event deserves some notice.  . . . a music product that left nothing short of goose flesh at the finale.Under the direction of Will Kesling, the singers and musicians gave brilliant life to Dvořák’s rarely performed choral work. The combination of more than 260 singers and a 100 piece orchestra produces an event that overwhelms.                                                                                                         
Macon Telegraph and News      June 1990

The Creation of F. J. Haydn, a beautifully balanced performance
Ancora, Internaçional Festival de Musica de la Porta Ferrada XXXII, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Spain
Connecticut Chamber Orchestra & Massachusetts Masterworks Chorale

Requiem production is a visual and aural treat
Not enough can be said of the venerable conductor, Will Kesling. His understanding of the Verdi score is second to none. Kesling’s refined directorial gestures clearly communicated his superb insights.
Salt Lake Tribune, with Cynthia Lawrence of the Three Sopranos

Dr. Will Kesling has conducted hundreds of choral ensembles and forty-three professional symphony orchestras throughout the world. His talents for weaving together text and music, chorus and orchestra have garnered him international respect.  A Washington Post concert review sums his abilities in two words, “clear professionalism.” 

Dr. Kesling has conducted a number of engagements in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as in major concert halls internationally.  He served as the Associate Conductor of the Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra, New York City, as the Principal Guest Conductor of the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Russia, and was the Music Director and Conductor of the Mountain West Symphony Orchestra, Utah for 18 years.   

During the second week of July 2017 Dr. Kesling conducted a concert with del Coro del Ministerio de Educación y Deportes de la Nación in Buenos Aires, Argentina. With that choir he led twelve hours of master classes for the Asociación de Directores de Coro de la República Argentina. The week prior Dr. Kesling made his debut with the Orquesta Camerata Jaibaná in the Teatro Metropolitano in Medellín, Colombia.     

Dr. Kesling returned from Bulgaria and Romania with a beautiful recording of the rarely performed REQUIEM MASS, Op. 89 by Antonin Dvořák on which he conducted the Coru Academic  ,,G. Musicesscu” al Philharmonicii ,,Moldava” Iaşi and Orchestra Filarmonicii ,,Mihail Jora” Bacău of Romania with four soloists from the Rousse State Opera Sophia, Bulgaria. Dr. Kesling also conducted two live performances in Bacău in the Sala ‘’ATENU” and Catedrala Catolicca ,,SFINTȷII PETRU ŞI PAUL” on August 31 and September 3, 2016 respectively. As a result of these endeavors, he has been appointed to the Artist/faculty of the International Institute for Conductors sponsored by the same orchestra and chorus to take place in Bacău between June 3 and June 17, 2017.  The Institute provides the opportunity for aspiring young professional conductors from around the world to be coached on choral/orchestral master works while conducting these professional Romanian musicians.

Since his debut in 1991, Dr. Kesling has become one of the Soviet Union’s (now Russia) most popular American guest conductors.  He has returned to conduct nine of the country’s top orchestras:  Moscow State Academic Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic, Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, Moscow State Chamber Orchestra, St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Petersburg Radio & Television, St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra Classika, St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra Congress, and St. Petersburg Mozarteum Chamber Orchestra.  One of the highlights of his career came in 1992 when he conducted the Moscow State Chamber Orchestra and Bolshoi Opera Chorus in the first professionally produced performance of Handel's Messiah since the institution of Communism.

Dr. Kesling has also conducted professional concerts in Brazil (Orquesta Sinfonica Brasiliera), Canada (Vancouver and Victoria Symphonies), the Czech Republic (Czech National Orchestra, National Theater Orchestra of Prague, Brno Philharmonic, Bohuslav Martinu Symphony Orchestra, Czech Virtuosi), Hungary (Budapest Chamber Orchestra), Kenya (Nairobi Symphony Orchestra), Korea (Changwon Philharmonic), Mexico (Orquestra Sinfonica Naçional), Uruguay (Orquestra Sinfonica del SODRE), Poland, and several sold out performances at the Festival Internaçional de Música in Cambrils, Spain.

Dr. Kesling was a featured conductor for the Mezinárodní Hudební Musica Ecumenica in Prague, Czech Republic.  In June 2002 Maestro Kesling opened this international festival with a performance of the Verdi’s Requiem and closed the festival with Dvořák’s Te Deum and Orff’s Carmina Burana, both concerts in Smetana Hall with the National Theater Orchestra of Prague and Czech Philharmonic Chorus. On this same series in 2003 he conducted the Verdi Hymn of Nations and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Czech National Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Chorus.  During the summer of 2004 Kesling celebrated the centennial of Dvořák’s death leading a rare performance of the composer’s Requiem in Prague and more.

Dr. Kesling has made his mark in Canada as well.  He made his debut with the Victoria Symphony in April 2005, has logged eight appearances with the Vancouver Symphony and in May 2011 made his debut in Calgary with the Calgary Chamber Orchestra and Calgary Children’s Choir.

Domestic orchestras conducted are the Honolulu and San Diego Symphonies, the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans and the Connecticut and National Chamber Orchestras, to name a few.  He has also guest-conducted the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir on a national CBS broadcast.  He has several commercial recordings available on both the Integra Classics and Shadow Mountain labels, and conducted the feature film scores, The Two Sisters and The Silence of Speed (GOLD MEDAL -  WORLDFEST FILM FESTIVAL).

For the past fourteen years Dr. Kesling has served as the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Florida as well as the Director of the Gainesville Civic Chorus Master Chorale and Philharmonic Orchestra.   Previously Dr. Kesling was the Director of Orchestra and Choral programs at Utah State University for nineteen years.  Over the past thirty-eight years his college choirs have received international attention and have made multiple appearances at both national and divisional conventions for the American Choral Directors Association.  In March 2002, his Utah State University Chamber Choir appeared before the combined Western and Northwestern Division Convention of the College Band Directors Association.  That same month, the Utah State University Combined Choirs were featured in the Opening Ceremonies of the Paralympics on NBC. 

At the University of Florida, his choirs have appeared with the San Diego Symphony, National Philharmonic, Washington, D.C., Czech National Orchestra and the Czech National Theater Orchestra as well as the Kronos String Quartet, the Three Italian Tenors, and the Posaune Voce Trio of Birmingham, England and made a first ever American Choral Directors Association convention appearance.  All of these performances were under Dr. Kesling’s baton.

On September 11, 2004 Maestro Kesling made his debut with the National Philharmonic in Constitution Hall, Washington, DC premiering the new Revolutionary War oratorio, A Prelude to Glory.   In June of 2005 in Prague Dr. Kesling conducted the Czech National Orchestra Choir Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Carmina Burana, joined by the Prague Chamber Choir.   A debut performance, an all-Mozart affair, with the Varna State Chamber Orchestra and the Varna Municipal Chorus “Morski Zvutsi” was presented in July, 2010.  

Dr. Kesling has conducted numerous All State choirs and festivals.  He has three years of experience conducting military choirs and bands. Professor Kesling has published scholarly choral editions and compositions with a number of publishers and has penned a number of academic articles for professional journals. He is the process of completing his 800 page treatise The Voices in My Head: A Philosophical Approach to the Issues of Choral Performance.  Dr. Kesling serves on the International Editorial Boards for Scientific Journals International, Journal of Culture, Art and Design Review, and Delos: A Journal of Translation and World Literature. Dr. Kesling is the Music Critic for the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, FL.

Maestro Kesling’s served as a conducting coach at The International Music Academy offered by the Gustav Mahler Conservatory of Music in Vienna, Austria (May 20 – June 2, 2013).  As a part of the Academy he conducted a public performance of Spectacular Moments in Opera:  Most Loved Choruses, Overtures & Arias with the Vienna Radio Orchestra and the choir from the University of Zagreb, Croatia Gustav Mahler Conservatory Chorus.  In June Dr. Kesling conducted two performances of the Brahms Tragic Overture and Ein Deutsches Requiem in Verona and Vicenza, Italy with the Croatian Chamber Orchestra and choirs from Hungary, Italy and the United States. 

On July 11, 2015 Dr. Kesling conducted on the televised closing concert for the Festival Coral de Medellín (Colombia) featuring his University of Florida Chamber Singers, Ensamble Vocal Homines Urdi (Venezuela), Ensamble Vocal de Buenos Aires (Argentina), Vox Lumini (Chile), Ensamble Vocal de Medellín (Colombia), and the Orquesta Juvenil de Medellín.  

In recognition of his achievements Dr. Kesling was awarded The Congressional Order of Merit by the Congress of the United States of America in September 2003 and the Ronald Reagan Gold Medal in November 2004.  In March 2006, Professor Kesling was awarded the Congressional Medal of Distinction for his contributions to the cultural life of the citizenry. On October 12, 2013 Dr. Kesling was inducted into Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, men’s fraternity of musicians, as a National Honorary Member.  Dr. Kesling received the Spirit of Gainesville Award for the Arts by the Gainesville Sun and Gainesville Magazine on November 25, 2013. He is the recipient of  the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award from Lynchburg College, VA.

Contact Information
Room #128
Campus Map
Mailing Address

P.O. Box 117900
Gainesville, Fl 32611-7900