Artistic and Music Director Brandon Waddles

Brandon Waddles, PhD., a composer, conductor and educator with deep roots in the Detroit music tradition,was named the new artistic director of Rackham Choir, effective July 1, 2021.

Waddles began working with the choir this month, and hopes to put on a first concert in the fall. He is also director of choral activities at Wayne State University and music director for Ledisi, a Grammy-winning recording artist.

He succeeds Suzanne Acton, the chorus master and assistant music director for Michigan Opera Theater, who was Rackham’s artistic director for 25 years.

A majority of choir members voted to hire Waddles after an extensive vetting process, which included virtual interviews and mock rehearsals with the top candidates.

“Brandon is a native Detroiter with deep roots, connections, and respect in the musical scene (academic, church, popular, jazz), and I expect Rackham to grow in new ways based on the collaborations his network will facilitate,” said Victoria Bigelow, soprano and member of Rackham’s board of directors.

“(He) has a comprehensive musical background spanning cultures, time periods, and genres,” she added. “I expect his programming to be eclectic while also forefronting works by African American composers.”

Waddles was in middle school when he first saw Rackham perform. The show was Too Hot to Handel, a jazz-infused rendition of Handel’s Messiah, and his father Alvin, a preeminent Detroit gospel pianist, was collaborating with the choir.

“It was one of the first times I’d seen a choir move out of the framework of the Western European choral tradition,” he said. “What I appreciated about Rackham and Suzanne and Too Hot to Handel was that they took American music and put it in the concert hall.”

Acton believes Rackham’s future is bright with Waddles taking up the conductor’s baton.

“He’s got energy and he’s got talent, and I think it’s going to be exciting for Rackham,” she said. “Now it’s his turn to experiment.”

Rackham is among the oldest vocal music groups in metro Detroit. Founded in 1949 with high ambitions in classical music, the choir performed for a time with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Under Acton, the choir sharpened its musical standards while exploring material from numerous genres and time periods.

Waddles said he hopes to continue Rackham’s exploration of diverse musical traditions while strengthening the choir’s community ties through collaborations with groups such as the choirs at Wayne State, the Detroit Youth Choir, and Mosaic Youth Theatre.

“He can be a maverick,” said Rod Dixon, a professional tenor who has served as a soloist in numerous productions of Too Hot to Handel and has known Waddles for decades. “He can meet expectations and standards artistically, and he can think outside of the box on so many levels with the choir. It will be interesting to see how many people are drawn to be involved.”

Waddles’ childhood was suffused with the myriad sounds and rhythms of Detroit’s rich music scene.

He spent many Saturdays with his father in jazz clubs, theaters, and concert stages, absorbing a wide spectrum of musical styles from Puccini to Stephen Sondheim to Miles Davis.
Sundays, though, were all church and church music for the Waddles family. Brandon soaked in Baptist devotional songs, Methodist anthems, Negro spirituals and the works of Thomas Whitfield.

“It was not a rarity for us to do two worship services, go eat, then come back for an afternoon program,” Waddles recalled. “Then you might have a smaller gospel group that you may be playing for, and you went to a midnight musical in the evening. Sundays were all church.”

Those long hours shaped his musical sensibilities, and also the idea of bringing large groups of people together to sing — what he calls “the community experience of artistry.”
“Music is for all of us,” he explained, adding: “I am a native of Detroit, I admire the culture that has been passed on to me, and I’m passionate about giving it back.”

Music Coach

Julian J. Goods currently serves as Co-Director of Choirs at Detroit School of Arts. He is a two time graduate of the University of Michigan receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education and a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting. Along with his duties at Detroit School of Arts, Mr. Goods also serves as organist for the historic Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, MI and collaborative pianist for the Rackham Chorus. As an organist, Mr. Goods has appeared in recital at the University of Michigan Organ Conference, The National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. Central Region Conference, and has served as organist for many major work concerts, including John Rutter’s Requiem, Dan Forest’s Jubilate Deo, and G.F. Handel’s Messiah which was conducted by Dr. Eugene Rogers. Mr. Goods has served as music director for several production including Encore Theatre’s production of Ain’t MisBehavin’, Basement Arts (Michigan) production of Crowns, Musket’s production of The Wiz, Blank Space Workshop’s production of Diseducated, and the Detroit School of Arts’ production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Beyond his skills at the piano and organ, Mr. Goods has performed as a vocalist in many venues and in various productions including the University Musical Society’s Porgy and Bess: Opera in Concert in 2018.

A recipient of several awards, Mr. Goods most recently received an award for his commitment to education by the Detroit Public School Community District and the Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award from the North Campus Deans of the University of Michigan for his commitment to social justice, diversity, and inclusion. He also received the Earl V. Moore Award from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance for exemplifying the highest level of artistic achievement in the Music Department, and was named one of the members of the Diapason Magazine’s 20 under 30 Class of 2019 for his devotion to the Organ, the Harpsichord, Carillon, and Church Music.

Mr. Goods holds membership in a host of organizations including The American Choral Directors Association, The American Guild of Organists, and The National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. As a member of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. he serves as the Central Region Director and Co-Convention Chairperson.

Executive Board 2023-2024

  • Emily Eichenhorn
    RC Board President and Managing Board Member, Attorney
  • Simone Bonino
    RC Board Vice-President/Marketing Chair, VP Product Marketing, Altair Engineering, Inc.
  • Jennifer Pasha
    RC Board Treasurer, Executive Assistant
  • Ayana Thomas
    RC Board Secretary, Vocalist, Music Teacher
  • Jehoon Drummond
    RC Class A Chorus Representative, Business Consultant

Board Members 2023- 2024

  • Brandon Waddles, PhD
    RC Artistic and Music Director, Ex-Officio to the Board, Director of Choral Activities and Lecturer Wayne State University
  • Beth Adams
    Retired IT Sales Professional
  • Simone Bonino
    VP Product Marketing, Altair Engineering, Inc.
  • Jehoon Drummond
    RC Class A Chorus Representative, Business Consultant
  • Emily Eichenhorn
    RC Board President and Managing Director, Attorney
  • Jeff Marraccini
    Chief Information Security Officer, Altair Engineering, Inc.
  • Stephanie Miltimore
    Business owner
  • Patricia Minnick
    RC Choir Manager, Coordinator, Music Activities, Schoolcraft College
  • Jennifer Pasha
    Office Manager/Executive Assistant
  • Ayana Thomas
    RC Board Secretary, Vocalist, Music Teacher
  • Harry Williams, Jr.
    RC Class A Chorus Rep. (Alternate ), Disaster Recovery Service, Disaster Recovery Cleaning Service Provider Detroit, MI
  • Liliyana Wolberg
  • William Yeats
    Insurance Adjuster


  • RC Artistic and Music Director, Ex-Officio to the Board
    Brandon Waddles, PhD
  • Music Coach
    Julian Goodes
  • Education Coordinator
    Victoria Isabell
  • Administrator
    Kim Corbeil
  • Choir Manager
    Patricia Minnick

The 2023-2024 Choir

  • Maureen Abele
  • Beth Adams
  • Victoria Bigelow
  • Kathy Boettcher
  • Michael Boettcher
  • Simone Bonino
  • Lacey Cooper
  • Joan Crawford
  • Hannah Cressman
  • Michelle Drummond
  • Emily Eichenhorn
  • Emily Gay
  • Kimberly Henderson
  • Victoria Isabell
  • Andrea Koueiter
  • Patricia Minnick
  • Nancy Nelson
  • Jennifer Pasha
  • Steven P. Pejuan
  • Sarah Piper
  • Bill Steiner
  • Andrea Tawil
  • Ayana Thomas
  • Brett Thompson
  • Linda Van Buren
  • Lori Weatherwax
  • Harry Williams, Jr.
  • Kim Witten
  • Will Yeats