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Joel Knapp was raised in the Kansas City area and received a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from Wichita State University in 1981, summa cum Laude. From 1981-86 he was the Director of Vocal Music at Circle High School in Towanda, Kansas. Choirs under his direction performed at state and regional conventions and consistently received top honors.

In 1986 Dr. Knapp began graduate work at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and served as Director of Music at Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church, Overland Park, Kansas. Studying with Dr. Eph Ehly and Kirby Shaw, he earned an M.M. and D.M.A., summa cum Laude, in Choral Conducting. In 1989 Dr. Knapp taught at Utah State University where he conducted performances in Salt Lake City's Temple Square. The following year he accepted a position at Texas Tech University as Associate Director of Choral Activities. Choirs under his direction performed with the renowned Orchestra of Santa Fe. The University of Akron invited Dr. Knapp to come as Temporary Director of Choral Activities in 1992. He was also named Director of the Akron Symphony Chorus for the 92-93 season. That fall he conducted the University of Akron Chamber Orchestra and also was a guest conductor of the Akron Symphony. Dr. Knapp served as Director of Choral Activities at Jacksonville State University in Alabama for six years. His choirs performed to sold-out audiences each year as they presented a Renaissance Madrigal Dinner in the fall and a Valentine's Day Concert in the spring. Jacksonville State University choirs performed at state AMEA conventions and the Georgia Renaissance Festival.

Dr. Knapp has served as an adjudicator/clinician in eleven states. In the fall of 1999, Knapp accepted a position as Director of Choral Activities at Southern Illinois University. An active performer, Knapp has appeared in area recitals as well as performances of Amahl and the Night Visitors (Balthazar), South Pacific (Emile), and Bending Towards the Light. In 2001, He was named Assistant Conductor of the Bach Society of St. Louis, and Conductor of the Masterworks Concert Choir. He is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, Illinois Music Educators Association, Music Educators National Conference, and is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.