Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair,
Upper School and Middle School Speech and Theater
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Education from Southeast Missouri State University, I went on to attain a Master of Arts with an emphasis in directing from Fontbonne University. I joined the faculty of Visitation Academy in 2004 and currently teach Upper School speech and theatre classes, as well as direct productions for the Lower, Middle, and Upper School. There are many highlights to choose from during my time in the Viz theater department, but a few that I am most proud of include being selected to perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2010; the many nominations from St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards (SLHSMTA) and, of course, receiving the Best Director Award in 2017 and 2018; and receiving the Independent Schools of St. Louis Teacher of Distinction award and the Emerson Excellence in Teaching award.
Theater is my passion as you can see from all the things I am involved with outside of Viz –
- Co-founder and Artistic Director of the city-wide children’s theatre company, Shooting Star Productions (SSP), which is in its 17th season of producing musicals and plays for youth ages 5-19.
- Assistant director for The Variety Children’s Theatre Company for six years, working with children with disabilities in a professional show. I also developed an intern program for Variety which paired children with disabilities with professional theatre directors and designers.
- Active member of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri and previous board member.
- Member of the Missouri State Thespian Organization. I also directed the Missouri Thespian All State Show in 2014 and 2017, and the 2014 production was selected by and performed at the International Theatre Festival.
Ellen Cook Isom ’82
Upper School and Middle School Dance
I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Webster University and joined the faculty of Visitation Academy in 2007 after serving as a guest teacher at the school’s bi-annual Fine Arts Day. I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to pass on my love of dance to young people at different stages of their lives. Currently, I teach dance to seventh grade and Grades 10-12, choreograph the musicals and dances for both the Middle School and Upper School choir concerts, and direct and choreograph the annual Maypole Ceremony. I am extremely proud to have been honored by the St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards (SLHSMTA) for my choreography of Viz’s production of Nunsense and Bye Birdie, as well as to have received recognition for my professional work from other prestigious theater organizations over the years.
Outside of Viz, I have shared my life-long love of dance in a variety of ways –
- Teaching children ages 3-18 at On Your Toes Dance Studio.
- Serving as a faculty member at Webster University where I helped the department head start a professional dance company, Webster Dance Theatre.; teacher of ballet, jazz, tap, and musical theatre dance at Webster, as well as choreographer for their Conservatory’s musicals.
- Performing and choreographing for STAGES St. Louis as well as teaching in the pre-professional training program.
- Serving on the faculties of the Webster University Dance Intensive, the MUNY/Webster Theatre Intensive, and STAGES Academy Summer Dance Intensive.
- Serving as resident choreographer for the annual Midwest Theatre Auditions and working with fellow Visitation theatre teacher, Marty Strohmeyer’s children’s theatre company, Shooting Star Productions.
Upper School and Middle School Music
After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Webster University, I went on to perform all styles of music – from Bach and Copland to Broadway musicals and Rhythm and Blues – as director, conductor, arranger, composer, organist, pianist, soloist, teacher, and voice coach. I truly enjoy bringing my diverse experience and appreciation of music to the students of Visitation Academy as Music Director and Visual and Performing Arts Chair. I am so proud to have received recognition for the very important role I have as an educator from organizations including the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, ISSL (Independent Schools of St. Louis), and Who’s Who in Education. In 2017, I was thrilled to be honored as Best Musical Director for Visitation Academy’s production of Nunsense and in 2018 for our production of “Bye, Bye, Birdie.”
Through the years, I have had many amazing musical experiences including –
- Training the chorus for the St. Louis appearance of Josh Groban at The Scottrade Center.
- Conducting members of the Louis Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra, and the St. Louis Municipal Pops Orchestra.
- Serving as the music director for: the Missouri Athletic Club Apollo Men’s Chorus, one of the oldest all male choruses in existence in the United States; Missouri’s own Neal E. Boyd, the 2008 winner of America’s Got Talent; and the Variety Children’s chorus and the Variety Children’s Theater.
- Working with Broadway stars, Tony Award nominees, and a host of well-known and local performers.
- Traveling around the United States and Canada performing in various venues.
Upper School Art
I started teaching in 2009 after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Education from Fontbonne University and went on to complete my Master of Arts in Art Education from the University of Missouri, Columbia. I am now in my eighth year teaching art here at Visitation and have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside the dedicated staff and wonderful students. My passion is in the arts, and I love sharing this with our students in Grades 10 through 12. I strive to make the art classroom a creative and fun learning environment. Outside of school, I enjoy painting, drawing, cooking, and taking on DIY projects around my house. Though I am a busy wife and mother of two beautiful girls, I also am a freelance artist and graphic designer and run a small business selling my artwork.
Lower School and Middle School Music
I feel blessed that I get to share my love of music with the students in our Lower and Middle School every day. As a conductor, arts educator, and arts administrator, I have worked at several notable St. Louis institutions including the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Union Avenue Opera, Nerinx Hall High School, Shooting Star Productions, and Washington University. I also was the musical director of The New City Chamber Orchestra from 1998 to 2003 and have guest conducted the Saint Louis Brass Band, the University City Symphony Orchestra, the Webster University Wind Ensemble, and the Webster University Symphony. Over the past 18 years, I have had the privilege of conducting more than 25 music theater productions and was nominated for an Arts for Life award for Best Musical Direction in a Youth Production in both 2017 and 2018. The professional musician in me loves to perform, and I do so as often as I can in and around the St. Louis area.
Theatre Technical Director and Tech Teacher
I am Visitation’s new, full-time Theatre Technical Director, having just arrived in May 2019. I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Technical Direction with a minor in Video Production from Webster University. My theatre set designs and lighting designs have taken me to New York where I designed a few shows off-off-Broadway and off-Broadway. Here in St. Louis, I have been nominated multiple times at Arts for Life for my set and lighting designs and have received awards the past two years for my lighting designs. I am excited to be putting my experience and love of set and lighting design to use on Viz theatre productions. I also teach two tech classes which cover all aspects of technical theatre; but it doesn’t stop there. I teach tech theatre to students and parents that work our productions and volunteer outside of classes. Additionally, I am mentoring Viz’s brand new drone program which we are using to film footage from school and sporting events as well as other school activities. Outside our school, I spend time teaching younger students and really anybody that is interested how to build and fly drones, using best practices for flying both indoors and outdoors. My other time is spent designing theatrical sets and lighting for local theatre groups, and I have recently ventured into designing and building freshwater fish tanks, including installing and fabricating waterscapes. In my mind, an empty tank is just another stage waiting to have a design added to it.