Belle Voci Singers and Staff
Craig G. Cannon, Artistic Director
Craig G. Cannon, founder and Artistic Director of Belle Voci, has always been passionate about creating quality art in solo and group performance singing. As a biracial singer/conductor, Craig strives to expand the traditional canon of choral repertoire by exploring the global music traditions of all non-white persons. The focus of Belle Voci’s mission is “ ‘Connecting Song and Community’ through exemplary collaborations of artistic diversity. We are committed to fostering and preserving a culture of diversity, accessibility, and inclusion.” Craig cares deeply about this mission. He incorporates it into his music selections and instills it in those he works with so that the lives of singers and audience members alike are enriched with diverse customs and cultures.
Craig graduated from Duquesne University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1975. He continued his study of choral conducting with the late Douglas McEwen and David Stocker at Arizona State University in Tempe, where he earned a Master of Music degree in choral music in 1983. Since then, Craig has met former students, most often women, who long to once again sing in a challenging choir. Some say they haven’t sung since they were in high school or in college. Others say they’ve found some musical satisfaction by joining church or community groups, but everyone still possesses a strong desire to engage in artistic singing in a more intimate and sensitive ensemble. All have expressed a desire to be part of a group in which they can make important and substantial contributions.
About twelve years ago, Craig began to dream about creating a community-based choir for women that would continue to be part of his musical life following retirement from public school teaching. He spent two years making detailed plans, and on September 5, 2012, Craig led Belle Voci in its first official rehearsal. This dream choir begins its 11th season in September 2022. Craig was the Director of Choral Activities at Fox Chapel Area High School (FCAHS) for 34 years, and he also served for ten years as adjunct faculty of the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University where he led Duquesne’s ensembles as the Director of Choral Organizations from 2013-2015.
Under Cannon’s direction, Belle Voci has presented two Pennsylvania premiers of consequential contemporary choral works: “Sing for the Cure – A Proclamation of Hope” in 2018, a 60-minute song cycle with full orchestration commissioned by The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; and, in spring of 2022, “Suffrage Cantata,” a multi-media work in 5 movements that showcases the diligent, courageous efforts of diverse women in history fighting for - and winning - the right to vote. In all of its programming, Belle Voci seeks music that strives to promote the overall goals of supporting and preserving a culture of diversity, accessibility, and inclusion, all the while believing music can encourage creativity, promote civic engagement, and demand social justice within a healthy community.
Enjoying an active career as a conductor and adjudicator, Craig has frequently appeared as a festival director, music clinician, adjudicator, and consultant for community organizations, schools, and churches throughout the country. Recognizing his career-long work in the field of choral music, in 2017 Craig Cannon was presented with the Elaine Brown Award for Choral Excellence by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association. In addition to his service with Belle Voci, Craig recently worked at East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh as the Interim Executive Director of Hope Academy for Music and the Arts (2018-2019). His professional affiliations include the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Chorus America, National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA). Mr. Cannon is a life member of ACDA and served both as President and Treasurer of the Pennsylvania chapter. He also completed a two-year term as President of ACDA’s Eastern Division from 2002-2004.
Craig and his wife, Nancy, reside in Pittsburgh and are the parents of three daughters and grandparent of one active, already musically-inclined granddaughter.
Kelsey Benigni, Accompanist
Kelsey Benigni is a pianist and accompanist based in Pittsburgh, PA and has been serving as Belle Voci’s accompanist since January 2022. A graduate of both Duquesne University (Bachelor of Science in Music Education, 2017) and Boston University (Master of Music in Music Education, 2021), Kelsey taught instrumental and vocal music in public schools for five years and is an active musician in the Pittsburgh area.
At Duquesne, Kelsey studied classical piano with Sister Carole Riley and was the recipient of two awards for Excellence in Piano Performance by the university piano faculty. She also sang and served as section leader in the Pappert Chorale. Upon graduation, Kelsey was awarded the PMEA Society for Music Teacher Education Award for Scholarship and Research and the Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar Award.
In addition to accompanying Belle Voci, Kelsey has served as a piano accompanist with the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus, at Faith United Methodist Church in Fox Chapel, and for a range of school choral programs, musicals, and festivals, including PMEA and the Allegheny Valley Honors Band.