Francis Cathlina

Director of Choral Activities

(901) 213-7441
MU 285
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  • D.M.A., Doctor of Musical Arts, University of North Texas, 2021
  • M.M., Master of Music, Michigan State University, 2019
  • B.M.E., Bachelor of Music Education, Baylor University, 2014


Francis Cathlina, D.M.A., (he/him) is a Vietnamese-American conductor-teacher whose work lies at the intersection of choral music and narrative. Within a concert experience, the musicians engage the audience in a story told through choral artistry. Such innovative programming connects the power of choral music to 21st-century students and audiences.

A two-time GRAMMY-nominated music educator, Dr. Cathlina serves as the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. He guides a comprehensive Choral Area through administrative leadership and vision; he leads the doctoral and master’s choral conducting program and mentors undergraduate students; and he conducts the University Singers (flagship SATB choir) and Mazi (SSAA choir).

As a first-generation musician, Cathlina’s Eastern heritage shapes his teaching. He cultivates a collaborative and rigorous culture, which has garnered international recognition. He is a 2023 National Semifinalist for The American Prize: Dale Warland Award in Choral Conducting (College Division). Early in his career, the Texas Choral Directors Association (TCDA) designated him the “Young Director of Distinction.”

Dr. Cathlina’s teaching philosophy centers on building masterful technicians, creative communicators, and thoughtful citizens. These three pillars define his work. Stemming from his love of people, he enjoys inspiring musicians as an active guest conductor. Upcoming and recent engagements involve the International Mu Phi Convention Chorus, Mississippi All-State Treble Choir, UofM Symphony Orchestra, and honor choirs nationwide.

A fluent vocal pedagogue, Dr. Cathlina’s scholarship focuses on choral tone and artistic conducting gesture. He has published articles in ACDA’s "Choral Journal" and has presented over 45 interest sessions internationally. In 2023, he co-led two Conducting Masterclasses in Greece with the University of Macedonia (Thessaloniki) and Ionian University (Corfu). In 2024, he will be the Choral Headliner for the Alabama Music Educators Association Conference.

Dr. Cathlina holds a D.M.A. in conducting with a vocal pedagogy cognate from the University of North Texas, an M.M. in conducting from Michigan State University, and a B.M.E. from Baylor University. Before his doctorate, he taught in Texas public schools, working with elementary through high school-age singers. He owes everything to his husband, family, and dear friends for bringing balance to his Eastern culture and Western upbringing. Dr. Cathlina resides in Memphis, Tennessee, with his husband, Kyle, and their fur baby, Coco. franciscathlina.com