Born in Charleston, SC, Elaine (Elam) Kirkland served as the director of the band and chorus after the departure of Eugene Graves. She is currently the director of music ministry for the Edina Morningside Community Church. In addition to her music degrees, she earned a master of divinity degree at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. She is a teacher, conductor, composer, and organist, and she leads music workshops.
As a lay and clergy person in the United Church of Christ, Elaine is a notable composer of sacred choral works, congregational hymns, and worship music, and her work is published in The New Century Hymnal. During her time with Youth of America, she brought the group new arrangements for the chorus, including “Make Your Own Sunshine” and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” She led the initiative to bring more contemporary music to the YA repertoire.