Singer Bios 2016-2017
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Beth Althof, is eternally grateful to have moved to this choral mecca in 1994. She has performed with The Singers during all 13 seasons. Beth earned her degree in music education from the University of Illinois and has taught for 28 years, most recently in the Centennial School District. She has sung for Dale Warland in the Dale Warland Singers, the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, and the SPCO Chorale. She is soprano section leader at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul and is a vocalist with Women PerformHers. Beth has two daughters, Katie and Kristin, and lives in White Bear Lake with her husband, Jay.
Hannah Armstrong Stanke, soprano, has been a proud member of The Singers since 2009. She has been a frequent soloist with this ensemble on works of Fauré, Bernstein, Poulenc, and Paulus. Hannah has also been a member of the MN Beethoven Festival Chorale under the direction of Dale Warland. She graduated from Luther College in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education and Africana Studies, and while there sang under Dr. Craig Arnold in the Nordic Choir. Hannah is currently pursuing an M.M. degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Minnesota where she studies with Dr. Wendy Zaro-Mullins, and teaches Vocal Music at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, MN.
Paige Armstrong, soprano, is excited to be in her fifth season with The Singers. She is an accomplished teacher, singer and nationally awarded conductor. In the fall of 2015, she was awarded first place in the graduate division of the NATS-MN competition. In January 2016, Paige placed first in the divisional MTNA vocal contest and competed in the national contest in April. In 2013, she won first place in the National ACDA Undergraduate Conducting Competition and later traveled to New York where she was a guest conductor for the Manhattan Concert Chorale, led by Dr. Craig Arnold. Paige graduated in 2012 from Luther College with a degree in Music Education. She is currently a soprano section leader and the assistant conductor at Wayzata Community Church. In the past, Paige has also sung for Dale Warland (Beethoven Festival Choir) and Allen Hightower and Craig Arnold (Nordic Choir – Luther College).
Paul Armstrong is currently enjoying his fourth season in The Singers. Paul graduated in 2012 with a History degree from Luther College and sang in the Nordic Choir under Dr. Allen Hightower and was also a member of the Men’s Soccer team. He works at Edina High School in the Autism department, is a Cantor and Section Leader at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka, and a soccer coach for The Blake School, Shakopee Soccer Association and Keliix Intra Soccer Club.
Thrilled to be singing in her fourth full season with The Singers, Jessica Bandelin is a 1998 graduate of The College of Saint Catherine with a BA in Music. She is the Assistant Director of The House of Hope Children’s Choir, currently in her 17th year working with those wonderful kids. Jessica is also a Soprano section leader at St. John the Evangelist in Saint Paul. An avid knitter, she’ll often be seen during intermissions working on a new project. Jessica lives in Saint Paul with her lovely husband and lovelier three children.
Stephanie Beard, alto, completed her Bachelor of Music Education degree at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and her Master of Education degree at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. She currently teaches elementary music at Edinbrook Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, directs the District 279 Elementary Honor Choir, and serves as organist for St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie.
Bryan Blessing, baritone and Music Adviser, is a founding member of The Singers and is the vocal music teacher at Oak Grove Middle School in Bloomington. Bryan received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Saint John’s University, his Master’s in Music Education from the University of St. Thomas, and is pursuing National Board Certification in Adolescent Music. Additionally, Bryan is an amateur composer and guitarist who has instructed classical guitar at Crown College. Currently, Bryan is on the advisory board of the ChoralQuest series through the American Composers Forum and is the Chair of the Commissioning Task Force for ACDA-MN.
Jess Braaten, soprano, writes: This is my first season as a part of The Singers, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Attending Concordia College in Moorhead, I majored in Vocal Performance. I was also able to be a part of The Concordia Choir, as well as Michael Culloton’s ensemble, The Fargo-Moorhead Choral Artists while living up in Moorhead. The concert that introduced me to The Singers was when they performed Joby Talbot’s, Path of Miracles. It was such a spiritual, moving experience, and made me realize that this was the sort of choir I wanted to be a part of outside of college. Since moving back to the Twin Cities, I have started on a new education path towards a degree in Nursing. I am a part of my church worship team, teach piano and french horn, and nanny.
Baritone Bruce Broquist is a St. Olaf College graduate, where he majored in vocal music performance and biology. Bruce is a charter member of The Singers, and before joining this ensemble had the privilege of singing with The Dale Warland Singers for 12 years. He has also sung with The Paul Kaye Singers, Plymouth Music Series, and the Edina Chorale where he served as section leader and bass soloist. Bruce is a professional pastry chef in the Twin Cities, and runs his own wholesale dessert company “Three Chocolatiers”.
Timothy Bruett, baritone, (BA, Luther College ’07; MM, U of M-Twin Cities ’09) a native of Winterset, Iowa and recent returnee to the Twin Cities, is an avid and frequent performer, having collaborated on works ranging from Baroque opera and oratorio to 20th-century chamber music and art song. He is also a lover of church and choral music, having sung professionally with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, the Choir of Gentlemen & Choristers at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York, and the Choir of Men & Boys at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue in New York City. Timothy lives in Saint Paul with his cat, Rupert, he is an amateur political junkie, and he is thrilled to be back for his fourth season with The Singers!
Soprano Melissa Culloton is a native of Halden, Norway and is a 1998 graduate of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, where she graduated cum laude with a double major in vocal performance and music education. Melissa holds advanced degrees from the University of Minnesota where she was a two-year fellowship recipient of the Torske Klubben Scholarship. Dr. Culloton performs currently with The Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists and The Beethoven Festival Chorus. Past performing groups include the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale, the Dale Warland Singers, The Norwegian Youth Choir, and The St. Olaf Choir. She teaches a private studio at Prior Lake High School in Savage and at Gethsemane Lutheran Church of Hopkins and sings at The House Of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul. She enjoys the outdoors, cooking, running, golf, and is a certified vinyasa yoga teacher.
Ben Dulak is excited to be in his third year of singing tenor with The Singers. A 2014 graduate of St. Olaf College, Ben is currently a Project Manager with Augsburg Fortress. He is also a tenor section leader at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. Besides singing with The Singers, Ben keeps a busy schedule of singing throughout the Twin Cities, having performed with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, MPLS (Impulse), APM Radio Choir, Pop-Up Choir, Hymnos and the SPCO Chorale.
Allison Eckberg, alto, is a 2009 graduate of the University of Minnesota. She currently teaches elementary music in Eden Prairie, and serves as alto section leader at Wayzata Community Church. She is excited to be in her seventh season with The Singers, where she met her husband, Sam.
Samuel Eckberg, bass, grew up on a small dairy farm near Gaylord, MN. Now in his fifth year as music specialist and director of choirs at Meadowvale Elementary in Elk River, he maintains a piano studio and is director of choirs at Union Congregational Church. He is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College where he studied voice, piano and music education and is completing graduate work in music education from the University of St. Thomas. Sam is thrilled to be in The Singers where he met his wife, Allison.
Hailey Feltis, alto, is incredibly excited to be back with The Singers for a second year! Hailey graduated from Concordia College – Moorhead in 2013 with a B.M. in Vocal Music Education. At Concordia, she was a three-year member of The Concordia Choir, under the direction of Dr. Rene Clausen, and served as alto section leader in her senior year. Hailey is originally from Sioux Falls, SD but is currently living in Morristown, MN where she is in her third year teaching 7th-12th Grade Choir in the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown School District. There she directs two high school choirs, one junior high choir, and teaches private lessons. Prior to The Singers, Hailey sang with Beau Chant out of Faribault, MN. She was also the Vocal Director for the Gooseberry Park Players (Moorhead, MN) summer musical productions of “The Sound of Music” (2014) and “Footloose” (2015).
Hailing from Sleepy Eye, MN, Joel Fischer is a 1998 graduate of Iowa State University, where he studied voice with Dr. Donald Simonson. He is a 17-year veteran of the Minnesota choral music scene, having sung with the Dale Warland Singers, The Rose Ensemble, the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, and the SPCO Chorale. This is Joel’s twelfth season as Tenor Section Leader of The Singers. He also serves as soloist and section leader at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul.
Britta Fitzer, alto, is thrilled to be with The Singers for her first season. Britta graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN with a degree is vocal music education. During her collegiate years she sang for D. Michael Smith and Dr.Rene Clausen. Following college she spent two years teaching and traveling overseas in South Korea, China, and across east Asia. Her career stateside has been spent teaching general music. She is currently teaching K-8 general music at Yinghua Academy, a Chinese immersion school, in NE Minneapolis. When she isn’t singing you can find her traveling, cooking, and hiking.
Erika Gesme, alto, completed her Master of Music degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and her Bachelor of Arts degree at Luther College where she studied under Weston Noble. This year, Erika is pleased to serve as The Singers’ Representative to the Board. She currently consults as a Hearing Instrument Dispenser at Lakeview Clinic, Ltd and other family physician clinics, providing healthcare through HearingHealth. Additionally, she serves as alto section leader at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul under Dr. Culloton’s baton. Erika has also performed with Mirandola Ensemble, the SPCO Chorale under the direction of Dale Warland, and records with the First Readings Project and for MorningStar Music Publishers.
Brad Halbersma, tenor, is very excited and privileged to be in his first year with The Singers. In addition to The Singers, Brad also enjoys singing with the Two Rivers Chorale and The Summer Singers. He is a graduate of the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, with a degree in vocal performance. In addition to singing, he also is an accomplished pianist, accompanying various choirs and performing whenever possible. He is currently serving as the worship leader at Fridley Covenant Church.
Gabe Hanson is currently in his second year with The Singers. He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College where he sang under Dr. Gregory Aune.
William Haugen, tenor and Music Librarian, lives in St. Paul. Besides The Singers, Bill sings throughout the year with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale, Vox Nova Chorale, Magpies & Ravens, and the Central Presbyterian Church Choir as section leader. Bill works for the Lakeshore Players Theatre Capital Campaign to build a new performing arts center in the northeast Twin Cities metro.
Lynette Johnson holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from North Park University in Chicago, IL. A founding member of The Singers, she also sings with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, directed by Dale Warland, and serves as Director of Choral Music at her home church, Excelsior Covenant. Weekdays find her enjoying the challenges of her administrative assistant position at Westfield Insurance. She enjoys reading, fishing, coffee, and the entertainment of her two felines, Merlin, a rambunctious 1 year-old and Mindy, her patient 4 year-old.
Jocelyn Kalajian, alto holds a B.A. in Vocal Performance from the Eastman School of Music and M.M. in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory. She sang professionally in Boston as soloist with many area choral and orchestral ensembles and taught voice at Tufts University. After moving to Minnesota she was section leader and soloist with the Bach Society of Minnesota. Currently she is the alto soloist at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul and teaches Voice, Choir and Chamber Singers at Century College in White Bear Lake.
Andrew Wick Klein, baritone/bass, has been with The Singers since 2013. The Stillwater, MN, native earned his B.A. in chemistry from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he also sang with the St. Olaf Choir. In the past he has sung with the Meridian Vocal Consort (Indianapolis, Indiana), the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and CONCORA (Hartford, Connecticut). Here in the Twin Cities, he has sung with Kantorei and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale. In his spare time he reads to his children, searches obfuscated scientific information with uncanny precision, and enjoys baseball, board games and chocolate chip cookies.
Diane Koschak, soprano, has been a member with The Singers since 2009. In addition to her work with The Singers, she is also the soprano section leader with the Saint Louis, King of France choir. She has been a member of The Minnesota Chorale, the Rose Ensemble, Consortium Carissimi, The Gregorian Singers and the Waltham Abbey Singers, as well as performing free-lance work. She has a Vocal Music Education degree from Bemidji State University, and a Master’s in Education from Saint Mary’s University. During the day, she is an Elementary Music teacher at Valley Crossing Community School, in Woodbury. When not singing or teaching, you’ll probably find her on a dog-walk with her husband Kurt, as well as her golden retrievers.
Laura Krider is Alto Section Leader and a founding member of The Singers. During the day, she proudly serves as Director of Education and Community Partnerships at The American Composers Forum. Laura received her BM in Music Education, studying under Kathy Romey and Jean del Santo, and an MPS in Arts & Cultural Leadership at the University of Minnesota. She has also done consulting/board work the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, VocalEssence, and the MN State Arts Board. Laura freelances with the MN Beethoven Festival Dale Warland Chorale, The First Readings Project, and in other contemporary choral settings.
Val Krych, soprano, is very excited to be singing in her first season with The Singers. While studying at Luther College, she sang in all four choirs and directed the Vocal Jazz group which included an international tour to Brazil. She has sung with other area choral ensembles including the former Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale, Vox Nova Chorale, and Painted Harmony. She also performed in the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, last summer under the direction of Dale Warland. She currently teaches elementary music at Hassan Elementary in Rogers, Minnesota. She also directs the children’s choir at her church, teaches piano lessons, and coaches tennis!
Isaac Lovdahl, bass, is elated to be starting his first year with The Singers! Lovdahl graduated ‘magna cum laude’ from Concordia College in 2015 with a degree in Vocal Music Education. He sang in The Concordia Choir under the direction of Dr. René Clausen for three years, and served as bass section leader during his junior and senior years. Lovdahl currently serves as choir director at Sartell High School, 6th-grade music teacher at Sartell Middle School, choir director at Celebration Lutheran Church, and private voice instructor. In the summers, he also performs as a member of the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, directed by Dale Warland. During his teenage years, Lovdahl discovered a passion for choral composition–his music can be found on JWPepper, MusicSpoke, and through Santa Barbara Music Publishing. When he’s not composing, conducting, teaching, or singing, Lovdahl enjoys hiking, reading, playing basketball, and sleeping in late.
David Lower, tenor, earned his B.A. from Luther College in 2003. He is a charter member of The Singers and has performed with the Dale Warland Singers, the Rose Ensemble, the Gregorian Singers, and the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale. He has also served as a section leader at The Cathedral of Saint Paul and is currently a tenor section leader at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul. David is a Treasury and Marketing Consultant for Wells Fargo and lives in Minneapolis with his wife Kristine.
Baritone John McDaris has sung with Glorious Revolution Baroque, the Rose Ensemble, the Gregorian Singers, the Minnesota Chorale, and the Raleigh Oratorio Society. He also sings with the First Readings Project and in the parish choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Minneapolis. John has a Master’s Degree in Geophysics from the University of Minnesota and works in faculty professional development at the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. John enjoys gardening, running, and working on the arts-and-crafts home in St. Paul that he shares with his partner, Jacob, and their two dogs.
Soprano Susanna Mennicke has been a capital-S Singer since 2012. In addition to working with the Singers, she has performed with the SPCO Chorale, the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Kantorei, Music Baroque, and the Camarata Music Company in Seoul. After graduating from Concordia University Saint Paul with B.A.s in Art History and Vocal Performance, teaching English in South Korea, and working at a nonprofit, Susanna finally found her career fit and now works as a graphic designer. In her free time, she loves laughing at terrible movies and playing pub trivia with her friends.
Matthew J Olson serves as Artistic Director of Oratory Bach Ensemble – a professional period instrument orchestra and chamber choir, Instructor of Music at North Hennepin Community College, and Director of Choirs at Westwood Lutheran Church. Previously, he held teaching positions at Aquinas College, UW-Superior, and the University of Minnesota. He was national winner of the Houghton College Choral Competition and has published works forthcoming with Santa Barbara Music and Colla Voce. As a chorister, he has performed with The St. Olaf Choir, Magnum Chorum, The Minnesota Orchestra, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. He made his singer/songwriter debut at The Fitzgerald Theater as part of Minnesota Public Radio’s highly acclaimed Works for Words series. He studied conducting at St. Olaf College, The Oregon Bach Festival, Michigan State University, The University of Minnesota, and The Canford Orchestral Conducting School (U.K.)
Vicki Peters, mezzo soprano, is proud to be a charter member of The Singers. She has enjoyed an active career singing, teaching and directing, including conducting The Summer Singers in the 2008 State and 2010 Regional ACDA conventions. Vicki was a Dale Warland project singer, taught high school music, directed excellent church groups for 16 years, and was an assistant director for two community choirs. Currently she is Artistic Director/Conductor of Vox Nova Chorale, an educational summer choir for emerging conductors and composers and continues her private voice studio, and sings in the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale under the direction of Dale Warland. Vicki graduated from St. Cloud State University where she is listed as an Outstanding Music Alumni.
Ben Riggs, tenor, is the Artistic Director of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. Prior to moving to Minnesota, Ben was the Artistic Director of the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and the Boulder Chorale. An experienced church musician, Ben currently serves as the Chancel Choir Director at Richfield United Methodist Church in south Minneapolis. Ben holds a Bachelor of Music in piano from Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, and both a Master of Music in choral conducting and Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Literature and Performance from the University of Colorado.
Philip Rossin is in his second season with The Singers. He graduated from Concordia College where he sang under the direction of Dr. René Clausen in The Concordia Choir.
Brad Runyan, Bass Section Leader, received his B.A in Theatre from Augustana College and is M.M. in vocal performance from the University of Minnesota. Brad is employed as a bass section leader at The House of Hope Presbyterian Church. Over the years Brad has enjoyed an eclectic musical career ranging from playing bass in rock ‘n roll bands to singing Mozart basso buffo opera in Slovakia to singing for Maestro Culloton! Brad has studied with Lorenzo Malfatti, Rita Patanè and Bobby McFerrin. In his spare time he tries to maintain an upright position on his motorcycle.
John Rynders, tenor, is very excited to be in his first season as a member of The Singers. John has previously sung with the New York based Manhattan Chorale (2012-2015), performing in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. Prior to graduating from Luther College in 2007, John sang in the Nordic choir for three years under the direction of Weston Noble and Dr. Craig Arnold. John currently works as the tenor section leader and soloist at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in St. Paul.
Megan Skubic, soprano, is ecstatic to be joining The Singers for her first season! Megan’s love for music and performing began as a child while she sang, danced, and played the violin in an ethnic Finnish folk group called The Singing Strings. Growing up on the Iron Range, she also participated in the Duluth Superior Youth Symphony Orchestra as a violinist and a soprano soloist. Megan graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2011, where she studied studied psychology and biology. There, she sang under the direction of Kathy Romey and Matthew Mehaffey in the University Singers. Outside of creating beautiful music with The Singers, Megan works at Cigna Behavioral Health, studies voice with Teresa Tierney, and nurtures her love of reading.
Brian Steele, bass, is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University and received his MFA degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Minnesota. He has worked as a solo performer, a church soloist and section leader, as voice-over talent in commercial and industrial projects and recording artist with Augsburg, Kjos and MorningStar Publishers, the Montana Chorale, the Grammy Award winning Oregon Bach Festival Choir and, for 10 years, the Dale Warland Singers. He also sings each summer with the Beethoven Festival Chorale in Winona. He has worked as a radio announcer and music host, most recently for Minnesota Public Radio. He and his wife, Jackie, are proud founding board members of The Singers. When not singing, co-producing The Singers’ commercial recordings, or teaching voice, Brian works as a remodeling contractor focused on historic restoration.
Caroline Swanson, Soprano Section Leader, has been with The Singers since 2008. She is a seasoned middle level vocal music educator in her 25th year with Eastern Carver County Schools. Caroline is a cantor at St. Victoria Catholic Church in Victoria and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Minnetonka, where she is also the choir’s soprano section leader. During the summer, Caroline directs The River City Singers, an adult community choir, and sings with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale under the direction of Dale Warland. Caroline enjoys cooking comfort food for those she loves and fancies herself an amateur photographer. She lives in Chaska with her band director husband Paul; their daughter Elsa and son Bjorn are both college music majors.
Soprano, Allie Tunseth, joined The Singers in its second season, and continues to be grateful for this community of Singers and the opportunity to perform exciting repertoire year after year! A graduate from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN she studied voice with Ms. Lucy Thrasher, and sang under the direction of Dr. Paul Nesheim and Dr. Rene Clausen in the Concordia Choir. In addition to singing with the Singers, Allie can be found subbing for various churches around the Twin Cities as well as a variety of recording gigs. She also has a Master of Arts Degree from Luther Seminary and currently works as the Senior Patient Care Coordinator for Connect Hearing locations around the mid-west, and resides in the lovely Summit Hill area in St. Paul.
Ben Wegner holds a degree in Music Education from Luther College and is currently in demand to sing around the metro area. He is the Director of Music at Jehovah Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Recently, he directed the music for Lakeshore Players Theatre for Young Frankenstein and also led The Mystery of Edwin Drood in 2014. In addition to The Singers, Ben also is a performing member of the Bach Society of Minnesota. As a composer and arranger, Ben arranges music for the Washington County 4-H Arts In program and his choral pieces have been performed around the Midwest.