Singer Bios 2017-2018
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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 14 seasons. Beth earned her degree in music education from the University of Illinois and has been a music specialist for 29 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 Handel, Fauré, Bernstein, Poulenc, and Paulus. Hannah has also been a member of the MN Beethoven Festival Chorale under the direction of Dale Warland, The Oratory Bach Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Matthew J. Olson, and has appeared as soprano soloist for The Oratorio Society of Minnesota, Augsburg Masterworks Chorale, and University of Minnesota Orchestra. 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 a D.M.A degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Minnesota where she earned her M.M. studying with Dr. Wendy Zaro-Mullins. Hannah is also vocal music and choir director at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, MN.
Paige Armstrong, soprano, is excited to be in her sixth season with The Singers. She is an accomplished teacher, singer and nationally awarded conductor. In the last two years, she was awarded first place in the graduate division of the NATS-MN competition and the divisional MTNA Young Artists vocal competition. In 2013, Paige won first place in the National ACDA Undergraduate Conducting Competition. She has been a guest clinician for the Edina Chorale (Edina, MN) and the Manhattan Concert Chorale (Manhattan, NY). Paige graduated in 2012 from Luther College with a degree in Music Education. She is currently a master’s student at The University of MN studying choral conducting and is the Chancel Choir Director at Richfield United Methodist Church. As an educator, Paige has taught high school vocal music at Delano Public Schools (Delano, MN) and Coon Rapids High School (Coon Rapids, MN),and elementary general music at Red Rock Elementary (Woodbury, MN).
Thrilled to be singing in her fifth full season with The Singers, Jessica Bandelin is a 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 18th year working with those wonderful kids. This year, Jessica has joined the staff at Sunny Hollow Montessori School as an Assistant Guide. An avid knitter, she’ll often be seen during intermissions working on a new project. Jessica lives in Saint Paul with her lovely husband, Brian and lovelier three children, Annie, Henry and Aurora.
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 and serves as organist for St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie.
Jeff Bipes, bass, is thrilled to be a returning member of The Singers after taking time to get an MBA and travel, having previously served as the Bass section leader and Singers representative to the board. He graduated from Concordia College with a Bachelors in Music Education and sang with the Concordia Choir under Dr. René Clausen. He’s also performed with The Dale Warland Singers, Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble, and Vocal Jazz Sextet, as well as conducting with the Southeast Minnesota Honors Choirs. When he’s not signing, he enjoys hanging out with his wife and three daughters and working as an IT professional at Land O’Lakes, Inc.
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”.
Anna Brudzinski, soprano, sang with The Singers during the 2014-2015 season and is excited to be back with the fantastic choral ensemble. Anna graduated from St. Olaf College in 2012 with a vocal performance degree and currently works as a board-certified music therapist in the Twin Cities metro while completing her masters in music therapy degree at Augsburg University. She has previously sung with The Beethoven Festival Chorale, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale, VocalEssence, Mozarteum Chor, and The St. Olaf Choir.
Timothy Bruett, baritone (BA, Luther College ’07; MM, U of M – Twin Cities ’09), 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 choral and church music, and is currently a Section Leader with the Motet Choir at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul. Past engagements include 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. A native of Winterset, Iowa, Tim currently lives in Saint Paul with his cat, Rupert. He is also an amateur political junkie, and is thrilled to make music with The Singers!
Zack Carlson, bass, is excited to be singing in his first year with The Singers. After teaching High School and Middle School Vocal Music in Iowa for three years, he moved back to his home state of Minnesota where he is in his first year as High School Vocal Music Director in Dassel-Cokato. He graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2014. He has been fortunate to study conducting in masterclasses at Oxford University, Westminster Choir College, and privately in Oslo, Norway. Previously he sang in the Twin Ports Choral Project, National Lutheran Choir, and multiple Church Choirs. He is thrilled to be singing with The Singers this year!
Ben Dulak is excited to be in his fourth year of singing tenor with The Singers. A 2014 graduate of St. Olaf College, Ben is currently employed as 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, the Northstar Consort 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 excited to be back for second season with The Singers. She is currently teaching K-8 general music and middle school choir at Yinghua Academy. Britta graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN with a degree in 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. After 8 years providing hearing healthcare in clinic, Erika moved into hearing aid sales and manufacturing at GNReSound in Bloomington, MN. 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.
Brent Haagenson, tenor, is beyond stoked to return to The Singers this year for his 4th season. Brent is a proud graduate of Concordia College, where he was section leader and student manager of The Concordia Choir under the direction of Dr. Rene Clausen. He also holds an MA in Counseling and Psychological Services from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and is completing requirements for a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Brent works in the Behavioral Department of University of Minnesota Medical Center and lives in Northeast Minneapolis with his four roommates and the house pitbull, Bella.
Brad Halbersma, tenor, is a resident of St. Anthony. In addition to The Singers, Brad is a section leader and accompanist with the Two Rivers Chorale. He is a graduate of the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, with a degree in vocal performance. In addition to singing, Brad is an accomplished pianist, accompanying various choirs throughout the Twin Cities. He is currently selling pianos and pizzas in Arden Hills, and 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 has sung 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 in development for the Weisman Art Museum.
Rosie Hughes, alto, is excited to be joining The Singers for her first season. She is a recent graduate of Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and studied under Dr. Michael McGaghie. When she’s not singing, she works as a part of the marketing department with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Lynette Johnson holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from North Park University in Chicago IL. A founding member of The Singers, she has also sung with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale and the Dale Warland Singers. She currently serves as Director of Choral Music at her home church, Excelsior Covenant. Weekdays find her enjoying the challenges of work comp claims as an administrative assistant at Westfield Insurance. She is a self-professed reading, fishing, and coffee fanatic, and enjoys the entertainment of her two rambunctious felines, Mindy and Merlin.
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.
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 a Masters 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, BorderCrosSing, and in other contemporary choral settings.
Val Krych, soprano, is very excited to be singing in her third 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, for the past three summers under the direction of Dale Warland. She is currently in her third year teaching elementary music at Hassan Elementary in Rogers, Minnesota. She also teaches piano lessons and coaches tennis!
Isaac Lovdahl, bass, is elated to be starting his second year with ‘The Singers’! Lovdahl earned a B.M. in Vocal Music Education from Concordia College in May 2015. He sang in The Concordia Choir for three years under the direction of Dr. René Clausen, and served as bass section leader during his junior and senior years. Lovdahl is currently employed as the choir director at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, and is the bass section leader/soloist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis. He also teaches private voice lessons. Lovdahl has also sung with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, Vox Nova Chorale, and Great River Chorale. When not directing and singing, Lovdahl enjoys composing–his choral music can be found through Santa Barbara Music Publishing, MusicSpoke, and JW Pepper. He lives in St. Paul with his cat, Kezia, and always enjoys a good basketball game and sleeping in late.
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 boxer Maggie.
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 leads a diverse career as a conductor, choral composer, singer, songwriter, arts administrator, and music educator. In the upcoming 2017-18 season, he serves as: Artistic Director of Oratory Bach Ensemble, a professional baroque orchestra and choir; Visiting Director of Choirs at Carleton College; Instructor of Voice at North Hennepin Community College; Guest Conductor of Magnum Chorum; and Assistant Conductor of The Singers, with whom he will lead performances of Joby Talbot’s choral symphony Path of Miracles. He frequently serves as a clinician for high school choral festivals, and his choral compositions and arrangements are published by Colla Voce, Santa Barbara, and via his website www.matthewjolson.com. He studied choral and orchestral conducting at St. Olaf College, The Oregon Bach Festival, Michigan State University, The Canford Conducting School (U.K.), and The University of Minnesota.
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.
John Rynders, tenor, is very excited to be in his third year 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 third 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 a member of The Singers since 2008. She is a middle school vocal music educator in her 26th year with Eastern Carver County Schools. Caroline cantors 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 sang for six seasons with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale under the direction of Dale Warland. Caroline loves the North Shore, enjoys cooking, and fancies herself a photographer. She resides 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.