Singer Bios 2018-2019
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Beth Althof, is eternally grateful to have moved to this choral mecca in 1994. She is fortunate and proud to have performed with The Singers during all 15 seasons. Beth earned her degree in music education from the University of Illinois and has been a music specialist for 30 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. Beth has performed with the MN Bach Ensemble, was a section leader at the House of Hope for 5 years, and is currently a vocalist with the chamber ensemble, Women PerformHers. Beth has two daughters, Katie and Kristin, and lives in White Bear Lake with her husband, Jay and dog, Lucy.
Hannah Armstrong, 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 seventh 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 sixth 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 19th year working with those wonderful kids. 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.
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, frequent, and diverse solo 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 ensemble and church music, and is currently a Section Leader with the Motet Choir at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul, and can be seen regularly with the Mirandola Ensemble. Past engagements include the Twin Cities Early Music Festival with Incantare, 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, and he is thrilled to make music with The Singers!
Zachariah Carlson, bass, is excited to be singing in his second season with The Singers. After teaching high school and middle school vocal music in rural Iowa and Minnesota, he has started his fifth year of teaching as the new high school choir director at Buffalo High School. He graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2014 and is currently pursuing his masters degree at Michigan State University. Carlson also serves Community United Methodist Church in Monticello as Director of Music. Previously he sang in the Twin Ports Choral Project, and the National Lutheran Choir. Outside of singing and teaching singing, he travels, spends time with his niece, and enjoys the outdoors.
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 House of Hope Presbyterian Church. She is excited for her tenth season with The Singers!
Amy Erlandson is a soprano celebrating her first year with The Singers. A St. Paul native, Amy graduated with a BM degree in Music Education from St. Olaf College in Northfield. She previously sang with The St. Olaf Choir, Magnum Chorum, and Vox Nova Chorale. Amy is the General Music teacher at L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion Elementary School in St. Paul as well as the Music Director of Youth Ensembles at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lakeville. When she is not studying voice, Amy plays competitive ultimate frisbee in the Twin Cities.
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 20-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. Joel is a founding member and 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 her third season with The Singers. 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 and middle school choir at Yinghua Academy, a Chinese immersion school, in NE Minneapolis. When she isn’t singing you can find her traveling, cooking, or exploring the newest plant-based eatery in town.
Erika Gesme, alto, is performing in her 10th season with The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists. She 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. 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 5th 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. He is a graduate of the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, with a degree in vocal performance. In 2016, Brad joined the choir Evangelion for a tour of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, countries that he had previously visited during his college tenure. In addition to singing, Brad is an avid pianist and accompanist, playing all styles of music from classical to jazz to heavy metal (a little less metal on the piano). He is currently working as a legal courier, a piano salesman at Jim Laabs Pianos, a pizza delivery driver in Shoreview, and 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, Will 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. Will works in development for the Weisman Art Museum.
Rosie Hughes, alto, is excited to be joining The Singers for her second season. She is a graduate of Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, with an emphasis on vocal performance, and studied under Dr. Michael McGaghie. When she’s not singing, Rosie works in Development for 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.
Isaac Lovdahl, bass, is elated to be starting his third 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 Choir Director/Music Teacher at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul–he also serves as the Music Director/Choir Director at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, and teaches private voice lessons from his school studio. Lovdahl has sung with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, Vox Nova Chorale, imPulse (MPLS), 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 Graphite Publishing (VocalEssence Music Press). He lives in St. Paul with his fianceé and cat, and always enjoys a good basketball game and staying up too late.
Jessica Lowry, alto, is so excited to be a returning member of The Singers after moving to Saigon, Vietnam to teach music and strings in the international school system and traveling Asia for the past three years. She first began singing with the group in 2013 after graduating Luther College with a BA in Vocal and Instrumental Music Education. While at Luther, Jessica sang in the Nordic Choir and with the Luther Jazz Orchestra, and played viola in the Philharmonia Orchestra. Jessica has sung in a number of vocal groups, including the SPCO Chorale and Beethoven Festival Chorale in the Twin Cities, and the Saigon Chamber Consort and International Choir in Ho Chi MInh City, Vietnam. By day, Jessica is a violist and is the Orchestra Director at North and West Junior Highs in the Hopkins School District.
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 now works as a graphic designer. When not singing or working, she enjoys playing pub trivia with her friends, trying new restaurants and recipes with her soon-to-be-husband, and doting on her cat, Panda.
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.
Mitchell D. Peery made his debut as a Singer in 2017 during the collaboration with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to put on Handel’s Messiah. He then reappeared in the bass section for the 2018 performances of Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles. Mitchell recently joined the ensemble as a full-time member, just in time for the 15th anniversary season! Previous appearances in choral ensembles include the Concordia Choir (2011-2014), Kantorei (Denver, 2014), Colorado State University Chamber Choir (2015-2016), and the local Vox Nova Chorale (2016-present). Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from Concordia College-Moorhead, and is currently working toward a Master of Nursing degree at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
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.
John Rynders, tenor, is very excited to be in his fourth 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.
Paul Stever, tenor, is a new member of The Singers in fall 2018. He has degrees from St. Olaf College (BM in Church Music-Organ and Vocal Music Education), Arizona State University (MM in Choral Music Education), and Colorado State University (MM in Organ Performance, with a Certificate in Liturgical Studies). He also holds the Choir Master (ChM) certificate from the American Guild of Organists. He has been, since July 2012, the Music Director, Chancel Choir Director, and Organist for Pilgrim Lutheran Church in St. Paul, an ELCA church known for creative morning and evening (6:51pm) worship services. He also enjoys cooking, yoga, and playing with his daughter Emily.
Caroline Swanson, Soprano Section Leader,has been a member of The Singers since 2008. She is a middle school vocal music educator with Eastern Carver County Schools, serving the communities of Chanhassen and Chaska. Caroline is also a cantor at St. Victoria Catholic Church in Victoria, as well as a regular recording artist for MorningStar and E. C. Schirmer Publishing. In summer, Caroline directs The River City Singers, an adult community choir based in Chaska. She also sang for six seasons with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale under the direction of Dale Warland. Caroline loves the North Shore, her cats, cooking, and photography. Her husband Paul is a high school band director; 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 Winkler is thrilled to be in his first year with The Singers as a Tenor. A graduate of Augustana University (SD), Ben has had the opportunity to make music with many phenomenal conductors including Weston Noble, Paul Nesheim, Tim and Sandra Peter, Ben Riggs, and James Johnson. Ben frequently performs with the Twin Cities branch of Opera on Tap, and has been a featured soloist with Opera South Dakota. Ben is currently a student at Luther Seminary, where he is getting a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in systematic theology.