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 since season one. Beth earned her degree in music education from the University of Illinois and has been a music specialist for 31 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 also performed with the MN Bach Ensemble, Bach Roots Festival, Women PerformHers and served as section leader at the House of Hope. 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, has been a member of The Singers since 2012 and the soprano section leader since 2019. In 2019, she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting and she received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Luther College in 2012. Currently, she serves as the Artistic Director of the Edina Chorale, the Choir Teacher at Friendly Hills Middle School, and the Chancel Choir Director at Richfield United Methodist Church. Having competed actively in the last decade, Paige was awarded first place in the graduate division of the NATS-MN competition and the divisional MTNA Young Artists vocal competition in 2015. In 2013, Paige won first place in the National ACDA Undergraduate Conducting Competition. In addition to her current teaching position, Paige has also taught vocal music at Coon Rapids High School and Delano Public Schools, and elementary general music at Red Rock Elementary.
Paul Armstrong, tenor, has been a Singer since the ’12-’13 season and is excited for the upcoming season. Paul graduated in 2012 from Luther College where he studied History and Museum Studies. While at Luther, he sang in the Nordic Choir under Dr. Allen Hightower and played soccer for Chris Garcia-Prats. Paul is currently the Substitute Coordinator and Reserve Teacher at The Blake School where he is also on the Girls Varsity Soccer coaching staff. Paul also enjoys singing at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka where he is a Tenor Section Leader and Cantor. In his free time, he likes to coach soccer, train for and compete in triathlons, and is getting his Masters in Teaching at Hamline University.
Jessica Bandelin, soprano, is a graduate of The College of Saint Catherine with a BA in Music. She sang her first project with The Singers in 2010, and could not think of a finer group of folks with whom to spend her Monday nights. She is the Assistant Director of The House of Hope Children’s Choir, and teaches piano. 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, Skylar, 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.
Tyler Berg, tenor, is excited to be in his first season with The Singers. Tyler is the Choir Director at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, MN and tenor section leader at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington, MN. A 2018 graduate of North Dakota State University, Tyler holds a bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Education, with a minor in instrumental music. He studied conducting with Jo Ann Miller and composition with Jocelyn Hagen. In addition to The Singers, Tyler has also performed with BorderCrosSing and Singers in Accord.
Jesse Beulke, bass.
Jeff Bipes, bass, is thrilled to be performing in his second decade with The Singers, 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, golfing, and working as an Information Technology leader in the Twin Cities area.
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: 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, is a graduate of St. Olaf College and is finishing her masters in music therapy degree at Augsburg University. She currently works as a board-certified music therapist in the Twin Cities and is so grateful for the opportunity to build relationships with her clients through creative musicking. 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 third season with The Singers. While in his 6th year of teaching vocal music, he is in his 2nd year as Vocal Music 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 Director of Music at Valley of Peace Lutheran Church in Golden Valley. Previously he sang with Twin Ports Choral Project, and the National Lutheran Choir. Outside of singing and teaching, he travels, spends time with family and friends, 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, has been a member of the Singers since graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2009. She currently teaches elementary music in Eden Prairie, and serves as alto section leader at House of Hope Presbyterian Church. She met her husband, Sam, her first season in the Singers, and they now have two beautiful children, Basil and Cecily.
Amy Erlandson is a soprano in her second 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 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.
Christopher Freeze has been immersed since childhood in classical music traditions, singing in choirs, playing in orchestras, and studying various instruments to no great distinction. While studying at Cambridge University, Christopher was a choral scholar in the Choir of King’s College; he later pursued graduate opera studies at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. After seven years working in the wine industry he earned a Master of Public Affairs degree, later working with several nonprofit performing arts organizations and serving as the executive director of the Bozeman Symphony (Montana). A recent arrival to the Twin Cities, Christopher is the development director at Native Governance Center in Saint Paul.
Erika Gesme, Alto, joined The Singers in 2008, having moved to Minneapolis from Chicago, IL where she completed her Masters of Music degree in Opera at Northwestern University. Previous to Chicago, she sang under the baton of Weston Noble at Luther College. In addition to singing with The Singers, Erika has performed with Mirandola Ensemble and SPCO Chorale under Dale Warland, and regularly records for First Readings Project & Morningstar/EC Schirmer.
Brad Halbersma, tenor, joined The Singers in 2016 and 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. He has also participated in other choral ensembles in the Twin Cities, including the Two Rivers Chorale and The Summer Singers. In addition to singing, Brad is a pianist and guitarist, loving and playing all styles of music from classical to jazz to contemporary Christian to heavy metal. He is currently working as a legal courier, a piano salesman at Jim Laabs Pianos, and as the worship leader at Fridley Covenant Church.
Gabe Hanson has been a member of The Singers since 2014. He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus in 2014 and has since kept busy performing with a number of ensembles in the Twins Cities area, including Minnesota Chorale, Bach Roots Festival, The Gregorian Singers, MPLS and Vox Nova – while maintaining a steady schedule making music at Nativity Lutheran Church in Saint Anthony, MN.
Rosie Hughes, alto, has been a member of The Singers since 2017. She is a graduate of Macalester College where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, with an emphasis on vocal performance, and studied under Dr. Michael McGaghie. Rosie works in Development for The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and is passionate about promoting accessibility and diversity in the Twin Cities arts community.
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 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, alto, is a founding member of The Singers and currently serves as Singer representatve to the Board. During the day, she works as Director of Education and Community Partnerships at The American Composers Forum. Laura received her BM in Music Education and her 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 has freelanced with the MN Beethoven Festival Dale Warland Chorale, The First Readings Project, BorderCrosSing, and other contemporary and sacred choral settings.
Krin McMillen, soprano (BM Vocal Performance; Bethel University 2015), is excited to be in her first season with The Singers. Krin was awarded first place in the seventh division of NATS-MN, and was a multi-year winner of Bethel’s concerto/aria and performance prize competitions. Prior to joining The Singers, Krin was a soprano with Minnesota Chorale from 2015-2019, where she performed various works with Minnesota Orchestra including Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Brahms’ A German Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Live!, It’s a Wonderful Life Live!, and more. Krin worked for years in
corporate entertainment as a singer/dancer as well as casting director/manager of entertainment for Valleyfair Amusement Park, and is now the full time operations manager for Minnesota Youth Symphonies.
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 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.
Kayla Rigney, soprano, is excited to sing her first season with The Singers. A Texas native, Kayla holds a degree in Vocal Music Education from Hardin-Simmons University (TX). Prior to moving to Minnesota in 2018, she taught high school choir in Texas where her choirs consistently received top ratings in regional evaluations and most recently, her treble choir was invited to perform at the Texas Music Educator Association Convention. Since moving to Minnesota she spends her days raising her two little children, William and Ellie, with her husband Daniel.
Tara Ritter, alto, joined The Singers in 2019. Tara graduated from St. Olaf College in 2009 with a BA in Environmental Studies and from The Ohio State University in 2012 with a MS in Environment and Natural Resources. She works on sustainable agriculture policy at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. She previously sang with the St. Olaf Choir and Magnum Chorum.
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.
Scott Senko, tenor
Brian Steele, bass, is a founding board member of The Singers. He’s a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, the University of Minnesota and Brown Institute. A singer/songwriter, he has worked as a solo performer, church soloist, voice-over talent in commercial and industrial projects, on-air talent in local radio, and as a recording artist with Augsburg, KJOS and MorningStar Publishers, the Montana Chorale, the Grammy Award winning Oregon Bach Festival Choir, the Dale Warland Singers and The Singers. When not singing, co-producing recordings for The Singers, teaching voice or writing, Brian works as a remodeler focused on historic restoration.
Paul Stever, tenor, has been a member of The Singers since fall 2018. He has music degrees from St. Olaf College, Arizona State University, and Colorado State University and also holds the Choir Master (ChM) certificate from the American Guild of Organists. He has been the Music Director, Chancel Choir Director, and Organist for Pilgrim Lutheran Church in St. Paul since July 2012, an ELCA church known for creative morning and evening (6:51pm) worship services. Paul is also the director of the Pilgrim Contemplative Prayer Choir, a tenor/bass ensemble leading Taize, Compline, and other contemplative worship services in the Twin Cities (https://www.pilgrimstpaul.org/choral-contemplative-prayer).
Anna Tescher, soprano, is thrilled to be back with The Singers for another season. Since joining the ensemble in 2018, Anna has been teaching private voice and piano lessons, as well as holding the position of section leader in the Lord of Life Lutheran Church Canticle Choir. Anna earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the NDSU Challey School of Music in 2016. Throughout her undergraduate years, she served as section leader in the NDSU Concert Choir, and was a member of the NDSU Madrigal Singers. She has attended the Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute (2014) and the Vancouver International Song Institute (2016), thus cultivating her love of art song and opera. Some of her favorite roles include Suor Dolcina, in Puccini’s Suor Angelica (Fargo-Moorhead Opera), Rosalinda in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (SPA Opera – Grand Forks, ND), and Tytania in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (NDSU).
Paul Winchester, bass.
Ben Winkler has been a tenor in The Singers since the 2018-2019 season. 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, has been a featured soloist with Opera South Dakota, and has performed with Vox Nova Chorale. Ben is currently a student at Luther Seminary.