Spotlight on Opera's distinguished faculty and staff

CINDY SADLER, Founder and Executive Director Mezzo-soprano Cindy Sadler is well-known in the classical community as a singer, teacher, writer, and consultant; and increasingly, as a stage director. A busy professional singer and frequent lecturer on the business of singing, she brings current experience to her students. Most recently, she has appeared as Carmen with the Irving Symphony Orchestra, The Marquise de Berkenfeld in La fille du regiment with Austin Opera and Intermountain Opera Bozeman; as Gertrude in Romeo & Juliette with Austin Opera and Atlanta Opera, Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro with New Orleans Opera, Mrs. Quickly in Sir John in Love with Odyssey Opera, and the Marquise de Berkenfield in The Daughter of the Regiment with Mill City Summer Opera. In 2016, she traveled to Caltagirone, Sicily to direct Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi and perform concerts at the Mediterranean Opera Festival before returning to Spotlight to direct Carmen. Ms. Sadler has appeared on the stages of Chicago Lyric Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Pacific, Arizona Opera, Sarasota Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, the Princeton Festival, San Antonio Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Austin Lyric Opera, Opera Idaho, New Orleans Opera, and the Hollywood Bowl, among many others. She has published over 100 articles in Classical Singer Magazine and is widely recognized for her Ask Erda advice column. She travels the country to consult with singers and lecture on singing careers in her Business of Singing, most recently to the Des Moines Metro Opera Young Artists Program, Sieur Du Luth Summer Opera Training Program, UCLA, the CoOPERAtive program at Westminster College of the Arts, Portland State University, and the Classical Singer Convention. After six years on the music faculty of St. Edward's University, she left to pursue her singing career fulltime. She has served as Executive Director of the Astoria Music Academy in Oregon, and this is her tenth year as Director of Spotlight on Opera. For more information, please visit www.cindysadler.com, www.thebusinessofsinging.com, and www.mezzowithcharacter.com.

KRISTIN ROACH, Music Director/Conductor A native of San Antonio, Kristin Roach is in demand across the nation as a conductor, pianist, organist, and vocal coach. She is Music Director of Alamo City Opera, now completing its fifth season. As Music Director of Spotlight on Opera, and Lecturer in Opera at Texas State University. She has prepared productions for the San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Tulsa Opera, Utah Opera, San Antonio Opera, San Antonio Symphony, Brevard Music Institute, Aspen Music Festival, Breckenridge Music Institute, Taos Opera Institute, Opera Theatre of Rochester, Eastman Opera Theater, Buffalo Opera Unlimited, Spotlight on Opera, Texas Tech University, and Texas Lutheran University. Upcoming engagements include La Hija de Rappaccini with Alamo City Opera.

Reviews of Kristin’s performances include phrases like “revelatory” and “infectious high-spirits”.  She has appeared as piano soloist with the San Antonio Symphony, Mid-Texas Symphony, San Antonio Wind Symphony, and Eastman Philharmonia, and as chamber musician with Camerata San Antonio, Chamber Music Amarillo, Olmos Ensemble, Musical Offerings, and Cactus Pear Music Festival.  She has toured Europe with the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, performing on the historic organs of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Church of the Madeleine, Ely Cathedral, Bristol Cathedral and York University.  Her recordings include the Trinity Jazz Project, a self-produced collection of her original arrangements of hymn tunes, and classical works with the New World Symphony for Decca Records and with the Eastman Wind Ensemble for Sony Classical Records.  Her recording of chamber works by Miguel del Aguila with Camerata San Antonio, Salon Buenos Aires, was nominated for two Latin Grammy® awards.

 Ms. Roach received her education at the Eastman School of Music, earning a Bachelor of Music in Applied Music (Piano), the Performer’s Certificate in Piano, and a Master of Music in Piano Performance/Literature and Piano Accompanying/Chamber Music.

BRUCE CAIN, Stage Director/Voice Instructor Baritone Bruce Cain is an Associate Professor of Music at the Sarofim School of Fine Arts at Southwestern University, where he is the principle voice teacher and director of the Opera Theatre. His career began as an apprentice with the Chautauqua Opera and then on to Chicago, where the Sun-Times hailed his debut with the Chicago Symphony as "an eloquent soloist" and the Chicago Tribune joined in praising his "sensitivity" as an artist. Dr. Cain’s most recent operatic appearance was at the Natchez Opera Festival playing Papageno in Mozart’s Magic Flute, and in Chicago portraying Ford in L’Opera Piccola’s Falstaff. His other roles include Dr. Lomax in Austin Lyric Opera’s premier of Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree, Belcore in The Elixir of Love, Dr. Blind and Falke in Die Fledermaus, Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème, Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutté, and a gambler in Prokofiev’s The Gambler, with the Chicago Lyric Opera. He has often appeared with the Austin Symphony, the Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble, and the Georgetown Festival of the Arts, as well as in concert venues across the U.S. and at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Recent performances include: Mozart’s Requiem with the St. Edward’s University Madrigal Singers, the role of Schoenberg, in Southwestern’s premier of Jason Hoogerhyde’s The Color of Dissonance, and the role of Kraus in Mendelssohn’s Son and Stranger, with the Georgetown Festival of the Arts.

 

JOACHIM REINHUBER, Coach/Pianist Dr. Joachim Reinhuber serves as Associate Professor of Piano at Texas A&M University, Kingsville, and is In high demand as solo and collaborative performer, clinician, and adjudicator in the US and his native Germany. His first teacher, Franz Calvelli-Adorno, was his grandfather. He studied with Gisela Sott (Frankfurt), Robert Levin (University of Music, Freiburg), John Perry (Rice University, Houston TX), and Nancy Garrett (University of Texas at Austin). Recent performances include Brahm's and Beethoven's first piano concertos, the Schumann concerto, Bach's concerto in D minor, the Stravinsky concerto for piano and winds, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in blue with the TAMUK Wind Symphony. In 2012 and 2014 he was the pianist for the Texas Music Educators Association's All-State Men's Choir. Between 2013 and 2015 he toured extensively throughout Texas and the United States, with a residency at the Keyboard Arts Festival in Pueblo, CO, and over 50 solo performances at, among others, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M International University, Bowling Green State University, Youngstown State University, Malone University, Baylor University, and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. As a collaborator, he has worked with Marianne Gedigian, former principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the baritones Ronald Ulen and David Small, and the pianists Caroline Oltmanns, Zahari Metchkov, and Johan Botes. He has served as an adjudicator at the Sorentin International Competition in San Angelo, TX, the Laredo International Piano Competition, and the State Concerto Competition of the Texas Music Teachers Association in Huntsville, TX.

 

 

DR. SAMUEL MUNGO, Artistic Director. Dr. Samuel Mungo has been involved in opera as a director, singer and teacher for more than 25 years, and is dedicated to fostering the growth of a true Music Theatre- combining the great music of beautifully sung opera together with complete dedication to character and truthfully created relationship. He has directed professionally around the world. His honors include Classical Performance of the Year for his Rigoletto, and Opera Production of the Year from the National Opera Association. Professional directing credits include Die Entführung aus dem Serail for Florida Grand Opera, Suor Angelica for Opera Plovdiv, Pirates of Penzance for Colorado Light Opera, Trouble in Tahiti for the Boulder Opera Project, and Rigoletto and Il Trovatore for San Antonio Opera. A deft hand at G&S, in addition to Pirates of Penzance he has staged Mikado, HMS Pinafore and Gondoliers. He has commissioned an opera from Henry Mollicone and Sheldon Harnick entitled, Lady Bird: First Lady of the Land, to premiere in 2016. As the Director of Opera Studies at Texas State University, he has created perhaps the most comprehensive undergraduate opera training program in the country, with interdisciplinary training from professionals in the Texas State Theater Department for Acting and Theater Tech, and the Dance Department for Movement and Dance. Known for his acting as much for his singing, his performing credits include Don Giovanni for Minnesota Opera, Falke in Die Fledermaus for Vancouver Opera and Utah Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis as Junius in The Rape of Lucretia, Pasha in Die Entführung aus dem Serail for Opera Colorado and Danilo in Merry Widow for Sacramento Opera, Opera Grand Rapids and Knoxville Opera. Making his Carnegie Hall debut with Milos Bok's Missa Solemnis, he has sung with the St. Louis Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Utah Symphony and Orquestra Filarmonica di Lima among others.

 

JOSEPH MECHAVICH, Conductor/Vocal Coach. Joseph  Mechavich is known for his exceptional artistry and infectious energy which he brings to every performance. His passion and commitment to excellence in the art form has helped him to forge strong personal and career-defining relationships with a number of opera companies and orchestras in the United States and abroad.  Maestro Mechavich has presided over productions of Porgy and Bess for Deutsche Oper Berlin, Nixon in China for Auckland Philharmonia/New Zealand Opera, Il barbiere di Siviglia for The Washington National Opera, Madama Butterfly for New York City Opera, Florencia en el Amazonas for Arizona Opera and Roméo et Juliette for Florida Grand Opera. “One of the best things about this production [Roméo et Juliette] is the conducting of Joseph Mechavich, who led the proceedings superbly...You rarely hear this score with the kind of big-boned force with which Gounod wrote it, but Mechavich let it rip, with first rate results.” (Palm Beach Artspaper). Upcoming engagements for the 2016-17 Season include the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage for Arizona Opera, Turandot for Calgary Opera, as well as Madama Butterfly and Die Entführung aus dem Serail for Kentucky Opera.

 

NICHOLAS SIMPSON, Stage Director/Voice Instructor
Praised by the Corriere di Rimini, tenor Nicholas Simpson “possesses a voice that is flexible, but powerful...he literally stunned the public with his technical and expressive capability.” Opera News states that his performances  “immediately seized attention with his full-bodied, brightly projected voice.” This season, Mr.Simpson has appeared in Apotheosis Opera’s La fanciulla del West as Johnson, Don José in the Maryland Symphony’s production of Carmen, and the tenor soloist in Carmina Burana with the Flint Symphony. Mr. Simpson has also recently appeared as Giovanni in Alamo City Opera’s La hija di  Rappacini, King Charles II in Little Opera Theatre of New York’s production of Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players, and Paul in Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt with Opera Circle Cleveland. Cleveland Classical noted that “Tenor Nicholas Simpson was splendid as Paul, negotiating a punishingly high and demanding vocal line with strength and agility.” Mr Simpson has also sung the title role in Wagner’s Tannhäuser with Apotheosis Opera, and made his debut with Fort Worth Opera as the Kronprinz in Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night. With Hub Opera, he has performed Rodolfo in La bohème and Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. Mr. Simpson is a noted interpreter of the tenor soloist part in Beethoven's 9th Symphony, having performed it with Chorus Austin, the Altoona Symphony and the Hershey Symphony, and Performance Santa Fe. Mr Simpson’s other appearances include Sarasota Opera, Union Avenue Opera, and Utah Festival Opera. He is an alumnus of Spotlight on Opera.

 

BRIGITTE BELLINI,  Voice Instructor  Originally from Texas, award winning soprano and professor of voice at Texas State University, Brigitte Bellini, has recently returned to her home state after having lived and performed in New York City and Boston for 20 years. With over 20 years of teaching experience, she was one of the founding members of the voice faculty at The Actors Studio Drama School (as featured on BRAVO'S Inside the Actor's Studio). She has also served on the faculties of New York University, New York's famed High School for Performing Arts and The Horace Mann School, as well as maintaining a private studio of professional singers and actors. Since coming to Texas State University Ms. Bellini has been named Favorite Professor by members of the Alpha Chi Honor Society.

Performance credits include appearances with The Colorado Symphony, Glimmerglass Opera, Tanglewood Music Festival, Sarasota Opera, Di Capo Opera Theater in New York City and Central City Opera, where she is featured on the their anniversary recording of The Ballad of Baby Doe. San Marcos audiences have seen her as The Mother in Amhal and the Night Visitors with The San Marcos Performing Arts Association and as the soprano guest artist in A Sousa Spectacular with the Texas State Wind Ensemble. A member of NATS and TMEA, she holds both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA.

 

GRAHAM YATES, Collaborative Pianist. Graham Yates found his element when he learned that even as a pianist he did not have to play all by himself. Since then he has appeared almost exclusively with singers, instrumentalists, choirs, chamber groups, pit bands and orchestras all over western Canada and central Texas where relocated in 2014. Mr. Yates was a proud faculty and staff member of the Armstrong Community Music School in Austin and now owns Cypress Piano Studio where he teaches over 30 students. His living room concert series, A Room With a Few, is entering its third season, attracting full houses to nearly all performances. Mr. Yates was president of the British Columbia Association of Community Music Schools and is a member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association. He has adjudicated and offered master classes in Canada, Texas and Baltimore, MD. In June 2017, he directed a local high school piano ensemble performance at the Texas Music Teachers Association conference in Dallas. Mr. Yates completed a masters in piano performance at Brandon University, Manitoba, Canada with a focus on collaborative playing under Dr. Alexander Tselyakov, whose technical and emotional sensitivity has been compared with Horowitz's. Prior to that, he studied at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada with Dr. Sandra Joy Friesen, who continues to inspire him to love all the strange and unusual kinds of music.

ALLAN ARMSTRONG,  Coach/Pianist  Allan Armstrong is a music faculty member at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.  He is the official accompanist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions for the Colorado/Wyoming district and Rocky Mountain Region. He has served as a resident coach/accompanist and guest music director for Opera Colorado in Denver. In 2015 Allan was the production coach for Britten's The Turn of the Screw at Newfoundland's Opera on the Avalon. Also in 2015 he was the rehearsal pianist and coach for Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle featuring bass-baritone Samuel Ramey at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder.  For nine seasons he was on the faculty of the Sherrill Milnes' VoicExperience Savannah Voice Festival. From 2010-2014 Allan served as a pianist/coach with the International Vocal Arts Institute in Blacksburg, VA.  Other recent credits include the world premiere performance of the abridged version of Lori Laitman's The Scarlet Letter; a gala concert for Opera Colorado with soprano Elizabeth Futral; and a concert tour of Japan with soprano Deleen Davidson.  In 2010 he was a featured solo pianist in a recital of the complete piano works of Pulitzer prize winning composer David Del Tredici at NYU Steinhardt School.  Visit allanglennarmstrong.com for more information.

SHAWN MARIE JEFFERY, Manager/Acting Coach Shawn Marie Jeffery joined the ADA team in 2005, bringing with her a wide array of performance, directorial, and administrative experience. Her work with ADA has taken her to companies throughout the US. Deeply dedicated to providing the next generation of artists with the tools to succeed, she often speaks with young artists sharing her insight on business and artistic trends within the industry, having presented at the Classical Singer Convention, Ash Lawn Opera, The Castleton Festival, Opera New Jersey, Seagle Music Colony, Opera North, and Spotlight on Opera. She has served as a panelist for feedback auditions at the Classical Singer Convention and as a frequent judge of the AMICI Vocal Competition sponsored by the Opera Theater of Connecticut.  Previously Shawn held the position of Director of Education for Opera New Jersey for whom she created and directed abridged versions of The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel, La Cenerentola, and The Pirates of Penzance.  Her adaptations toured schools throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Additionally, she took her original program “So, this is OPERA?” into primary schools, introducing opera to young students in New Jersey through an interactive presentation. Shawn recently made her main stage directorial debut staging Christopher Theofanidis' new work "Virtue" for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. During her 12 year career as a mezzo-soprano Shawn was highly regarded for her keen dramatic abilities, and she now shares her dramatic tools and insights into character development in private consultations and coachings through her studio “Stage and Self.”

 

 

JEREMIAH JOHNSON, Financial Counselor Jeremiah Johnson is a financial counselor and performer with a passion for keeping other artists from making the same mistakes he did. After graduation from the Cincinnati Conservatory, he realized he had the education he always wanted and the six figures of student loan debt to go with it. He also had no clue what to do, or how to make it go away. He started educating himself about budgets, money, and the power of personal finance. Then he slowly started fixing all his mistakes. In doing so, he realized his mission in life was to help educate other artists before they messed up like he did! He now teaches clients how to manage their money, budget for the future while being musicians, and reach long term life goals they never thought they could achieve.

COURTNEY RUCKMAN, Social Media Coach Courtney Ruckman is a soprano and social media coach from Lakeland, FL. She initially embarked on her online marketing journey to meet her needs as a self-managed singer. Now fully passionate about social media, she offers workshops, personal consultations, and social media management services to artists and opera companies. She specializes in teaching clients how to give their online audience value through storytelling and content planning. Onstage, she is carving out a niche for herself in the performance of contemporary opera and song, appearing with companies such as Nashville Opera, Caramoor, American Opera Projects, Music of Remembrance, and Central City Opera.

TRACY FANCHER, Yoga Instructor. After years of feeling like a stranger in her body, Tracy discovered yoga through one of her favorite musicians - Michael Franti. With a background in performance and music training, Tracy was drawn to practicing yoga to music. For the first time, she felt at home and in control of her thoughts and actions. Chronic pains disappeared, and a sense of peace arrived.In 2011, she attended yoga teacher training at Sunstone Yoga in Dallas, TX and has since spent time teaching in Los Angeles, and currently in Austin. Her classes are designed to help students learn to control their breathing and movement, while bringing them into a meditative state. Her goal is to have students leaving feeling lighter, happier, and more connected. When not teaching yoga, Tracy teaches voice, piano, and guitar and she loves to hang out with her two chihuahuas, Dave and Dakota. Tracy is so excited to be working with Spotlight on Opera students and hopes she can help enhance each student’s personal journey!

MARC VERZATT, Acting Coach Mr. Verzatt maintains an active career directing opera, operetta, and musical theater throughout the United States, South America, and Europe. He is a noted acting coach and teacher for singers., and his work has taken him throughout the USA as well as to Germany and Sweden. He began his theatrical career as a dancer with the Metropolitan Opera after studying drama at Rutgers University. He made his professional directing debut with a production of Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann with Opera Columbus. He has since directed productions with the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, and the Florida Grand Opera. As faculty member of Yale University’s School of Music Graduate Opera Program from 2002 to 2106,  he directed the Acting and Movement workshops and many main-stage  productions. In 2005 he returned to the Metropolitan Opera stage for a speaking role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. In 2006 he was named Outstanding Stage Director of the Year by Classical Singer Magazine.

 

 

LAUREN MCNEESE, Health Coach Dr. Lauren McNeese (DMA) has been singing professionally on operatic and concert stages for over 15 years in some of the top opera houses in America, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Philadelphia, The Minnesota Opera, San Diego Opera, and many more. She has had the pleasure of performing under the baton of conductors Sir Andrew Davis, James Conlon, Donald Runnicles, Plácido Domingo, Manfred Honeck, Charles Dutoit, and Helmuth Rilling. Her colorful, resonant voice and beautiful stage presence have established her as a sought-out artist in the leading lyric mezzosoprano repertoire. Opera News wrote of her portrayal of Dorabella at Lyric Opera of Chicago “she has one of those distinctive timbres recognizable six miles away in the dark… with a sparkling quality”. Engagements for 2016-2017 season included her return to Intermountain Opera as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, the title role in La Cenerentola with San Diego Opera, The Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen with Opera Santa Barbara and the title role of Savitri with Opera in Concert in Dallas, Texas. In 2018, she will appear as Wellgunde and Rossweisse in Der Ring des Nibelungen with the San Francisco Opera. In 2011 Dr. McNeese became certified as a Holistic Health Coaching through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. In her research, she combines her passions of singing and nutrition eager to help fellow singers find the nutritional balance necessary to sustain a rewarding career.

KATELYN GEARY, Production Assistant/Intern Katelyn Geary is this summer's Production Assistant. She's currently finishing a Master of Arts in Business Administration at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Last spring, she graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. She worked for Kimball Recital Hall on UNL's campus during her undergraduate, and hopes to work and perform with professional opera programs. Her recent roles include Annina in La Traviata, Stella in Les contes d'Hoffmann, Buffy in A Wedding, and various chorus roles.

CAMERON DENNIS, Collaborative Pianist Pianist James Cameron Dennis has appeared across the United States in venues like Weill Recital Hall and The Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. In 2010, his recordings of selected Chopin works were aired on Chicago's WFMT 98.7 as part of the Chopin Bicentennial Celebration. His numerous awards include prizes from the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, the IBLA International Competition, the US Open Music Competition, and the DeBose National Piano Competition. Mr. Dennis is an avid chamber musician, and has performed in ensembles with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago's Civic Orchestra, and the Colorado Symphony. He has also appeared in Master Classes with artists such as Jeremy Denk, Spencer Myer, and Marina Lomazov.

Principal teachers include Julia Kruger, Sylvia Wang, Brian Ganz, and Jason Kwak. He is a recent graduate of Northwestern University with degrees in Piano Performance and Applied Mathematics.

A music education entrepreneur, Mr. Dennis is currently the Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Thinking By Ear, LLC, a joint business venture with Dr. Vern Falby of the Music Theory faculty at Peabody Conservatory, and his father Quin Dennis, a Senior Automation Engineer. Together they have developed an interactive music analysis environment that allows users to explore and discover the underlying fabric and structure of classical music. The Dennises have also developed a music theory application for iOS/Android/Chrome that generates 4-part chorales from Roman numeral progressions. Mr. Dennis has plans to extend his algorithm to also include the ability for chorale generation from figured bass.

 

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