Choral Workshop Fellows

Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, Canadian soprano LOUISE ASHDOWN completed her BM in vocal performance at the University of Alberta in 2017 under the instruction of internationally acclaimed tenor John Tessier. Ashdown has performed with the University of Alberta Madrigal Singers since 2013, and through her studies, has gained a keen interest in early and contemporary music, art song, and chamber music. She has performed in operatic, concert, and choral settings with solo highlights including Handel’s Messiah, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, and Brahms’ Neue Liebeslieder. Louise is passionate about the outdoors and loves travelling, photography, and dancing.

At home as a soloist or an ensemble member, tenor IAN BANNERMAN gets his hands on as much vocal music as possible. Specifically passionate about German Renaissance and Baroque music, as well as contemporary English and Canadian music, Ian often forms and performs in small one-on-a-part vocal ensembles. Aiming to engage in even more choral music Ian began a MM degree with Leonard Ratzlaff at the University of Alberta in the fall of 2017.

CHELSEA BERNER, mezzo-soprano and conductor, holds a master’s degree in choral conducting from Michigan State University and a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Baylor University. Prior to attending Michigan State, she taught high school choral music in Texas while singing in the Houston Symphony Chorus and Chamber Choir. In the future, she hopes to continue teaching high school choir, sing professionally in choral ensembles, and eventually pursue a doctoral degree in conducting.

HENRY BRANSON,tenor and conductor, began his musical education at the age of nine, singing with the North Carolina Boys Choir. He received a BM in music education from Furman University, and recently completed his MM in choral conducting from East Carolina University. Branson’s primary interests lie in early music. While at Furman, he directed The Twelve Peers, an ensemble dedicated to the performance of early and contemporary music. At ECU, his master’s project consisted of editing and performing Charpentier’s Messe pour les trépassés with a period orchestra. Beyond music, Branson is a baseball enthusiast and an avid fan of Carolina basketball.

Soprano MARGARET BURK is currently pursuing an MM degree in choral conducting at the Yale School of Music/Institute of Sacred Music, where she studies with Marguerite Brooks, Jeffrey Douma, and David Hill. Burk received her BM degree summa cum laude in 2013 from
St. Olaf College, where she was a section leader in the St. Olaf Choir and conducting student of Anton Armstrong. Most recently, she taught choral music at Free State High School in her hometown of Lawrence, KS. In her spare time, Burk enjoys cooking, hiking, composing Anglican chant, and spending time with her fluffy orange cat, Leo.

PAOLO DEBUQUE, tenor and conductor, is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where he earned his MM in choral conducting. Active as a conductor, singer, and educator, he splits his time between the Detroit Children’s Choir, Commerce United Methodist Church, and meridian, a professional vocal ensemble dedicated to the performance of works by local young composers. When not studying, he can be found curating his podcast library and practicing pouring lattes.

WILLIAM DUFFY is a California-born, Montréal-based countertenor and conductor. Duffy first encountered music as a young Suzuki violinist, though he often faced stern disapproval from his teacher for improvising alternative endings to classic violin repertoire. This propensity for variation persisted as he grew, and re-directed his musical focus, in turn, towards piano, viola, singing, conducting, and teaching. As a countertenor / conductor, Duffy naturally specializes in Early Music, however he has worked with choirs of all types, including the San Francisco-based Chanticleer Skills / LAB Choir and the award-winning Cantabella Children’s Chorus. He currently studies choral conducting at McGill University with Dr. Jean-Sébastien Vallée.

ABIGAIL GAST is a mezzo-soprano from Kansas City, Missouri. She is entering her junior year at Pepperdine University this fall, where she studies vocal performance and music education. Gast has performed in many stage productions and choirs in Kansas City, as well as in Pepperdine’s opera and choir programs. Apart from singing, Gast has played percussion for many years and enjoys her time playing in Pepperdine’s instrumental ensembles. When she isn’t performing or studying, she loves spending time at the beach and exploring downtown Los Angeles. Gast is incredibly excited to be at Norfolk!

Bass-baritone DAVID GINDRA, a recent graduate of St. Olaf College with a degree in vocal performance, is returning to the Norfolk Festival for a second year. Gindra has spent the last three years singing in the St. Olaf Choir, touring domestically and internationally. He has spent the past two months at Brevard Music Center as a member of the Janiec Opera Company, singing roles in Madame Butterfly, La Cenerentola, Candide, and as a member of the Street Chorus and soloist in Bernstein’s MASS. Gindra will spend the coming year living in Minneapolis-St. Paul singing professionally and preparing to audition for graduate school.

JABARIE GLASS, conductor and baritone, is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, studying conducting under the mentorship of Dr. Jerry Blackstone and voice with Professor George Shirley. Prior to attending the University of Michigan, he conducted choral ensembles at the high school and middle school levels in Mississippi. Ensembles under his direction have received numerous honors and awards, most notably performing at the 2014 ACDA Southern Division Conference. Glass is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and the Florida State University College of Music, holding both the BME and MME in choral music education.

BRANDON HOLLIHAN is currently a doctoral student in choral conducting in the Sacred Music Program at the University of Notre Dame. Prior to this he was a high school vocal music educator and the music director for a Methodist church in Columbus, Ohio. Brandon has dual master’s degrees in vocal pedagogy and choral conducting from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s in voice from Notre Dame. Major works recently conducted include Bach’s BWV 80, Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott (2017), Haydn’s The Creation (2017), and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (2016). | brandonhollihan.com

Dr. CHRISTOPHER JACKSON, bass-baritone and condcutor, serves as the Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is in frequent demand as a guest conductor for Honor Choirs and festivals, and has sung professionally with ensembles across the nation, including Roomful of Teeth, Skylark, South Dakota Chorale, and more. Christopher has directed and co-founded numerous community and semi-professional groups, including Bricolage Project based in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. A native of Stillwater, Oklahoma, he received degrees from Oklahoma State University, Westminster Choir College, and the University of North Texas.

VICTORIA JACKSON, soprano and conductor, received her BM in vocal performance from Western Michigan University, and is currently pursuing an MM in choral conducting from the same institution. In addition to her conducting engagements, Jackson freelances and teaches a private voice studio. She has previously been selected to conduct in masterclasses with Dr. Andrew Clark, Dr. Eph Ehly, and Dr. André Thomas. Jackson currently resides in Kalamazoo, MI with her husband and toddler son. Reading, exploring new places, and playing are a few of the activities they enjoy together as a family.

XIAOSHA LIN, alto and conductor, is currently studying for her DMA in choral conducting at Michigan State University. She also earned her MM in choral conducting at Westminster Choir College. Besides conducting, Lin has extensive experience as a choral singer that she performed with world-renowned orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, and Philadelphia Orchestra. She toured with the Westminster Choir to the Spoleto Festival USA and World Symposium on Choral Music. Outside of music, Lin loves travelling around the world to learn different cultures. She is also passionate for photography, capturing conductors’ music making moments on the podium is her favorite.

JAMES MAUK, tenor, has served as a guest conductor, clinician, and soloist throughout North Carolina and Missouri. He holds a master’s degree in choral conducting from Missouri State University and a bachelor’s degree in music education from East Carolina University. Mauk is founder and artistic director of Carolina Choral Artists, and has performed with Kantorei KC, Springfield Chamber Chorus, Te Deum Antiqua, Missouri Choral Artists, KC VITAs, Cardinalis, and the GKCAGO Schola Cantorum and is former associate choral director at Lee’s Summit High School. Currently, Mauk is pursuing a second master’s degree in vocal pedagogy at ECU.

Soprano and conductor JESSIE PIERPONT is the current artistic director and founder of the Vermont Chamber Artists, a select singing ensemble in Sharon, Vermont. She holds a position as a music educator at Thetford Elementary School and the Newton School. When Pierpont is not conducting, singing or teaching music she is spending time with her horse, dog and cat. Pierpont received her MM degree in choral conducting at the University of Arizona and she holds a bachelor’s degree in music with a concentration in piano from Castleton University in Vermont.

Bass baritone FAITH RAGLAN is from Coimbatore, an industrial city in the southern state of Tamilnadu, India. After a career as sports physiotherapist, he has recently changed directions and is now editor for a book company publishing health reference books for US audiences. In 2011, Raglan created, and still conducts, the Coimbatore Chamber Chorale (CCC) which focuses on promoting choral music among the younger generation. CCC had the privilege of performing Verdi’s Requiem with the Vienna University Chorus and Orchestra in June 2016. This is the first time Raglan is travelling to the US, and he is honored to be part of this workshop. | coimbatorechamberchorale.blogspot.com

SHAWN ROTH, baritone, will be a third year voice performance student at Oberlin Conservatory under the tutelage of Salvatore Champagne. He has most recently performed the roles of Il Conte in Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as the title role of Don Giovanni at the Vivace Summer Opera Workshops in Vancouver and Portland. Previous roles include Mr. X.E. (Angel’s Bone), Don Bartolo (Le Nozze di Figaro), and Le Superintendent (Cendrillon), all at Oberlin. Roth has participated in masterclasses taught by George Shirley, Roger Vignoles, and Lawrence Brownlee. In addition to singing, he enjoys skiing and playing the harpsichord.

REBEKAH SCHWEITZER, soprano, was raised by two avid music-lovers. As a child, her bedtime ritual always culminated in a song sung by her mother. Schweitzer began her study of music with the neighborhood piano teacher. She studied cello soon after and also sang in choirs. As an undergrad in Comparative Literature at Oberlin College, Schweitzer studied voice at the Conservatory and participated in several ensembles as well. As a lyric soprano, she has participated in many prestigious summer programs, including Oberlin in Italy, SongFest and Opera North. This is her second time as a fellow at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

ERINN SENSENIG, mezzo-soprano, completed her undergraduate in music education at Westminster Choir College. As a student, she toured with Westminster Choir and performed at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. She can be heard on Westminster Choir’s album The Heart’s Reflection. Currently based in Dallas, she has performed with Vox Humana, sings with Highland Park Chorale and Orpheus Chamber Singers, and is a founding member of Verdigris Ensemble, an emerging Dallas professional choir focused on creative performance. Sensenig is a staff singer at Church of the Incarnation and teaches a private voice studio of middle and high school students.

EDWARD STRAUB, bass, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri. Straub sang with the acclaimed Simon Carrington Chamber Singers for four seasons, and was also a member of the Kansas City Collegium Vocale and Cerulean chamber ensembles, both under the direction of Dr. Ryan Board. He currently sings with the ensemble Prometheus, under the direction of Dr. Paul Crabb, and in many freelance roles around the Kansas City area. Straub is also a design engineer in the Aviation division of Garmin International. He lives in Kansas City and Santa Barbara, California.

A native from Sarawak, Malaysia, tenor and conductor OKAWA TAN TAI CHUN is a vocal performer and a second year MM candidate in choral conducting at the Eastman School of Music, under the tutelage of Dr. William Weinert. Influenced by his choral conductor father’s passion and dedication to choral music, Tai Chun has always been drawn to choral music, especially its beauty of a group of people singing together and creating one united voice. He hopes to bring the professional music training back to Malaysia and help cultivate the choral music environment in the future.

Soprano LAUREN TOMPKINS is a cantor and section leader at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, VA. She has performed as a soloist for the Richmond AGO and is a member of several professional vocal ensembles, including the Schola Cantorum at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and the Virginia Chorale of Norfolk, VA. In 2017, Tomkins won 2nd Prize at the Virginia NATS Competition. Her interests are wide-ranging: from studying voice with Nancy Zylstra and Penelope Jensen at Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute to being a birth doula. Tomkins is a mom to three spectacular kids.

Described as “particularly evocative,” “fluid and theatrical… the music [that] makes its case with immediacy”  (The Arts Fuse) as well as both “assertive and steely,” and “lovely, subtle writing” (Wall Street Journal) the music by the award-winning composer and pianist LILIYA UGAY has been performed in many countries around the globe. Recipient of a 2016 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2017 Horatio Parker Memorial prize from the Yale School of Music, Ugay has collaborated with the Nashville Symphony, New England Philharmonic, Yale Philharmonia, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Molinari Quartet, Antico Moderno, and Paul Neubauer among others.

JASMINE WILSON is an American mezzo-soprano, producer, and educator based in New York. She trained at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she hosted and produced several Canadian radio programs. Wilson enjoys combining her international experience in music and media production into thoughtful educational exchanges in the arts. In New York, Wilson regularly performs classical works by underrepresented female composers and composers of color. Through The Dream Unfinished (TDU), an activist orchestra, she has collaborated with Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the DiMenna Center. She currently is an Associate Producer at WNET, New York’s PBS station.