Artistic Director:

Edward Benyas, Conductor, New Chicago Chamber Orchestra/SIUC

Edward Benyas is Professor of Oboe and Conducting at SIU Carbondale, Music Director of the Southern Illinois Symphony, the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra—with which he made his European conducting debut—and founder and Artistic Director of the Southern Illinois Music Festival, which presents three-dozen concerts annually each June. The Illinois Council of Orchestras named him “Conductor of the Year” in 2005, the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce presented him the inaugural “Keeping the Arts in Business” Award in 2007, the Southern Business Journal named him a “Leader Among Us” in 2012, he received the Legacy Award from Carbondale Community Arts in 2015, and the Carbondale Lions Club gave him the David Kenney Award this year. Under his leadership, the Southern Illinois Symphony was named Community Volunteer Orchestra of the Year. A student of Ray Still, Robert Morgan, Victor Yampolsky, and the late Charles Bruck and Georg Tintner, Mr. Benyas holds graduate degrees in Orchestral Conducting and Oboe Performance from Northwestern University, as well as Bachelor and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Michigan. He has conducted orchestras and opera companies throughout North America and in Europe and China. Of one appearance, a California reviewer wrote: “Maestro Benyas simply swept the audience away with a beautiful presentation of this piece.” His conducted repertoire includes nearly 400 works, including a dozen world premieres and several dozen complete operas and ballets. Mr. Benyas also enjoys an active career as an oboe and English horn player, having performed with the Chicago Symphony under Daniel Barenboim, the Lyric Opera under Zubin Mehta, the Milwaukee and Grant Park Symphonies, the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, at the Spoleto and Banff summer music festivals, as Principal Oboe of the Des Moines Metro Opera for six seasons and for Andrea Bocelli’s National Tour. He is a member of the state bar of Illinois and has been elected to the Jackson County Board and the Carbondale Elementary School District Board of Education.


Albert Igolnikov, Violin


Albert Igolnikov came to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1979 from the Soviet Union with a music background gained entirely there. He was named assistant principal of the orchestra’s second violin section in 1989. He served as assistant concertmaster for three of the 20 years he spent with the Leningrad Philharmonic Academic Symphony, under Yevgeny Mravinsky, and was first violinist of a quartet comprised of members of the Leningrad Orchestra. His formal education included six years of study at the Leningrad Conservatory with Julian Eidlin, a pupil of Leopold Auer. Mr. Igolnikov immigrated to the United States in June 1979, and gave his first performance in America one month later at the Soviet Emigré Music Festival in Carnegie Hall. He lived in New York for a short time before joining the CSO. Since his arrival in Chicago, Albert Igolnikov has been active in local chamber music circles and has performed regularly on the CSO Chamber Music series. He is a founding member of the New Russian Trio and Chicago Pro Musica, which received a 1986 Grammy © Award as Best New Classical Artist for its debut recordings. He has toured the Unites States, Europe, Australia, Japan and Russia with both ensembles. Mr. Igolnikov has been featured as a recitalist on WFMT. He also has appeared as soloist with the CSO on subscriptions concerts in Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins (with Jennie Wagner) under Sir Georg Solti (1986) and in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Fantasia on Russian Themes under Daniel Barenboim (1995). Mr. Igolnikov plays a violin made by Guadagnini, of Turin, in

David Taylor, violin

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David Taylor joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as Assistant-Concertmaster in 1979. Born in Canton, Ohio, he first studied violin with his father beginning at the age of four and later continued his studies with Margaret Randall and Rafael Druian at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He later studied with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School, where he received both bachelor and master’s degrees. He became a member of the Cleveland Orchestra in 1974. With the Chicago Symphony he has made numerous solo appearances, including performances with Sir Georg Solti.  He also has served as Acting-Concertmaster of the Saint Louis Symphony and was the Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony. He has also served as temporary Concertmaster of the Seattle and Dallas Symphonies. As a lover of chamber music he often performs in recitals and solo performances in the Chicagoland area, at Ravinia and on WFMT. He is a also a frequent soloist with the regions local orchestras. He teaches privately, at the Moody Bible Institute and at Roosevelt University. A frequent coach of orchestral violinists he has students in orchestras across the United States and Japan. David lives in downtown Chicago and is married to Michelle Wynton, also a violinist. 

Jacob Tews, Composer


Dr. Jacob Tews is Visiting Assistant Professor of Violin/Viola and Conductor of the Wartburg Community Symphony Orchestra at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. He holds a DMA in viola performance, with a secondary emphasis in music theory, from the University of Minnesota.

As a violist, he maintains a diverse performance schedule: Of late, his recital appearances have featured several new works for solo viola, including one of his own compositions, vapor, which he premiered on a “Rising Stars” recital at the Primrose International Viola Festival in Los Angeles. On the other end of the musical spectrum, he recently performed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Michael Barta and the Southern Illinois Music Festival for a modern dance piece. Currently, Tews performs as Principal Viola of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony, and has played in the viola sections of a number of regional orchestras, including serving leadership roles in the Illinois Symphony, Paducah Symphony, Southern Illinois Music Festival, and Southern Illinois Symphony orchestras. His present chamber music focus is on his contemporary music duo with violinist Erik Rohde (, sonic apricity. He also spent five years as the violist of the Cantiamo String Quartet, working extensively with living composers and giving world premiere performances of a significant number of pieces, and continued playing chamber music professionally with the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society. 

As a composer, Tews has had his works played throughout the country, with well-received performances in various venues from California to South Carolina. The subject of his doctoral thesis was the premiere of his own massive viola concerto, knowing the river – narrative for viola, orchestra, and chorus, in 3 acts. His most recent undertaking was a new sonata for violin and piano, subtitled “the roar of the lion and other fine children’s stories,” which was premiered in March, 2014 by conductor/violinist Erik Rohde and pianist Mark Bilyeu at SIU’s Outside the Box festival of contemporary music, and presented subsequently at recitals in Minnesota, Indiana, and Iowa. Upcoming projects include a new Christmas-themed suite for flute choir and bell choir, an orchestral overture, and a work for brass quintet. In addition to his compositions, he has found some success as an arranger, with one of his string charts performed on the Emmy-winning PBS special: “Starry Night,” featuring guitarist Billy McLaughlin with Orchestra Nova of San Diego.



One of Musical America’s Top 30 Innovators in Classical Music in 2016, Josh Shaw is the Executive and Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project, a Los Angeles based company dedicated to presenting accessible, affordable, and ENTERTAINING opera.  Over the past six seasons, he has directed 27 productions at POP including The Rake’s Progress, Ariadne auf Naxos, La calisto, Tosca: A Moving Production, and La boheme: AKA “The Hipsters”. Mr. Shaw’s reimagining of Die Entführung aus dem Serail as an episode of Star Trek (which premiered at SIFest in 2014) has gained national attention and has been produced by seven companies selling out houses with record-breaking numbers. Since turning his attention to directing in 2011, he has directed over 70 productions at opera companies across the nation including New Orleans Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Orlando Opera, Salt Marsh Opera, Alamo City Opera, Queen City Opera, Scenic City Opera, and Festival Opera.  2018 has already been a busy year for Mr. Shaw. It began at New Orleans Opera with Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera, a newly rediscovered operetta by G. W. Chadwick, last performed in 1894 that was revived to celebrate the 150thAnniversary of the Tabasco Company. Mr. Shaw also wrote a new book and additional lyrics for the project. That was followed by Il barbiere di Siviglia at Opera Santa Barbara, Don Giovanniat POP, and Abductionat Opera Orlando. Upcoming 2018 engagements include productions of La gazzetta(Rossini), La traviata, Carmen,and La bohème. 2019 begins with Camelotat Intermountain Opera, followed by an original production of Madama Butterflysung in both Japanese and English, a co-production with POP and Opera in the Heights. In addition to the rewrite of Tabasco and the new book and lyrics for Abduction from the Seraglio, Mr. Shaw has written several English version librettos for operas including a Wild West setting of Die Lustige Witwe and a contemporary setting of Die Schauspieldirektor.  More details at


Marisa BUCHHEIT, Soprano, Chicago


Marisa Buchheit is an operatic soprano who has performed in critically acclaimed productions around the world.  She sings in ten languages, including those of her own ethnic heritage: Thai, Chinese, and German. She studied vocal performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music where she graduated with Academic Honors and served as President of Mu Phi Epsilon Music Fraternity. She is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in opera at DePaul University.

Marisa’s recent performances include recitals and fully staged operas in the United States, Italy, France, Austria, and Thailand. Her performances include Le nozze di Figaro (Susanna), Don Giovanni (Zerlina), Rigoletto (A Page/Gilda understudy), L'incoronazione di Poppea (Venus), Romance of the Western Chamber--National Premier Tour (Ying-ying), Carousel (Julie), and Chicago (Mary Sunshine), with companies such as Wichita Grand Opera, DePaul Opera Theater, American Chamber Opera, Carnegie Arts Center in Indiana, CIM Opera Theatre, and the Case Western Footlighters in Ohio. She was also a featured soloist the past 2 seasons with the Elgin and Peoria Symphony Orchestras. Marisa has sung the national anthem for the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Air & Water Show, and also for many charitable organizations.

In 2014 Marisa won the title of Miss Illinois and represented the state with a year of extensive travel, performances and presentations at major events in her native Chicago and around the state. In the Miss Illinois competition she won the Grand Talent Award and the top scholarship award before later competing in ABC’s nationally televised Miss America broadcast.  

Kiara Colon, Mezzo-Soprano

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Mezzo-soprano, Kiara Colon, is a recent graduate of Wichita State University with her MM in Vocal Performance and is currently studying with Dr. Pina Mozzani. She received her Bachelors in Music degree from Millikin University located in Decatur, IL in 2015. While attending WSU, she had the opportunity to perform many diverse roles such as Sesto from Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, Ursula in Berlioz’sBeatrice et Benedict, and Phani in Rameau's Les Indes Galantesall under the direction of Dr. Marie King. She has also had the opportunity to perform as the alto soloist for Handel’s Messiahwith the Wichita Choral Society lead by Dr. Shawn Chastain and as the alto soloist for Bach’s Reformation Cantata, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, with the Wichita Chamber Choral directed by Dr. Mark Bartel.


Baritone David Dillard enjoys a career that encompasses both teaching and performing. Now in his twelfth year at Southern Illinois University, Dr. Dillard teaches applied voice, lyric diction, opera history, and voice pedagogy. Professionally, he appears most summers at Union Avenue Opera and the Southern Illinois Music Festival. His eclectic operatic repertoire includes both comprimario and leading roles such as Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Escamillo in Carmen, the Police Sergeant in Pirates of Penzance, Polyphemus in Acis and Galatea, Owen Hart in Dead Man Walking, and Gunther in Götterdämmerung just to name a few. He has also performed with Florida Grand Opera, DiCapo Opera Theater, Austin Lyric Opera, Tanglewood Music Festival, and Lake George Opera.

In addition to opera, Dr. Dillard is passionate about art song. In 2015, he coached Jake Heggie’s song cycle A Question of Light with the composer. He has performed Schubert’s Winterreise with internationally acclaimed collaborative pianist Martin Katz at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. At the Franz-Schubert-Institut in Baden bei Wien, Austria, Dr. Dillard studied with Wolfgang Holzmair, Elly Ameling and Helmut Deutsch, among others.

In 2016, Dr. Dillard taught at Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Spring Training Program and participated in the McClosky Institute for Voice Summer Seminar in Redlands, CA. In 2015, he completed Levels I and II of Jeannette LoVetri’s Somatic Voicework TM and in 2007 he was a NATS intern. He earned music degrees from Principia College, The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Christopher Goeke, Tenor, Missouri

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Christopher Goeke, tenor, is currently professor of music at Southeast Missouri State University. Goeke is an active performer, teacher, and opera director. At Southeast, his primary responsibilities are applied voice and opera (including conducting, directing and serving as technical coordinator). Dr. Goeke is an active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), for which he serves as Central Region Treasurer, and has served as the Missouri Governor. Goeke is also a member of the National Opera Association (NOA).  
Goeke began collegiate studies at Southeastern Community College and completed his undergraduate degree and Master's of Music degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Iowa. He later returned to the University of Iowa and completed a D.M.A in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy. Goeke appeared with the Central City Opera in Colorado, the State Repertory Opera of New Jersey, Westchester Opera in New York, the Light Opera of Manhattan, New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, New York Choral Artists, Santa Fe Desert Choral, Cedar Rapids Symphony, Muddy River Opera (IL), and the Bach Society of St. Louis. Some of his operatic roles include Almaviva in Il Barbieri di Siviglia, Tamino in The Magic Flute, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliette, Spoletta in Tosca, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Alfred and Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus.  Most recently, the tenor appeared as Rudolphe in Rossini's Guillaume Tell with the Southern Illinois Music Festival.  
Goeke lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with his wife, Lori Shaffer, an active soprano, who maintains a private voice studio and teaches through the University. Dr. Goeke’s hobbies include woodworking, bicycling, and learning to play the accordion.

E. Scott Levin, Bass-Baritone, Los Angeles

Bass-Baritone, E. Scott Levin, described as having a “smooth, buttery voice,” “incredibly sharp timing,” and “a gifted comic actor,” has been making audiences laugh for the past sixteen years. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis and Graduate Certificate in Vocal Performance from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

Since 2002, Scott has portrayed almost sixty distinct roles. Many of those have come from appearing in over twenty productions with Union Avenue Opera in Saint Louis, including Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin, the Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, the Mandarin in Turandot, Wagner in Faust, Pistola in Falstaff, Benoit and Alcindoro in La bohème, the Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, Marco in Gianni Schicchi, Le Dancairo in Carmen, Baron Zeta in The Merry Widow, Hortensius in La fille du régiment , Alidoro in La Cenerentola, Masetto in Don Giovanni, and Pooh-Bah in The Mikado.

Since moving to Los Angeles, Scott has regularly performed with Pacific Opera Project as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Schaunard in La bohème, Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, Pane in La Calisto, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, the Sacristan in Tosca, Baron Zeta in The Merry Widow, Maestro Biscroma Strappaviscere in Viva la Mamma!, and KoKo in The Mikado.

In addition, Scott has performed with Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera, Long Beach Opera, Center Stage Opera, Redlands Opera Theater, Definiens Project, OperaWorks, Orange County Opera, and Celestial Opera. In 2015, Scott made debuts at Los Angeles Opera both “Off-Grand” as Babayan (Bartolo) in Figaro 90210!, and mainstage as Dr. Spinelloccio in Gianni Schicchi, starring Placido Domingo and under the direction of Woody Allen, now available on DVD. In 2016, Scott made his Opera Santa Barbara mainstage debut as Simone in Gianni Schicchi and returned the following year as Badger/Priest in The Cunning Little Vixen.

Scott also performs as a concert soloist. Between 2003 and 2006, he served as the Liturgical Soloist at Temple Sha'are Emeth and as the Baritone Young Artist with the Bach Society of Saint Louis. From 2009-2014, Scott was a featured soloist with the Los Angeles Bach Festival.


Eric McCluskey, baritone, has performed throughout the United States with several opera companies and symphony orchestras, including: Opera Theater of Saint Louis, New York City Opera’s National Company, San Francisco Opera’s Western Opera Theater, Kentucky Opera, Sarasota Opera, Connecticut Grand Opera, Spoleto Festival, St. Louis Symphony, and Nashville Symphony. Some highlights from his career include singing Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” with the Paris Opera Ballet while the late, Rudolf Nureyev, danced. He also sang ‘Opera At Sea’ aboard the HMS Vistafjord and Sagafjord for three extended cruises. McCluskey is the recipient of several awards that helped jump start his career including the William Matheus Sullivan Award, the Richard Gaddes Award from Opera Theater of Saint Louis, as well as winning the Young Artists Competition from the Women’s Association of the Saint Louis Symphony Society.  Dr. McCluskey is an Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Evansville and when he is not teaching enjoys performing recitals and working with several ensembles including the Evansville Philharmonic, Winter Opera St. Louis, and the SI Music Festival.

Brittany Moleski, Soprano, Missouri


Brittany Moleski, soprano, is from St. Louis, Missouri.  She has performed various operas with New York Lyric Opera Theatre, Boston Conservatory’s Opera Intensive in Valencia, Spain, Northwestern University’s Summer Opera Seminar, and Southeast Missouri State University’s opera program.  Such roles include Cendrillon (Cendrillon), Marenka (The Bartered Bride), Serafina (Il campanello di notte), Zelmire (Le cadi dupé), and The First Lady (The Magic Flute, cvr). Ms. Moleski has been heard in performance halls at the National Opera Center, the Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall.  She is currently the soprano section leader and soloist at First Presbyterian Church of Cape Girardeau, and she has appeared at the soprano soloist in Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra and Combined Choirs.  Ms. Moleski is pursuing her Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at Southeast Missouri State University under the tutelage of Ms. Lori Shaffer.

Ariel Pisturino, Soprano, lOS aNGELES

The Los Angeles Times hails soprano Ariel Pisturino as “an impressive young discovery,” after seeing her professional debut performance as Nancy T’ang in Long Beach Opera’s production of Nixon in China. An enthusiastic advocate of contemporary works and collaborations with composers, Ariel performed the role of Lover in The Industry’s nationally-acclaimed production of HOPSCOTCH and created the role of Laurie in Mark Abel’s premiere opera Home is a Harbor, released on Delos Records. She collaborated with Abel once before on his song cycle Five Rilke Songs on the album Terrain of the Heart, also for Delos Records. Ariel created the role of Rosina Brandram in a newly written Gilbert and Sullivan review, Hail Poetry, with Opera
a la Carte.

Propelled by her interest in promoting new works, Ariel co-founded the performance troupe Chamber Opera Players of LA and the new music summer concert series unSUNg, focusing on new and unknown vocal music. Highlights of her work with Chamber Opera Players of LA include her commission and premiere of the opera The Last Silent Voice by George N. Gianopoulos in conjunction with Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters who are not Sisters. Other contemporary performance highlights include her performances with Long Beach Opera as
Witch 1 in Bloch’s Macbeth, creating the role of Margarita in a new electronic opera The Master and Margarita by Russian composer Gamma Skupinsky, and the premiere of the oratorio Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides by Neely Bruce in remembrance of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who saved thousands during the Holocaust.

Ms. Pisturino not only performs new works but also lends her creamy legato to traditional roles such as Donna Elvira, Fiordiligi, Micaëla and Second Lady. She has also been heard as the soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem, Fauré Requiem, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Requiem, and Rutter Gloria.

An avid language student, Ariel is a dedicated Italian student and attended the Russian Opera Workshop to study the Russian language and perform the role of Tamara in Rubenstein’s opera, The Demon.

Ariel holds a Masters degree from the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music, a Bachelors degree in Music from Northern Arizona University, and is an OperaWorks alumna. Born in San Francisco but a native of Kingman, Arizona, she now resides with her bass-baritone boyfriend and three kitties in sunny Los Angeles.

Rachel Policar, Soprano


Soprano Rachel Policar has been described by critics as “a standout” and “silver‐voiced” for her 2015 Off Broadway debut with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene as Goldele in The Golden Bride. She is thrilled to be debuting Pamina with SIFest! Her 2017-2018 season has included Lisetta, La Gazzetta (Pacific Opera Project), Marietta, Naughty Marietta (LOONY), Blonde u/s (performed), Abduction from the Seraglio (Bronx Opera), Lauretta, Gianni Schicchi (ARE Opera), and concerts with Opera Theatre of Connecticut, Penn Square Music Festival, The Sanibel Music Festival, and more. She was a 4th Place Winner at the 2018 American Traditions Competition in Savannah, GA, and a finalist in the 2018 National Opera Association Competition. She returns to Savannah for a solo recital in the fall! Recent Highlights: Gilda, Rigoletto (Anchorage Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera), Adina, Elixir of Love (North Shore Music Festival), Gretel, Hansel and Gretel (Dayton Opera, Knoxville Opera), Emmie, Albert Herring (Bronx Opera), Valencienne, The Merry Widow (Janiec Opera Company), Soprano Soloist, Carmina Burana (New York Choral Society), Soprano Soloist, Handel's Messiah, Vivaldi’s Magnificat (Garden State Philharmonic), in concert with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, Coro Lirico NJ. AEA, @rachel.policarMessiah (Garden State Philharmonic), in concert with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, Coro Lirico NJ. AEA, @rachel.policar


A bass vocalist of increasing demand, Andrew Potter is a true Basso that has been hailed by audiences and critics across the country for a larger-than-life stage presence and a powerful, lithe voice.

Pursuing his undergraduate in Vocal Performance at Liberty University he got a taste of the stage performing roles like the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, Poo Bah in The Mikado, and Baron Mirko Zeta in The Merry Widow.

In 2012, Andrew was cast by Opera on the James in their performance of Die Fledermaus as a chorus member and dancer. Opera on the James then re-cast him in their Spring production of The Magic Flute as The Second Armored Man. In their 2013-14 season, Opera on the James cast Andrew as Betto in Gianni Schicchi, Mr. Dashwood in Mark Adamo’s Little Women, and the Big Bad Bully in Stop Bully – an outreach opera performed in schools and community centers.

Opera NEO cast Andrew in his long awaited role debut of Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in San Diego; and has recast him in their 2015 season as Escamillo in Carmen and Argante in Rinaldo. Andrew made his Verdi debut with Undercroft Opera, singing Ramphis in Aida in Pittsburgh, PA. St. Petersburg Opera cast Andrew as Fiorello and the Bartolo cover in their 2015 production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

Upcoming operatic engagements for Andrew in the 2015-16 season(s) include the roles of Osmin, Larkens, Zoroastro, Colline, Escamillo, Argante, Il Commendatore, and Dr. Dulcamara. He will also be making his musical theater debut as Beast (in Beauty and the Beast). Andrew Is under the management of Leota Arts in Illinois.

Megan Potter, mezzo-soprano


Mezzo-soprano Megan Potter’s rich vocal quality and powerful stage presence have earned her roles including Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Romeo (i Capuleti e i Montecchi), Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel), Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Nerone (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Tisbe (Cenerentola), Effie (The Ballad of Baby Doe), and the title character in L’enfant et les sortilèges.

In recent seasons, she has been a young artist with Central City Opera, Emerald City Opera, and Up North Vocal Institute.  In concert, she has performed the Berio Folk Songs with chamber orchestra and as a soloist with Northern State University’s Symphony Orchestra. She received her Bachelors of Music Education from Northern State University and her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Colorado – Boulder.

Megan is currently a traveling opera singer with upcoming engagements as the mezzo-soprano soloist in Rossini’s Messa di Gloria, La Frugola (Il tabarro), Ulrica (Un ballo in maschera), and the Third Lady (Die Zauberflöte). 

Clark Sturdevant, Tenor

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Clark Sturdevant, tenor, has performed roles for Dayton Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Seabrook, Capital Heights Opera, Union Avenue Opera, Katydid Productions, Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Opera Project, The Ohio Light Opera, Opera for the Young, Winter Opera St. Louis, and Natchez Festival of Music. His work consists of more than thirty roles including Tamino (The Magic Flute), Count Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Le comte Ory (Le comte Ory), Nanki-Poo (The Mikado), and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni). Clark received his Bachelor of Music at the University of Iowa and his Masters of Music degree at Washington University studying under tenor John Stewart.

Meredith Wohlgemuth, Soprano, Florida


Meredith Wohlgemuth, soprano, is from Winter Haven, Florida. She graduated from Concordia University, Nebraska this past May with a B.A. Music Performance degree. This fall, she will be going to The Juilliard School for her Masters of Music degree. Mer has performed the roles of Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppeawith the Harrower Young Artist Program and the Zweiter Knaben in Mozart’s Die Zauberflötewith the Berlin Opera Academy. In 2017, she received the Encouragement Award in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Upper Midwest Region), and has won either 1st or 2nd place in both State and Regional NATS for the past 3 years. Mer also has a passion for teaching, and has maintained a private voice studio of 20 students since 2016. She is thrilled to be performing with the Southern Illinois Music Festival this summer, and is grateful for all the opportunities that God has given her.

Sarah Baer, Choreographer

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Sarah Baer began dancing at Sherry's School of Dance for seven years before joining Willow
Street Studios, the home of Susan Barnes Dance, where she has been attending classes for the past nine
years. In the fall of 2015 Sarah began studying under the teachings of Alexandra Zaharias at the
Alexandra School of Ballet in Chesterfield, MO and hopes to further expand her knowledge of dance
from here on out. Over the years Sarah has studied ballet, modern, contemporary, tap, and jazz, and has
explored a variety of different techniques within each style. She has participated in the Southern Illinois
Music Festival's productions of The Nutcracker, Carmen, Firebird, Petruchka, Mozart in Motion,
Raymonda, and Swan Lake, and is excited to be choreographing this year's opera Mozart's Magic Flute.
Sarah has also worked with Adam Stone as a dancer in the short film productions of Janet: A Silent Ballet
Film (2014) and Summer Friend (2016).

Instrumental Artists:

Robert Allison, Trumpet, sOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Robert Allison hails from Memphis, Tennessee, and is Associate Professor of Trumpet and Jazz Studies at Southern Illinois University. He has also taught at Millikin University and the Latvian National Conservatory in Riga, Latvia.

Besides fulfilling his teaching duties at Southern Illinois University, Dr. Allison is active as a recitalist and clinician, and in addition to the New Arts Jazztet, also performs regularly with the SIUC Faculty Brass Trio and the Brass Ensemble of Illinois.

He has performed with numerous jazz artists, including James Williams, Cal Thomas, Willie Thomas and Stanley Clarke.

Dr. Allison received most of his training at the University of Illinois where he was a student of Ray Sasaki, David Hickman and Mike Tunnel. He is also a former winner of the International Trumpet Guild's Jazz Improvisition Competition.

Michael Barta, Violin, Hungary/SIUC

Violinist and violist, Michael Barta, studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary and received his degree with highest honors. In 1973 he won the 2nd prize at the Joseph Szigeti International Competition and the Gold Medal of the Ysaye Society in Brussels, Belgium. In 1974 he received a Diploma as Finalist of the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, Russia. From 1975-1980, he held the title Soloist of the National Philharmony in Hungary and was first violinist of the Kodály String Quartet. He came to the United States in 1980 and became professor of violin at Central Michigan University. He currently serves as Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, a position he has held since 1985. Mr. Barta has performed in 25 countries, including many European countries, China and Japan. He performed such venues as Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in the United States, in Wigmore Hall in London, at Radio France in Paris, and many others. He served on the summer faculty of the Central Catalonia Music Festival and Academy in Spain and regularly teaches master classes in Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Latvia and Austria. He is co-founder of the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society, and also performs as the Assistant Concertmaster of the Illinois Symphony and Chamber Orchestra and as Concertmaster of Sinfonia da Camera in Urbana, Illinois.


Pianist, Kara Benyas has served on the faculties of Southern Illinois University and McKendree University. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and SIU, and has also studied at the Aspen Music School. She has been an accompanist for the voice studio of the late William Warfield and with the Des Moines Metro Opera. Ms. Benyas has appeared several times as a soloist with the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra, on subscription concerts in downtown Chicago and on tour throughout the Midwest. She has appeared as soloist with the Southern Illinois Symphony and soloist and chamber music artist with the Southern Illinois Music Festival on numerous occasions. Ms. Benyas appeared on the Dame Myra Hess Recital Series at the Chicago Cultural Center, a performance broadcast on local television, on WFMT-FM in Chicago and syndicated nationally over the internet. In 2011 and 2013 she performed a series of concerts in Northern Italy, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. In Southern Illinois, Ms. Benyas helped establish Klassics for Kids, a highly acclaimed concert series that exposes preschool and school age children to a variety of live classical music and jazz. She and her husband live in Southern Illinois with their two children, Gabriela and Maya, and their dogs, Carmen and Rosina.


Gabrielle Baffoni is Assistant Professor of Single Reeds at Southeast Missouri State University, where she has been on faculty since her appointment in 2012. She previously held teaching positions at Tabor College, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Conservatory of Music and Dance, and the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. Dr. Baffoni earned her Doctor of Musical Arts in Clarinet Performance from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance where her final doctoral project was a lecture-recital presenting works for clarinet and percussion duo.

With a passion for chamber music, Dr. Baffoni has performed with several chamber ensembles over the last fifteen years, including the Liberace Winds Graduate Fellowship Wind Quintet at UMKC. As a clarinetist, Dr. Baffoni has performed with various ensembles throughout the United States and has appeared as a soloist with ensembles at the University of New Hampshire, UMKC, Bethel College, and Southeast Missouri State University.

She held the position of second clarinetist with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra from 2008-2011, and performed regularly with the Miami City Ballet, Hollywood (FL) Philharmonic Orchestra, Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia, and Civic Opera Theatre of Kansas City. She currently performs as principal clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra in Kentucky, and appears regularly with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.


Dr. Jessica D. Butler is currently a lecturer of low brass and music history at Southern Illinois University. Jessica completed her doctorate in trombone performance and pedagogy with a secondary emphasis in musicology at The University of Iowa in 2013 under the advisement of Dr. David Gier. Jessica also achieved her master of arts degree in trombone performance and pedagogy at the University of Iowa.  She achieved her undergraduate degree in trombone performance at Columbus State University, studying with Dr. Bradley Palmer.

As an applied studio professor, Jessica enjoys teaching graduate and undergraduate trombone, euphonium, and tuba students. In 2014, Jessica created SIUC’s Low Brass Collective– a low brass ensemble that allows students to develop chamber music skills. As a music history professor at SIUC, Jessica teaches Modern Music I and II, Romantic Music, Baroque Music, Music History I and II, and Music Understanding.

Jessica won the S.E. Shire’s trombone solo competition hosted by the Southeast Trombone Symposium in 2010. Her current scholarly research focuses on women’s roles in music and feminist musicology. Jessica has presented and performed at The International Women’s Brass Conference, The International Trombone Festival, The Southeast Trombone Symposium, The Midwest Trombone and Euphonium Conference, as well as various colleges and universities. Jessica looks forward to performing with the prestigious Cramer Trombone Choir this summer at the International Trombone Festival.

Bill Cernota, Cello, Lyric Opera of Chicago

William Cernota, violoncello, has been a member of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra since 1982.  From 1982 to 1996 he was a substitute cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  While a student of Chicago Symphony Principal Cellist Frank Miller, he was Principal Cellist of the Chicago Civic Orchestra.  During this period William performed as soloist in Don Quixote and Schelomo with the Chicago Civic Orchestra.  His other teachers include Alois Trnka, Raya Garbousova, Karl Fruh, and Daniel Morganstern.  He has also held principal cello positions with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Concertante di Chicago, Chicago Opera Theater, and Peninsula Music Festival.  In 2012 he was appointed Principal Cellist in the Southern Illinois Music Festival.  He performed the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata on a national broadcast from WFMT as part of its “Schubert Live” Series and was a soloist on two European tours of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra.  William is currently on the adjunct music faculties of both Northwestern and Loyola Universities.  Following graduation in Ideas & Methods and Biology from the University of Chicago he served for three years in the Peace Corps, Sierra Leone as a biology teacher and band director.  With special interests in new as well as old music, William appears regularly in contemporary music concerts and has also performed on baroque cello with several period instrument groups.  He performed Lutoslawski’s works for solo cello at Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago with the composer in attendance. With pianist Joy Doran, he recently issued a CD: On or About December, 1910.  He is a founding member and General Director of Chicago Camerata and the Overtones Ensemble in Residence at Loyola University Museum of Art.  William resides with his wife, Maria, and daughter, Naomi, in Chicago where he also works as a research scientist at Fermalogic, Incorporated and recently completed the Masters in Engineering Degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Kurt Civilette, Horn, Michigan

In the fall of 2010, Kurt Civilette started as 3rd horn in Ann Arbor Symphony and as a member of the A2SO Brass Quintet. He frequently appears as guest principal in Ann Arbor Symphony and many local orchestras, playing that role with Michigan Opera Theater, Flint, Saginaw Bay, Windsor (ON), Midland, and West Michigan Symphonies. He substituted several times in the 2011-12 season with Detroit Symphony. For 15 years from 1995-2010, Kurt was full-time 3rd horn/associate principal with New Mexico Symphony in Albuquerque, substituting as interim principal horn for the entire 2001-02 season. Before winning the permanent job in New Mexico, he held temporary positions as principal horn with Charleston (SC) Symphony, principal horn of the Savannah (GA) Symphony, and assistant principal with Honolulu Symphony. While in New Mexico he was also 3rd horn with Santa Fe Symphony and appeared with Santa Fe Opera orchestra. As a successful freelance musician, he has appeared with Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony, St. Louis, Utah, Grant Park, Jacksonville and North Carolina Symphonies, and played many commercial jingles and recording sessions. During the summers, Kurt plays principal horn with the Southern Illinois Music festival in Carbondale. He has appeared in various US and international summer festivals including Spoleto festival in USA and Italy, the Assisi festival (Italy), the Kumamoto festival in Japan, and Music from Angel Fire. Kurt has performed as an extra player with Santa Fe Opera since 1998.

Marla hansen, Piano, Oregon

Marla Hansen graduated with a Masters in Collaborative Piano from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2015.  Her former piano teachers include Dr. Marie Jureit-Beamish (Principia College) and Dr. Paul Transue (SIUC), and she previously studied the violin with Todor Pelev, Laura Garritson Parker, and Michael Barta (SIUC).  She has performed in masterclasses with Boris Berman, Paul Badura-Skoda, Luiz de Moura Castro, and Martin Katz.  She has soloed on violin with the MSJC Symphony Orchestra and on piano with the Inland Valley Symphony and the Principia College Orchestra.  In 2010 and 2012, Marla was in a select group of students representing Principia College on the Spring Arts Tours which consisted of five performances on the west coast, and six performances on the east coast, including a performance in Steinway Hall, New York.  As a student of Principia, she was awarded the Ackley Music Award for exceptional work in performance and academics, the Georgie Graham Ives Music Award for excellence in music scholarship and performance, and the Frances Van Der Meid Smith Award for promoting musical excellence in the community.  As part of her graduate assistantship at SIUC, Marla served as rehearsal pianist for operas, accompanied the Concert Choir, and worked with numerous vocal students as well as instrumentalists.  She has served as a vocal soloist for churches, and she enjoys composing and arranging music as well as performing. She is currently living in Beaverton, OR, teaching private lessons and working as a collaborative pianist at nearby colleges and universities.

Anita hutton, PIANO, southern illinois

Pianist Anita Hutton retired from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2012.  She is the organist/pianist at First United Methodist Church in Carbondale.  Anita is a participant/coach at several chamber music workshops in the United States, Germany, and England.  She is also active as a musician and accompanist on the SIUC campus and in the community.  Anitaearned her Bachelor of Music Education (Vocal & Instrumental) from Idaho State University and her Master of Music from SIUC.


Kiril Laskarov is in his 20th season as Concertmaster of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. A native of Bulgaria, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State Academy of Music in Sofia and a Master's degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he studied with Prof. Michael Barta. Laskarov has appeared as a soloist with the Arkansas Symphony, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Southern Illinois Symphony, Abilene (TX) Philharmonic, Symphony Irvine (CA) and Texarkana (TX) Symphony and also as a guest concertmaster with the Monroe (LA) Symphony and McCall (ID) Festival Orchestra. Mr. Laskarov presented the world premiere of the Double Concerto for Two Violins by Michael Fine (2017) with the Arkansas Symphony and the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello (2018) by Jacob Tews with the Southern Illinois Symphony.

James Ryon, Oboe, Texas

James Ryon is currently Professor of Oboe at the University of North Texas and Principal Oboist with the Baton Rouge Symphony. He received Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School, a degree in Engineering & Applied Science from Yale University, and performance fellowships with the Aspen, Berkshire, Blossom, Kneisel Hall and New College Music Festivals. He has also served as Principal Oboist with the Caracas Philharmonic, the Florida Orchestra and the Akron Symphony. His wide-ranging musical experience includes tours and concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Cleveland Opera, the Cleveland Ballet, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Ohio Ballet, the Canton Symphony, the Charleston Symphony, the Las Colinas Symphony, the Bach Aria Group and the British rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He taught for 8 years at Louisiana State University and for 19 years at the University of Akron, where he was also a member of the Solaris Quintet. His CD of 20th Century Brazilian Chamber Music for Oboe, Cello and Piano with the Burle Marx Trio is available on Jeanné Digital. His recordings with Solaris may be found on Capstone Records. For further information visit: 

JoshUA Schlachter, Violin, Grand Rapids Symphony

Joshua Schlachter joined the Grand Rapids Symphony violin section in 1999.  At the Southern Illinois Music Festival, he has performed as soloist and serves as Principal Second Violin.  Joshua has performed regularly as Principal Second Violin of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and has played with the Columbus Symphony and Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

Joshua received a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  Kurt Sassmannshaus, Peter Oundjian, and Geoffrey Applegate are among his principal instructors.  An active teacher, Joshua has served as Visiting Professor of Violin at Grand Rapids Community College and Adjunct Instructor of Violin at Aquinas College.  He and his wife, Tenille, live in Rockford, Michigan, with their children, Samuel, Zachary, and Sophia.

Charles Shapera, Bassoon, Chicago

Charles Shapera is a native of Chicago involved in performing, teaching, and conducting for over 30 years. As a performer, he is Principal Bassoon of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and an original member of two outstanding chamber groups, the Oak Street Winds (with Maestro Benyas) and the Kallima Quintet. As an educator, Mr. Shapera teaches Elementary and Jr. High aged band. Twice a graduate of DePaul University, Mr. Shapera studied bassoon with Anne Eagleton, William Kaplan, Bruce Grainger, and William Buchman. This will be his eighth year participating in the SIFest. Mr. Shapera shares every day with his lovely wife Zoe - who generously allows him the time to come to Carbondale each summer - and his two beautiful children, Arza and Micah.

Abigail Simoneau, flute, new hampshire

Abigail Simoneau, a New Hampshire native, is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Ms. Simoneau is adjunct music faculty at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina and is Director of Music Education and Community Outreach athe Moore Music Company. Ms. Simoneau earned her Master of Music degree in Flute Performance from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Hampshire. Her teachers include Linda True, Peggy Vagts, Douglas Worthen, Carla Copeland-Burns, and Erika Boysen. Ms. Simoneau has performed with numerous ensembles throughout her college career, and this will be her seventh season with the Southern Illinois Music Festival.

Juan Carlos Siviero, Viola, Space Coast Symphony Orchestra/Argentina

This is Juan Carlos Siviero's 11th Season with the Southern Illinois Music Festival! A native Argentinian, Juan Carlos resides in Orlando, FL where he performs as Principal Violist with Space Coast Symphony Orchestra and holds membership with the Florida Lakes Symphony, The Villages Phiharmonic, and the Orlando Philharmonic. His orchestral experience included the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Rockford Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina, and the Orchestra of the State of  Tucuman to name a few. Juan Carlos received his musical training from the Conservatorio Provincial de Musica de Tucuman, his Masters Degree from Roosevelt University, as well as a Graduate Certificate from DePaul University. He greatly enjoys teaching viola and violin. In his spare time, Juan Carlos is an enthusiast of Archeology, Astronomy, World War II, and American Civil War related subjects. He also cares for small cute felines.

Joshua Stafford, New York, Organ


The meticulous technique, innate yet highly mature musicality, and constant musical engagement exhibited by Joshua Stafford unanimously and quickly compelled the jury of the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition to name him the Pierre S. du Pont First Prize Winner of this illustrious event.

Already in demand as a recitalist, improviser, and choral accompanist, Joshua has performed at many notable venues, including the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, and Spivey Hall in Georgia.  His recital at the 2015 Conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians was hailed as “technically flawless yet exceptionally nuanced and spontaneous.” His performances have been aired on MPR’s Pipedreams and WRTI’s Wanamaker Organ Hour.

A native of Jamestown, New York, Joshua Stafford received the bachelor of music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2010 and his master of music degree from the Yale School of Music. He is the Director of Music at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey.

Joshua Stafford is represented in North America exclusively by Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, LLC.

Kelly Sulick, Flute, Virginia

Kelly Sulick currently teaches at the University of Virginia and serves as Principal Flute in the Charlottesville Symphony and Director of the University of Virginia Chamber Music Series. Prior to her appointment, she served as Principal Flute with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and as Consortium Instructor of Flute at the University of Evansville for three years. She earned her Master of Music degree in Flute Performance from the University of Southern California and completed three seasons as principal flute with the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles, California. Prior to her graduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, where she graduated with highest honors and was named a James B. Angell Scholar for her academic achievements.

Ms. Sulick won second place in the 2010 National Flute Association's Young Artist Competition, and was awarded the prize for the best performance of Kristin P. Kuster's Perpetual Afternoon. She has been a finalist or semi-finalist in numerous national competitions, including The Flute Society of Kentucky Young Artist Competition, the University of Michigan Concerto Competition, the Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition, the Young Musicians Foundation National Debut Competition, and the Frank Bowen Young Artist Competition. Ms. Sulick has recorded several compact discs, including William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience under Leonard Slatkin, a Naxos release that received four Grammy awards including Best Classical Album.

David Tuttle, Clarinet, Chicago

David Tuttle is an active freelance musician who has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Honolulu Symphony, Ars Viva Chicago, and the Lake Forest Symphony.  He has been performing as an extra player with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1974.  He can be heard on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recordings of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Wagner’s Prelude and Love Death, and Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite.  In addition to his extensive freelancing, David currently serves as principal clarinetist in the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Light Opera Works, and the Southern Illinois Music Festival, for which he is also personnel manager.  He is the founder and director of Chicago Winds, Inc., which has presented more than 2,000 program in Chicago Public Schools.  Tuttle has been on the roster of Vandoren Performing Artists since 2011.

Robert Weiss, Trombone, Southern Illinois

Robert L. Weiss, Jr. is currently Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Carbondale, Illinois and Professor of Music Emeritus at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he taught for 29 years, the last 13 of which he was Director of the School of Music.  He Holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Music Education from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Education from SIUC.   In retirement from SIUC, he continues to play trombone and sail his Rhodes 22 sailboat on Kentucky Lake.