Meet our Holiday 2017 Performers!
Dr. Jeffry Johnson has performed professionally as a conductor, singer, actor, pianist, harpsichordist, organist, and music teacher for over 30 years. His conducting credits feature numerous premieres as well as extensive work with contemporary and standard repertoire. His stage credits include numerous operatic leading tenor roles and several years performing with the national musical theater touring company American Family Theatre in various leading and supporting roles. He has performed extensively as a piano accompanist throughout the United States and has served numerous churches and synagogues. Currently, Dr. Johnson is an adjunct instructor of voice at Washington & Jefferson College.
Bill Larson hails from Pittsburgh. He received a fellowship to the Tanglewood Music Center in 1989, and completed his graduate studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in 1992. As a choir director and organist, he has served various churches in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. He is currently Choir Director and Organist for Beulah Presbyterian Church. In addition to his work with the Renaissance City Choirs, he has been choirmaster and keyboardist for the Undercroft Opera, and is a piano technician.
This is the first Holiday Concert since co-habitation set in. Thanks for the wonderful year, Marlo! Happy Holidays to all of my favorite fruitcakes!
This is David’s first performance with the RCC, and their first foray into choral music. Aside from the choir, their performance background is in drum corps and partner acrobatics.
Len is a first-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, pursuing a degree in Arts Management. They greatly appreciate the open arms with which RCC has welcomed them. Outside the classroom and the choir, Len works part-time with the Pittsburgh Festival Opera.
Stephanie is a happily-transplanted Floridian, and is thrilled to have found such a welcoming family in the RCC. She has an excellent sense of smell and enjoys puns.
Tessa is so happy to be singing with the RCC after singing in choirs from elementary school through college. In her spare time she memorizes Appalachian Folk Ballads and plays open mics with her band, Bitter Whiskers.
Stephanie moved to Pittsburgh in July and joined the RCC in August. She is thankful for the warm welcome to PGH. She must thank her California family for believing in her, her Pittsburgh family for helping with transition, and of course her beautiful wife for their wonderful life.
Sam has had a vibrant singing career through high school, participating in regional and national choirs. Now he’s studying computer science at Pitt, and joined the RCC to continue this passion in a safe place.
Rachel joined the RCC this fall with her sister, Amy, with whom she’s been singing all her life. Together they’ve performed in school and church choirs and were often drafted to command performances on Sunday mornings by their father, who was a United Methodist minister. Rachel received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater before finding her place in nonprofit fundraising. She lives in the South Hills with her husband, AJ; two daughters, Natalie and Veronica; and a basset hound, Watson. Rachel thanks AJ especially for taking on extra daddy time to allow her to go play with her sister.
Raymond Blackwell is originally from Wilmington, Delaware. He came to Pittsburgh in 1996 to work for the Pittsburgh Opera. He now is a voice coach at Carnegie Mellon and a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. He is married to Jefferey Shiring and they live in Penn Hills.
Pam has been in the second soprano section of the choir since joining. Singing has become a favorite activity since then.
This is Rachel’s first year singing with the RCC. The child of an organist/choir director and a music teacher, Rachel is no stranger to music, but is happy to be returning to singing after some time away. Rachel’s day job is as the licensed clinical social worker for the lung transplant team at UPMC Presbyterian. Other than singing, Rachel has a variety of interests and hobbies including making stained glass pieces and going to live theater productions.
Jon is thrilled to have found a group as wonderful as RCC. A Michigan native, he has lived and sung in northern New England and southeast Missouri. With his husband David, he is enjoying life in da ’Burgh.
Stephanie moved back to Pittsburgh after the death of her parents, but she just couldn’t find her niche. RCC gave her the chance to live her dream of performing in front of an audience again just like she used to as a child in plays at school. The choir has become her home away from home. She would like to thank her choir sisters Cookie and Deb for introducing her to the RCC.
Sharon is a founding member of the Renaissance City Women’s choir. She co-wrote the script for the RCC’s “Who’s Who” multi-media concert/game. She thanks her family and former band and choir directors for her musical education — which has been indispensable beyond words.
A member of RCC since 2010 and current RCC board president, Morgan spends her days as a graphic designer at Pittsburgh Glass Center. In her spare time she can’t pass up a thrift store, yard sale, or karaoke night. Morgan lives in Swissvale with her husband (and middle-school sweetheart) Michael and daughter Emory.
Joel has been a church music leader for over 20 years as an organist and choir director. He directs music and worship at his home church, Allegheny Open Arms United Church of Christ in Spring Garden. When not making music, he works in IT procurement and enjoys home life with his husband David and daughter Nadia.
Business executive by day, David is the husband of Artistic Director Jeffry Johnson, and is an award-winning composer of sacred choral music. He leads the Tikkun Chant Circle of Pittsburgh and is happy to be singing with RCC.
Maevon is a music therapist currently pursuing their Master of Music Therapy degree at Slippery Rock University. They are highly engaged in providing queer-affirming music therapy services to those a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Maevon is very excited to be singing for the first time with RCC.
Sarah recently moved to Pittsburgh to support her role as director of programs for the nonprofit Pennsylvania Women Work. From her youth through a master’s degree in performance studies, Sarah has long held a passion for music. She is thankful for the support of her husband, Sean, and is thrilled to add her voice to the RCC!
Choral singing has been a joy of Rick’s life since from LaSalle/Bishop Walsh High School in Cumberland, Maryland to the University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of Puerto Rico, Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Camerata, and RCC. Rick works as a college librarian and has two cats, Mimi and Musetta. He loves Romance languages and Italian culture and enjoys karaoke.
Phil is having a terrific time singing with the RCC. In addition to loving the music, he finds it a wonderfully open and accepting organization. Phil works in computer software development and lives in Point Breeze with his wife, Louise.
When not singing, Rachel works as an administrative assistant at Pitt to fund her fiction writing addiction. Occasionally, she does this while singing, too.
Lisa is excited to have found a musical home with the RCC! She came to Pittsburgh in 2009 to attend CMU from New Jersey and loves the city more every day, except for the Penguins. She is currently a data analyst supporting homeless services at the Allegheny County of Human Services.
Blaine has sung with the Johnstown Symphony Chorus, the McKeesport Symphony Chorus, and various local church choirs. He is a square dance caller for the Iron City Squares, Pittsburgh’s GLBT and friends square dance club. Blaine recently retired from his position as Public Services Librarian at Indiana University of Pennsylvania after 35 years of service.
This is JoEllen’s third season with RCC. She fell in love with singing when she joined her church’s junior choir at age 8, and she’s so happy to have found such a warm and inclusive group to continue singing with.
Douglas is thrilled to continue to be involved with the RCC, an organization that has generously offered joy, meaning, and friendship to his life. He lends his shrill high notes to the choir on the condition that they are returned in better condition than when they were offered.
Kathy loves to sing and loves her choir friends. She has been in RCC a long time and hopes to be in a lot longer. In addition to singing, she spends her spare time spinning (wool, with a spinning wheel, not exercise!)
Lydia McShane has been studying voice and performing for several years with Jett Downey at the East End Song Studio. She performed in two RCC cabarets and has appeared in other community musical productions. She is most proud of her beautiful, sweet daughters, Julia and Alena.
John, originally from Chicago, is a professor in the College of Education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Outside the classroom and the choir, John enjoys world travel, home improvement projects, upcycling, and tending to his cats Calvin, Mason, and Eddie.
Michaela Page has been singing most of her life — in Vermont, where she was born and raised, as well as Boston and Los Angeles, New Hampshire, and finally Pittsburgh, where she is thrilled to be singing with the RCC. Through various Madrigal and choir groups, musical theater performances, vocal jazz and her college a capella group, “the Noteables,” Michaela has found singing with a collective to be a life-force that creates joy instantly. She lives in Lawrenceville with her husband, her two “furry kids,” and her new baby!
Amanda enjoys singing with RCC for the variety of music and the great company of its wonderful members. Being part of RCC is very meaningful to her, as this welcoming community provides so much positivity by coming together to make music. She loves writing songs with Ms. Kait about Harry Potter in their wrock band Muggle Snuggle, and also writes music under the name First Person SINGular. She plays bari sax in the Pine Creek Community Band in the North Hills.
This is Genevieve’s third year with RCC, and although she’s been in many musical groups since her WashPa childhood, she’s found RCC to be the most warm, welcoming, and wonderful of them all! When Genevieve isn’t downtown for her attorney day job, you can find her knitting, enjoying a fine cheese with a potent potable, or swing-dancing somewhere near her crib in East End.
Stephanie is joining RCC for the first time this year. She has always been a part of a choir throughout her life, and is thrilled to have found a musical home with RCC while living in Pittsburgh. Outside of choir, Stephanie can be found working as a systems analyst or cuddling her kitty-cat, Kate.
Cassia is a new member and happy to be part of a choir again! It’s great to be challenged by singing with such a talented group. She sells construction tools by day and hangs out with her cat at night.
Eva is excited for her third season with the Renaissance City Choir, and to be part of such a warm and talented choir. In her free time she can be found in the Pittsburgh activism scene advocating for environmental justice and singing karaoke at Nico’s.
Julia Rippel began singing with the RCC last year and has enjoyed every moment so far. She couldn’t ask for better company to tackle the RCC’s challenging and amazing repertoire. She has lived in Pittsburgh her whole life and is excited to expand her musical community.
Maggie is a “Fesbyterian Lemenist” and a “Great Peace Marcher” who loves to sing with the RCC and her church choir, too! She’s a native ’Burgher who lived in L.A. for 25 years before coming home about 20 years ago. She’s been with the RCC for 17 years and hopes for many more to come!
Sarah joined RCC in 2015 shortly after moving to Pittsburgh, and RCC’s welcoming, multi-generational “community that sings” certainly helps keep her here! She thanks her family for their love and support, and Repair the World for bringing her to the ’Burgh and dropping her so close to ELPC!
Tech geek by day and music nerd by night, Stacy proudly returns to the RCC.
Peg is very happy to be singing in her fifth year with the RCC. First and foremost, she would like to thank her spouse Wilma and son Chris for all their love and support. Second, she would like to thank Jeffry for being an awesome director, Bill for sharing his amazing talent, and Jessica for her constant support and beautiful signing! Third, she would like to thank her fellow choir members for being so supportive and so much fun to sing with! Finally, thank you to Trader Joe’s for the flowers and ELPC for the very welcoming space to sing in!
Ron is a new baritone member of the RCC this season. Currently he is a therapist working at Pittsburgh Mercy, and also has a small private practice on the side. Ron has an extensive musical background, having retired recently from a 35-year career in church music. In addition to playing a variety of musical instruments, Ron also has sung in a variety of choirs including Kantorei in Minneapolis under Axel Theimer, and functioned as baritone section leader with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, and tenor II section leader with the Bach Choir under Brady Allred and the Duquesne University Chamber Singers. Ron is pleased to be working in a career now where he does not have to hide his authentic self for fear of being fired, and needless to say he is enjoying the liberating experience of singing with the RCC!
A native of South Carolina and proud alumna of East Tennessee State University, when she is not singing in the choir, Edie engages in coed and women’s softball teams, reading, and traveling. She would like to thank Natalya, friends, and family for encouragement and support in all of her endeavors!
Kirsten is a graduate student in Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. Originally from the Philadelphia area, she moved to Iowa, then Dallas, and now resides in Pittsburgh. She enjoys sunshine, cooking, and exploring quaint cafes and coffee shops. Kirsten is grateful to have found RCC this year and for this wonderful community of musicians.
This is Sarah’s first year singing with the RCC and is so happy she found this amazing group of people. She moved to Pittsburgh a few years ago and spends her days behind a mask as an operating room nurse at UPMC.
This is Liz’s first season singing with RCC and she is so happy to be a part of such an amazing and talented group! Liz was previously a member of the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh and sings every Sunday in her church’s choir. When Liz is not singing with the choir, she enjoys serenading her husband and three cats with original songs she makes up on the spot.
An instrumentalist at heart, Ron has found singing with the choir to be a great new way to experience music. Ron has played the trumpet for more than 20 years and fills some of his free time playing for various local theater productions and in a community band.
Jim is active in the local music and art communities, most recently as a member of the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh. He also works as a paralegal. He thanks his friends and family for their continued support.
Mari is a network engineer who also performs with other local groups. She is excited for another great season with RCC!
Kurt is happy to be singing baritone, after years as a tenor. When not singing with the RCC and the ELPC Chancel Choir, he works as an oral pathologist at the Pitt School of Dental Medicine and plays in Frick Park as an Urban Eco-Steward.
Hailing from Staunton, Virginia, Mark has been a “temporary” resident of southwest Pennsylvania for 17 years. By day, he professes ethnomusicology to receptive students at Washington and Jefferson College. Outside of his job, he sings and occasionally plays piano as part of the choir of First Presbyterian Church 1793 in Washington, Pennsylvania, and studies geography and geomorphology at WVU. In the summer, Mark can mostly be found on mountain trails with his dog, Flash. Mark is grateful to have discovered a much-needed social and musical outlet with RCC over the past four years.
Roxann returns to the choir after being a member for a couple of years in the mid ’90s. She has also performed with the St. Anne’s choir in Castle Shannon. She is honored to have been chosen to be a part of one of the most talented groups of people she has ever worked with. She says she is truly blessed, passionate about music and it comes from her soul.
Alexandra “Sandy” Vansuch has been singing with RCC since 2004. After a career including home renovation, being a crew member at Trader Joe’s, teaching at Penn State Shenango, and running a theater in Youngstown, Ohio, she is is trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.
Amy joined the RCC this fall with her sister, Rachel, with whom she’s been singing all her life. Together they’ve performed in school and church choirs and were often drafted to command performances on Sunday mornings by their father, who was a United Methodist minister. Amy is ecstatic to have found her way back to choral singing, as she loves harmonizing and Latin, and finds few opportunities for either in her career as a retail store manager. Amy lives happily in Castle Shannon with her wife Patty and an assortment of animals.
Mage has been singing since she was a kid and was delighted to join RCC this year as a first soprano. She came from Los Angeles to attend Pitt and just stuck around. Her hobbies include sewing and writing.
Becca is trying her hand at Soprano 1 after singing with the mezzos for the past several years. She is a Pittsburgh native and lives in Wilkinsburg with her husband and the best baby boy ever.
Luke comes from Sichuan, China where people love spicy food, and he’s no exception! He moved to Pittsburgh for grad school two years ago. Music has always been a part of his life, and he is enjoying singing in the RCC very much!