Our Performers

Meet our Holiday 2017 Performers!

Jeffry Blake Johnson
Artistic Director

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.

Alexandra Vansuch
Alto 2, 2004

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.

William Larson

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.

Alto 2, 2008

Cabaret Time! This marks the one-year anniversary of Lisa actually losing it on stage. Her teeth that is. Baby, I was born this way. Here’s hoping that everything stays in place this year as we sing it for the world. Thanks for coming out 🙂

David Andrews
Baritone, 2017

This is David’s first year performing 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 Ayers
Tenor 1, 2017

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 Baverso
Alto 1, 2016

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.

Rachel Vermillion Betta
Soprano 2, 2017

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
Bass, 2009

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.

Elizabeth Chitester
Alto 1, 2018

Elizabeth, also known as Meta, Luci, or Beth, has been a Pittsburgh resident since 2011. She is a graduate of the Duquesne University Mary Pappert School of Music, and is the director of the Rising Voices Youth Choir and the PGH Liberty Community Choir. She teaches voice, piano, guitar, and drums out of her home in Baldwin. Elizabeth has been an avid singer from a young age. She is excited to be performing again as a singer in addition to her position as a director and conductor. When she is not teaching or performing, Elizabeth enjoys restoring silver and wood, baking, hiking, and spending time with her partners and her cats.

JoAnn Chonoska
Alto 2, 2003

JoAnn is a retired high school math teacher who lives in Mars with her wife, Carol. She is a board member and the treasurer for the RCC and belongs to St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Shadyside. JoAnn enjoys working on their 115-year-old home, and camping and canoeing with Carol.

Stephanie Dantzler
Alto 2, 2008

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 Davis
Soprano 1, 1995

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.

Charles Denk
Bartione, 2017

Chuck Denk thanks RCC for the generous welcome he’s received since relocating to Pittsburgh last summer. A natural baritone (who isn’t?), he is also a serious playwright and photographer.

Nathaniel Ekoniak
Bartione, 2018

Nathaniel is a newcomer this year to RCC and Pittsburgh. A software engineer and wannabe polyglot, he also enjoys running, snowboarding, and baking bread. He previously sang with the Seattle Men’s Chorus and, in his university days, the Singing Men of Ohio.

Jeff Fritz
Tenor 2, 2015

Jeff has been singing with the Springdale United Presbyterian Church choir for many years. He also played the sax in his high school bands. In his spare time, Jeff loves spending time with his husband, Jason; his two daughters; and his two grandchildren. Jeff joined RCC in the spring of 2015.

Sarah Hansen
Soprano 2, 2017

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!

Sabrina Harris
Soprano 1, 2013

Sabrina is an urban planner and a music lover who recently moved from Brazil to Pittsburgh and found friendship and fun with the RCC family.

Rick Harrison
Bass, 1995

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 Hayes
Bass, 2015

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.

Lisa Kessler
Soprano 2, 2016

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.

Katie Luckini

Katie Luckini is an insurance agent in Morgantown, West Virginia. She is a new member of RCC and excited to perform with this talented and welcoming group of singers!

Douglas McIntyre
Tenor 1, 2008

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 McIntyre-Seltman
Alto 1, 1995

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
Soprano 2, 2014

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.

Amanda Parrotte
Soprano 1, 2012

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.

Genevieve Pecharka
Alto 2, 2015

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.

Marlo Perry
Alto 2, 2013

Marlo joined RCC in fall 2013, and soon thereafter developed a crush on her fellow Alto 2, LisaAllen. They are now living happily ever after with their three perpetually hungry cats.

Cassia Priebe
Alto 1, 2017

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 Resnick-Day

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
Soprano 2, 2016

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 Ritchey
Soprano 2, 2000

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!

Julia Roberson

Julia is excited to get to know the great, welcoming community of the RCC.

Sarah Scherk
Alto 1, 2015

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!

Stacy Schermann
Soprano 1, 2008

Tech geek by day and music nerd by night, Stacy proudly returns to the RCC.

Peg Schmidt
Alto 1, 2013

Peg is very happy to be singing in the Cabaret again the year. Before joining the RCC, her previous singing engagements included church, school choirs, 7th inning stretches, and the occasional elevator. When not singing, she can be found bicycling around town, tutoring ESL, or working in her garden which she shares with her spouse Wilma, and son Chris. Many thanks to the RCC Family, you’re the best!

Edie Shealy
Alto 1, 2015

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 Shriver
Soprano 2, 2015

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.

Jefferey Shiring

Jefferey Shiring is delighted to be re-joining the RCC for the cabaret after a three-year hiatus to complete his master of social work degree at the University of Pittsburgh. He joins his husband, Ray Blackwell, and the rest of the choir in an effort to make this show especially memorable.

Sarah Slep
Alto 1, 2017

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.

James Storch
Baritone, 2008

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.

Kurt Summersgill
Baritone, 2014

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.

Mark Swift
Bass, 2013

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 Timpano
Alto 2

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.

Amy Vermillion
Alto 2, 2017

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.

Marissa Weaver
Alto 2, 2015

Marissa is a recent graduate of Chatham University, receiving her B.A. in Music and Cultural Studies. She is thrilled to spend post-graduate life with her dog, her fiancée, and her new RCC friends.

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