“Volti’s enthusiastic approach to new works, facility in extended vocal techniques, and remarkable cohesiveness as an ensemble [make for] an intriguing presentation of some of the most cutting-edge contemporary choral music being written today, and Robert Geary and his singers should be commended for their impeccable musicianship and artistry.”
— September 2019, CD review of “the color of there seen from here,” I Care If You Listen
MEET OUR SINGERS
Volti is a vocal ensemble comprising 16 to 24 singers, depending on the repertoire of any given concert. Below are brief bios of musicians singing with us in the current season.
Ben Barr, tenor, has been singing off-and-on with Volti since 1992. He received his B.A. in Vocal Performance in 1994 from San Francisco State University. He has been seen on the stages of the Lamplighters, West Bay Opera, Santa Cruz Opera, and other companies, although it has been a few years since he slapped on the grease paint. He is the father of three wonderful children, and the husband to the most amazing wife ever. He is also the owner of B-Squared Consulting, a firm that specializes in tech support for small businesses.
Will Betts studied low brass and voice while at the University of the Pacific, graduating with a degree in Music Management. As a singer, he has performed with a variety of ensembles throughout the Bay Area, including AVE, Clerestory, Volti, and the Kronos and Saint Lawrence String Quartets, and has toured internationally with Pacific Boychoir Academy and The Choir of Oxford. In his other life as a jazz trombonist, he has performed with such artists as Dave Brubeck, Christian McBride, Phil Woods, and Wayne Bergeron. During the day, Will works as the manager of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra.
Joel Chapman is a San Francisco-based conductor, bass-baritone, and songwriter. Beyond Volti, he sings with Endersnight, and he has made professional appearances with the California Bach Society, San Mateo Masterworks Chorale, Convivium, Fog City Singers, and the Stanford Chamber Chorale. Joel is co-creator of Gravity, a New(tonian) Musical, most recently seen at the Brava Theater in 2019. He has served as music director, orchestrator and/or sound designer for several projects with Custom Made Theatre, Faultline Theater, SF Bay Area Theater, and various groups at Stanford. Joel is a Stanford graduate and holds an M.A. in Music, Science, & Technology and a B.A. in Music. | joelchapmanmusic.com
Sidney Chen, bass-baritone, specializes in the creation of new music for voice. He performs with Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble, most recently in composer/choreographer Monk’s music-theater work On Behalf of Nature, which toured internationally and was recorded for ECM Records. In recent seasons he has premiered Ryan Brown’s “medical oratorio” Mortal Lessons; performed in the 2018 Other Minds Festival; collaborated with the Friction Quartet on a collection of new works for vocal quartet and string quartet; toured to Denmark with San Francisco Lyric Opera’s production of the little match girl passion by David Lang; and performed Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia for eight voices and orchestra at the Mondavi Center. He is a co-founder of The M6, a New York-based vocal sextet, and a member of the nine-voice ensemble Clerestory. He has performed with Volti since 2000.
Yuhi Aizawa Combatti
Yuhi Aizawa Combatti, a Japan-native soprano, is recognized for her clear timbre and keen musicianship in repertoire ranging from Renaissance to Contemporary. Yuhi has performed with orchestras and chamber ensembles in the United States and Japan including the Kronos Quartet, the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Berkeley Symphony. A passionate advocate of new music, Yuhi was a featured soloist for the West Coast premiere of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia with UC Davis Orchestra in 2015, and has enjoyed premiering works by a multitude of composers as a member of Volti. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Westminster Choir College.
Alice Del Simone
Alice Del Simone, a Bay Area native, received her B.A. in Vocal Performance and B.S. in Plant Science from UC Davis. She has performed as Cis in Britten’s Albert Herring at the Miami Summer Music Festival, in the Ensemble in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking with Opera Parallèle, and as one of the Volti soloists in Dreamers under Esa-Pekka Salonen with Philharmonia Orchestra. She has recently performed with Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Berkeley Symphony, and ODC/Dance, among others, and is preparing to perform in Anne’s Hege’s Laptopera with the Stanford Laptop Orchestra and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with the SF Ballet. Alice teaches theory and vocal pedagogy with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, where she also serves as Program Director, and she maintains a small private voice studio.
Nica Dennis is a Bay Area native vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. An alumna of SF State University’s diverse music department, Nica has studied, composed and performed in the contexts of opera, symphonic and chamber music, funk, bluegrass, jazz, Latin, and musical theater, among others. In 2014 she was the recipient of the coveted Edwin Barlow Award for her appearance in that year’s NATS Bay Area singing festival, and she has performed as a soloist with San Francisco’s Phenix Opera Company. She performs with the Bay Area’s most distinguished vocal ensembles, including Volti, Cappella, and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
Paul Flynn is an Australian-born baritone who studied piano, voice and bassoon at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the American Ballet Theatre, The New Music Players (UK), and Percussions Claviers de Lyon (France). In 2019, he was a Volti soloist with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen and in the ensemble of West Edge Opera’s acclaimed production of Breaking the Waves. Before joining Volti in 2018, Paul sang with award-winning New York chamber chorus Cantori. He spent six years in Beijing, performing with the International Festival Chorus and Peking Sinfonietta, and is a board member of China Sound, a London-based group raising the profile of contemporary Chinese music with commissions, recordings and concerts. Paul holds a BA (Hons) from the University of Sydney and an MA from Tsinghua University, Beijing.
While Monica Frame, mezzo soprano, has sung with ensembles ranging from the National Chamber Choir of Israel to the San Francisco Choral Artists, her singing on Valve electronic games and commercials enjoy the most YouTube hits. She is the alto soloist and section leader at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Berkeley. A licensed psychotherapist, Monica specializes in school-based mental health services, and she particularly enjoys providing services to music education organizations such as the Crowden School and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Monica is deeply grateful for the regular opportunity Volti gives her to collaborate with composers in what she thinks of as a form of musical midwifery.
Ben Laboy, tenor, is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, and is excited to sing with Volti. He currently sings with the Fog City Singers, the SF-based men’s barbershop chorus established in 2015. An active member of the music community at Stanford, Ben studied voice with Wendy Hillhouse for four years and received a vocal performance certificate for non-majors upon graduating in 2014 with a BS & MS in Earth Systems. He also sang with the Stanford Chamber Chorale and the all-male a cappella group the Stanford Fleet Street Singers for three years each. Ben works as an energy efficiency engineer in SF, and enjoys baseball, playing guitar, hiking and scuba diving in his spare time.
Andrea Mich, soprano, earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Music and in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Berkeley, where she was actively involved in Perfect Fifth, Chamber Chorus and Symphony Orchestra. She actively performs throughout the Bay Area as both a soprano and a flautist, in chamber ensembles and as a soloist, and has performed under the batons of Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Marin Alsop, among others. When not performing, Andrea works as a product manager for laboratory software, and does her own experiments through baking pastries and cakes.
Rachel Rush, mezzo-soprano, is in her fifth season with Volti. A Bay Area native, she completed her B.A. in music at UC Santa Cruz in 2013, where she appeared as a soloist with several ensembles and sang roles in the UCSC opera program. Recently she has appeared with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s New Music Ensemble, served as faculty for Volti’s Choral Institute for high school singers, and participated in the American Bach Soloists Academy, as well as singing with Bay Area opera companies including Opera Parallèle and West Edge Opera. She is currently the alto section leader at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco.
Philip Saunders, who has sung low bass for Volti for more than twenty seasons, studied trombone and voice at Indiana University. He played four years for the Fresno Philharmonic, and in various Los Angeles and San Francisco area orchestras. He sang with the Fresno Lyric Opera, Los Angeles Opera Chorus, L.A. Master Chorale, S.F. Symphony Chorus, Creative Voices, AVE and the Josquin Singers, and has twice been guest soloist at the Mendocino Music Festival. He is the bass soloist and Assistant Music Director for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakland (for whom he has composed two masses and several motets), and is a founding member of Pacific Collegium. He works with computers to keep the lights on.
Tim Silva, tenor, is a proud native of the East Bay. When he’s not making art, he’s playing with plants. He sings regularly with Volti and Gaude. He recently appeared as a soloist with the California Bach Society. Tim is an assistant conductor for the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choirs, and music director of the Throckmorton Theatre Chorus. He has performed and/or recorded with Artists’ Vocal Ensemble, Briget Boyle, Chalice Consort, Foreignfire, Iron Henry, Katy Stephan, Kronos Quartet, Marin Symphony, Michael Bang, Nick Hours, ODC/Dance, Russian National Orchestra, San Francisco Choral Artists, and others.
Colby Smith has had the privilege of performing across the United States with celebrated ensembles such as New York Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, New Century Chamber Orchestra, and The Knights while at the Ojai Music Festival. Her interest in new music was sparked in 2008 while performing at the Spoleto Festival in Anthony Davis’ opera Amistad. As a member of Volti since 2012, she has continued to explore the complexity of new music and joy of collaborating with composers. A proud New Jersey native, Colby earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Westminster Choir College.
Blythe Tai is a mezzo-soprano who has been singing with Bay Area choirs for over 25 years. In addition to Volti, she currently sings with the chamber choir Convivium. Recently, she has been an ensemble member and featured soloist with local groups such as Opera San Jose, Bay Area Classical Harmonies, the San Francisco Lyric Chorus, and Waffle Opera. Blythe is also an active volunteer for music arts organizations and was a founding member of Opera Theater Unlimited. Blythe studied music and English at the
Celeste Winant, in addition to Volti performs regularly with American Bach Soloists, Gaude, Philharmonia Chorale, and Vajra Voices. Her voice has been described by SF Classical Voice as “attractive”, “a true, rich alto.” She toured with SF Lyric Opera’s critically-acclaimed production of David Lang’s the little match girl passion in Denmark, and was featured in the vocal octet for Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia with the UC Davis Symphony in 2015. She has also recently soloed with the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, North Valley Chamber Chorale (Chico), Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, and the Stanford University Singers. In addition to her singing, Celeste received her Ph.D. in physics in 2003 and presently is a research programmer in formal demography at UC Berkeley.