“If you’re gun-shy about new music concerts, this might be just the restorative you need. The singers are superb, and director Robert Geary manages to find his way to the warm heart of even the most challenging modern score.”
— Clark Suprynowicz, Berkeley Daily Planet
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.
Kristina Blehm, mezzo-soprano, earned her bachelor’s in vocal performance from James Madison University and her master’s in opera performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She has sung operatic roles at the Conservatory and with Opera Parallele, Mittelsächsisches Freiberg Theater, and Luray Opera Theater.
Joel Chapman is a conductor, bass-baritone, and songwriter in the Bay Area. In addition to singing new music with Volti periodically since 2012, Joel also sings with Endersnight, a choir specializing in Renaissance music. A sought-after low bass, Joel has made appearances with groups peppered throughout the Bay Area, including the San Mateo Masterworks Chorale, Convivium, California Bach Society, and Stanford Chamber Chorale. A composer and songwriter, Joel is co-creator of Gravity, a new musical most recently seen at the 2016 TheatreWorks New Works Festival in Palo Alto. As an educator, he teaches voice privately and works with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir as a conductor and accompanist. Joel’s new work for TTBB chorus, The Song, poetry by Naomi Shihab Nye, debuted in April with the Fog City Singers. Music direction credits: Sweeney Todd (SFBATCO), The Last Five Years, Sunday in the Park with George, My Fair Lady (Stanford University). Joel is a Stanford graduate and holds a B.A. in Music and M.A. in Music, Science, and Technology. 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. With the San Francisco Symphony he traveled to Carnegie Hall to premiere Monk’s chamber work Realm Variations as part of the 2012 American Mavericks Festival. 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 monumental Sinfonia for 8 voices and orchestra at the Mondavi Center . In 2009 he sang in Carnegie Hall’s 45th-anniversary celebration of Terry Riley’s In C, organized by the Kronos Quartet. He is a co-founder of The M6, a New York-based vocal sextet, and a member of the nine-man 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 including Melissa Dunphy, Ted Hearne, and LJ White as a member of Volti. She made her operatic debut in 2005 at Spoleto Festival U.S.A in the North American premiere of Braunfels’s Die Vogel. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Westminster Choir College. When not singing, Yuhi enjoys cooking and eating cuisines from all around the world, and spending time with her husband Tegan and their two irresistible dogs: Tanuki and Ten.
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 in 2014. There, she was awarded the David S. Saxon Award for Excellence in Early Music Performance and the Fannie Kopald Stein Award for Excellence in Music Performance. Del Simone enjoys performing varied repertoire including recent appearances 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 a soloist with SŌ Percussion at the UC Davis Music and Words Festival. Del Simone is currently a member of San Francisco Renaissance Voices and the soprano section leader at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley.
Peter Dennis is a Bay Area native vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. An alumnus of San Francisco State University’s diverse music department, he 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 he was the recipient of the coveted Edwin Barlow Award for his appearance in that year’s NATS Bay Area singing festival, and he has performed as a soloist with San Francisco’s Phenix Opera Company. He 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. Before moving to San Francisco in 2018, he was a member of New York choir Cantori, performing new commissions and neglected choral works, as well as supporting the American Ballet Theater at the Lincoln Center. He spent six years in Beijing as a chorister and soloist with the International Festival Chorus and Peking Sinfonietta, including China premier performances of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius and Britten’s Spring Symphony. He is also a member of Mandarin Voices, a UK-based group working to raise the profile of Chinese music, performing works such as Xian Xinghai’s Yellow River Cantata and He Shaoying’s Dao at London’s Cadogan Hall. 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, and is also a member of San Francisco Renaissance Voices. A licensed psychotherapist, Monica specializes in school-based mental health services. She combines her passions at The Crowden Music Center, where she is the counselor for musical children and their fabulous faculty. Monica is deeply grateful for the regular opportunity Volti gives her to collaborate with composers in what she considers to be a special form of musical midwifery.
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. When not suited up in lab coat, gloves and goggles, Andrea actively performs throughout the Bay Area as both a soprano and a flautist, most recently singing in the chorus of West Edge Opera’s The Cunning Little Vixen and continuing to play flute in the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.
Rachel Rush, mezzo-soprano, is in her fourth season with Volti. A Bay Area native, she completed her B.A. in music at U.C. Santa Cruz in 2013, where she appeared as a soloist with the UCSC Chamber Singers, Early Music Consort, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Concert Choir, and sang roles including Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte and Jo in Mark Adamo’s Little Women in the UCSC Opera Program. Recently she has appeared with the SF Conservatory’s New Music Ensemble, served as faculty for Volti’s Choral Institute for high school singers, and participated in the American Bach Soloists Academy. Recent Bay Area opera credits include Mrs. Charlton/Ensemble in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking for Opera Parallèle, Ensemble in Milhaud’s Médée at Mills College, and the Gamekeeper’s Wife /the Owl in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen for West Edge Opera.
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 is a proud native of the East Bay. When he’s not making art, he’s playing with plants. After seven years in the classroom as a Pre-Kinder-through-8th-grade music teacher, Tim is moving into choral directing, working as an assistant conductor for the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choirs, and assuming directorship of a tenor-bass ensemble called Chorum. As a singer, he works with Volti, Gaude, and the Throckmorton Theatre Chorus regularly, and frequently works with many other local groups. He will also appear as a guest artist with the California Bach Society to open this year’s Berkeley Early Music Festival. An active collaborator and versatile performer, Tim frequently works with songwriters, helping realize their vision. He recently recorded vocals for Briget Boyle, and will be heavily featured on her second album, due for release in September. He also co-produced Katy Stephan’s album, due for release this summer. After releasing an album with folk trio Iron Henry, Tim is embarking on his first solo project.
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.
Caitlin Tabancay Austin
Caitlin Tabancay Austin holds a BA in Music History from UCLA, where she studied Bulgarian folk singing with Tzvetanka Varimezova. From 2008-2018 she sang East European folk and art music with Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, working with traditional songmasters, teachers, and collaborators including: Svetlana Spajic, Mariana Sadovska, Nato Zumbadze, Ethel Raim, Hasmik Harutyunyan, Eric Banks, and Meredith Monk. She directed “The Lab,” one of Kitka’s community choruses. Caitlin debuted as a composer in 2017, scoring and performing in Theater Mundi’s adaptation of The Maids by Jean Genet. She writes and plays with her folk band Iron Henry. She currently sings with Gaude, and has sung with the Austin-Tabancay Family Band, 20 Minute Loop, Briget Boyle, Cappella SF, Euouae, Star of the Sea motet choir, and SF Choral Artists. Vocal theater performances include Roses Are Blue (Ramon and Jessica) and Philia (Crittenden/Rattray). In 2012 she participated in Double Edge Theatre’s Immersion Program, and in 2014 she led the Redwood Choir, an experimental outdoor song-movement group. Caitlin studied massage therapy at McKinnon Body Therapy Center and became a Certified Massage Therapist in 2017. She practices bodywork in Oakland at Bayan Roots and McKinnon BTC.
Jacob Thompson, tenor, has also performed with Cinnabar Theater, Pocket Opera, Opera on Tap, the Lamplighters, and Opera Academy of California. Jacob received his masters in vocal performance from Colorado State University in 2013, where he sang operatic roles and recitals, taught private voice and music theory, and served as an Apprentice Artist for two seasons with Opera Fort Collins. He has performed many operatic and musical theater roles at university, professionally, and abroad. Jacob spent several summers performing in Europe, appearing in small roles in Carmen, Tosca, and Rigoletto, as well as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Opera Orvieto. Aside from singing, Jacob serves craft beer to the thirsty masses of Uptown Oakland, and tends a flourishing vegetable garden.
Eric Tuan enjoys a varied career as conductor, singer, collaborative pianist, and composer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently on the faculty of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, serves as choirmaster and organist of Christ Church Los Altos, and directs the Silicon Valley chamber choir Convivium. In addition to singing several prior seasons with Volti, Eric has sung professionally with Cappella SF and the Philharmonia Baroque Chorale, and has worked as a staff accompanist for Stanford’s music department. His choral music has been performed by leading Bay Area choral ensembles and is published by E.C. Schirmer. Eric received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University, and completed a Master of Music in Choral Studies at the University of Cambridge with the support of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
Katrina Turman is a Bay Area native and grew up singing with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. She went on to study voice at the University of Oregon under the tutelage of Laura Decher Wayte and Dr. Sharon Paul. After travelling in Europe and performing with the Munich Bach Choir, Ms. Turman returned to California and was introduced to the world of Kodály music education while working for the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. Inspired by the technique, Ms. Turman pursued further musical studies in Kecskemét, Hungary at the Kodály Institute. There, Ms. Turman had the opportunity to study with numerous world-renowned teachers, including advanced choral conducting teacher Péter Erdei and voice teacher Renáta Darázs. Ms. Turman is currently the Level II director for San Francisco Girls Chorus and sings with the ensemble Coro D’Amici in Berkeley and as a soloist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco.
Celeste Winant, mezzo-soprano, in addition to Volti performs regularly with American Bach Soloists, Philharmonia Chorale, and Vajra Voices. Her voice has been described by San Francisco Classical Voice as “attractive”, “a true, rich alto.” She toured with San Francisco Lyric Opera’s critically-acclaimed production of David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion in Odense, Denmark, and was featured with other members of Volti in the vocal octet for a rare performance of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra in 2015. Equally at home singing oratorio, she has also recently been a featured soloist with the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, North Valley Chamber Chorale (Chico, CA), 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.