“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 currently.
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.
Lauren Biglow, mezzo, is a graduate of Northwestern University (B.M. Voice and Opera Performance, B.A. Spanish) and of Middlebury College (M.A. Spanish Linguistics, M.A. Translation and Interpretation). She studied under—and later worked with—Dr. Donald Nally in the Chicago area, also singing with The Crossing as a fellow of the Big Sky Choral Initiative. Her first professional choral work was with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, CSO MusicNOW, Grant Park Symphony, and the Chicago Bach Project. Nowadays, Lauren performs with Convivium Choir (dir. Eric Tuan) and the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra, played the roles of Sister Berthe and Frau Schmidt in The Sound of Music at Hillbarn Theatre (December 2023), and will get to sing in Spanish with Opera San José in Florencia en el amazonas (ensemble, Spring 2024).
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 is a multi-faceted musician who seeks to dissolve boundaries of all kinds through his work. Recent projects include touring with ODC/Dance as a guest performer in KT Nelson’s Path of Miracles, and creating roles in Anne Hege’s “laptopera” The Furies with SLOrk (Stanford Laptop Orchestra) and Lisa Mezzacappa’s serial podcast opera The Electronic Lover. As a member of composer/choreographer Meredith Monk’s Vocal Ensemble, he has performed internationally and recorded for ECM Records. He has appeared as a soloist with the Oakland and Golden Gate Symphony Orchestras, performed on SF Symphony’s American Mavericks Festival, and sings regularly with the nine-person chamber ensemble Clerestory. He has performed with Volti since 2000. sidneychenarts.com
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.
Mezzo-soprano Megan D’Andrea completed her vocal technique and performance training at the University of Puget Sound under Dr. Lehmann & Dr. Padula and continued her studies with Matthew Worth at the SF Conservatory of Music. Megan performed her first role as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Manhattan Opera Studio and was a Young Artist in the CoOperative intensive program. She has been a member of both the Opera San Jose and West Bay Opera choruses, sang in San Francisco Symphony Chorus as well as Convivium, and recently was the mezzo soloist at the Swedenborgian Church.
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.
Samuel Faustine performs a wide variety of genres, from baroque opera to modern musical theater. He has been seen in leading role with Lamplighters, Pocket Opera, San Jose Stage, Ray of Light Theatre, Broadway by the Bay, and Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre, and has sung concert and oratorio solos with SF Symphony, California Bach Soloists, and San Jose Symphonic Choir, among others. In the Bay Area choral community, Sam has sung with Volti, SF Symphony Chorus, Cappella SF, Gaude, and Grace Cathedral. Sam also enjoys singing pop, barbershop, folk and jazz. This summer, he will be featured in the new opera Elizabeth Cree at West Edge Opera. http://samfaustine.com/
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.
Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, soprano and composer Victoria Fraser holds advanced degrees from the SF Conservatory of Music, University of Notre Dame, and University of Limerick in Ireland. She regularly performs with Philharmonia Baroque Chorale, American Bach Soloists, Volti, and as a soloist with California Bach Society. Victoria has sung under the direction of Masaaki Suzuki, Helmut Rilling, Matthew Halls, John Nelson, Craig Hella Johnson, and Jeffrey Thomas. Victoria’s compositions explore children’s literature, astro-physics, and the sacred. Her music often incorporates the work of dancers and other visual artists. She is a founding member of turas, a symphonic-folk duo weaving together classical, folk, trad, and pop music. Born to a mountaineer father, Victoria loves to ski, hike, and SCUBA dive. She is a proud member of the South End Rowing Club and can often be seen rowing on the bay at sunrise. victoriafrasersoprano.com
American-Filipino Tenor Kevin Gino is proud and excited to join Volti during this season. Originally from Los Angeles, Gino has been privileged to sing with ensembles such as Cal Bach Society, Marin Baroque, Pocket Opera, Ars Minerva, the SF Opera Chorus, and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra since he moved to San Francisco. A proud alumnus of the SF Conservatory of Music and Music Academy of the West, Kevin enjoys discovering works that challenge him, old and new. When he isn’t creating, he is at home playing video games or outside enjoying his coffee in the beautiful Bay Area.
Jessica House Steward
Korean-American soprano Jessica House Steward has sung with Volti since 2021. She has been recognized for her voice’s outstanding flexibility, range, and warm, yet vibrant timbre. Jessica made her Carnegie Hall debut singing the world premiere of two song cycles by composer Gerald Busby. She has received performance awards from Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, National Opera Association, and The National Society of Arts & Letters. Jessica holds vocal performance degrees from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Manhattan School of Music. She is the executive director of SF Choral Society and lives in Oakland with her husband Lee and their two teenage daughters.
Tenor Michael Jankosky recently made his solo debut with SF Symphony in Mendelssohn’s Second Symphony “Lobgesang” under Sir Andras Schiff, which he was praised for “an arresting depiction of the cantata’s dramatic climax.” (SF Chronicle) He has performed as a soloist with the SF Choral Society, Cantata Collective, and the Diablo Symphony Orchestra. He is a member of the SF Opera Chorus, the SF Symphony Chorus, Capella SF, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale. Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, he is an avid cyclist and has been staying sane & healthy during this pandemic by getting outside.
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.
Emily Ryan Kusnadi
Emily Ryan Kusnadi, alto, has performed with Volti for over ten seasons and is excited to continue collaborating with this group of artists. Since singing as a child with the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Emily has served in a variety of roles with that organization and is currently a Director of the SFGC Prep Chorus. She works with the school partnership program of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, bringing music education into elementary schools in Richmond, CA. Additionally, she is on faculty at the Pacific Boychoir Academy, where she teaches musicianship at the day school and directs after-school choirs. Emily sings with the Schola Cantorum octet of the Cathedral of Christ the Light and was a founding member of the chamber ensemble Endersnight.
A professional choral singer in his hometown of San Francisco, tenor John Mansfield has performed throughout the Bay Area with many choral ensembles, including the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Cappella SF, PBO, and SF Renaissance Voices. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Music Education and teaching credential from San Francisco State University, John was hired by the San Francisco Unified School District. He currently teaches instrumental and general music to students ranging in age from kindergarten to eighth grade. During the pandemic, many of his original songs were featured on KTVU’s “SF Loves Learning” television show. When he isn’t teaching or performing classically, John enjoys playing in his band, “The Letterboxers.”
Born and raised in Berkeley, Christopher Martin, baritone, spent ten years singing in the San Francisco Girls Chorus before moving to Minnesota for his undergraduate degree. He recently graduated from St. Olaf College with a Bachelor of Music degree in Composition and Choral Church Music, and he is very grateful to return to Bay Area weather. This season, Chris can also be found singing regularly at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, working with the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and composing for various commissions. Outside of music, he is proud to volunteer with the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, in support of youth in the dependency court system.
Soprano Andrea Mich developed her love for music through singing and playing flute in church and learning old Romanian hymns from her grandmother. She 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 frequently 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 in the biotechnology industry, and does her own experiments through baking pastries and cakes.
Bass-baritone Eric Newell, hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, is the Director of Choirs at the Kirby School in Santa Cruz, where he conducts four ensembles and teaches various other music classes. He has sung in a variety of solo and choral settings, performing with the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, the Atlanta Master Chorale, and at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. Eric has degrees in business administration from Emory University and choral conducting from the University of Georgia, and has enjoyed performing new music on the west coast with Volti since 2020.
Christabel Nunoo is a first-generation Nigerian/Ghanaian-American opera singer and Oakland creative. She first discovered her love for music in her youth as a member of The Young Musicians Program and went on to study classically at The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. As a freelance artist with a background facilitating social justice and social-emotional learning based curriculum with Bay Area youth, Christabel seeks to combine her passion for social justice and arts advocacy. She most recently premiered Michael Abels’ work “At War With Ourselves – 100 Years Of You” with poetry by Nikky Finney alongside Kronos Quartet and is currently exploring the intersection of sound healing through the classical canon and creative storytelling in hopes to facilitate healing within her community and inspiring active change-makers in society. She owes her dedicated passion for the arts to her late mother, who always pushed her to find her niche.
Jefferson Packer is currently the Bass Soloist at Calvary Presbyterian Church, and a member of Jeffrey Thomas’s American Bach Choir. He has performed as soloist with Marin Baroque, San Francisco Renaissance Voices, and the Lesbian Gay Chorus of San Francisco, and has sung with the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and many other church and synagogue music programs. Jefferson is also an active vocal accompanist and coach, holding a Masters Degree in Piano Performance from San Francisco State University. He lives in San Francisco with his husband Marcel, a violist, and their Corgi mix Figaro.
Rachel Rush, mezzo-soprano, has sung with Volti since 2013. 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 25 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 (he/him) was born and raised in the East Bay. When he’s not making art, he’s playing with plants. He sings regularly with Volti, Gaude, and San Francisco Symphony Chorus. He has appeared as a soloist at the Berkeley Early Music Festival with California Bach Society. As an educator, Tim has worked with Bay Area choirs for over ten years, serving in vocal coaching, theory instruction, and conducting roles for the San Francisco Boys Chorus, Throckmorton Theatre Chorus, Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choirs, and Pacific Boychoir Academy. An active collaborator and versatile performer, 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 many 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.
Mark Sumner, bass-baritone, is happy to return to Volti after a more than twenty year absence. Leaving singing and teaching careers in Dallas, Tulsa and Los Angeles, he has now retired after twenty-five years as Director of Choral Ensembles at UC Berkeley. He continues as Director of Music at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco. He has sung with Dallas, Tulsa, Los Angeles and USC Opera; Cappella SF; Los Angeles Master Chorale and many other ensembles. He has also been involved as a performer and director in companies such as Dallas Repertory Theatre and the San Francisco Playhouse. His passions include tennis, competitive bridge, fitness, classic film and being a newlywed.
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 University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a proud alumna of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir.
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.