A native of Frederick, South Dakota, Christopher Maunu is a conductor, educator, and professional singer based in the Denver-Metro area. He is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Anima Chamber Ensemble.
Christopher is the Director of Choral Activities at Arvada West High School. Since starting his career at Arvada West in 2006, the department has grown from 120 to over 300 students and has received national acclaim. Arvada West’s Vocal Showcase is one of two high school mixed choirs in the nation invited to perform at the 2017 National American Choral Director’s Association Conference in Minneapolis. In addition, he has had seven invitations to perform at the Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic/Conference since 2009. Mr. Maunu is currently a National Quarterfinalist for the 2017 GRAMMY® Music Educator Award. An active member of NAfME, CMEA, and ACDA, Christopher also enjoys serving his fellow educators of Colorado through participation on various boards. He currently serves as the Men’s Choir Chair for Colorado ACDA and on the CMEA Vocal Music Council.
In addition to working with Anima Chamber Ensemble and teaching, Mr. Maunu sings professionally with various Denver-based ensembles. Such groups include St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Evans Choir, and Colorado Bach Ensemble. He has also performed with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Central City Opera, and Opera Omaha.
Christopher holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Bachelor of Music Education from Northern State University in South Dakota. When not on the podium or singing in an ensemble, Christopher enjoys sharing his life with his beautiful wife Aleisha, and their pets, Paavo and Ligeti.
Nathan Payant, baritone, is a passionate and dedicated conductor, educator and professional singer living in the Denver-metro area. He is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Anima Chamber Ensemble.
Most recently, Nathan completed his tenth and final year as the Director of Choirs at Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, CO, where he directed five different choral ensembles and was the vocal director for the yearly musical. During his tenure at Bear Creek, the program doubled in size and three different ensembles were invited to perform at the Colorado Music Educators Association clinic/conference. Currently, Nathan is in the second year of his Doctoral program in Choral Conducting and Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Colorado State University, where he directs the 90-person University Chorus.
In addition to his work with Anima, teaching and his studies, Nathan sings professionally throughout the course of the year in numerous other Denver ensembles including St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Evans Choir and Colorado Bach Ensemble, for which he also serves as the Chorus Personnel Manager. He is also an active member of NAfME, CMEA, ACDA, is a past Metro Governor on the Colorado All-State Choir board, a past District 2 Representative on the Vocal Music Council of CMEA, and has served as an honor choir clinician and music festival adjudicator on numerous occasions. Currently, Nathan serves on the the Colorado ACDA Council as the Women’s Choir R&R Chair.
Nathan holds a Master of Choral Conducting degree from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. When he is not teaching or singing, Nathan enjoys spending time with the loves of his life: his wife, Natalie, and three daughters, Faythe, Ava and Lilian.
Elise Greenwood Bahr
Elise Greenwood Bahr has been active in the Denver choral music scene since moving to Colorado in 2011. She is thrilled to be singing with Anima Chamber Ensemble again this season. She also sings with the Colorado Bach Ensemble, Saint Martin’s Chamber Choir, and has performed with Singers Chamber Choir, Vittoria Ensemble, and with other local community and church choirs. Before moving to Denver, she appeared in various productions around the country, including serving as a Principal Singer with the Bach Society of St Louis, lead roles with Hartford Opera Theater, and a singer with the Alabama Symphony Chorus in Birmingham. She holds a Master’s of Music in Vocal Performance from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Utah. Elise is also a fine violinist and has performed in professional, church, community, and university ensembles in 3 different states. When not involved in musical activities, she enjoys running marathons, and trying to keep up with her four wonderful children. Sometimes it feels like the same thing.
Leah Creek Biesterfeld
Leah Creek Biesterfeld, mezzo-soprano, received a Master of Music in Voice from Indiana University and was named a national winner of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. During her career as a professional opera singer, she performed leading roles with New York City Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Colorado, Santa Fe Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Syracuse Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera. Solo concert appearances include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Boulder Philharmonic, Mozart’s Requiem with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, and Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with Philadelphia Chamber Chorus, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and selections from Bach’s Notebook of Anna Magdalena with Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado. Ms. Creek Biesterfeld made her Carnegie Hall debut with Mid-America Productions as a soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and has returned there as a soloist in the Duruflé Requiem and the Mozart Requiem. In addition to her solo work, Ms. Creek Biesterfeld sings with St. Martin’s Chamber Choir and the Colorado Bach Ensemble. She and her husband co-direct Petite Musician, an early childhood music and movement program that offers Music Together classes in the greater Denver area.
Juliane Dowell holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Westminster Choir College. She has since taught music at the primary and secondary levels and has sung with several semi-professional vocal ensembles in the area, including Ars Nova in Boulder and Kantorei in Denver. Juli recently completed her master’s at Johns Hopkins University, served as the Children’s Choir Repertoire and Standards chair on the Colorado ACDA board. She also served as the Director of Training Choirs with the Denver Children’s Choir for 5 years. Currently, she works both as the Communications Manager and the Director of Children and Youth Music at Bethany Lutheran Church. Juli is absolutely thrilled to be singing with Anima for the first time this year!
After relocating to Denver from the Midwest in 2015 by his employer, John Deere, Matt is a relative newcomer to the Denver choral music scene. He has since decided to make Denver his long-term home. Matt grew up in Valparaiso, IN, where he attended Valparaiso University and studied both music and mechanical engineering. Matt also has an MBA from the University of Chicago. While studying at Valpo, Matt had the opportunity to sing under the direction of Dr. Christopher Cock. He also sang with the Bach Institute at Valparaiso University, performing multiple major J. S. Bach works including both St. Matthew Passion and the Mass in B Minor with guest conductors Helmuth Rilling and Christoph Wolff. From 2012 to 2014 while living in Iowa, Matt sang under Dr. Tim McMillin with the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble. Matt has been a member of Kantorei here in Denver since 2015. He will also be singing with Colorado Bach Ensemble during their upcoming 2017-2018 season.
Praised by the Dallas Morning News for his “appealingly rich baritone” and “sensitive singing”, Aaron Harp is building a reputation around the nation as a stylistic performer of early music. Recent solo engagements include performances of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Mass in B minor, and Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, and Mozart’s Requiem.
He has performed with many noted ensembles, including Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Orpheus Chamber Singers, Bach Society Houston, Dallas Bach Society, and Orchestra of New Spain. He has been featured in performances at the Bachfest Leipzig, Boston Early Music Festival, Berkeley Early Music Festival, and American Bach Soloists Festival.
Aaron spent the last five years directing choirs at the secondary level and recently relocated to Colorado to pursue a doctorate in choral conducting at the University of Colorado Boulder. He graduated with a Master of Music degree in vocal performance and choral conducting from the University of North Texas where he studied with Jennifer Lane and Stephen Morscheck and performed extensively with the university’s ensembles. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Ouachita Baptist University in vocal performance.
Aaron spends the rest of his time with his lovely wife, Chelsea, and three beautiful daughters: Evelyn, Jane, and Clara.
Colorado native mezzo-soprano Ingrid Johnson, is an alumnus of Colorado State University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Music (vocal performance), and a minor in Fashion Merchandising. She recently performed the role of Cherubino in Boulder Symphony’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro and Desiree in the Ralph Opera Center’s production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Ingrid is thrilled to be joining the chorus of the Colorado Bach Ensemble for her second year. In addition in Summer 2016, Ingrid joined Emerald City Opera’s Young Artist Program as the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, cover of Agnes the Digger in Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and chorus in Daniel Catan’s Florencia en el Amazonas. Previous operatic roles include Mrs. Page understudy in Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Prince Orlovsky in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Hänsel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo, La Primera Cercatrice in Puccini’s Suor Angelica and the Sixth Spirit in Massenet’s Cendrillon. Ingrid won Singer of the Year in 2016 and the Charles and Reta Ralph Undergraduate Scholarship in 2015 at CSU’s Singer of the Year Scholarship Competition and has placed consistently in the Colorado/Wyoming NATS competition. Ingrid frequently performs as a Studio Artist with Opera Fort Collins in productions such as Cosi fan Tutte, Daughter of the Regiment and chorus role in Verdi’s Otello.
Katy Lushman is an active conductor, clinician, and singer in the Denver area. The Vocal Music Director at Denver North High School, her choirs have performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and throughout Colorado. As co-founder of Vocal COalition, Katy works to build bridges between cultural communities throughout Denver by connecting local artists of all genres with youth through song. In the summer, Katy is the Festival Director of the Ad Astra Music Festival, a month-long classical music festival that celebrates community in rural western Kansas by presenting over a dozen performances with professional musicians from across the country. Katy serves as a regional vocal chair for the Colorado Music Education Association and has presented conference interest sessions around cultural and musical inclusivity and innovations in choral music education.
Katy moved to Denver in 2013 after completing a M. Music degree in Choral Conducting with Dr. Joe Miller at Westminster Choir College in Princeton NJ, during which time she sang with some of the finest orchestras in the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic (Rattle), London Philharmonia (Salonen), Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra (Dudamel), New York Philharmonic (Gilbert), and others. Prior to returning to graduate school, Katy taught in schools in Ohio, Switzerland and China. She completed a B. Music degree in Music Education at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. In addition to singing with the Anima Chamber Ensemble, Katy performs regularly with the St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Evans Choir, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and as a part of Sorelle, a folk music trio she began with two of her dearest friends. Katy has finally capitulated to her husband’s greatest wish, for her to take up mountain biking, which she enjoys along with yoga and hikes with her pup, Sky.
BIO COMING SOON
Marie Mathis is the accompanist for Anima Chamber Ensemble.
She originally hails from Japan, where she first began to study piano. She graduated from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music with a Master of Music degree in piano performance. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in piano performance from Colorado Christian University. While at the University of Denver she performed with several ensembles such as the Lamont Symphony Orchestra and Lamont Wind Ensemble. Groups and companies Marie has since performed with include the Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Vittoria Ensemble, Fearless Theatre, and the Colorado Wind Ensemble. Marie has also accompanied choirs at Bear Creek High School, Dakota Ridge High School, and the Lamont School of Music. She has performed several times at the annual Princeton Peak Piano Retreat and taken masterclasses with pianist Jo Boatright. Marie enjoys spending her free time with her husband Stephen, and has a deep appreciation for cats.
Sara Michael was born and raised in Denver, CO. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in vocal performance from Goshen College in Indiana, she tried on a few different cities for size, including Philadelphia, where she sang with Singing City and fronted a funk-jam band called Cornbread. Sara came back to Colorado in the year 2000 and has since performed as a soloist and/or chorus member with various groups and ensembles, including Colorado Bach Ensemble, Opera on Tap, SOAR, Augustana Chancel and Chamber Choirs, and Dr. Howard Skinner’s annual Choral Fest. In addition to Anima, Sara currently sings with Kantorei (where she also serves as administrative assistant, librarian, and soprano section leader) and Wellshire Presbyterian’s Sanctuary Choir and Celebration Singers. Sara has also performed with local theatre companies, including Equinox, 11 Minutes, Paper Cat, and Littleton Town Hall Arts Center. Sara enjoys sewing and crocheting things, reading, and spending time with her husband, Jeremiah, and daughter, Raven.
Westin Sorrel is currently the Director of Choral Music at Dakota Ridge High School. He earned his Bachelors of Music degree from the School of Music at Colorado State University where he studied Vocal Music Education following the Performance Enhancement Track. During his time at CSU, Westin sang with the CSU Chamber Choir, University Chorus, Men’s Chorus, and the Charles and Reta Ralph Opera Center with which he held several lead roles. He also spent 3 years singing with the Fort Collins community group Laudamus Chamber Chorale. While at CSU, Westin was involved with the Collegiate National Association for Music Educators (CNAfME), Students National Association for Teachers of Singing (SNATS), and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). Westin currently remains an active member of both NAfME and ACDA. In the summer of 2015, Westin had the honor of spending two weeks in Italy at the Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop where he got to work with world renowned conductor, Simon Carrington. In the past, Westin has worked with students at Fort Collins High School, Rock Canyon High School, and Bear Creek High School. In addition to singing with Anima, Westin currently sings with the Colorado Bach Ensemble, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, and Bethany Lutheran Chancel Choir.
Brian arrived in Colorado by way of the Pacific Northwest in 2008 in order to attend graduate school at CU Boulder. Since finishing his Master of Music in choral conducting, Brian has been teaching choirs in public high schools. Brian returned to CU Boulder in Fall 2016 to begin a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting and literature. In addition to teaching and conducting choral music, Brian is active as a professional singer, appearing with St. Martin’s Chamber Choir and the Evans Choir in addition to Anima Chamber Ensemble. Brian serves as Music Director for Cantabile Singers, a community ensemble in Boulder, and as the Choir Director at First Unitarian Society of Denver. In the summers, Brian has worked and studied at the Oregon Bach Festival as a conductor, singer, and most recently as the Chorus Manager for the Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, an honor choir for aspiring and talented high school singers. Additionally, Brian has appeared as an choral adjudicator and clinician across Colorado. In his free time, Brian enjoys getting outside hiking, fishing, and skiing with his beautiful wife Emily and their lovable handful of a dog, Bear.
Laura hails from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she earned degrees in trumpet and voice performance at Western Michigan University and lived in her father’s violin shop. She moved to Colorado in September 2014 after many years of daydreaming about the Rocky Mountains and the sunny bluebird sky that makes the Denver area so special. Thrilled with the active choral scene, Laura has performed with the St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Colorado Bach Ensemble, Colorado Opera Chorus, Colorado Symphony Chorus, Denver Pro Chorale, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Choir, Canto Deo, Wellshire Presbyterian Sanctuary Choir and Celebration Singers, Denver Jingle Singers, and the Vittoria Ensemble. She is also a Colorado Honor Band instructor and enjoys teaching younger students. Along with her deep passion of music (which includes an extremely vast array of genres), Laura loves riding her bike, hiking, taking pictures, yoga, and feeling grateful – especially for colors, tomatoes, and friends.
Matthew Weissenbuehler has been involved in Colorado music for many years. From his early days with the Colorado Children’s Chorale to the present he has performed often as soloist or part of a choral ensemble. He has appeared in roles with Opera Colorado and Colorado Opera Troupe. He has performed the roles of Horace Tabor (The Ballad of Baby Doe), Marcello (La Boheme) and Guglielmo (Cosi fan Tutte) at the Black Box Opera Workshop in Aurora. He studied music at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where he performed as a soloist with the Wartburg Choir and Chamber Orchestra of Iowa. Other solo opportunities have been varied, from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, to the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah, to the national anthem at a Rockies baseball game. Mr. Weissenbuehler has performed in recital a number of times in Denver.
Choral music remains his favorite performing opportunity, however. He has sung as a member of the Colorado Symphony Chorus, Opera Colorado Chorus, and in the chorus of the Colorado Bach Ensemble, where he serves on the Board of Directors. He also has been part of Kantorei since its first season, serving as bass section leader for 16 years. Singing with the level of musicians in Anima is a great honor for which he is grateful.