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.
GRAMMY® nominated conductor Christopher Maunu is the Director of Choral Activities at Arvada West High School. A passionate teacher, Mr. Maunu was 1 of 10 Finalists for the 2018 Music Educator Award at the 60th GRAMMY® Awards. 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 was one of two high school mixed concert choirs in the nation invited to perform at the 2017 National American Choral Directors Association Conference in Minneapolis. They were also winners of the 2017-2018 American Prize in Choral Performance. In addition, he has had nine invitations to perform at the Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic/Conference since 2009. Mr. Maunu received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Northern State University where he delivered the 2018 Commencement Address. He was also a recipient of a Commendation from the House of Representatives for his work as a choral educator.
Christopher has enjoyed serving as a clinician for honor choirs in numerous states, including an upcoming appearance as guest conductor for the 2018 South Dakota All State Choir Leadership Festival. An active member of NAfME, CMEA, and ACDA, Christopher currently serves as the High School Chair for Colorado ACDA and is a past member of 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 final 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 Concert Choir and 100-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
Described as “vibrant and full-voiced” (The Denver Post) and praised for her “tangy, nut-brown mezzo” (Opera News), Leah Creek Biesterfeld appears frequently as a soloist along the Front Range. Recent engagements included an appearance as alto soloist in Bach’s BWV 80 Ein Feste Burg with Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and as alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah with Colorado Bach Ensemble. Named a National Winner of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Ms. Creek Biesterfeld has accumulated numerous performance credits in opera, performing leading roles with New York City Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Colorado, Santa Fe Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Syracuse Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Utah Festival 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, selections from Bach’s Notebook of Anna Magdalena, and Monteverdi’s Beatus vir and Dixit Dominus with Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, and Bach’s BWV 106 Actus Tragicus with Seicento Baroque Ensemble. Ms. Creek Biesterfeld made her Carnegie Hall debut with Mid-America Productions as a soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and returned twice as the mezzo-soprano soloist in the Duruflé Requiem and the Mozart Requiem. Ms Creek Biesterfeld earned a Master of Music in Voice from Indiana University and trained at some of the country’s leading Young Artist Programs, including Santa Fe Opera and Wolf Trap Opera. 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. They are the co-executive directors of the Colorado Suzuki Institute, re-opening in June 2019, which provides an intensive, week-long experience in beautiful Copper Mountain, Colorado working with some of the country’s leading Suzuki educators. Additionally, they are the co-executive directors of it’s“sister” program, the Colorado Vocal Institute, which runs congruently and offers a week of vocal study for high school students interested in majoring in voice in college.
BIO COMING SOON
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. Ingrid is thrilled to be joining St. Martin’s Chamber Choir for her first season. She also regularly sings with the Denver based Anima Chamber Ensemble and Colorado Bach Ensemble. In addition to singing in ensembles, Ingrid most recently performed the role of Arsamene as an alumnus in Colorado State University’s production of Handel’s Serse and performed the cover of Jo in Mark Adamo’s Little Women at the University of Northern Colorado. She also 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. 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.
Chelsea Kendall earned her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Anderson University in Indiana, where she discovered her passion for choral music. At AU, she had the great fortune to travel all across the U.S. and Europe with the AU Chorale, as well as perform both chorus and lead roles in several operas and musicals. She then taught secondary band and choir for three years before completing a Master’s of Music in Choral Conducting at Colorado State University, where she was the assistant conductor of the CSU Chamber Choir and Concert Choir. A Colorado native, Chelsea is thrilled to be singing with Anima this year, along with other semi-professional choirs, including St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, Evans Choir, and Rocky Mountain Chamber Singers. When she’s not singing or conducting, she enjoys working as a freelance copy editor, spending time with her nieces and nephew, rock climbing, and snuggling with her dog, Shortcake.
Kate Klotz is almost a Colorado native, having lived here since the 2nd grade. She teaches elementary general music and choir in the Boulder Valley School District and specializes in teaching beginning vocal technique and music literacy. She holds a Master’s of Music with Kodály specialization from Colorado State University and received her undergraduate degree in Music Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Kate’s passion is working with children’s choirs, and she currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Boulder Children’s Chorale. She has been a guest instructor, clinician and choral adjudicator for the Boulder Valley, St. Vrain, Spokane and Omak School Districts, as well as the Aspen Music Festival. Kate has presented at numerous local and regional conferences and has performed with the Boulder-based Cantabile Singers, Colorado Conductor’s Chorale, and the Spokane Symphony Chorale. Kate is also the Children’s Choirs R&R Chair for the Colorado Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association. She resides in Louisville with her husband and enjoys yoga, gardening and soaking up the Colorado sunshine.
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 Co
lorado 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.
A frequent soloist along the Front Range, Cody has been featured with such groups as the Colorado Bach Ensemble, CSU Symphony Orchestra, Fort Collins Chamber Orchestra, and the Fort Collins Symphony. Cody has performed such roles as Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Alfred in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Camille in Die lustige Witwe, Basilio in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Male Chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Duke in Rigoletto, and Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore.
His competition credits include winning the Intermountain Region of the 2018 NATSAA Competition, the 2015 Arkansas District Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, singing as a finalist in the 2014 Madame Rose Palmai-Tenser competition, participating in the national round of the 2014 Classical Singer competition in San Antonio, TX, and winning the graduate men’s category at the 2014 Southern Regional NATS competition.
Cody has been seen as an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera, and in mainstage performances with the Natchez Festival of Music, FestivalSouth, Emerald City Opera, Opera Fort Collins, Mississippi Opera, and Mobile Opera. Some of his most recent performances include featured appearances with the Fine Tuned Society of Boulder, Greeley Philharmonic, Opera Fort Collins, and New Saint Andrews College.
Cody recently finished teaching appointments at Front Range Community College, Colorado State University, Magnolia Music in Fort Collins, Colorado, and New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. He currently resides in Longmont, Colorado, where he maintains a private studio, and makes feeble attempts at being hip by doing yoga and using essential oils. His obsessions include his beautiful new daughter, Madison Hope, good beer, and the Colorado scenery.
Melissa Menter attended St. Olaf College where she majored in Political Science and Russian Studies, and studied voice and sang with the St. Olaf Choir under Dr. Anton Armstrong. After college, she moved with her husband from Minnesota to Colorado to attend law school and get her LL.M. in Taxation. In 1997, along with her husband and some close friends, she started the choral group Kantorei, and has been singing with them and serving on the Board of Directors or on various committees in some capacity ever since. Melissa works as a tax consultant for multinational corporations, but her passion is and always has been music. Melissa and her husband have three children, and it is a joy to watch how they are all embracing both vocal and instrumental music in their lives.
Over the years, Melissa has had the good fortune to be able to sing throughout the United States and Europe in breathtaking and iconic venues, but it is the comparatively small and impromptu music-making in living rooms and pubs that reinforce to her, no matter how busy she may be, she can never let music take a back seat in her life. Melissa is grateful to Anima for allowing her to put music in the driver’s seat this spring.
Mac Merchant studied at CU Boulder for his Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano and graduated May 2017, having studied with Alexandra Nguyen and Margaret McDonald. He received his bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from Whitworth University and his master’s degree in Piano Performance from Washington State University. At the age of 14, he realized he could get paid to do something he loved when he was hired for his first church job. Since then, Mac has collaborated with numerous musicians, choral and instrumental ensembles, and theater groups in both Washington state and Colorado. One of Mac’s favorite gigs was playing a keyboard part in the national touring production of Wicked as well as collaborating with various choirs in his various graduate schools. Currently Mac is a vocal coach for undergraduate singers at CU as well as a freelance collaborative pianist and accompanist in the Denver/Boulder area. Mac’s wife, Sarah, is a pastor in Boulder; Mac and Sarah are happy parents to their 2 year old daughter, Lydia Grace, and are expecting a little boy in October, 2018. Mac is looking forward to a great year of collaborating with Anima and all of these great musicians.
BIO COMING SOON
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!
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 h
is 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.