Learn More About the Singers
Melissa Auvil, Soprano
Melissa Auvil, Soprano, is in her eighth season with SBCS. Originally from Midland, Michigan, Melissa earned her undergraduate degree in Music Education at Central Michigan University and her master’s degree in Voice Performance from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Conservatory of Music and Dance. Melissa teaches at Southwestern Michigan College and runs a private voice studio working with area students from Elkhart, Mishawaka and Goshen. She has performed with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Kansas City Metro Opera, Midland Music Society, Crosscurrents Theatre, six seasons with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Midland, Opera at the Acorn, Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, South Bend Civic Theatre and the Elkhart Community Schools. Melissa also enjoys directing, and has worked locally with both the Beckwith Theatre in Dowagiac, and the Barn Swallow Theatre in Edwardsburg. She lives with her husband and two children in Goshen, Indiana.
Sharon Bain, Soprano Section Leader
Sharon Bain, Soprano Section Leader, first joined SBCS in 1997. She earned her undergraduate degree in American Studies, with a minor in music, from the University of Notre Dame where she studied voice and French horn. Sharon also has a Master of Arts degree in social work from the University of Chicago. She is a married mother of three and works as a counselor at Family Psychology of South Bend, and at the Early Childhood Development Centers of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College. Sharon is a member of the SBCS Board of Directors.
Carrie Bjonback, Alto
Carrie Bjonback, Alto, returns for her tenth season with SBCS. She has been involved in music for as long as she can remember. She was in concert band and sang in the Augustana Oratorio Society throughout high school and college. Wherever she has lived, she has sung in local music groups such as the Larimer Chorale in Fort Collins, Colorado; Ottawa Choral Society in Ottawa, Ontario; and the Regina Philharmonic Chorus in Regina, Saskatchewan. She was a founding member of Dr. Groovy and the Soul Surgeons in La Porte, Indiana. Other than music, she enjoys her work as a family physician and medical acupuncturist in La Porte, Indiana. She is married to a professor at Purdue Northwest University and has two grown children.
Dawn Bontrager, Alto and Secretary
Dawn Bontrager, Alto and Secretary of the South Bend Chamber Singers, is in her thirteenth season with SBCS. Dawn is a native of Northern Minnesota. She earned her undergraduate degree in social work from Goshen College, a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Chicago and a Master of Divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary. Dawn is a licensed clinical social worker, and is in private practice as a mental health therapist in Mishawaka, Indiana. Music has always been central to Dawn’s life. She has been singing all of her life in church choirs, high school and college choirs, as well as in small groups performing in local venues and for special occasions. Dawn lives in Mishawaka with her spouse and has two adult children.
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Ryan Clough, Tenor, grew up on the West Coast, living in all three coast states – Washington, Oregon, and California. Music has always been an important part of Ryan’s life. He graduated with a BA in Music from Walla Walla University, and studied voice with Kandice Dickinson. After graduation, he studied voice privately with Lynn Wickham. Ryan has sung with church, community, and professional choirs, both as chorister and soloist. His solo work has ranged from singing for church, weddings, funerals, and civic memorial events to singing solo recitals, oratorio, opera, and musical theatre. Ryan’s solo opera and musical theater credits include Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Mikado, HMS Pinafore, and Fiddler on the Roof. He has also performed as tenor soloist in Handel’s Messiah, J. S. Bach’s Magnificat, Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s The Seasons, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël. Ryan makes his home in Berrien Springs, Michigan with his wife, Jennifer, and three sons, Sam, Jon, and Ben. He is employed at Andrews University as an accountant and is active with his boys in their youth groups and sports. He joins SBCS this season.
Kendall Dahlstrom, Tenor
Kendall Dahlstrom, Tenor, has been with SBCS since its beginning. He earned a B.A. in psychology and a Master of Divinity in pastoral studies from North Park University and Theological Seminary. He is pastor emeritus of Covenant Community Church of South Bend, where he served from 1984-2005. Musical experiences include high school a cappella choir, barbershop quartet, church choirs, North Park College Choir, Nebraska Choral Arts Society, and Covenant Ministers’ Chorus. In the summer, Ken plays in the Senior Softball League. Recently, Ken became the coordinator of Protestant worship services at the Sanctuary at St. Paul’s – a retirement center. He and his wife, Nancy, recently celebrated 52 years of marriage. They take advantage of every opportunity to visit their daughter and her husband, son and his wife, and their four grandchildren.
Erin Donegan, Soprano
Erin Donegan, Soprano, is the Director of Music for Sacred Heart Parish, and the Assistant Director of the Notre Dame Children’s Choir. She recently completed a master’s degree in sacred music at the University of Notre Dame with an emphasis in choral conducting; her previous degree was in violin performance at the Illinois Wesleyan University School of Music. Enjoying her first season with SBCS, Erin lives in South Bend with her cat, Bonaventure.
Stephen Drendall, Bass Section Leader
Stephen Drendall, Bass Section Leader, is in his twenty-eighth year with SBCS. He received Music and Music Education degrees from Temple University, where he sang under renowned conductor Robert Page and was in the repertory choir for Masters in Choral Conducting students. He has been cantor at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James and St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal (both South Bend), and choir director at Lydick United Methodist and St. Paul’s Episcopal (Mishawaka) Churches. He has soloed with the Elkhart and La Porte Symphonies, and was cantorial soloist for 13 years at Temple Beth-el (South Bend). His “day job” is as a family and consumer lawyer in South Bend, where he also lives. Stephen’s two children are graduates of the University of Notre Dame. He serves as legal advisor to the South Bend Chamber Singers Board of Directors.
Rania El-Kareh, Alto
Rania El-Kareh, Alto, is in her first season with the South Bend Chamber Singers. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Butler University. Her studies were focused on vocal music education, jazz, and conducting. As a student, she became the first Assistant Artistic Director for the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus, and she later joined the Indianapolis Women’s Chorus as a chorister, soloist, and conductor. Rania was an active teacher and performer in Indianapolis during and after college. She taught middle school choir, worked with local marching bands, maintained a private voice studio, and sang with local ensembles such as the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, under the baton of Dr. Eric Stark. Since 2015, Rania has been a Michiana resident working at Conn-Selmer, Inc., the last American manufacturer of band and orchestra instruments. She has a unique role in the company’s Division of Education, growing a VIP network of music educators across America and Canada. She is also very active in the local jazz scene, and regularly sings with bands such as Truth in Jazz and VibeNation.
Melaney Gabris, Alto
Melaney Gabris, Alto, is in her tenth season with SBCS, where she serves as Vice-President. She was with the 126 Army Band in Wyoming, Michigan for ten years as a percussionist/pianist, is currently a member of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, and serves on the music team at Unity of Michiana. She is a field service technician for Procter & Gamble and an Independent Distributor with It Works! Global. Her hobbies include golf, salsa dancing, travel and accompanying her 17 year old daughter, who is also a singer. They have enjoyed performing in musicals and operas together and they reside in South Bend.
Mike Hildreth, Bass
Mike Hildreth, Bass, is a Massachusetts native who has followed academia to the Midwest (South Bend). After earning an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a Ph.D. from Stanford, both in physics, he and his family spent five years in Geneva, Switzerland doing research before returning to the United States where he and his wife joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in 2000. He is currently Professor of Physics and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the Notre Dame College of Science. His research focus is in experimental particle physics, which makes him one of those “atom smasher” guys. Their family consists of a college-age son and a cat. They enjoy cooking, travel, and outdoor activities, including sailing, cycling, and hiking. This is his sixteenth season with SBCS.
Megan Hire, Soprano
Megan Hire, Soprano, hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana. This is her fourth year in the SBCS, and she is very excited for the upcoming season. Currently, Megan works as a substitute teacher for Fort Wayne Community Schools. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Saint Mary’s College, where she also sang in the Women’s Choir. Megan also spent nine years as a singer in the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir under the direction of Fred Meads, former artistic director. In high school, Megan sang in show choir and participated in many of the school’s musicals. Megan’s other interests include traveling, swimming, and watching Notre Dame football.
David L. Homann, Tenor Section Leader
David L. Homann, Tenor Section Leader, has been with SBCS since its first full season. A full-time dad, with only one busy kid still at home, he is constantly on the move in South Bend, serving as a youth group leader, Sunday school teacher, cantor and member of the choir at his church, and managing several rental properties. In between all that, he maintains 12 acres, a large vegetable garden, reads and hits the road to visit his daughters. Dave’s passion is golf and while he’s spent more time on the golf course than ever recently, it has been watching his daughter, not playing. He hopes to add more golf to his bio soon!
Cecilia Horner, Soprano
Cecilia Horner, Soprano, is excited for her second season as a member of SBCS. A high school sophomore, Cecilia studies piano (9 years) with the former accompanist of the SBCS, Kathleen Keasey, and voice (2 ½ years) with Danielle Svonavec. Throughout her years of piano study, she has performed in a number of competitions: the Hartman Stickley Memorial Competition, Hoosier Auditions, Guild Auditions, the AIM festival, and the Gene Marcus piano competition at IPFW. Cecilia has sung as a chorus member in South Bend Lyric Opera’s productions of Puccini’s La Bohème, and Die Fledermaus at LangLab in South Bend. She also had a role in Bethel College’s opera Captain Lovelock and Little Harlequinade. She has done some acting in the past as well, performing in various plays at her church. She’s looking forward to continuing her musical studies in the years to come.
Emily Klug, Alto
Emily Klug, Alto, grew up in Michigan and sang with various ensembles in elementary school, high school and college. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and master’s degree in Business Administration from Central Michigan University. She is currently an IT Manager with Whirlpool Corporation, and enjoys cooking, traveling, reading and running around with her dog, Bella. This is Emily’s eleventh season with SBCS. She and husband, Brad, are residents of South Bend, and are proud parents of son, James, age three and a half.
Mary Ann LaPlante, Alto
Mary Ann LaPlante, Alto, chaplain at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Plymouth, Indiana, completed the Clinical Pastoral Education program at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center after serving as Pastoral Associate for Music and Liturgy at Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend for 30 years. She was born in Massachusetts, taught high school biology, chemistry and physical science and then changed careers by coming to St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Indiana to earn a master’s degree in music and liturgy. She loves nature, which she enjoys with her horse, Lightning, and has Benny and Grace (her two cats) at home. She has been with SBCS since their initial season. Mary Ann resides in South Bend.
Mitchell Lemmon, Bass
This is Mitchell Lemmon’s first season with the SBCS. He was born and raised in Northeastern Nevada and studied Music Education at the University of Nevada, Reno where he was part of the UNR Chamber Choir, Symphonic Choir, and had roles in various productions put on by the UNR Chamber Opera. There, he also served as the music director of the Xi Delta chapter of Phi Mu Alpha. He currently lives in South Bend and works in health insurance.
Eric Lofgren, Tenor
Eric Lofgren, Tenor, is in his first year with SBCS. He hails from Peoria, Illinois where he graduated from Bradley University in 2004. Although his emphasis was in trumpet performance, after college he completed coursework on a masters degree in church music at Concordia University in River Forest, Ill., and went on to be a church musician and choir director. He is currently playing trumpet with the Lake Effect Jazz Big Band and the Andrews University Symphony Orchestra, and plays drumset for his church worship services. Eric is married with three children who, thanks to having a musical dad, have been learning to sit quietly in concerts since birth. In his free time, Eric collects hobbies such as amateur astronomy, raising backyard chickens, woodworking, roasting coffee, and building model rockets.
Steven Mast, Tenor
Steven Mast, Tenor, has been singing with SBCS since 2000. A native of La Porte, Indiana, he was a Michigan resident for 25 years, before recently relocating to New Carlisle, Indiana. Steven earned undergraduate degrees in music and elementary education from Valparaiso University, a Master of Arts degree in reading and literacy studies from Western Michigan University, and a Master of Science degree in counseling and human services from Indiana University. In 2016, he retired after teaching in the Dowagiac, Michigan schools for 25 years. During his teaching career, he taught 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grades, and elementary music. Steven now serves on faculty in the Education Department at Saint Mary’s College, and is Parish Administrator for the Episcopal Cathedral of St.James. Steven enjoys yoga, cooking, travel, and golf. He was a singer in the inaugural Chanticleer in Sonoma Choral Workshop, and is also Administrator for Epworth Forest Choir School, which he has attended since 1984.
Kristin McAndrew, Soprano
Kristin McAndrew, Soprano, returns for her fourth SBCS season. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Saint Mary’s College in Humanistic Studies and English, and her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communication from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She serves as the Director of Admissions for Graduate Business Programs at the University of Notre Dame. Kristin loves cooking, reading, and yoga.
Andrew Nemeth, Tenor
Andrew Nemeth, Tenor, returns to SBCS for a fifth season. Andrew is a lifelong resident of South Bend. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Butler University in 2010, studying choral conducting with Dr. Eric Stark and Henry Leck, and earned his Master of Music degree in Music Education from Boston University in 2016. Andrew is Director of Choirs at Penn High School, where he co-teaches seven choirs. He is also Music Director at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in South Bend. In the little free time he has, he enjoys spending time with family, traveling, roasting his own coffee, and entertaining his cat, Zephyr. He would like to take flying lessons in the near future to attain a private pilot license.
Kara O'Malley, Soprano
Kara O’Malley, Soprano, grew up in the Chicago suburbs, where she took part in a variety of choirs, musicals, and solo competitions. She attended the University of Notre Dame for her undergraduate degree in Accountancy, and quickly followed it up with a master’s degree in Theology. Kara served in Catholic parish ministry for nine years, and she currently ministers to her two children full time. She is also a freelance writer for Catholic publications. She is very excited to have the opportunity to sing with the Chamber Singers for a fifth year.
Betsie Pendarvis, Soprano
Betsie Pendarvis, Soprano, returns for her sixth year with SBCS. She has a bachelor’s degree in Music Theory from Texas Christian University, as well as significant postgraduate study. She served as part-time church choir director in Fort Worth, Texas while raising four children, and then for 21 years, served as Director of Music and Worship for her parish in Salem, Virginia. She and husband, John (also with SBCS), relocated to South Bend to be closer to family. In addition to their daughter in South Bend, Betsie and John have three other adult children in New Orleans, Dallas and New Hampshire. Betsie currently spends her time as interim Music Director for St. Jude Parish in South Bend, volunteering for the Christ Child Society, taking care of her grandchildren, and knitting.
John Pendarvis, Bass
John Pendarvis, Bass, begins his sixth season with SBCS. Recently retired, John moved to South Bend from Roanoke, Virginia to be closer to family, including his five grandchildren. A native of Houston, Texas, John received his BA from Texas Christian University and a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. He spent 33 years in executive leadership positions for Family Service agencies in Texas and Virginia. From his school years on, John has served as a music minister and song leader for a diversity of liturgies, prayer meetings, retreats and conferences, currently serving as a Cantor at St. Joseph Church. He also plays guitar and trumpet. John and his wife, Betsie, (also a member of SBCS) have four adult children in addition to their five grandchildren. He is a tour guide for Sacred Heart Basilica at the University of Notre Dame, is President-elect of the Kiwanis Club of South Bend, and is the current SBCS President.
Ryan Peteraf, Bass
Ryan Peteraf is a conductor, singer, pianist, and music educator. He currently resides in South Bend, IN, where he is in the second year of his masters degree in choral conducting at the University of Notre Dame. Ryan has a passion for working with community and professional ensembles. He enjoys molding the music and teaching every minute detail a score has to offer. Ryan particularly enjoys music of the Classical era. His favorite composers include Mozart and Haydn. Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, and Robert Shaw are major influences in Ryan’s musical career. He currently studies with Carmen-Helena Téllez, and is excited to have the opportunity to work with the South Bend Chamber Singers this year.
Alissa Plenzler, Soprano
Alissa Plenzler joins the SBCS for her first season this year. Originally from South Bend, she recently returned to the city as an adjunct music faculty member at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, IN. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in 2016 from the University of Dayton, and just finished her Master of Music degree in May 2018 at Bowling Green State University. She is also a featured vocalist with the South Bend Lyric Opera, performing the role of Gretel in Hansel and Gretel this fall. She has traveled to Kamuela, Hawaii and Arezzo, Italy for young artist programs and has participated in master classes with such artists as Jake Heggie, Dawn Upshaw, and the great African-American tenor George Shirley. When she is not singing or teaching, she can be found researching and working with African-American composed music, her specialization. She is a member of the African American Art Song Alliance and soon-to-be member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).
Joseph Smith, Bass
Joseph Smith, Bass, sang with the South Bend Chamber Singers for 15 years before 2008 when he moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Now retired from more than 30 years of hospital work as a neuro-diagnostic technologist, and more recently as a sleep lab technologist. He continues healthcare practice as a massage therapist. In high school, he got his start in performing music as a church musician and has continued throughout his life. He now resides in South Bend with his husband. Joe enjoys baking cookies or working outside in the yard, volunteering in soup kitchens or delivering meals.
Claire Stewart, Alto
Claire Stewart, Alto, is excited to return to the SBCS for her third season! She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and English Literature from Saint Mary’s College. During her four years of college, she sang in the Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir and participated in two Madrigal Dinners. As a member of Bellacappella (Saint Mary’s premier a cappella group), she developed a passion for arranging music. A native of the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, she currently lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana and works as an Assistant Manager with Enterprise Holdings, Inc.
Mark Torma, Bass
Mark Torma, Bass, returns for his fifth year in the Chamber Singers after a brief hiatus. He has also sung with the Notre Dame Glee Club and the Washington Men’s Camerata, and has appeared in various and sundry community theater productions, as well. When he’s not rehearsing, he can often be found working as the Director of the Volunteer Lawyer Network, the regional organization that gets lawyers to do their professional duty of providing pro bono legal services. He also writes, edits, and evaluates trivia questions, and often gets to enjoy answering them (just not the same questions). He is married to Charmaine, and has two children, Matthew and Chiara.
Doug Williamson, Bass
Doug Williamson, Bass, is a Montana native who has lived in South Bend for 14 years, and has been with SBCS for 12 ½ seasons. Doug sang with Helena Symphony Chorale in Helena, Montana for ten years prior to moving to South Bend and has had a lot of experience with musical theater and dramatic theater. Recently, Doug appeared in the South Bend Civic Theater’s production of Les Misérables, and has also played the role of Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss in Saint Mary’s production of Candide. Doug is a graduate of Carroll College, Helena, Montana (biology) and works for the South Bend Medical Foundation. His hobbies include landscaping, gardening, cooking, travel, and long walks.
Trevis Young, Bass
Trevis Young, Bass, is Director of Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, La Porte, Indiana. Prior to moving to South Bend, Trevis lived in Clemson, South Carolina, where he served as Director of Music for Clemson United Methodist Church, and was the principal accompanist for the Department of Performing Arts at Clemson University. Growing up in Mason City, Iowa (hometown of Meredith Wilson), Trevis’ musical interests were well nourished. While in high school, he privately studied piano, organ, tuba, and trombone, and was also very active in the high school’s choral program. He continued his study of music at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where he earned a B.A. in music, studying organ performance. After considering a career in organbuilding, Trevis decided to continue his education and earned a Master of Church Music degree from Erskine Seminary in Due West, South Carolina. Trevis has been actively serving as a church musician for over 11 years. He enjoys collecting vintage watches and fountain pens, and spending time with his wife and two young boys exploring the Michiana area. This is Trevis’ initial season with the Chamber Singers.