Learn More About the Singers
Ellis Anderson, Tenor
Ellis Anderson, Tenor, was born in Tennessee but grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a fondness for rainy, overcast days. Ellis currently works for the Notre Dame Sacred Music program, for Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choirs, and for Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. This is his first season with the Chamber Singers.
Fatima Anyekema, Alto
Fatima Anyekema, Alto, is a singer and elementary music teacher with the South Bend Community School Corporation. This is her first season with the Chamber Singers. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and a Master of Sacred Music from the University of Notre Dame. She was formerly a Co-Director of music with the Notre Dame Children’s Choir where she taught music and prepared students for performances. Fatima has been singing in choirs since she was nine years old and has sung with multiple music ensembles both in Nigeria and in the U.S. She was a member of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Choir from 2006 until 2018 when she moved to the United States. She is the Co-Founder of Musica Casa Chorale that participated in the World Choir Games held in South Africa in 2018. Fatima enjoys teaching and working with children. She is passionate about music education and contributing to the development of young people’s singing voices. She comes from a large family of seven and she is the only professional musician. She loves cross country driving, traveling and her own company when she is not entertaining guests.
Melissa Auvil, Soprano
Melissa Auvil, Soprano, is in her twelfth 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 voice 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, as well as the South Bend and Elkhart Civic Theatres. She can be seen as the dance instructor in the independent film “Moondance”. Melissa also enjoys directing, and has worked locally with the Beckwith, Barn Swallow and Elkhart Civic Theatres. 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.
Sarah Blanco, Soprano
Sarah Blanco, Soprano, is excited to be joining SBCS for her first season. Sarah is from Illinois and is twice a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, completing a B.A. in Music with a concentration in Musicology in 2018 and an M.S. in Library and Information Science in 2021. She has been singing in choirs for many years, most recently in the Cathedral Choir at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, WA. Sarah moved to South Bend in August 2021 and is a librarian at IU South Bend.
Breighan Boeskool, Soprano
Breighan Boeskool, Soprano, is in her tenth season with SBCS. She is the Assistant Director of Analytics for the Investment Office at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a B.A. with a concentration in violin performance and a B.B.A. in finance from Saint Mary’s College, as well as a M.M. and Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). Breighan serves on the Finance Committee of the South Bend Symphony and the Investment Committee for the Society for Music Theory, and is Treasurer of the South Bend Chamber Singers. She is a native of White Haven, Pennsylvania, and lives in Granger with her husband and four year-old daughter.
Dawn Bontrager, Alto and President
Dawn Bontrager, Alto and President of the South Bend Chamber Singers, is in her seventeenth season. 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’s 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, IN. Music has always been central to Dawn’s life, and she has been singing all of her life in church, 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 their two dogs and a cat. Her interests include travel, and being outdoors biking, hiking and kayaking. She also enjoys spending time with her two adult children. Dawn recently became a first time grandparent, and is in complete awe of her newborn grandson.
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Jessica Carter, Alto
Jessica Carter, Alto, is a composer, violinist, vocalist, and educator from South Bend and is incredibly excited to be returning to the Chamber Singers for her third season. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Bethel University, and a Master of Music in Music Composition (under the tutelage of Dr. Jorge Muñiz) from Indiana University South Bend. Currently, Jessica is a music teacher for the South Bend Community School Corporation. As a composer, she has been described as having captivating lyricism and highly sophisticated intuition. Jessica has won several awards and accolades including the Kapson Bicentennial Scholarship in Music Composition in both 2018 and 2019 as well as the 2020 Symphonic Composition Competition through Indiana University South Bend. As a violinist, Jessica studied with Jae Sung Lee and renowned violinist, Brendan Shea (current concertmaster of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra). As a vocalist, she is a participant with the South Bend Lyric Opera and studies with tenor Emanuel-Cristian Caraman. Jessica is an active traveling artist and a member of Broadcast Music Inc. and the Society of Composers. In her free time, she is a painter, a runner, and a movie fanatic.
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, Covenant Ministers’ Chorus, and Silvertones (Senior Glee Club from Forever Learning Institute). He has been the coordinator of Protestant worship services at St. Paul’s Retirement Center since 2013. He and his wife, Nancy, recently celebrated 56 years of marriage. They take advantage of every opportunity to visit their daughter and her husband, son and his wife, and their four grandchildren.
Stephen Drendall, Bass Section Leader
Stephen Drendall, Bass Section Leader, is in his thirty-second 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 Master’s in Choral Conducting students. He has been cantor at the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint 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). He is retired 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.
Kari Francis, Alto
Kari Francis, Alto, is thrilled to be joining the Chamber Singers for her first season. She is a vocalist, arranger, and choral music educator who has shared the stage with Imogen Heap, competed on Season 3 of NBC’s The Sing-Off with Kinfolk 9, and most recently collaborated with Grammy Award-winning pianist-composer Cory Smythe on his album, Accelerate Every Voice. Currently a doctoral student in the department of Sacred Music at the University of Notre Dame, she has taught as a visiting faculty member on topics spanning choral arranging, ear training, and music theory at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, and has directed ensembles at the Mannes School of Music, CUNY Hunter College, Teachers College Columbia University, and in numerous New York City public schools as a Midori & Friends vocal teaching artist. Kari’s writings on contemporary a cappella have been published by GIA Music and NATS, and she is an active lecturer and clinician and frequently leads workshops on arranging, vocal percussion, and group vocal improvisation at music festivals and conferences around the world.
Rachel Franklin, Alto
Rachel Franklin, Alto, is a new addition to South Bend Chamber Singers and has just moved to South Bend from Indianapolis, IN. She received her B.S. in Neuroscience from IUPUI-Purdue Indianapolis, where she performed as soprano section leader of the university choir, and her Master’s of Pathology from Indiana University School of Medicine. She received her ASCP licensure in November of 2020, and now works as a Pathologists’ Assistant at the South Bend Medical Foundation. Rachel moved to South Bend with her husband/high school sweetheart and their shelter rescue, Ozzy.
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 wife and son spent five years in Geneva, Switzerland before returning to the U.S. where he and his wife joined the faculty at 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 at CERN in experimental particle physics, which makes him one of those “atom smasher” guys. He and his wife enjoy cooking, travel, and outdoor activities, including sailing, cycling, and hiking. This is his twentieth season with SBCS.
Megan Hire, Soprano
Megan Hire, Soprano, hails from Fort Wayne, IN. This is her eighth 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 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
David L. Homann, Tenor, has been with SBCS since its first full season. A former full-time dad, 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. For almost three years now, David has worked as a driver for the Indiana Donor Network, supporting their mission of saving and improving lives through organ and tissue donation. In between all that, he maintains 12 acres, a large vegetable garden, reads, and plays golf as much as he can.
Brianna Kinyanjui, Alto
Brianna Kinyanjui, Alto, is ecstatic to be singing again in her first season with the South Bend Chamber Singers! Originally born in South Bend and raised in Culver, IN, Brianna completed her Bachelor of Arts in Music at Saint Mary’s College in May 2021, graduating with a concentration in Vocal Performance and a minor in Biology. Growing up, she participated regularly in solo vocal competitions, state and local choirs, and performed in both high school and community-based theatre organizations like the Maxinkuckee Players. During her time at SMC, Brianna served as a member and Co-President for Saint Mary’s premiere all-female a cappella group, Bellacappella; she also performed in the Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir, where she served for four years on the Choir Board. She currently lives in South Bend with her partners, Kate and Cody, and works in the Saint Mary’s College Office of Admission as a College Admissions Counselor. In her free time, she enjoys reading, crafting, traveling, and spending time with her cat, Peppa.
Emily Klug, Alto Section Leader
Emily Klug, Alto Section Leader, grew up in Michigan and sang with various ensembles, solo competitions, and musicals in elementary school, high school and college. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Administration from Central Michigan University. After college, she performed with the Farmington Community Chorus and Perfect Blend vocal jazz ensemble in Farmington Hills, MI. She has worked for Ford Motor Company, Bayer Healthcare, and Whirlpool in various roles in sales, supply chain, and IT management and is currently Senior Manager of Service Parts Distribution with AM General. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, reading, and walking with her dog, Dottie. This is Emily’s fifteenth season with SBCS. She and husband, Brad, are residents of South Bend, and are proud parents of son, James, age seven and a half. Emily serves as SBCS Vice-President.
Mary Ann LaPlante, Alto
Mary Ann LaPlante, Alto, retired as chaplain at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Plymouth, IN. She 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, her cat, at home. She has been with SBCS since their initial season. Mary Ann resides in South Bend, and is now “living into retirement”.
Alexa Liberi, Alto
Alexa Liberi, alto, is elated to begin her first season with SBCS! A transplant from Wilmington, Delaware, she attended Cab Calloway School of the Arts as a Saxophone/Voice major with additional credits in the JazzChords of Calloway, Wilmington Children’s Chorus, and the Delaware Senior All State Chorus. She studied Human Development/Voice Performance at Virginia Tech and completed her graduate studies in Speech-Language Pathology at The University of Delaware, where she served as the vocal soloist for both university jazz ensembles. Alexa has sung professionally with various contemporary bands, headlining festivals, clubs, and private events. She relocated upon acceptance of a Speech Pathologist position at The South Bend Clinic Department of Otolaryngology, with a specific aim to provide high quality interdisciplinary services to professional voice users.
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 relocating to New Carlisle. Steven earned undergraduate degrees in music and elementary education from Valparaiso University, an M.A. in reading and literacy studies from Western Michigan University, and an M.S. in counseling and human services from Indiana University. In 2016, he retired after teaching in the Dowagiac, Michigan schools for 25 years. During his career, he taught fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grades, as well as elementary music. Steven now serves as Department Coordinator and Director of Student Teaching in the Education Department at Saint Mary’s College, and is Finance Administrator for the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint 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.
Lauren McCarthy, Soprano
Lauren McCarthy, Soprano, is in her first season with the SBCS. Lauren is a Mishawaka native, and she received her degree in Elementary Education and Human Development and Family Studies from Purdue University in 2019. She currently works as a first grade teacher in the corporation where she attended K-12. She also coaches Boys and Girls tennis at Penn High School. Lauren’s choir experiences include high school and college choir. She was a member of the Purduettes, University Choir, as well as a barbershop quartet at Purdue University. She enjoys singing (obviously), baking, spending time with friends and family, playing tennis, and relaxing with her cat, Lilah. She is so excited to be singing again in such a prestigious group!
Melaney Miller, Soprano
Melaney Miller, Alto, is in her fourteenth season with SBCS, and serves on the board as a member-at-large. She recently rejoined the 126th Army Band with the Michigan Army National Guard as a percussionist/pianist/vocalist, after a 19-year hiatus. When not in the middle of a pandemic, she plays percussion for the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, leads the music team at Unity of Michiana, and works as a piano accompanist. She has spent most of the pandemic on active duty orders in Lansing, helping the State of Michigan with Covid testing and vaccination support—grateful that she gets to travel home to South Bend most weekends and attend rehearsal. She enjoys golf, salsa dancing, travel, antiquing, and being home.
Andrew Nemeth, Assistant Director, Tenor Section Leader
Andrew Nemeth, Tenor Section Leader, returns to SBCS for a ninth 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 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 Notre Dame for her undergraduate degree (B.B.A. in accountancy), and quickly followed it up with a master’s (M.A. 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 ninth year.
Melaney Miller, Alto
Melaney Miller, Alto, is in her fourteenth season with SBCS, and serves on the board as a member-at-large. She recently rejoined the 126th Army Band with the Michigan Army National Guard as a percussionist/pianist/vocalist, after a 19 year hiatus. When not in the middle of a pandemic, she plays percussion for the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, leads the music team at Unity of Michiana, and works as a piano accompanist. She has spent most of the pandemic on active duty orders in Lansing, helping the State of Michigan with Covid testing and vaccination support—grateful that she gets to travel home to South Bend most weekends and attend rehearsal. She enjoys golf, salsa dancing, travel, antiquing, and being home.
Betsie Pendarvis, Soprano
Betsie Pendarvis, Soprano, returns for her tenth 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 taking care of her grandchildren, volunteering for the Christ Child Society, knitting and gardening.
John Pendarvis, Bass
John Pendarvis, Bass, begins his tenth season with SBCS. He is retired after 33 years in executive leadership positions for family service agencies in Texas and Virginia, and moved to South Bend to be closer to family. A native of Houston, Texas, John received his B.A. from Texas Christian University and a Master of Science in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington. 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 and eight grandchildren. He is a Tour Guide for Sacred Heart Basilica at Notre Dame, and serves on the board for several organizations including Real Services, Forever Learning and the Kiwanis Club of South Bend.
Alissa Plenzler, Soprano
Alissa Plenzler, a soprano originally from South Bend, is in her fourth season with the South Bend Chamber Singers. Currently she is an Adjunct Professor of Voice at Holy Cross College, Saint Mary’s College, and the University of Notre Dame. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in 2016 from the University of Dayton and Master of Music degree in 2018 from Bowling Green State University. Plenzler has performed in numerous chamber concerts with Sacred Music Notre Dame, including a recital singing Voice II – Lyric Soprano in Steve Reich’s minimalist work Tehillim with Grammy Award-winning group Third Coast Percussion in 2019, as well as recording the role of Daughter in Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte in 2021. She has traveled to Arezzo, Italy and Kamuela, Hawaii for young artist programs and has participated in master classes with such names as Marquita Lister, Jake Heggie, Dawn Upshaw, Angela Renée Simpson, 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.
Lucy Roberds, Soprano
Lucy Roberds, Soprano, is happy to begin her first season with the SBCS. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work degree, with minors in voice performance and Spanish from Anderson University in 2019. She grew up in multiple areas of Indiana, singing in many choirs over the years, including the Anderson University Chorale. Currently, she is working as a Skills Training Specialist with Oaklawn Psychiatric Center. In her free time, she enjoys consuming and sharing art and music of all kinds, as well as exercising and spending time in nature. Vocal music is the most natural form of expression for Lucy and she is elated to incorporate group choral singing back in her life.
Jon Sherry, Bass
Jon Sherry, Bass, graduated from Bethel College with a degree in Church Music in 1985. He served various congregations until 2011. In 2013 he started working as a Plant Supervisor for Triangle Rubber and Plastics at their Elkhart Plant. Jon has been an intermittent member of the bass section for eight years.
Thomas Speranza, Bass
Thomas Speranza, Bass, is originally a native of Northwest Indiana and moved to South Bend in the summer of 2021. He has many years of experience as a singer and conductor for St. Thomas More’s Schola Cantorum in his hometown of Munster, IN. Between 2016 and 2019, Thomas performed abroad in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and South Africa with various different choral ensembles. A recent graduate of Purdue University Northwest, Thomas continues his lifelong passion for music and is excited to perform his first season with SBCS.
Doug Williamson, Bass
Doug Williamson, Bass, is a Montana native who has lived in South Bend for seventeen years, and has been with SBCS for 16½ seasons. Doug sang with Helena Symphony Chorale, Helena, Montana for ten years prior to moving to South Bend and has had much 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.