Learn More About the Singers

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Melissa Auvil, Soprano

Melissa Auvil, Soprano, is in her ninth season with SBCS. Originally from Midland, Michigan, Melissa earned her undergraduate degree in music education at Central Michigan University and her Master’s 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, as well as the South Bend and Elkhart Civic Theatres. She will appear in her first movie, “Moondance”, scheduled for release summer, 2019. 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.

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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 Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College.

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Carrie Bjonback, Alto

Carrie Bjonback, Alto, returns for her eleventh 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 LaPorte, Indiana. Other than music, she enjoys her work as a family physician and medical acupuncturist in La Porte, IN. She is married to a retired professor who is still teaching for the joy of it, and has 2 grown children.

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Dawn Bontrager, Alto and President

Dawn Bontrager, Alto and President of the South Bend Chamber Singers, is in her fourteenth 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 2 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.

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Ryan Clough

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 theater.  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’sMagnificat, 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, MI 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 joined SBCS last season. 

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Stephen Drendall, Bass Section Leader

Stephen Drendall, Bass Section Leader, is in his twenty-ninth 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 thirteen 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.

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Rania El-Kareh, Alto

Rania El-Kareh, Alto, is in her second 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.

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Melaney Gabris, Alto

Melaney Gabris, Alto, is in her eleventh season with SBCS, and serves on the board as a member-at-large. She recently rejoined the 126 Army Band with the Michigan Army National Guard as a percussionist/pianist/vocalist, after a 19 year hiatus. She also plays percussion for the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, leads the music team at Unity of Michiana, and works as a piano accompanist. She is a field service technician for Procter & Gamble. She enjoys golf, salsa dancing, travel, and antiquing. Melaney lives in South Bend, and has one daughter who studies voice at Alma College, Michigan.

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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 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. They enjoy cooking, travel, and outdoor activities, including sailing, cycling, and hiking. This is his seventeenth season with SBCS.

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Megan Hire, Soprano

Megan Hire, Soprano, hails from Fort Wayne, IN. This is her fifth 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 9 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 ND football.

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David L. Homann, Tenor

David L. Homann, Tenor, 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 spend 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!

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Cecilia Horner, Soprano

Cecilia Horner, Soprano, is excited for her third season as a member of SBCS.  A high school senior, Cecilia studies piano with the former accompanist of the SBCS, Kathleen Keasey, and voice with Danielle Svonavic. 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.

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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 and Master’s degress in business administration from Central Michigan University.  She is currently an IT Manager with Whirlpool, and enjoys cooking, traveling, reading and running around with her dog, Bella.  This is Emily’s twelfth season with SBCS.  She and husband, Brad, are residents of South Bend, and are proud parents of son, James, age four and a half. Emily serves as SBCS Vice-President.

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Mary Ann LaPlante, Alto

Mary Ann LaPlante, Alto, chaplain at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Plymouth, IN, 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.

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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.

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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 twenty-five years, before recently relocating to New Carlisle.  Steven earned undergraduate degrees in music and elementary education from Valparaiso University, an MA in reading and literacy studies from Western Michigan University, and an MS in counseling and human services from Indiana University. In 2016, he retired after teaching in the Dowagiac, Michigan schools for twenty-five years.  During his career, he taught 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grades, as well as elementary music. Steven now serves as 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.

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Kristin McAndrew, Soprano, and SBCS Secretary

Kristin McAndrew, Soprano, and SBCS Secretary, returns for her fifth SBCS season. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at Saint Mary’s College in humanistic studies and English, and her Master’s in integrated marketing communication from Emerson College in Boston. She serves as the Director of Admissions for Graduate Business Programs at the University of Notre Dame. Kristin loves cooking, reading, and yoga.

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Andrew Nemeth, Tenor Section Leader

Andrew Nemeth, Tenor Section Leader, returns to SBCS for a sixth 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.

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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 9 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 sixth year.

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Betsie Pendarvis, Soprano

Betsie Pendarvis, Soprano, returns for her seventh 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.

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John Pendarvis, Bass

John Pendarvis, Bass, begins his seventh 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 Notre Dame, and is President of the Kiwanis Club of South Bend.

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Alissa Plenzler, Soprano

Alissa Plenzler, Soprano, joins the SBCS for her first season. Originally from South Bend, she recently returned and became 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 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, which will be announcing its 2018-2019 season soon. She has traveled to Kamuela, Hawaii and Arezzo, Italy for young artist programs and has participated in master classes with such names 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).

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Joseph Smith, Bass

Joseph Smith, Bass, sang with the South Bend Chamber Singers for fifteen years before 2008 when he moved to Louisville, KY.  Now retired from more than 30 years in 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 when he is not singing.

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Claire Stewart, Alto

Claire Stewart, Alto, is excited to return to the SBCS for a fourth 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, IN and works as an Assistant Manager with Enterprise Holdings, Inc.

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Mark Torma, Bass

Mark Torma, Bass, returns for his sixth 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, Mocha and Cocoa, and two other children, Matthew and Chiara.

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Doug Williamson, Bass

Doug Williamson, Bass, is a Montana native who has lived in South Bend for fourteen years, and has been with SBCS for 13½ 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 Miserables, 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.

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Trevis Young, Bass

TrevIs Young, Bass, is the accompanist for the Notre Dame Children’s Choir as well as Director of Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and Choir Director for Bethany Lutheran Church, both of La Porte, IN. Prior to moving to South Bend, Trevis lived in Clemson, SC, 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, IA (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, IA, where he earned a B.A. in music, studying organ performance, and went on to earn a Master of Church Music degree from Erskine Seminary in Due West, SC. Trevis has been actively serving as a church musician for over 12 years. He enjoys collecting and restoring fountain pens, and spending time with his wife and two young boys exploring the Michiana area. This is Trevis’ second season with the Chamber Singers.

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