Past Benefit Concerts
2015 Benefit Concert
Our 2015 Benefit Concert was a great success! Our choristers raised well over $100K for various arts organizations and charities throughout the Bay Area through their online fundraising efforts and concert ticket sales.
Livingston Taylor picked up his first guitar at the age of thirteen, beginning a forty-year career that has encompassed performance, songwriting and teaching. Born in Boston and raised in North Carolina, Livingston is the fourth child in a very musical family that includes Alex, James, Kate and Hugh. Livingston recorded his first record at 18 and has continued to create well-crafted, introspective and original songs that have earned him listeners worldwide.
From top-forty hits “I Will Be in Love with You” and “I’ll Come Running,” to “I Can Dream of You” and “Boatman” both recorded by his brother James, Livingston’s creative output has continued unabated. His musical knowledge has inspired a varied repertoire, and he is equally at home with a range of musical genres—folk, pop, gospel, jazz—and from upbeat storytelling to touching ballads.
Livingston has never stopped performing since those early coffeehouse days, touring with major artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett and Jethro Tull, and he maintains a busy concert schedule of over eighty shows a year. He is a natural performer, peppering his shows with personal stories, anecdotes and ineffable warmth that connect him to his fans. His relaxed on-stage presence belies the depth of his musical knowledge, and fans might just as often be treated to a classic Gershwin or something from the best of Broadway.
Livingston is a full professor at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught a Stage Performance course since 1989. He teaches young artists invaluable lessons learned over the course of an extensive career on the road; the course is consistently voted the most popular at the College. His book, Stage Performance, released in 2011 offers those lessons to anyone who is interested in elevating their presentation standards to professional standards.
Brett Strader, Conductor
Music Director of the Sun Valley Opera and Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church. A composer and arranger in high demand, his works have been broadcast on television in over 100 countries. Brett holds a Master of Music in Conducting from SFSU.
Nicolle Foland, Soprano
An alumna of San Francisco Opera Center’s Adler Fellowship program, Nicolle Foland sang many roles with San Francisco Opera, including Musetta in La bohème and Countess in Le nozze di Figaro. She has sung the role of Violetta in La traviata with Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and has performed with Los Angeles Opera, Opera Bilbao in Spain, and Seattle Opera as Musetta. She has debuted other leading roles with New York City Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia and Santa Fe Opera. Orchestral appearances include the San Francisco Symphony, American Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Alex Taite, Tenor
A resident and native of Oakland California, Alexander Taite graduated in April 2007 from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s Degree in music theory and composition He emphasized in vocal performance with a minor emphasis in jazz piano. He spent 4 years teaching music courses at the Oakland School for the Arts and is currently teaching private piano and voice lessons in the east bay. He has played jazz and funk/R&B piano with four bands and he sings with several bay area opera companies including the San Francisco Opera chorus.
Alexis Jensen, Mezzo Soprano
Mezzo/Soprano Alexis Lane Jensen is an active performer in the Bay Area. With her varied musical background, she is at home on a wide variety of stages, and has sung everything from opera to musical theater, jazz to cabaret, pop to rock with a number of local organizations. Some notable companies she has worked with include West Edge Opera, Oakland Opera Theater, the Grammy Nominated Pacific Edge Voices (formerly The Pacific Mozart Ensemble), SF Symphony Chorus, Grand Tetons Festival Chorus, Berkeley Playhouse, Lamplighters Musical Theater, Altarena Playhouse, Cinnabar Theater, Goat Hall Productions and Ray of Light Theater. Ms. Jensen is an avid champion of new works, and has premiered many pieces by local composers. She is also an accomplished interpreter of the music of Kurt Weill and his contemporaries and takes advantage of every opportunity she can to present their work.
Frederick Matthews, Baritone
Frederick Matthews has been praised by audiences and critics alike for his appearances on the operatic and concert stages. International recognition came while on tour singing the role of “Jake” in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess when it was reported that he “projected evenly balanced singing and left an exquisite stage impression.” Now residing in the Bay Area, he has been seen in a variety of solo and bit parts with the San Francisco Opera including: “The Corporal” in La Fille du Régiment, “Ein Diener" in Lulu, “The Official Registrar” in Madama Butterfly, "5th inmate" in the world premiere of Dead Man Walking as well as a "Marschallin Lackey" in Der Rosenkavalier. Mr. Matthews is featured in the Oscar winning documentary entitled: “IN THE SHADOW OF THE STARS,” produced by Light-Saraf Films, now available on video cassette. He is also the music teacher for Kindergarten through Fifth Grades at Coleman Elementary School in San Rafael, California.
Diana Kehrig, Soprano
After graduation from CCM of Cincinnati, Diana became a regular member of the New York City Opera for 10 seasons. She has sung with Major Opera Companies thought the United States and Europe: Washington Opera, Kennedy Center, Sclossfestspiele in Heidelberg Germany, Wolf Trap, Baltimore, Ft Worth, Opera Company of Philadelphia and Miami Opera among others. Diana has bowed on the stage of the Moscow Conservatory in concert with the Russian National Orchestra, singing the role Of "Mistress Quickly" in Gordon Getty's PLUMP JACK.MS. Kehrig recently sang the Bracebridge Dinners in Yosemite and recorded the MAN WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS. Her portrayal of Peep Bo in The Mikado,with NY City Opera won Ms. Kehrig her first movie role in FOUL PLAY. Since then she has been making commercials, TV and Feature films in San Francisco. Look for the Gaton Casino Commercial coming out soon!
Martin Bell, Baritone
Martin Bell is an Oakland based Baritone and frequent performer on the Bay Area classical music scene in opera, recital and oratorio. Recent engagements include Bass soloist in Bach’s Magnificat and Ercole in Handel’s Admeto. Other opera roles include Dido (Dido and Aeneas), Marcello (La boheme), Sharpless (Madame butterfly, and Papageno (Die Zauberflöte). He has also sung several seasons with the San Francisco Opera Chorus. In addition to performing, Mr. Bell has produced several operas including an acclaimed staging of Malcolm X (one of The SF Chronicle’s 10 best classical music events of the year) and a revival of Duke Ellington’s Queenie Pie, both west coast premieres. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Sing For America in addition to maintaining a private voice studio in Oakland. He will be heard this spring as Bass soloist with the Oakland City Chorus in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and as Publio in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito with the Handel Opera Project.
Joy Graham-Korst, Mezzo Soprano
A member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus for the past 28 years, Joy has also appeared with the Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite, and numerous bay area opera companies.
Click on the video above to watch the SFA Chorus and Nicolle Foland perform "You'll Never Walk Alone" from last year's 2015 benefit concert.
The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, led by Terrance Kelly is a Bay Area institution known for its annual holiday concerts in Oakland, San Francisco, as well as the South Bay. It performs year-round at local events such as Oakland’s Art and Soul Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival. Choir members also donate their time to perform at prisons, homeless shelters and hospitals.
The choir has toured the country and appeared in New Orleans, Atlanta and Portland, Oregon. The group has also taken its music overseas with concerts in Israel and Australia, where it won the Gold Award from the International Music Festival in Sydney. Its audiences have included Nelson Mandela, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir has recorded three albums and contributed tracks to albums benefiting community service organizations. It performed on three Grammy Award-wining albums: Linda Ronstadt’s “Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind;” MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit;” and Tramaine Hawkin’s “Live.” The choir has also performed live with a number of notable musicians including Stan Getz, Lyle Lovett and Joan Baez.
Hearts of Romaine
They have been described as a combination of "The Smothers Brothers meet The Marx Brothers" because of their funny tunes and on-stage antics. The Hearts of Romaine play to small and large audiences and are the social lubricant necessary to get people out of their shells. You will be laughing at yourself and others. A session with The Hearts of Romaine will make you feel better about yourself than if you had been hanging out with Tony Robbins, Oprah and Dr. Phil all at the same time.
Clifton Romig, Bass
Cliff's bass voice has been heard on bay area stages since
he moved to San Francisco in 1992. A former apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera and resident artist with Opera San Jose, Cliff has performed with many bay area opera companies such as West Bay Opera, West Edge Opera and Pocket Opera. Cliff also sings with the San Francisco Opera Chorus, having sung in numerous operatic productions since 2005.
He is a graduate of Middlebury College and Indiana University and lives with his wife, Susan, in San Francisco’s Richmond District. Cliff is an avid cyclist, rower and photographer.
Cliff has been on the Sing for America team since its first season and is fundraising for Youth Spirit Artworks in Berkeley.
Morgan Harrington, Soprano
From California, award-winning soprano Morgan Harrington has performed with Cinnabar Opera Theater, IU Opera Theater, Quantum Opera Theater, Sonoma City Opera, Pocket Opera, Sonoma Valley Shakespeare Company, Monterey County Pops!, and Waffle Opera (Donna Elvira / Don Giovanni; Pamina / Die Zauberflöte). Harrington has also participated in the 2014 iSING! International Young Artists Festival in China, The Banff Centre’s 2012 Opera as Theatre Program (Donna Elvira / Don Giovanni) in Canada, and Opera Academy of California Summer Program 2011 (Elettra / Idomeneo). Harrington holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance (High Distinction) from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
Adam Flowers, Tenor
Mr. Flowers has performed leading tenor roles and in Opera houses and Symphony halls across North America, Hawaii and Japan. In July of 2006 he completed a five year Artist-In-Residency for Opera San Jose, performing over 32 roles including Pinkerton, Manrico, Don Jose, Cavaradossi, Tamino, Nemorino, and Des Grieux. He is currently a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus and frequently performs in performing arts productions throughout the West Coast. Mr. Flowers completed his musical studies and received his B.A. in Creative Arts with a minor in Journalism from San Jose State University and studies voice with Deborah Benedict and Dewey Camp.
Sibel Demirmen, Soprano
Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as a "superb singer" with a “crystalline voice,” Sibel Demirmen is a versatile soprano praised for her charming stage presence and colorful coloratura sound. She has sung with many Bay Area companies including Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Townsend Opera Players, Berkeley Opera, West Marin Players, Marin Baroque, Thick Description, City Opera SF and is a member of Goat Hall Production’s The Kurt Weill Project. Leading operatic roles include Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera and Lisa in La Sonnambula. On the concert stage she has performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras including the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and The Choral Symphony Society of New York. Ms. Demirmen holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University and a Master of Music from Rice University.
Pedro Rodelas, Tenor
Pedro Rodelas is a graduate of the Maryland Opera Studio and has appeared in principal operatic roles in La Boheme, Carmen, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata, La Fanciulla del West, Faust, The Merry Widow, Il Tabarro, and Gianni Schicchi. Musical theater credits include Tony in West Side Story, Harold Hill in The Music Man, Che in Evita, Jean Valjean in Les Misérable, Emile De Becque in South Pacific, and the Emcee in Cabaret. Pedro is a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus and performs regularly with the highly acclaimed “The Three Waiters International”.
Erich Stratmann, Tenor
Erich is the driving entrepreneurial personality behind the idea of Sing for America… putting into the hands of singers the means to help others via their voices. An incorrigible choral singer, he early on recognized the community of choral singing that allowed people of surprisingly different social leanings, to join together in one voice to benefit others. Sing for America allows this force to be gently steered toward very real funding of the choristers' choice of charities. This business bent follows on his business degree from the University of California, Berkeley (singing there with the Glee Club under Robert Commanday) and 25 years as a manufacturer in San Francisco. He has used his practical talent in honing his fundraising skills as financial manager for the San Francisco Boys Chorus in the past 15 years and now is totally focused on Sing for America.
Sigmund Seigel, Tenor
Sigmund Seigel,tenor has been a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus for 35 seasons. He has done leading and secondary roles with many of the local opera companies. He has just sung the role of Felice with West Edge Opera's production of 'Poliuto' He is tenor soloist at St. John's Episcopal Church in Montclaire.
Bill Neil, Baritone
Bill Neil has sung abroad and all over the West, but is best known to Bay area audiences for his work in regional companies like The Lamplighters, Pocket Opera, West Bay Opera, and his presence for a decade with the San Francisco Opera chorus.
2014 Benefit Concert
SFA's 2014 Benefit Concert was held at the Palace of Perfoming Arts Theater on March 30th, 2014. It featured Broadway star Marcus Lovett and Metropolitan Opera soprano Marie Plette. They were joined by local favorites Nicolle Foland, Shawnette Sulker, Michelle Jasso, Pedro Rodelas, Alex Taite, Erich Stratmann and Buffy Baggott. Our amazing chorus performed pieces by Bernstein, Copland, and local composer David Conte. Through ticket sales and chorister fundraising, we raised well over $100K for local arts organizations!
See all of our videos on our youtube channel at: www.youtube.com/singforamericaSF
Marcus Lovett, a graduate of Carnegie Melon University, began his career in the original Broadway production of Les Miserables. He simultaneously appeared on ABC's One Life to Live. His other Broadway credits include the lead roles in Aspects of Love, Phantom of the Opera, and King David. He has appeared in multiple off broadway plays and musicals as well. In 2012 he reprised his role as the Phantom, this time at Her Majesty's theatre in the West End. Other than Michael Crawford, Mr. Lovett is the only person to play the Phantom in London and On Broadway.He is also the Voice of Good Morning America, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos, among others. His discography, among others, includes, Marcus Lovett, The Give Moment, and his new 2014 release, Marcus Lovett, Where is Love.
The SFA Chorus and soli (Alex Taite, Shawnette Sulker, Michelle Jasso, Joy Korst, John Minagro and Martin Belle) sing the beautiful finale from Leonard Bernstein's Candide.
Sing for America is very lucky to have Thaddeus Pinkston on our musical staff. He is a pianist, arranger and composer. Career highlights include touring internationally with The Fifth Dimension and playing Fats Waller in the touring company of Ain’t Misbehavin’. Thaddeus has served as Music Director of many musicals including Crowns, Blues In The Night starring Maurice Hines and Freda Payne, and Berkeley Rep’s Anthony and Cleopatra directed by Lisa Peterson. He has worked with many stellar performers, ensembles, and conservatories including A.C.T., Telluride Jazz Festival, Stan Ketz, Blues Legend Koko Taylor, Jennifer Holiday, Janis Paige, Tommy Tune, and Joan Baez. Thaddeus had the honor of studying harmony and composition privately with friend and mentor David Conte.
American Soprano Marie Plette is acclaimed in the major opera houses of North America and Europe for her compelling portrayals from Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly to Love Simpson in Cold Sassy Tree and the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro. Her performances of Madama Butterfly prompted the New York Times to remark, "The opera did partake of the other great unifying factor here: a star turn, by Marie Plette in the title role." In season 2012-13 Marie Plette sang the title role in Tosca with Anchorage Opera. Some recent highlights include singing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Las Vegas Symphony; joining the roster of Washington National Opera for its production of Iphegenie en Tauride; her return to Seattle Opera to reprise Freia, Ortlinde and Gutrune in Wagner’s Ring Cycle; to the Metropolitan Opera for its production of Don Giovanni.
An alumna of San Francisco Opera Center’s Adler Fellowship program, Nicolle Foland began her career with the San Francisco Opera singing many roles with the company, including Musetta in La bohème, Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, and Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow among many others. She has sung the role of Violetta in La traviata with Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Michigan Opera Theater and has performed with Los Angeles Opera, Opera Bilbao in Spain, and Seattle Opera as Musetta. She has debuted in many other leading roles with such American companies as New York City Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Boston Lyric Opera, Minnesota Opera, Arizona Opera, Central City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Colorado, and Opera Boston. She has made multiple appearances with the San Francisco Symphony and has sung with many other orchestras, including American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, and Colorado Symphony.
Erich Stratmann is the driving entrepreneurial personality behind the idea of SingforAmerica… putting into the hands of singers the means to help others via their voices. An incorrigible choral singer, he early on recognized the community of choral singing that allowed people of surprisingly different social leanings, to join together in one voice to benefit others. SingforAmerica allows this force to be gently steered toward very real funding of the choristers' choice of charities. This business bent follows on his business degree from the University of California, Berkeley (singing there with the Glee Club under Robert Commanday) and 25 years as a manufacturer in San Francisco. He has used his practical talent in honing his fundraising skills as financial manager for the San Francisco Boys Chorus in the past 15 years and now is totally focused on Sing for America.