Artistic Director and Conductor, Dr. David R. Thye
Principal Pianist, Dr. Robert Mills
Founding Conductor, Dr. Glenn Bennett
DR. DAVID THYE
David R. Thye is a passionate conductor, educator, lecturer, and clinician. He joined Arizona Cantilena Chorale as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor in May 2018. While inspiring excellence through artistic mastery, discipline, and musical integrity, Dr. Thye consistently delivers cutting-edge live performances with sincerity, focus, passion and enthusiasm. He also remains active as a conductor of music festivals across the U.S. and abroad.
DR. ROBERT MILLS
Dr. Robert Mills is a Clinical Associate Professor of Music and the vocal coach/accompanist for Arizona State University’s Lyric Opera. He is a frequent guest artist with the Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale and the Three Tenors of Mexico and is in high demand as a coach accompanist in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Dr. Mills concertizes throughout the United States as a collaborative pianist and has special affinity for contemporary American art song.
MEET THE CHORALE
President, Karen Hubbard-Leverton
Secretary, Pamela Watson
Treasurer, Wendy Janzen
Communications, Vicki Bennett
Technology, David Watson
Karen Hubbard-Leverton, Alto, President
Karen has a Bachelor of Music Degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She has been a member of Cantilena since 2006, when the Chorale began at Mesa Community College as Mesa Schola Cantorum. Her love of music has provided the opportunity to perform as a chorister and a soloist. She is proud to be a founding member of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale and the Vice-President for its inaugural year. When she is not singing she works for Great American Title, Inc. as a Senior Escrow Officer.
Pamela Watson, Soprano, Secretary
Pamela is from Mesa, Arizona, where she lives with her husband, David Watson. They have three daughters, Lauren, Erin and Amber. Pamela has her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Arizona State University, having studied under Judy May. She has sung with the Phoenix Symphony Chorus and various other groups in the valley. A flight attendant for American Airlines for 29 years, Pamela enjoys photography, history, scuba diving and travel.
Laura Barton, Soprano
Laura moved to the Phoenix area in 2013 from Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys living in the west with her husband and three children. She has a great love for the Arts and is a member of the Mesa Public schools Art Masterpiece Council. Laura has a BA in Humanities and an MS in Psychology. She has performed in various choirs and venues as a soloist throughout her life. Some favorite theater roles from the past include Lily in The Secret Garden and Adelaide from Guys and Dolls.
Vicki Bennett, Soprano, VP of Marketing and Communication, Soprano Section Leader
Vicki has a Master of Vocal Performance from Arizona State University. She is presently on faculty in the music department at Mesa Community College. She’s been a Soprano soloist in the greater metropolitan Phoenix area through the years, collaborating with Scottsdale and Mesa symphonies as well as many other community groups as their guest artist for concerts. She treasures most singing wonderful music alongside her fellow Arizona Cantilena Chorale members.
Meridith Borta, Soprano
Meridith developed her love for singing as a young child performing in church and school productions, as well as touring and recording with a Christian singing group throughout her youth. She has a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Grand Canyon University and has performed in numerous musical theater productions around the Valley, including her favorite roles of Mabel (Pirates of Penzance), the Witch (Into the Woods), Sarah Brown (Guys and Dolls), Cinderella (Cinderella), and Casilda (Cosi Fan Tutti), for which she won an AriZoni award. With Master degrees in both Elementary Education (Grand Canyon University) and Educational Administration (University of Phoenix), education is one of her passions. She has been the Elementary Principal at Faith Christian School in Mesa for 15 years where she also teaches several subjects and serves as the musical director and choreographer for the major musical productions. Meridith is also a business owner and enjoys mentoring her growing team. She has 4 beautiful daughters.
Maureen Buza, Alto, Founding Board Member
Growing up in Tempe, Maureen has been singing in choirs since the 5th grade. As a charter member of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale, she is proud to be a part of the Alto section. Maureen holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University after transferring from Mesa Community College … back in the day. She has performed as a soloist in the community as well as in various ensembles. When she isn't singing with AzCC, Maureen enjoys spending time with her husband Paul, her friends and family, her rescue dogs Oreo and Jackman … and listening to Rush. Long live music!
Paul Buza, Bass
Paul began his musical education at Mesa Community College at the age of 19 and continues performing to this day. He has been fortunate enough to have numerous opportunities to perform with various organizations in Arizona. Along his journey in musical theatre, opera, operetta, and as a featured soloist for oratorios and other major choral works, Paul has met and worked with awarded-winning conductors and performers. He met his wife, Maureen, who is also a member of Arizona Cantilena Chorale, and many of his closest friends through music.
Ed Cluff, Bass
Edward had the love of singing instilled in him at a young age. He began performing in elementary school and continued singing through high school. After graduating, Edward served a two-year mission for his church in Mexico where his love of singing hymns in Spanish enabled him to utilize his glorious bass voice. Upon returning from his mission in 1971, Ed continued to sing at MCC and taught in the Mesa district for over 30 years. When Dr. Glenn Bennett began teaching choir in the valley, Edward was there as one of his first selected basses. A high point in his life was when Edward and his wife, of 41 years, served a mission for their church to Chile. He lives in Mesa and has 7 children, and 18 grandchildren.
Jared McLain, Bass
Jared graduated with a degree in Vocal Performance and History from Arizona State University, having studied under Jerry Doan. He has performed with numerous choirs and ensembles across the Valley and has recently performed and recorded with Rob Gardner as a part of the Spire Choir. Jared has been a featured soloist with Arizona Cantilena Chorale and with the Arizona Millennial Choir. He is a father of three, and the choir director for his local congregation at his church.
Steve Negley, Bass
Steve studied piano and sang in choral groups and opera ensembles at University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his Bachelor degree in Music Education from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, and his Master of Music degree from Arizona State University in piano performance and pedagogy. He has taught general music, choral music and orchestra in Arizona public schools for many years and has enjoyed singing in various ASU choral groups and church choirs.
Jennifer Preece-Thompson, Soprano II, Alto I
Jennifer hails from Roanoke, VA, and is a four-year resident of the Phoenix area. She is a graduate of Hollins University where she studied voice under Dr. Judith Cline. She also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Averett University in Danville, Virginia. She worked as an Underwriting Assistant at XLCatlin Insurance and lives with her husband Ron in Laveen. Currently she is teaching Music at Legacy Traditional School and directs the school’s musicals. When she is not singing she enjoys playing in her church orchestra and spending time with her dog Jack and husband Ron.
Helen Robles, Alto
Helen has been singing ever since she can remember. Her parents met in college and were both music majors. They all played guitars and sang harmony, and everywhere they went they had to sing for their supper! Helen studied music in college, sang in many choirs and vocal groups until she found Cantilena. Outside of music, she is a registered nurse and works in a local hospital as a lactation consultant.
Robert Smith, Tenor, Founding Board member & Past President
Robert is from a family of singers in Indiana with a rich musical history ranging from his father who sang for Fred Waring in Carnegie Hall, to an uncle who sang Back Home Again in Indiana at the 1980 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, to a brother and a sister who are professional jazz/rock ’n’ roll musicians. Robert graduated in Audiology and Speech Sciences from Purdue University where he was a soloist for the Purdue Glee Club and a professional group, Collegiate Singers, that traveled extensively in the Midwest. In Arizona, Robert has studied voice at Arizona State University, sang as a soloist at Trinity Cathedral, and is a tenor soloist for the Dayspring Chorale and Arizona Cantilena Chorale. He is a retired educator of 45 years. Robert and his wife, Pauline, have two grown sons and two beautiful granddaughters.
David Watson, Tenor, VP of Technical Projects and Support
David has his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Arizona State University where he studied with Dr. Jerry Doan. He also holds a Bachelor of Computer Information Systems from Western Governors University. He has been singing and directing choirs for many years, having performed many musical theater roles including the Caliph in Kismet, Enoch Snow in Carousel, and Orpheus in Orpheus in the Underworld. David is a pilot for American Airlines and owns Artos Claret, a technology company. Married to Pamela Watson and the father of three musical daughters, he lives in Mesa, Arizona.
Jeff Wieland, Bass, Section Leader
Jeff is a graduate of Carroll University with a Bachelor of Science in Education with minor studies in Vocal Performance. He completed his K-12 music education certification in May 1999. While attending Carroll University, he studied voice with Patricia Crump, the music director/voice coach of Florentine Opera House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jeff is the president of the Masters Praise Choir and Orchestra at First Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. He and his three children presently reside in Chandler.
Lauri Wieland, Soprano
Lauri studied voice as well as viola at Mount Senario College in Wisconsin. She continued her studies at Grand Canyon University after a move to Arizona. She has been involved in musical theatre, opera, symphonies, string quartets, church choir productions and orchestras. She also was involved with Arizona Masterworks Chorale. Currently she is in the Phoenix Praise Symphony, leads worship, sings in a professional quartet called Hosanna, teaches voice, piano, guitar, and is very involved in her church's music ministry.
Stephen R. Willis, Tenor
Prior to joining the Arizona Cantilena Chorale, Stephen sang in the Highland High School Concert Choir and at the Chamber Choir at Chandler Gilbert Community College, both under the direction of Rita Scholz. In addition to choral music, Stephen directs the praise band for the contemporary worship service at Church of the Master. He also writes and records music for his folk music project My Eclectic Self. Outside of music, he is a writer, web developer and co-editor of the literary magazine, The Uprising Review.
James Lawson, Baritone
James (JD) began singing with the Sun Valley Chorale under the direction of Glenn Bennett when he was in the ninth grade. He started singing at Dobson High School in the 11th grade and was accepted into the Arizona All-State choir in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, JD was awarded second chair in the All-State choir. He continued singing as a student at ASU as a member of the Men's Chorus, Schola Cantorum and Solis Camerata. He first started singing with Cantilena as a student at Dobson and ASU and continues to enjoy performing with his father, Keith, also a member of Cantilena and the Dayspring Chorale. JD is also an instrumentalist and played cello for 8 years as a student. He and his wife, Sicily, are both native Arizonans.
Sherry Scott, Alto
Sherry Scott comes from South Dakota but has been an Arizona resident for many years. She has been singing in church choirs since she was very young and then in High School and College choirs. While at GBC, she was active in the Music Department which included a choir trip to Europe. She graduated from Grace Bible College in Omaha, NE with a degree in Christian Education. She has had the privilege of singing with several choirs at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Dr. David Thye. Sherry is married and has 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren. Her spare time is spent enjoying her grandchildren and riding her horses.
Keith Lawson, Tenor
Keith has Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. He is a founding member of the Chorale having joined at its inception in 2005 as Schola Cantorum. An Arizonan since 1977, Keith began singing with the Tempe Corona del Sol High School choir and found a love for choral music from age 16. He has been a tenor with the Dayspring United Methodist Church Chorale for 20 years. His family shares his love for singing and his son, JD, and daughter, Katie, are also members of Cantilena. When he is not singing with the chorale he enjoys computer programming.
Wendy Janzen, Alto
Wendy earned her Master of Music in Flute Performance from the University of Minnesota. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Winnipeg and Bachelor of Religious Studies from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College, both in Music. While living in Minnesota, she founded the Crystal Flute Choir and ran a flute studio that included monthly master classes with her students. She has been President of the Upper Midwest Flute Association, adjudicator and flute choir director for flute competitions, soloist and orchestra member with the St. Paul Jewish Community Center Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and Exultate. In 2008 Wendy moved to Arizona with her husband and three children, joining the Maricopa Music Circle in 2010. As a singer, Wendy has had the opportunity to sing under the batons of Helmuth Rilling, Kazuhiro Koizumi and William Baerg. She began singing as a child, has sung throughout her life in the church, and remembers most of the words from a certain genre of music spanning the 1970s and 1980s. She is thrilled to be a part of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale.
Tom Anderson, Bass
Tom has been singing bass baritone since he was a teen and is a member of the adult choir at First Baptist Church in Tempe. Tom has taken music courses at university while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree. In 1984 he joined the Air Force and served as a communications specialist. Tom’s government service included working as an IT Manager for the U.S. State Department. He now works as a Test Engineer, qualifying new satellite modem designs. When asked what he likes about music, he answered, “Singing in choirs is pure joy for me. It lifts my spirit and provides great musical discipline. For example, singing Handel's Messiah is challenging and fulfilling at the same time. We all Glorify the Almighty God by singing and listening to the magnificent Handel's Messiah.”
Kelly Merrill, Alto
Kelly has a Master of Arts in Teaching with an Emphasis in leadership and coaching. She is a certified elementary teacher with a K-12 music and English as a Second Language endorsement. She has created and conducted an elementary choir in an ESL school and has taught band, general music, 3rd, and 6th grade. Kelly has been singing most of her life and has performed in many choirs with opportunities to be both a conductor and a soloist. She works as faculty at Western Governor’s University helping students with their dream of becoming elementary teachers. She has three children who are her life. Her family loves Harry Potter. Everyone has read the books, some multiple times, and often you will find them having a weekend of Harry Potter movie marathons. They love having fun, laughing, dancing, listening and singing to good music or just being together. Quote: “Music is so powerful and beautiful. It can change your mood, relax you, pump you up, move you to tears, relay a message, and create feelings of sadness, anger, happiness, joy, and love. I am so honored and grateful that I have the opportunity to, share in the power and beauty of music, and sing with this amazing Cantilena chorale. I absolutely love it!”
Allison Weidemann, Soprano
Allison has been involved in several choirs over the past 15 years as a vocalist, accompanist, and composer. She made her singing debut at age four as a soloist in a Christmas production directed by Dr. Dave Thye and is excited to be singing under his directorship again. Allison is a graduate of Arizona State University, where she currently works as a program coordinator for international exchange groups. She has lived abroad in Turkey as a Fulbright Scholar and most recently returned from a year-long course at Oxford University studying Theology.
Cher Thye, Alto
Cher holds an AA in Business Administration and a BA in Elementary Education. She has been singing for over a half a century and this is her first year with the Chorale. When she is not singing she enjoys playing with her six Grandchildren and watching romantic comedies.
Aaron Hammond, Bass
Aaron holds a BS in Information Technology. He has been singing for 30 years and is in his 1st year with the The Arizona Cantilena Chorale. When he is not singing or working he enjoys just relaxing with his three children.
Dr. Larry Wieland, Baritone
Larry holds a BA in Music and in Sociology. He also has his Master in Sociology and his Doctorate in Behavioral Health. He has been singing for 40 years and is in his 1st year with the Chorale. When he is not singing he enjoys his church, playing volleyball and playing the ukulele.
Katie Lawson, Soprano
Katie holds a BS in Supply Chain Management and a BA in Business Communication from Arizona State University. She has been singing for many years in her church choir and this is her first year with the Chorale. When she is not singing she enjoys playing the flute and traveling.
Chris Hammond, Alto
Chris holds a BS in Nursing from Arizona State University and a BS from Purdue University. She has been singing for 53 years and this is her first year with the Chorale. Chris also sits on the Board of the Maricopa Integrated Health System and when she is not singing she enjoys reading, playing with her puppies and 9 fun-loving Grandchildren.
Hillary Thye, Alto
Hillary holds a BS in Business with a Minor in Vocal Performance from the University of Arizona. She has been singing for 23 years and this is her first year with the Chorale. When she is not singing she enjoys playing softball, swimming long distances, going to church and keeping up with her 3 active children ages 8, 4 and 3.
Jake Thye, Tenor
Jake works in Aerospace Engineering as a Project/Program Manager and holds a Bachelor of Science (B.S) degree in Engineering Management, with a Minor in Mathematics from The University of Arizona. He also holds an Engineering Masters of Science (M.S.) degree in Manufacturing Systems Management from Southern Methodist University, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He has been singing for 32 years and has performed the trumpet for 10 years in such varied genres as jazz, choral and symphonic works, musical theatre, opera, and oratorio. Under the baton of Dr. David Thye, Jake has performed multiple times in Carnegie Hall and in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, Bass Hall with the Fort Worth Symphony in Fort Worth, TX, and in numerous premier concert halls, churches and venues across the nation in elite groups such as Southwestern College Chorale in Phoenix and the Southwestern Master Chorale in Fort Worth. This is his first year with the Arizona Cantilena Chorale. When he is not singing, he enjoys playing competitive softball, cycling, swimming, watching sports and remaining involved with his church. He resides in Fountain Hills, AZ, is married and has three beautiful daughters ages 8, 4 and 3.
Julia Dane Vlach, Soprano
Julia has enjoyed singing since she was a small child. Some of her fondest memories with her mother were singing music from the 1920’s-1960’s while her mother played the piano and sang harmony. She has sung in church from her youth as well as various school and community venues up to the present. She studied voice at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point under the direction of Dr. Smith as well as Judy May before changing schools and majors. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee with a degree in Educational Studies and a focus of Counseling and received her Masters in Educational Counseling some years later through the University of Phoenix. She also earned her certification as a Wellness coach and Holistic Nutrition Educator from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. Julia has published two books. Her book entitled “CROSSROADS And the Choices We Make” finally came out in March 2018, and she has also put together a book of her poetry that she wrote over a span of nearly three decades. Julia has retired from more than 27 years in various social service positions and finds herself volunteering, working on personal business ventures and spending as much time with her daughter and grandchildren as possible. Julia and her husband Mike have a blended family of three daughters between them and five grandchildren.
Marlynn Rey, Alto, 2nd Soprano
Marlynn received a bachelor degree in Biblical Studies and a bachelor degree in Sacred Music from Ambrose University College in Canada. She studied piano, conducting and composition with Canadian composer David McIntyre and with the late world-class concert pianist Stella Goldberg-Brimo. Marlynn has 30+ years of experience as a piano teacher and choral conductor, both in Canada and the United States. Marlynn is a composer whose choral music has recently been performed in Arizona, New York and Texas. Ms. Rey has served as a rehearsal director for MidAmerica Productions at Carnegie Hall, in Greece and in Italy. She joined the MidAmerica staff as a program developer and conductor in 2018. Marlynn is also on staff at Sun Valley Community Church as a choir director and worship leader.
Brad Roon, Bass
Originally from Colorado, Brad has lived in Arizona since 2006. He has sung in various Church and community choral groups since High School. Brad has worked in the aviation industry for over 40 years and is currently an Aviation Safety Inspector in an Airworthiness Certification Policy Office of the Federal Aviation Administration. Brad and his wife of 46 years, GayLynne, have 4 children and 4 grandchildren. Singing is my “golf”. It is for the pure joy of music that I am excited to be a part of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale.
Jerri Cornils, Alto
Jerri has been singing ever since she can remember. While growing up in Wyoming, she started singing for church and school at a very young age. She was active in her High School chorus and was a member of the All State Choir for several years. While in high school she often found herself being asked to sing for weddings and funerals as well. She traveled one summer with the singing group Festival of Praise. Jerri studied vocal performance at the University of Nebraska where she sang in the Women's Chorale and mixed chorus. Since moving to AZ, she has sung in several different vocal groups and presently enjoys singing on her church's worship team. Jerri has two adult children and loves spending any spare time with her three grandchildren. She enjoys cooking, entertaining, reading and travel. Jerri is thrilled to be a new member of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale.
John Janzen, Baritone
John has been singing in choirs since his youth in Southern Ontario and graduated with a Bachelor degree in choral conducting from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College (Winnipeg, Canada) where he met his wife, Wendy. He moved from Minnesota with his wife and three kids to Arizona in 2008 and founded a community choir in Maricopa in 2013. John works as a geographic analyst (GIS) for a small American Indian community where he gets to make maps. He spends his spare time laughing with his family or updating his geographic database of Mennonite history.