Melissa Arning grew up in the Detroit suburbs, went to college in Cleveland, and now continues her tour of the Midwest at her home in Chicago. She credits her Midwestern roots with fostering her love of cars, Vernors, and Jello. A busy performer of both opera and oratorio, Ms. Arning’s roles include Ruth in Dark Sisters, Meg in Falstaff, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Cendrillon in Cendrillon, Muse/Nicklausse in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Pitti-Sing in The Mikado, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, Despina in Cosi fan tutte, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Mercedes in Carmen. For her work with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Ms. Arning also has two Grammy awards. In her spare time, she is a beekeeper.
Saxophonist, vocalist, bassist, writer, arranger, producer, Anthony Bruno has spent his life dedicated to all things music. Bringing over 20 years of professional experience performing with the likes of The Temptations, The Four Tops, Larry Carlton, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Wynton Marsalis, Gerald Clayton, Doc Severinsen, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Bobby Watson, Sean Jones, and Phil Woods. He has also performed in two Universal Pictures Movies, “Public Enemies” with Johny Depp and Diana Krall, and “The Express”. Mr. Bruno is a Selmer Artist endorsing Selmer Paris Saxophones. Anthony is also a member of JEN the Jazz Education Network and National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Mr. Bruno graduated from DePaul University in 2007 with a BM in Music Education.
Justin Callis is a teaching artist, music director, and composer here in Chicago. In addition to his work at ChiArts, he has worked extensively with youth of all ages and backgrounds. With COT for Teens, he has served as composer, music director, orchestrator, and arranger on Memories of Yesterday, an original musical based on materials from the StoryCorp archives, as well as leading a student orchestra with original orchestrations for Once on This Island. With Improv Playhouse, he has worked with students on Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, The Addams Family, High School Musical, and Newsies. With Storycatchers Theatre, he worked for many years with incarcerated youth, transforming stories from their lives into original musicals, and music directing and accompanying their performances. He helped over 100 elementary school students put on a production of Madagascar, Jr. this past spring, and served as the music director for a production of Thoroughly Modern Millie at Glencoe Central Middle School. He teaches private voice and piano lessons through Piano Power. He is the Music Director at Community Christian Church in Lincolnshire, where he prepares a choir of one dozen adults for weekly services of spiritual music. He is also the Music Director at Shir Tikvah Synagogue in Homewood, where he works with the adult choir as well. As a performer, he toured the country with Child’s Play Touring Theatre, performing original plays and musicals based on the work of children, and has performed extensively around the Chicagoland area with Chicago Opera Playhouse. Additionally, Ravenswood Community Orchestra recently premiered his Symphony No. 1 this past spring. He graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Theatre and English and a Certificate in Music Theatre.
This is Chris Cashman’s fifth year at ChiArts. He received his B.A. in TESOL at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and spent a summer teaching English in Mexico while living with a pastoral family there. After teaching ESL at Harold Washington College for a year and a half, he decided to pursue a long-time goal of being a Spanish teacher and studied Spanish Linguistics at UIC (M.A. degree) and taught Spanish there. He completed education coursework at Northeastern and taught for two years at Oak Park & River Forest High School.
Mr.Cashman has been immersed in the Hispanic community in Chicago by being involved in a Spanish-speaking church. He serves as a youth ministry leader and a few years ago started a band in the church which he directs. He has served as the accompanist for Senior Chorale, and this year will be teaching Chorale Experience. Mr.Cashman has a wife and two children and lives in Humboldt Park.
Natalie Chami is a composer, performer, and music educator. She holds a Bachelor’s in Music with an emphasis in Music Education from Northwestern University and concentrations in classical voice, opera performance, and choral conducting. She has acted as director of volunteer music outreach groups including the Music Learning Community (MLC) and UpBeat!, which organized free music lessons in the Evanston and Chicago area. In addition to her degree, Ms. Chami is also Illinois Teacher Certified for grades K-12 (Music). She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), and was a finalist for the National Artist Teacher Fellowship in 2014.
Ms. Chami is an active member of Chicago’s experimental music scene. She records and performs solo music under the name TALsounds, in the trio Good Willsmith, and as half of the duo l’éternèbre. Each of these projects presents a variation or complication of an overarching performative process: her vocal loops and analog synth tones drift and accumulate across long sessions of improvised music – generating an atmosphere of her own, or colluding with the processed electronics and textural sound collages of her collaborators. After a series of tape releases on labels like Hausu Mountain, Tabs Out, and Moog’s own physical imprint, Chami released her first TALsounds LP, Love Sick, with New York’s Ba Da Bing Records. In addition to her regular local performances, Ms. Chami has performed across the US on four national tours with Good Willsmith and two solo tours to date. Good Willsmith was chosen with the trio as an artist in residence at Chicago’s High Concept Laboratories for the Fall/Winter 2012-13 season. The band’s LPs The Honeymoon Workbook and Things Our Bodies Used To Have, released on Mexico-city based label Umor Rex, earned positive reviews from publications including Pitchfork, FACT, and Vice/THUMP, while TALsounds’s 2015 LP Love Sick saw praise from NPR, FACT, Bandcamp, and BBC6 Radio.
Thomas Clippert savors the wide variety of music available for the guitar, from the early Renaissance to the present day. He frequently performs as both soloist and chamber musician throughout the Chicago area. He has appeared with a variety of ensembles including L’Opera Piccola, Heartland Voices, CUBE, Northwest Chicago String Quartet, Northwest Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the University of Chicago New Music Ensemble. Tom is a graduate of the Yale School of Music where he studied with Benjamin Verdery and was awarded the Eliot Fisk Guitar Prize. Additional studies include Phillip de Fremery at the Mount Holyoke Guitar Master Class and Patrick Roux at the Domaine Forget Music and Dance Academy in Quebec. In addition to being a founding faculty member at ChiArts, Tom teaches at Oakton Community College, The Sherwood Community Music School at Columbia College, and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Tom has been a featured artist at the Interlochen Fingerstyle Guitar Workshop.
Jason Ellis has played Broadway in Chicago productions including Million Dollar Quartet, Matilda, Beautiful, and School of Rock, as well as additional productions at Drury Lane, Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, and the Paramount Theatre Aurora. Orchestral performances include Fulcrum Point New Music Project, the Memphis Symphony, and Oistrakh Symphony Chicago. His teaching experience includes the Jacobs School at Indiana University, Interlochen Center for the Arts/ The University of Michigan, Deerfield High School, Highland Park High School, and Harvard-Westlake Los Angeles. Jason has performed with jazz luminaries such as Bobby Watson, James Williams, Aaron Parks, Ira Sullivan, Melvin Rhyne, Derrick Gardner, and Fareed Haque: additional performances highlights include SNL legend Joe Piscopo, The Voice winner Josh Kaufman, the Atlanta Olympic Games, and the Kennedy Center. His primary teachers are Lawrence Hurst, Bruce Bransby, John Clayton, and Rufus Reid, as well as electric bass instructors Victor Wooten and Oteil Burbridge. Jason endorses Lakland basses, Acoustic Image amplifiers, and Genz Benz amplifiers; his upright basses are a 1939 Kay and a 1996 Rumano Solano.
From playing classical music at Orchestra Hall to rock music on Warped Tour, Rebecca is a violinist, songwriter, producer, and educator who has used her classical music training to focus on innovating and blend genre lines. The genre-bending efforts began in undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, when she founded the rock band, The Lifeline. She used her training to give the band a unique performance quality, utilizing live looping techniques, as well as sequencing and sampling to enhance the presence of her violin. As a result she has graced the stages of many of the city’s finest venues such as Metro, House of Blues, Aragon Ballroom, Lincoln Hall, Beat Kitchen, Bottom Lounge, Double Door, Soldier Field, Subterranean, Cubby Bear and Goose Island Wrigleyville. In addition, she’s also been a part of many festivals and tours, such as SXSW, CMJ, Taste of Chicago, Taste of Chaos Tour, Warped Tour, Milwaukee Summerfest, and Q101 Block Party which further expand her influence. Rebecca Faber has worked with some of the best engineers and producers in the country. Names like Steve Albini (Nirvana), Chris Shepard (Chicago Recording Company), Sean O’Keefe (Plain White T’s), and Johnny Rioux (The Bruisers, Social Distortion, Street Dogs) are just a few of the diverse individuals that have helped Rebecca hone her craft and continue to innovate. As a result of work in the recording industry, she has become a voting member of The Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences, voting for the Grammys in both the musician categories and the Producers and Engineering Wing. She is also an ASCAP member and recipient of the ASCAP Plus Award in two consecutive years. In the spirit of giving back and inspiring others to use music as an outlet, Rebecca has taught in various settings, including privately, through the Ravinia Festival, at the Chicago High School for the Arts, and through online content on Reverb.com. Growing up in Chicago, Rebecca studied pre-college at the Merit School of Music, Midwest Young Artists’ Program, and studying privately under Laura Miller (Lyric Opera of Chicago). She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, studying violin performance under Peter Schaffer (Concertmaster, San Francisco Symphony). Continuing studies/additional training include playing master classes and lessons with David Kim (Concertmaster, Philadelphia Orchestra), Nathan Cole (Assistant Concertmaster, LA Philharmonic), Lisa-Beth Lambert (National Symphony), Cornelius Chiu (Chicago Symphony), Christopher Wu (Pittsburgh Symphony), and studied chamber music under the Avalon String Quartet.
Alicia Poot Kelly (“Poot” rhymes with “boat”) is an orchestral and chamber flutist in and around Chicago. From 2009-2014 she was a core member of “Palomar,” the performing arm of Chicago composer resource Access Contemporary Music (ACM). Other performance credits include work with the Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Southwest Michigan, and Northwest Indiana Symphonies, Whiting Park Festival Orchestra, Pine Mountain Music Festival, Lira Ensemble, New Millennium Orchestra, Highland Park Strings, Chicago Composers’ Orchestra, The Irish Tenors, Bach and Beyond, Anaphora, International Chamber Artists, and Crossing Borders Music Collective. Mrs. Kelly has also been a faculty member at Merit School of Music, and has worked with student composers through the Young Composers Program at Cleveland Institute of Music and ACM’s High School Composers Workshop. She has been a winner or finalist in several competitions hosted by organizations such as The National Flute Association, Tuesday Musical Society, Madison Area Flute Association, and has performed in festivals in Canada and Italy: Orford Arts Centre, Symphony Orchestra Academy of the Pacific, Rome Festival, and the Julius Baker Masterclasses. She has studied at DePaul University, The University of Akron (MM), Western Michigan University (BM), and The Catholic University of America.
Jeff Kelly has played and studied drum set and percussion for more than three decades. He was fortunate to have received a large part of his training from the late Alan Dawson, who mentored such drum set luminaries as Tony Williams and Vinnie Colaiuta. He studied Music at Boston University, and went on to earn his Masters Degree from The Berklee College of Music & Boston Conservatory. There he continued his drum set work under the tutelage of Ron Savage, and Jon Hazilla, who was a student of Max Roach’s. He studied Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music with Ed Uribe, Sa Davis, and Bobby Sanabria (Dizzy Gillespe) and West African drumming with Joe Galeota (maker of JAG drums). He traveled to Ghana for additional study with Emanuel, Rueben, and Victor Agbeli, sons of Master Drummer Godwin Agbeli. Jeff is an experienced, enthusiastic, and dedicated drum teacher who performs in genres including jazz, funk, folk, rock, r&b, pop, and “other.” In addition to his performance work, he is a producer, a recording engineer with major label credits, a songwriter whose works have gotten international airplay, and a composer for clients such as Twentieth Century Fox, MTV, Frito Lay, and Pepsi. Having worked on production teams with Grammy nominees and Oscar winners, he brings to his classroom an understanding of the type of professionalism it takes to succeed in the music industry. He also teaches at Dominican University, holds an MBA (Finance) degree, is married to Mrs. Kelly, and is a father of 2. Interests close to Jeff’s heart are science, economics, history, football, and he loves to fish, having twice caught ferocious Northern Pikes over 45 inches.
Betsy Ko is a founding faculty member of ChiArts, Chicago’s first public arts high school. Ms. Ko has served as Music Department Head since the school opened its doors in the fall of 2009. She also serves as the ChiArts Band Director and has overseen growth in that program from 9 students in 2009 to a current enrollment of 46. In March 2018, the ChiArts Wind Ensemble under Ms. Ko’s direction was honored to receive the honor of “Best in Day” designation at the Illinois High School Association’s Organizational Contest. Ms. Ko is also a long time flute faculty member at Merit School of Music where she teaches individuals and groups of all levels. She has coached the Purple Hippopotami Flute Quartet for many years and saw that group earn 3rd place in the prestigious M-Prize Chamber Music competition (Junior Winds division) in May 2018. A native of New York, Ms. Ko has been an active performer in the Chicago area since arriving here in 1991. She currently performs with the Northshore Concert Band. Ms. Ko received her M.M. in flute performance from DePaul University where she studied with Mary Stolper. Her undergraduate degree was in pure mathematics from Brown University. She additionally holds Illinois Type 10 certification in music.
Erica Lessie received her BM in cello performance from Indiana University, where she studied with Fritz Magg. At Florida State University she earned an MM in cello performance and completed coursework for a DMA. Currently, she is teaching at DePaul University Community Music Division, Sherwood Community Music School at Columbia College and Chicago High School for the Arts. Ms. Lessie is a freelance cellist in the Chicago area. She is a founding member of the cross-style string quartet Red Riding Hood and co-founder of Cherchez la Femme, an ensemble dedicated to performing works by women. She is also an auxiliary member of the rock band Tributosaurus.
Taylor Mallory is a professional singer, songwriter, actor, and Level Next Music recording artist. As a music artist, he’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, JET, Windy City Live! and nominated for Best Male Vocalist for the Chicago Music Awards. His acting highlights include national print, radio, and commercial ads from Corona, Newport, McDonalds, Xfinity and many more. Recently, he made his film debut on NBC’s Chicago P.D. as Darius Brown. Above all, Mallory uses his artistry as an entertainer to uplift and encourage those who have experienced childhood trauma and sexual abuse; his message is simple “You are enough and your healing starts with you.” He is a member of the F.A.M.E. foundation and SAG-AFTRA. His Level Next Music team actively mentors and motivates youth in the inner cities, specifically the South, West, and South suburban areas of Chicago. He closes each class session with the following statement “My passion, will be my profession.”
Heather McCowen, Ph.D. is the Director of Programs at The ChiArts Foundation and teaches bassoon lessons for the Music Conservatory. She began her career at ChiArts as the founding Post Secondary Adviser (college counselor), creating the college counseling program and helping the first eight graduating classes with their college searches. Prior to this position, Dr. McCowen was the Assistant Dean for Enrollment and Student Services for the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and served as Associate Dean for Admissions at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA. Dr. McCowen holds a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon Performance (with a concentration in Music Business) from Northwestern University, the Master of Music in Bassoon Performance from Southern Methodist University and the Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education (with a minor in Marketing) from the University of North Texas’s College of Education. An Alum of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, she has performed with the symphonic orchestras of Dallas, Fort Worth, Shreveport, Oak Park and River Forest (among others). Currently she performs with the Northshore Concert Band, the top adult wind ensemble in the country. Dr. McCowen lives in the South Loop with her husband Paul and her 9year old son, Theo. Her stepson Alex will complete his MA in Arts Administration at the School of the Art Institute in December of 2021.
Caryn Ott Hillman started dancing at the age of three. After falling in love with singing, she attended Roosevelt University for a Music Degree in Vocal Performance. Caryn then performed in musicals throughout Chicago at Equity and Non-Equity theaters. After starting a family, she dedicated her time to directing and choreographing shows for the youth at Light Opera Works, Chicago Opera Theater, After School Matters and Opera for All. Caryn continues all the above, as well as, teaching and directing Musical Theater at Lycee Francais of Chicago, and of Course – The great Chicago High School for the Arts!
Patrick currently free-lances in the Chicagoland area, teaching and gigging. He is a full time member of the Rockford Symphony and has performed with the Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Elgin, Kalamazoo, Illinois, Elmhurst, South Bend, Quad City Symphonies as well as the Illinois and Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Highland Park Strings. Other groups include OperaModa, Chicago Opera Vanguard, and the Downers Grove Choral Society. Patrick has also performed with the Chicago Shakespeare, Goodman, Paramount, Drury Lane, Timeline, Porchlight, Marriott, Writer’s, Royal George and Court Theatre Companies, as well as the American Girl Revue. Other performances include soloing at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Cultural Center’s Sunday Salon Series, and playing on WFMT. Aside from performing, He was a clarinet play-tester/technician at the Conn-Selmer factory in Kenosha, WI. Currently, Patrick is an Artist Clinician for D’Addario Woodwinds and provides free educational classes to schools in the Chicagoland area. As a teacher, he holds studios at Concordia University, Moraine Valley Community College, The Chicago High School for the Arts, and the First Conservatory of LaGrange. Patrick received his Masters from Northwestern University and Bachelors from Middle Tennessee State University.
Devvora Papatheodorou Schreier has an M.M. in Piano Performance from DePaul University, a B.M. in Piano Performance from Nikos Skalkotas Conservatory and a Degree in Harmony from Model Conservatory. During her Master’s degree, she studied piano with Mary Sauer of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition, she studied piano technique and chamber music with Deborah Sobol of the Chicago Chamber Musicians for five years after the completion of her Master’s. She has had master classes with Mary Stolper, Yehuda Hanani, Jerry Grossman, William Cernota, and Christopher Costanza, among others. Ms. Papatheodorou has extensive experience in teaching piano, piano ensemble and theory. She has had training and certification in YAMAHA’s Clavinova lab and trained piano faculty in group class repertoire, class management and methodologies. Ms. Papatheodorou has coached one‐piano four‐hand and two‐piano ensembles, as well as mixed chamber groups for several years and currently teaches at Dominican University, where she also serves as Director of the Music Discipline. She has had several years of solo, chamber music and one-piano found-hands performing experience, as well as accompanying other instrumentalists and vocalists.
Dr. Brooks Truly serves on the faculty of both ChiArts and Morton College. He also performs with the world fusion group Callaloo and is a freelance musician with various other groups in the Chicago area. He has taught percussion at several universities, secondary and primary schools, and has performed with dozens of orchestras and chamber groups as a section/principal percussionist and featured soloist, as well as hundreds of drum set and theater performances throughout the Gulf Coast, South Florida, and Midwest areas. During this time, he has shared the stage with such artists as Lil Greenwood, Bobby Shew, Louie Bellson, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Jim Walker, Yo-Yo Ma, Michel Camilo, Andrea Bocelli, Ramsey Lewis, Paul Potts, Faith Hill, Elvis Costello, Evanescence, Lindsey Stirling, Hanson, Celtic Thunder, and Il Divo to name a few, and has worked with such conductors/composers as Scott Speck, Aaron Jay Kernis, Susie Seiter, James Judd, Helmuth Rilling, Sir Andrew Davis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Philippe Entremont, Russell Peck, Placido Domingo, and Phillip Glass, among others, and was a percussionist in the world premiere of Mason Bates’ Music for Percussion and Orchestra. Recently he was invited to present his doctoral essay, The Afro-Cuban Abakuá as a performance/demonstration at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC).
Dr. Truly holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, a Master of Music degree from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of South Alabama, all in the field of Percussion Performance. He is an endorsed performing artist with Remo Drumheads, Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, and is a member of the Black Swamp Percussion Educators Network. Former teachers include Ney Rosauro, Shannon Wood, Ted Atkatz, Richie Bravo, Ed Harrison, Vadim Karpinos, Paul Wertico, Ruben Alvarez, and John Papastefan.