Meet the Fall 2020 Cohort



Born in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton, Canada), Jonathon Adams is an Indigenous baritone of Cree-Métis descent. In concert, he has appeared as a soloist with Philippe Herreweghe, Sigiswald Kuijken, Hans-Christoph Rademann, Helmut Rilling, Václav Luks, BachPlus, Vox Luminis, il Gardellino, and B’Rock Orchestra. Jonathon attended the Royal Academy of Music, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and studied privately with Emma Kirkby, Nancy Argenta, Edith Wiens, and Olivier Lallouette. At the Conservatorium van Amsterdam he sang the role of Aeneas in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas under Richard Egarr. In 2020 and 2021 Jonathon holds the Netherlands Bach Society’s “Young Bach Fellowship” and will appear with them in concert throughout the Netherlands and at the Leipzig Bach Festival. He is a core member of Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir.


Olawumi is an event expert in management and public relations. She has over ten years of experience in live entertainment and social media. She has organized events in the Boston metropolitan area, creating musical platforms for local artists, musicians, and bands for a small production company called AfroDesiaCity. Ola holds an M.S. in communications management from Simmons School of Management and a B.S. from the University of New Hampshire, where she began her education as a Tourism Planning and Development major. After graduation, she worked at Sheraton Boston Hotel as an Executive Meeting Specialist and moved into several related positions that groomed her as an impresario. She resides at Hibernian Hall since 2015 where she foster celebration of the cultural heritage of the neighborhood through original quality theater productions created by local and regional artists and writers of color including original theater created by Hibernian Hall’s Playwrights in Residence.


Victoria Benson, soprano, director, producer and emerging librettist, lives and works in New York City. She performs in a touring production of Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens, and is producing a series of live stream interviews in November with up-and-coming composers and the mainstage show Self-Defined Circuits for Fresh Squeezed Opera. She serves as Board Chair for FSO and shares their mission of producing contemporary operatic works and supporting a diverse and inclusive community of new artists.


Described as ‘a powerful mysterious force’ by Parterre, Ju-eh/Juecheng Chen is a true 21st century artist. As an operatic countertenor/male mezzo, he specialises in providing answers to what opera can be in the lens of today. As a composer, creative producer and experimental artist, Ju-eh has initiated projects like his own musical drama The Living Dying Opera commissioned by NY Chinese Culture Salon; his solo album Operatic Electric with Gene Pritsker commissioned by Composers Concordance. Ju-eh was awarded the Brooklyn Arts Fund by Brooklyn Arts Council for his vision Un/Opera. He is a resident artists at Atlantic Center for the Arts, Center at the West Park and he is a NEW INC member, the New Museum’s cultural incubator. His multimedia recording project Solar/Me is set to be released in early 2021.


Puerto Rican soprano and producer Cristina Gallo is an enterprising young artist working in the Boston area. Her first production, How to Tell a Scary Story, holds distinction as the first undergraduate-led and commissioned opera at Northwestern University. A dynamic singing-actress as well as producer, Gallo most recently sung the role of Rosalinde in MIOpera’s production of Die Fledermaus. As Second Lady in Miami Music Festival’s production of Die Zauberflote, Gallo was praised for her “pure tones” and “vivacious humor.” A versatile artist, Ms. Gallo recently delved into the film world with her recent art song project Death and a Maiden: Twilight Lifts the Veil.

Kate Hanley has worked as a professional stage manager, arts administrator, and/or arts educator in such places as The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in DC, Arden Theatre Company, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, and Circadium School of Contemporary Circus in Philadelphia, and Center Stage in Baltimore as well as many others. Kate is currently the managing director for Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and with them took the award winning xoxo moongirl, a circus fantasia, to Edinburgh Fringe. In addition to working with Almanac, Kate teaches courses in contemporary circus and stage management at Arcadia University.


Sergeant First Class Ben Hilgert is a producer and vocalist for The United States Army Field Band. Since joining the Soldiers’ Chorus in 2010, Hilgert has performed with the musical ambassadors of the Army in all of the contiguous 48 states and Puerto Rico. As conceptualist and producer for the new American opera The Falling and the Rising, Hilgert combined his passion for musical storytelling with the mission of the Army Field Band, bringing untold stories of military service to audiences in New York, Seattle, New Orleans, and across the country.


Jennifer Jolley is the Co-Founder and Creative Producer of NANOWorks Opera Company, which workshops and produces short chamber operas by emerging composers in North America. She is also a composer of vocal, orchestral, wind ensemble, chamber, and electronic works. Jennifer's compositions have been performed by ensembles worldwide, and she has received commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, University of Texas Wind Ensemble, the Quince Ensemble, and many others.


Obie Award-winner Jennifer Kidwell's performer-driven theater work addresses the complexities of race and notions of American history with sharp intelligence and wry humor. Invested in probing challenging social and historical truths, Kidwell says her work is "concerned with discomfort and/or confusion around normative practices and systems." With Scott Sheppard, she premiered and performed in Underground Railroad Game, lauded by The Philadelphia Inquirer as a "brilliant theatrical commentary on contemporary race relations."

A graduate of Pig Iron Theatre Company's School for Advanced Performance Training, Kidwell created and appeared in the company's Center-funded project, I Promised Myself to Live Faster, and The Wilma Theater's production of Antigone. She is co-artistic director of the theater company Lightning Rod Special and co-founder of the Brooklyn-based performance space JACK. 

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A composer of music theatre based in Toronto, Canada, Njo Kong Kie is a picnic and ping pong enthusiast. Creations include concert theatre Picnic in the Cemetery, vocal theatre I swallowed a moon made of iron (touring Canada and South East Asia in 2021) and the Toronto Theatre Critics Award Best New Musical winner Mr. Shi and His Lover (Paris premier summer 2021). Long-serving music director of La La La Human Steps, Kong Kie has also created soundtrack for choreographers such as Aszure Barton for productions at Nederlands Dans Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Hong Kong Arts Festival.


As a composer, chamber vocalist, and arts administrator, Jamie Leidwinger is passionate about socially conscious endeavors. Recent creative projects include a song cycle commissioned by Houston Grand Opera Studio and music supervision for Crystal City, a documentary on crystal meth in New York City’s LGBTQ community.  She has also administered projects for Du Yun, Amy Beth Kirsten, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Symphony Space, the Ojai Music Festival, and WQXR’s Q2 Music. Jamie holds a M.M. in Composition from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins and a B.A. in Music with a minor in Political Science from Dickinson College.

Elliot Menard is a mezzo-soprano and opera-maker from Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BA in Classics from Reed College. She is a co-founder of Renegade Opera, an immersive opera company in Portland, for which she is also the grants manager, development director, and co-producer. Her personal mission is to democratize opera, push for a truly equitable industry, and to help dismantle financial barriers for artists and audiences alike. She is dedicated to creating, performing, and supporting works that center traditionally marginalized voices. She has recently performed with Renegade Opera, Big Mouth Society, Aquilon Music Festival, and Reed College. 

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Singer, Actress, and Creative Arts Leader, Takesha Meshé Kizart-Thomas, has been praised by critics worldwide for her visually, and vocally, compelling performances. From leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera and Sydney Opera House to sharing the stage with Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis, to performances with Broadway in Chicago and on HBO, her presence is magnetic. With a strong belief in education, creation,  and community as evidenced by her recent collaborations with Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, she also brings with her 15+ years of experience as a Master Vocal Technician, Coach, Songwriter, and Arranger with a focus on holistically integrating and freeing the Artist’s Mind, Body, and Spirit.


Latino American director, David Radamés Toro applies his physical theatre background to a variety of repertoire.
David is known for bringing humanity to the opera stage. In reviewing his production of Flight, The Star Tribune wrote, “This staging showed that "Flight" has a beating heart, and something to say.”


David has had the privilege of directing modern works such as Glory Denied (Opera Fayetteville) and Rose Made Man: An Inside Out Opera (Cohen New Works Festival), as well as assisting on world premieres such as Today It Rains (Opera Parallèle), Dinner at Eight (Minnesota Opera), and The Shining (Minnesota Opera). 

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Michael Restaino is the founder and artistic director of Michael Anthony Theatrical in New York City. Born in New Jersey, he was constantly surrounded by theater arts and went on to graduate from The American Musical and Dramatic College and Conservatory with a BFA in Musical Theater. Michael has been seen onstage in numerous professional productions and is an entertainment supervisor for Viking Cruise Lines. Michael Anthony Theatrical began production in 2015 with a mission to create a bond between all theatrical experiences, creating a unique networking opportunity and performances made to be enjoyed by audiences by all.

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John Rozzoni (General Director) has garnered experience from positions and perspectives throughout the performance art industry. After early years as a vocalist, he turned his attention to administration and marketing and pledged to make opera more inclusive as Tri-Cities Opera's first Director of Community Engagement. As TCO's General Director, he is committed to artistic excellence while striving for a sustainable and progressive operatic art form that balances tradition and innovation. In addition to his work with TCO, his work with the LUMA Festival, EatBing and The Department of Public Art helps nurture a vibrant cultural life in Binghamton, NY.


Grammy Award-winning singer, Lucy Schaufer, dedicates her career to performing and collaborating with living composers, including Oliver Knussen, John Adams, John Corigliano, George Benjamin, Mark Adamo, Jonathan Dove, Charlotte Bray, Michele Brourman, and anticipates adding women’s names to that list. In concert she’s performed with London Sinfonietta, Britten Sinfonia, BCMG, and Ensemble Modern. Recent work includes recitals at Wigmore Hall, Ravinia Festival, Modgud The Monstrous Child (world premiere ROH), Venables’s 4.48 Psychosis at PROTOTYPE FESTIVAL, Susanna The Ghosts of Versailles (LA Opera), Mrs Jones Street Scene (Teatro Real Madrid). She is Artistic Director of Wild Plum Arts.

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Joya Scott is a producer, dramaturg, director, and educator. She specializes in contemporary and devised work, multidisciplinary ensemble practice, and artistic process facilitation. She recently co-founded Ghosteater, a new contemporary performance group. From 2012 to 2018, Joya was producer and resident dramaturg at Orange Theatre, an ensemble based in Phoenix, AZ. She was previously a freelance director and artistic director of independent companies in Phoenix and New York City. Joya is also a faculty member at Arizona State University School of Music, Dance and Theatre, where she's taught multidisciplinary collaboration, experimental theatre and performance, directing, acting, and other courses.

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Emily Tepe (“IVA” on stage) is a singer-songwriter and bandleader, an art-song interpreter, and an opera singer and vocal coach. Originally trained in opera at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, she began performing on television (Conan O’Brien) and in off-broadway shows and started writing her own material as a pop singer-songwriter.

She signed with New York label Vurse to record her self-titled debut album before moving to Sweden on a Fulbright scholarship for classical music. While in Sweden she released Ivolution with Universal, launching her onto national radio and TV, all while she was making her debut at the Royal Opera of Stockholm. She returned to the U.S. to form her own band, releasing “Leap” in 2015 to NPR and tastemaker stations around the country.

Costume Design, Eurydice

Europe:  Simmetrico Italia; Bonsai-Ninja Studio Milano; BattleROYAL Berlin; English National Opera; Ambassador Theater Group-London West End; Handel House Museum; Lithuanian National Opera; European Capitals of Culture Initiative, 2009; Duo W: Berlin; Filmmaster Milano/Dubai. Asia:  Suzhou Opera; Beijing Olympic Games, 2008 with Zhang Yimou & Eiko Ishioka; Duo W: Shanghai. US/South America:  Lincoln Center Festival; Carnegie Hall; Brooklyn Academy of Music; New York City Opera; Signature Theater; TFANA; Guggenheim Museum; Spoleto Festival; Seattle Opera; Intiman Theater; Court Theater; Pioneer Theater; Duo Reves Aerial Ballet, The Flying Machine; Groundwerx Dance Company. Film/TV:  ROMEARCA Productions Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia; PBS: Great Performances Bill Irwin: Crown Prince, NBC Olympic Coverage One World, One Dream; Dark Matter, starring Meryl Streep and Liu Ye; Bert & Arnie’s Guide to Friendship; Gracie, starring Elizabeth Shue. 

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Gretchen Werda is an opera director, librettist, arts-manager, mezzo-soprano, and aspiring creative producer. She obtained her master’s degree in Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory, and is a Certified Specialist in Electronic Music Production through Berklee College of Music. Passionate about the creation of new works, Gretchen has stage directed with Boston Opera Collaborative, Hartford Opera Theater, New England Conservatory Graduate Opera, and Berlin Opera Academy. Originally from New Haven, Gretchen managed with New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and Goodspeed Musicals before moving to Boston where she managed with White Snake Projects and Guerilla Opera. Gretchen currently manages the Berklee Performance Center and mentors students as Senior House Manager of Concert Operations.