Music at Muhlenberg College
Adjunct Faculty Profiles
We are featuring some of our talented adjuncts who teach applied music to 330 Muhlenberg students and direct several ensembles. We could not fulfill our mission without them. Please enjoy reading about their many accomplishments.
Lauren Curnow, a Muhlenberg alum who returned to teach here, spent 6 weeks in Japan last Spring, singing in the Saito-Kinen Festival’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. The tour included performances in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kyoto. The renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa coached the singers in rehearsal and worked with the orchestra, comprised of a group of college students from the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy. The understudies and opera chorus were also students from the Academy. Ozawa’s assistant, Pierre Valle, conducted the performances after Mr. Ozawa became ill. This is Curnow’s third time working with Ozawa: She performed Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen with him in Matsumoto, Japan, and Florence, Italy.
A graduate of the Rubin Academic of Music in Israel and Westminster Choir College, soprano Raya Gonen has performed leading roles on the opera stage and in recital. She represented Israel at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in Wales, performed works by Chopin in honor of Polish President Lech Walensa, and sang songs by Grieg in Oslo, Norway. Gonen is the first and only vocalist to devote an entire recording, Vocal Jewels from Israel, to contemporary art songs by Israeli composers. She will join forces with award-winning film producer/director Henry Nevison in an endeavor to transform her Holocaust Music Recital Program into an educational documentary film. The film will feature Gonen singing the works of the composers who wrote and performed in concentration camps and ghettos during the Holocaust era.
Recently elected president of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Steven Snow also heads the Artist Development Wing for the Opera Project, a venue for classical singers based in Lambertville, NJ, that presents recitals and showcase concerts throughout the Fall and Spring. In July 2013, the Artist Development Wing will sponsor the Hunterdon Vocal Workshop, a week of intensive master classes and scene study. Snow will be performing Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Shannondell Arts Center, and will perform "Two American Songs" here at Muhlenberg in a concert of works by Douglas Ovens on February 20th (see our Concert Calendar below for details).
Christa Warda has taught at Muhlenberg for many years and is the liaison between Muhlenberg College and the Lehigh Saengerbund (Saengerbund is German for "Singer's Association"), a German singing society that was founded 155 years ago, in 1858, in Allentown. It is a community chorus that rehearses Tuesday nights in Egner Chapel and performs twice a year—an annual Christmas concert in early December, and a concert celebrating its anniversary every Spring, usually the first Saturday in May. Warda was the soprano soloist in a recent performance of the Mozart Requiem at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Nativity in Bethlehem (Dr. Diane Follet is a member of the Cathedral Choir). Wards is working on a collaborative project with fellow faculty members Michael Schnack and Stephen Williams. Stay tuned! moinformation!
June Thomas, a 2012 graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with an MM in Jazz Studies, is a new addition to our faculty. She is a jazz vocalist and pianist and will appear with the Maria Woodford Band at the International Blues Competition this Spring in Memphis, TN. She also performs regularly with blues guitarist/songwriter Mike Dugan, a local “favorite son,” and provided background vocals on jazz legend Bob Dorough's latest CD project, “Duets.” Thomas also recorded her original arrangement of “Deck the Halls” (entitled “Deck the What”) for the PA Jazz Collective's debut holiday CD. The track was a collaborative undertaking by several Muhlenberg jazz faculty members: Thomas (piano, vocals), Tom Kozic (guitar), Gary Rissmiller (drums), Tony Gairo (tenor saxophone), and Domenic Fiore (acoustic bass). The project was recorded at Spectra Sound Studios in Nazareth, PA. In addition to her studio at Muhlenberg, Thomas teaches at the Lesson Center in Bethlehem and Coopersburg, and she looks forward to continuing to make creative connections with artists, students, and lovers of music in the upcoming year.
Ed Bara (featured in our Spring, 2010, newsletter) maintains an active performing career, teaches over 40 individual voice lessons per week, and serves as Director of Music Ministries at Peace Lutheran Church in Bucks County. Bara also directs the Muhlenberg Women’s Ensemble.
Bara has been featured as bass soloist in recordings of works by Bach, Mozart, Handel, Dvorak, and Mendelssohn. He has also sung at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center in performances ranging from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus to Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Equally at home on the opera stage and in musical theatre, Bara has performed over 100 lead roles in the U.S and in 14 countries worldwide as well as numerous recital and small concert performances.
This Spring, Bara, in the role of Jesus, will be joined by Megan Monaghan and Daniel Boring in a performance at the Kimmel Center of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, which will also be recorded for a 2013 release. He will also sing two recitals, one featuring song sets of Gerald Finzi with his friend and fellow Muhlenberg colleague Vincent Trovato (more on p. 4), and the other titled “Kings, Fathers, and Villains,” which will feature Bara with some of his students in a wonderful evening of dark, menacing characters. In the summer, Bara will again join the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theater program for his 5th season with the company and 3rd as musical director.
Notes from 3 instrumentalists…
Jim Thoma, a Missouri native and a graduate of the Juilliard School, appears regularly as timpanist with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, a post he has held for the past 25 years. He also plays with the New York City Opera, whose recent performances include the VOX Festival (premiering excerpts of 10 new operas at NYU's Skirball Performing Arts Center), the world premieres of Rufus Wainright's Prima Donna and John Zorn's Machine de l'Etre, as well as the New York premiere of Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place. In December, Thoma performed at the Barclay Center with tenor Andrea Bocelli and played with both the Long Island Masterworks Chorale and the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Thoma’s latest project, of which he is particularly proud, is the founding and facilitation of the Muhlenberg College Drum Circle. The group meets on Wednesday evenings during the semester to promote mental and psychological health as well as providing a forum for those interested in drumming to meet, talk, and perform together. In addition to his work at Muhlenberg, Thoma teaches at Kean University and maintains a private teaching practice in Clinton, NJ. Thoma is also a passionate and award-winning photographer.
Pianist Vincent Trovato (featured in our Fall, 2010, Newsletter) continues to serve the Music Department in a variety of roles, but he is also active outside the Muhlenberg community. In May of last year, Trovato conducted a pops concert with the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra, and he was the musical director and conductor for Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival this past summer. A sought-after accompanist, Trovato will appear on a number of Senior Recitals this Spring. He will also be participating in Douglas Ovens’ birthday celebration recital on February 20 (see our Concert Calendar), accompanying his colleagues Lauren Curnow and Brian Ming Chu.
Pianist Michael Toth employs technology as part of teaching and performing. His iPhone/iPad app, “Lesson Book,” manages the many lessons he teaches. As one uses the app, a database of music is developed, with access to pdf files so the music can be viewed as the student plays. If the student has a compatible device, lessons can be sent through Bluetooth; lessons can also be emailed or printed. The app includes a metronome, audio recorder, and access to a database of student contact information. Toth wrote software to monitor the progress of scales in the practice room, and his website, www.virtualpianist.com, includes a “Hall of Fame,” recordings of his Muhlenberg students that parents can access to listen to the student’s progress and the pieces s/he has learned.
As a performer, Toth appears with the Lyra Ensemble, (Debbie Davis, cello, Stefan Xhori, violin, John Shwartz, clarinet), and this year they are performing a Mozart piano trio, Beethoven Archduke, and the Smetana g minor piano trio. The group started last year when Toth wanted to perform The Quartet for the End of Time by Messiaen. He also performs with the Crosswinds Trio, which consists of piano, trumpet, and French horn. Toth played Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Allentown Band in December, and he plays for a dinner theater in New Jersey. He uses “Virtual Page Turner,” a software application for displaying music and turning pages electronically with a foot switch.
In addition to his own website, Toth works with web applications created with Ruby on Rails, a public domain web development framework. Sites include http://virtualbookingagent.com, a web application to help connect musicians and performance venues and http://my-iphone-app.com, a web application to assist in creating iPhone apps.