Concert Organizer and Host


J. Patrick Raftery, tenor

J. Patrick Raftery’s debut was for The San Diego Opera’s production of La bohème singing Schaunard and sharing the stage with Luciano Pavarotti. This debut and The Richard Tucker Music Foundation Award Winner’s concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall helped catapult Mr. Raftery to performances with most of the major opera houses and orchestras of the world. After a career spanning more than three decades, seventy operatic roles, numerous recitals and concerts worldwide Professor Raftery joined the faculty at UBC, School of Music in summer 2014.

Some notable debuts:
The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden (Conte-Nozze di Figaro)
Das Deutsche Oper Berlin (Marcello)
The Glyndebourne Festival (Guglielmo)
The Metropolitan Opera of New York (Lescaut- Manon Lescaut)
L’Opéra de Paris (Figaro-Barbiere)
The Canadian Opera Company (Marcello)
Vancouver Opera (Figaro-Barbiere)
Bayerische Staatsoper (Sharpless-Madama Butterfly)
Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro (Poeta-Turco in Italia)
The San Fransisco Opera (Marcello)
The Washington Opera (Figaro-Barbiere)
Teatro alla Scala (Cinna-La Vestale)
Théâtre du Châtelet-Paris (Zurga -Les pêcheurs de perles)


Speakers & Performers

Ian Burns, baritone

Originally from Tampa, Florida baritone Ian Burns is currently completing his studies at the University of British Columbia as a member of the J. Patrick Raftery Studio. Roles performed at UBC include Audebert Silent Night, Don Magnifico La cenerentola, Captain Eugene Onegin, the Wig Maker Ariadne auf Naxos, and the cover of Harlekin Ariadne auf Naxos.

Ian has also performed Papageno The Magic Flute and covered Schaunard LA bohème with the European Music Academy and performed Marcello La bohème with the University of Northern Florida. Ian joined The Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singer Program summer 2019 covering Marcello La bohéme, Foreman of the Mill Jenůfa and Gardener The Thirteenth Child.

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Simran Claire, mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Simran Claire was born and raised in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Opera Performance from the University of British Columbia, and was awarded the University of British Columbia Medal for Music, given to the top academic student of the graduating class. Simran has performed in numerous productions, most recently the title role in UBC Opera’s production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

Other credits include Dryade in Ariadne auf Naxos, conducted by Maestro Jonathan Darlington; the Secretary in Menotti’s The Consul, as a part of a larger symposium on the refugee crisis in collaboration with the Liu Institute for Global Issues; and as a featured soloist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra. Simran is currently pursuing a Master’s in Opera Performance at UBC, studying with soprano Rhoslyn Jones. This summer, Simran is very excited to be performing at the Glimmerglass Festival as a Young Artist, singing in their productions of La Traviata and The Ghosts of Versailles.

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Ian Cleary, tenor

Tenor Ian Cleary is a student of J. Patrick Raftery in his Opera Diploma at UBC. Ian was last heard at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, where he portrayed excerpts from various different operas such as: Don José (Carmen), the Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto), and Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) where he was noted for his “rich tenor voice and amazing presence" by Entertainment Vancouver. Ian continues to study and improve his craft while singing with the UBC Opera Ensemble and is looking forward to performing with Mysterious Barricades for the first time.


Leslie Dala, piano

Conductor Leslie Dala enjoys a multifaceted career spanning the genres of opera, symphonic music, choral and contemporary works. On the podium, he is known for his passionate, dynamic, and charismatic approach to music making. Named one of the top ten artistic leaders by the Vancouver Sun, Dala's national profile has grown steadily with guest conducting appearances with Pacific Opera Victoria, Edmonton Opera, Saskatoon Opera, Thirteen Strings of Ottawa, the COSI Festival in Sulmona, Italy, the Goh Ballet, and University of Toronto Opera Department. Upcoming engagements in the 2015-2016 season include Soundstreams, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

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Richard Epp, piano

Richard Epp is a Vancouver based vocal coach, pianist and conductor. He is senior opera coach for the Opera Workshop at UBC and as well as teaching several classes in the School of Music. At UBC he has conducted Serse, Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe, Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Hänsel und Gretel, Der Fledermaus, Die lustige Witwe, Brundibar, Cabaret, Weisse Rose and two world premieres among others. He worked at the Vancouver Opera as pianist for their Resident Artist Program for five years and has also been on the faculty at the Vancouver Academy of Music. He has appeared in concert for both Vancouver Early Music and Vancouver New Music and has premiered numerous Canadian works and has appeared in recital on CBC on numerous occasions.

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Nancy Hermiston, soprano

Nancy Hermiston’s operatic career has taken her throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. Her New York debut took place in Carnegie Hall with Marilyn Horne and Mario Bernardi. Her European début led to a permanent engagement with the prestigious Nürnberg Opera. She has held numerous appointments as voice teacher, and as stage director at the Meistersinger Konservatorium, Nürnberg, and the University of Toronto Opera and Performance Divisions. She was appointed to the UBC faculty in 1995 as Coordinator of the Voice and Opera Division.


Markus Masaites, piano

Markus Masaites is a student of Dr. Corey Hamm from the UBC School of Music currently completing his second year of a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance. Previous to his University studies, Markus developed his musicianship under the tutelage of Ms. Jean Brown. During his time with Ms. Brown, Markus had many successes in competitions and exams including 1st place at the BC Registered Music Teachers’ Association Provincials, and most notably, receiving the Gold Medal for the Highest ARCT exam mark in Canada for the year 2016. He also is very involved in his music community hosting and playing in charity fundraiser concerts. During his time at UBC, he founded the Genesis Trio alongside Violist Nina Weber and Clarinetist Jonathan Lopez. This past summer, the Genesis Trio traveled to El Paso Texas to present interactive performances for thousands of youth. They then proceeded to New York and took part in Ensemble Connect's Audience Engagement Intensive program at Carnegie Hall. Outside of the practice room, (a rare occurrence), Markus can’t get enough of skiing, coffee and petting his cats.


Heidi Melton, soprano

Biography coming soon.

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Santa Ono, UBC president and vice-chancellor, cello

Santa J. Ono was installed as the 15th president and vice-chancellor of the University of British Columbia on November 22, 2016. His installation was, in many ways, a heartfelt homecoming – he was born in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in 1962, when his father was a professor at UBC. Dr. Ono serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Universities Canada (effective October 2018), a member of the Executive Committee of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities and Chairman of the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia (RUCBC).

An avid music lover, whose tastes range from Rihanna to Rachmaninoff, Ono studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore and remarkably still finds time to sing and play his cello – even taking to the concert stage to perform on occasion. His family also helps him stay grounded. An avid supporter of Mysterious Barricades Santa has performed with us for all of our Vancouver Concerts!


Elder Syexwaliya, speaker and Elder in Residence

Syexwaliya / Ann Whonnock is a Member of the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish Nation). She is a Proud Chesha (Mom) of Syexwaliya men / Sakunakus (Josephine Whonnock) and late Son Syexwalten (Max Whonnock) and proud ta-ah (Grandmother) of Kirsten, Jordan Whonnock (Max's children) and Syexwalten/Shin null sutt (Gavin Baker, Josephine's son).

Syexwaliya served as an elected member of the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw Chiefs and Council for six-4 year terms (1989-2005 & 2009-2017). In December 2017 she was not re-elected to Council.

Syexwaliya has been appointed the First Nation Health Authority’s (FNHA) Board of Directors Female Knowledge Keeper/Elder Advisor & also FNHA Team Elder for EOO’s team & other teams. She is also the newly appointed SFU Indigenous Students Center Elder In Residence.

Syexwaliya attended Capilano University and completed a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in June 2013.

As taught by her late grandparents, she supports families and shares cultural teachings and protocols. Her passion is to see that Squamish culture, language and ceremonies continue to be the cornerstone of the Nation for future generations. Her passion is to see her culture carried on by future generations and her snichim (language) to be used, not only by herself, but for all the families and future generations in their daily lives and ceremonies. Let's not let our Culture and Snichim die out!

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Valerie Whitney, horn

Valerie Whitney has been performing in and around the Chicagoland area for over a decade. She regularly appears with some of the nation’s most esteemed performing organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

In 2010, she was invited to serve as guest principal horn with The Florida Orchestra for two weeks. From 2013-2016, she served as hornist of Fifth House Ensemble, during which time she performed and led masterclasses at nationwide universities as well as educational programs in various Chicago public schools and community centers. In 2017, Dr. Whitney was the first candidate to earn a DMA in Horn Performance from Northwestern University. She is a graduate of Wheaton College and Northwestern University.

Dr. Whitney joined the South Bend Symphony as Third Horn in 2017, after serving the orchestra as Assistant Horn for five years. She also holds the fourth horn position with the Lake Forest Symphony in Lake Forest, IL, and is a member of the Millar Brass Ensemble and the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra Society.   


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Thank you to University of British Columbia for their continued support and encouragement.

We respectfully acknowledge that the land on which we gather for this concert is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (TsleilWaututh) Nations.