Concert Organizer


Laura Loewen, piano

Praised for expressivity, virtuosity, and committed playing, Winnipeg collaborative pianist Laura Loewen has appeared in concerts throughout North America and in Europe, Asia and South America. Dedicated to sharing her passion for ensemble playing and coaching, she is a professor of Collaborative Piano and the Vocal Coach at the University of Manitoba’s Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music. 
Learn more


Speakers & Performers

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Mel Braun, baritone

Baritone Mel Braun is a versatile performer, equally at home in oratorio, recital, and opera, always open to new collaborations. He is well-known to Canadian audiences for his many performances and broadcasts of Early Music with Tafelmusik and Opera Atelier, and for his frequent appearances across Canada in the Masterworks of Bach and Handel. These appearances include performances with the Calgary Bach Festival, Edmonton’s Pro Coro, Symphony Nova Scotia, Winnipeg’s Canzona, Guelph Chamber Choir, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

New Music, another of Mel’s interests, has seen him premiere works with the Banff Centre, Winnipeg’s Groundswell, Manitoba Opera, Winnipeg New Music Festival, Kitchener’s Sound in the Land Festival, Toronto’s New Music Gallery, and Saskatoon Symphony. As a recitalist, he is renowned for his creative approach to Song, whether it’s singing Schumann’s Liederkreis while on stage with the dancers of Winnipeg’s Q Dance, staging Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch, or tracing the life of Schubert among his friends as he completed his final work, Die Winterreise.

His ongoing duo partnership with pianist Laura Loewen is at the centre of many of these collaborations. When not performing as a soloist, he sings with the Emerado Trio, and with Il Primo, an all-baritone trio.

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Anne Christopherson, soprano

Lyric coloratura soprano, Anne Christopherson enjoys a varied and rewarding career as a performer, coach, and teacher. Her “dazzlingly supple voice,” has been acclaimed in many genres in such venues as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Symphony Space, the Banff Centre for the Arts, Opera di Lucca (Italy), Renmin University (Beijing), the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the Colorado Music Festival. As a cabaret artist, Cabaret Scenes magazine lauded her “well-honed ability to convey emotion, tenderness, and poignancy…” in her one-woman show, “I Hear Music,” which premiered at the Don’t Tell Mama cabaret in NYC.

She has premiered Oddly Beautiful and Three Songs to Texts by Terry Jacobson by North Dakota composer, Michael Wittgraf, and In the beginning, mountains, by Canadian composer, Diana McIntyre. She performed the France premiere of Christopher Berg’s Four Songs on Poems by Vladimir Nabokov at L’Atelier de la Main d’Or with pianist and Grand Prix du Disque winner, Mary Dibbern.

In addition to her degrees from the University of Colorado-Boulder and The Ohio State University, she has studied at the Banff Centre with Martin Isepp. Dr. Christopherson is an Associate Professor of Voice, Associate Chair and Voice Area Coordinator at the University of North Dakota, Department of Music.

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Lara Ciekiewicz, soprano

Whether being hailed as “mesmerizing” (Classical Voice of North Carolina), “magnificently bell-toned” (Capital Critics Circle), or “a clear standout” (San Francisco Classical Voice), soprano Lara Ciekiewicz is making her mark as a dynamic singing-actress.  This season, she returns to Pacific Opera Victoria, singing both Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi) and Suor Genovieffa (Suor Angelica), in their Il Trittico.  She also takes on the gripping title role in Susannah for Manitoba Opera.  Lara visits Victoria again, this time with the Victoria Symphony as a soloist for their Messiah.  Finally, she debuts with Edmonton Opera, revisiting the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro.

Further credits: Jenůfa (Jenůfa); Tatiana (Eugene Onegin); Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus); May (Ours); Micaëla (Carmen); Cinderella (Into the Woods); Maria (The Sound of Music); Amelia (Simon Boccanegra); Liù (Turandot); Musetta (La Bohème); Nellie Forbush (South Pacific); Sylva (The Gypsy Princess); Fiordiligi (Così Fan Tutte); Alcina (Alcina); and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte).

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Tracy Dahl, soprano

Canadian coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl is grateful for the opportunity to perform with colleagues across the country in support of mental health awareness. Ms. Dahl has been performing internationally for over 30 years.

She has had international success in opera, concert and recital. She has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Washington Opera, the Canadian opera Company to name but a few. Most recently she was heard as Adele in Die Fledermaus for Calgary opera, Madame Mao for Houston Grand Opera and Cunegonde for Vancouver and Regina Symphony orchestras. This past season she also rang in the new year with Maestro Bramwell Tovey and the Philadelphia orchestra in an evening of American music.

In addition to a busy performing career Ms Dahl is also a voice teacher at the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba and guest instructor for Calgary Opera's young artist program and many other North American programs. She was very humbled by her becoming a member of the Order of Canada this year.


Steve Dyer

Biography coming soon.

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Karly Epp, jazz vocal

Born into a family of musicians and music educators, Karly Epp’s love of music has been lifelong. After graduating from the University of Manitoba with a B. Mus. specializing in Jazz Vocal Performance, as well as a B. Ed., Epp went on to become an accomplished choral director and spent several years teaching, guest conducting, presenting clinics, and arranging vocal music.

In order to focus on her performance career, Epp relocated to New York City and later graduated from the prestigious Manhattan School of Music with a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies. During this time, she had the opportunity to study with Grammy-nominated vocalists Gretchen Parlato, Theo Bleckmann, and Kate McGarry. Through them, she was introduced to Somatic Voicework and went on to study the method with Jeannie LoVetri. Epp’s schooling also allowed her to further develop her understanding of composition and harmony, working with renowned artists and composers, including Dave Liebman and Jim McNeely.

After graduating, Epp spent time in New York playing at a variety of venues throughout the area, including a year-long residency at New York’s historic 55 Bar, and occasionally returning to Canada for festivals. Summer of 2018 brought her back to Winnipeg when she accepted the appointment of Jazz Vocal Instructor at the University of Manitoba.


Darryl Friesen, piano

Darryl Friesen enjoys a diverse career as a soloist, collaborative artist and teacher, and is currently a fulltime Sessional Instructor at the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music. He is also a faculty member of the Rosamunde Summer Music Academy.

He has given acclaimed performances across Canada, the United States, Europe, China, and Brazil. He has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Chamber Music Society and the Virtuosi recital series. As a collaborator and recitalist, he has performed with many distinguished artists, including Elliot Madore, Andrew Wan, the Adaskin String Trio and the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Darryl has been the recipient of many awards and honours.  His studies were made possible through generous grants by the Manitoba Arts Council and the Canada Council of the Arts, including the Sylva Gelber Foundation Award, given annually to the most talented Canadian classical artist under the age of 30.

To learn more, please visit Darryl's website at

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Richard Gillis

Richard Gillis studied at The Banff Centre and The University of Michigan (M.Mus.; DMA), as well as with Armando Ghitalla, Vincent Cichowicz and James Stamp. Dr. Gillis is brass chair at the University of Manitoba, and is artistic director of the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1997. Richard has recorded 19 albums as a leader and sideman; his most recent projects include Devotion, a collection of original solo and chamber pieces for trumpet, and Suite 150: A Big Band Portrait (see, an eleven movement WJO recording commissioned from composers across Canada.

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Rosemarie van der Hooft, mezzo soprano

Mezzo-soprano, Rosemarie van der Hooft holds a Masters of Early Music Performance from McGill University and enjoys a career performing masterpieces of the baroque and classical era alongside the new and varied works of contemporary classical composers. She is widely respected for her interpretations of Bach and Handel. Career highlights include oratorio and concert performances with acclaimed orchestras and ensembles throughout the United States and Canada, including Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, New York Collegium, Boston Handel and Haydn Society, Washington Bach Consort and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. She is featured with the Aradia Baroque Ensemble on the Naxos label recording of Henry Purcell’s music for The Tempest. Rosemarie has been heard on CBC in concert with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Tafelmusik, GroundSwell, Victoria Symphony, SoundStreams Canada among others. Rosemarie’s operatic work reflects her baroque and 20th century specialties including Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (role: Dido), Handel operas Ariodante (role: Polinesso) and Tamerlano (role: Irene) and the Manitoba Opera premiere of Randolph Peters’ opera Nosferatu (Sequin Lady).

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Ms. van der Hooft’s interpretation of repertoire from the 20th and 21st century has received widespread critical acclaim. She has been a frequent performer at the Winnipeg Symphony’s New Music Festival. She regularly performs, commissions and premieres the work of Canada’s foremost composers in collaborations with Winnipeg colleagues. Upcoming engagements include a Manitoba tour of “A Prairie Boy’s Life” by composer, John Greer, performances for the Mysterious Barricades Concert, Canadian Mennonite University Reformation 500 Concert, the Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society and a vocal recital with pianist, Laura Loewen.

Rosemarie is on faculty at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. She and her husband have three talented sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and one delightful grandchild (so far).

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Elizabeth Hoyt-Surdhar, mezzo-soprano

Mezzo soprano, Elizabeth Hoyt-Surdhar is a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba under the tutelage of Tracy Dahl. The 2018 Flipside Opera Competition Winner and Judges Choice Award recipient, she has performed with Concordia Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of the Kootenays, and Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra, and has given recitals for the Edmonton Recital Society, St. Albert Chamber Music Society, and Arts on 817 Concert Series. Recent performances include the role of Dido in Manitoba Underground Opera’s production “Dido|Aeneas” (featuring Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Rolfe’s, Aeneas and Dido), as well as Flipside Opera’s “Echoes of Spain” concert in partnership with the Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society. Ms. Hoyt-Surdhar is also a multi-award winning songwriter and singer in the genres of Celtic and folk (Lizzy Hoyt). A Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient, she tours throughout the country with her trio. For more info:


Monica Huisman, soprano

Dutch- Canadian Soprano, Monica Huisman has been hailed as possessing a soprano voice that 'embodies both flawless technique and dramatic impact' (Opera Canada). Ms. Huisman has delighted audiences from Amsterdam's Concertgebouw to Guatemala City with the reputation of her 'silken' voice 'consistently crafting each note into a work of art' (Winnipeg Free Press).

She has soared on the stages of Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera, Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, The Netherlands Opera, Manitoba Opera, Opera Ontario and Saskatoon Opera in productions including Carmen, Marriage of Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Cunning Little Vixen, Falstaff, La Boheme, Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel and Lakme.

Equally at home in concert repertoire Ms. Huisman has thrilled audiences with the NACO, TSO, VSO,WSO,RSO, SSO, Guatemala Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orkest, Radio-Symphony Orkest, Hamilton Philharmonic and Orchestra London in such works as Strauss' Four Last Songs, Brahm's Requiem, and Haydn's Creation.

Recent engagements included Villa Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras with the RICE Festival in Rio di Janeiro, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with VSO, as well as Don Giovanni with MOA and Mozart’s Requiem with the WSO. Monica is a voice teacher at the Desautels Faculty of Music.


Judith Kehler-Siebert

Biography coming soon.

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Karl Kohut, bass

Karl Kohut is the Assistant Professor of Jazz Bass at the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. Kohut spent four years living in New York City, where he performed with many distinguished artists and organizations including Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Rossano Sportiello, Ralph Peterson Jr., among others. He has performed at many of New York’s top jazz clubs including Dizzy’s Club-Coca Cola, Blue Note, Smalls, Zinc Bar, and more. He has toured throughout the US and Europe as a member of Joseph Doubleday and Felix Peikli’s Showtime Band, culminating in the release of the group's 2017 album It's Showtime: Live!. A number of recordings featuring Kohut along with artists James Danderfer, Brad Turner, Quincy Davis, Sean Irvine, and the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra are due to be released in 2019 or early 2020.

Kohut earned a master’s degree from The Juilliard School where he studied with bassists Ben Wolfe and Ron Carter, as well as a master’s and bachelor’s degree from the University of Manitoba. As an educator, he has worked with high school students throughout the US in workshops and summer programs with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Youth Programs.


Laura Loewen, piano

See biography above under “Concert organizer”.

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James McLennan, tenor

James McLennan has appeared on opera and concert stages across Canada in a wide range of character and leading roles. Last season’s credits included Gastone in La Traviata with Pacific Opera Victoria and Edmonton Opera, Handel’s Messiah with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and the Warden in Kiss of the Spider Woman with Dry Cold Productions. He also appeared with the Regina Symphony as the tenor soloist in Riel, Heart of the North by Neil Weisensel and Suzanne M. Steele. This season James makes a role debut with Manitoba Opera as Little Bat in Susannah by Carlisle Floyd, and he returns to Pacific Opera Victoria as Remendado in Bizet’s Carmen. Winnipeg audiences will also hear him as the tenor soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir and the WSO next spring. James has been a voice instructor at the University of Manitoba's Desautels Faculty of Music since 2017. An alumnus of the Second City Training Centre in Toronto, he is also a certified French translator. Learn more

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Oleg Pokhanovski, violin

International prizewinning violinist Oleg Pokhanovski has performed in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Israel and Russia, giving over 2000 concerts in total. He has been presented in the Carnegie Recital Hall, the Grand Hall in Moscow, the Concertgebouw, Knight Hall in Prague, Place des Arts in Montréal and others. His concerts brought rave reviews claiming him “Russian Paganini” and describing his playing as “brilliant”, “phenomenal”, “outstanding”, and “extraordinary”.

Pokhanovski is also in much demand as a pedagogue and presently holds the position of Professor of Violin at the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Pokhanovski is also a professional pianist and a creative arranger, he made over 200 transcriptions for violin and piano and other instruments.  Oleg Pokhanovski can be heard on three released CDs, entitled Solo Violin, The Mirror Image, and La Valse.

“Pokhanovski’s high-energy performances are characterized by an unmistakeably  genuine passion for the music. Urgent, serious and heartfelt – all words that aptly describe Oleg Pokhanovski’s playing” (Gwenda Nemerofsky, Winnipeg Free Press.)


Simeon Rusnak

Equally comfortable talking about Mozart or megapixels, Simeon Rusnak is a storyteller.

As an on-air host with Winnipeg’s Classic 107, Simeon relates stories of music’s past and interviews the talent of today on "Morning Light". While completing a Degree in Music History at the University of Manitoba (2014), Simeon discovered a passion for photography and earned a Diploma from PrairieView School of Photography the following year. From the local to national level, Simeon has captured and conveyed a sense of story and connection through a visual medium working with subjects, brands, companies, and publications.

Simeon is a proud Ukrainian-Canadian, chooses comfort over style, and can ride a unicycle.

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Victoria Sparks, percussion

Winnipeg based Victoria Sparks is an active solo, orchestral and chamber percussionist. Victoria performs regularly with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and is principal Timpani/Percussion with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. In 2016 she had the honour of premiering Sid Robinovitch’s Concerto for Percussion and Strings with the MCO. Victoria works closely with clarinettist Cathy Wood in their collaborative project Viđarneistí.

In 2018, Sparks joined the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba teaching percussion and directing the percussion ensemble. She is the founder and director of the MBA Prairie Percussion Workshop (2012), an education and performance based event for students in middle and high school. She also maintains an active schedule as an adjudicator and clinician in Manitoba and Saskatchewan through various organizations and festivals. Victoria is a part of the Yamaha Artist family and is proud to endorse their world class instruments and artistic initiatives. 

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Cathy Ugrin, textile artist

“Thread is my pencil; fabric is my paint. The artwork created is my voice.

What I create is what I live.

Every piece is unique, each one has a name and they all have a story.”

Cathie Ugrin is a Manitoba based fabric artist whose work is characterized by a rich and inventive use of colour, and unique approach to geometrical design. In 2012, her piece i know where the summer goes was accepted as part of the ‘Oh Canada’ exhibit which toured for four months across the USA ending up at the prestigious International Quilt Festival held in Houston, TX attended by over 60,000 individuals. Her work has been accepted into various National Juried Shows, including Canadian Quilters Association’s Quilt Canada and La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum’s International Fibre Arts Show.

Cathie has studied with numerous fibre artists continually expanding her technique and approach while advancing her growth as an artist. Her pieces have reached a broad audience and have found homes across Canada, the USA, England, Finland, Italy and Slovenia. 

Most recently, she is one of the founding members of the Textile and Fibre Artists of Manitoba established in the fall of 2017.


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Thank you to the University of Manitoba for their continued support and encouragement. 

We respectfully acknowledge that this concert is being held in Treaty 1 territory and that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.