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Our Leaders

Bio Statements

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Leanne Latuda

Artistic & Executive Director

Leanne Magnuson Latuda has been performing professionally, directing and teaching for more than 25 years. She has a Master of Music Degree from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Augustana College, where she was a Presidential Scholar and graduated cum laude.

Leanne is a gifted mezzo-soprano who has sung professionally with opera companies, musical theaters, and choral ensembles. She has performed locally as a soloist with the St. Louis Symphony, The Bach Society, and the Masterworks Chorale and has been directing STLWC since 2012.

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Ruth Stith


Ruth Stith is a faculty member of Saint Louis University, where she directs the SLU Piano Ensemble and teaches class and applied piano. Prior to moving to St. Louis, Ms. Stith was an instructor of piano and theory at Vanderbilt University, where she also served as a staff accompanist. She has a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (summa cum laude), and a Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from Vanderbilt University. Mrs. Stith lives in St. Louis with her husband and three children, and has enjoyed accompanying the Saint Louis Women's Chorale since 2014.


Lily Hofer

Administrative Manager

Lily is the Administrative Manager for the St. Louis Women's Chorale and has sung with the Chorale since August 2021. She has a degree in Music Business from Drake University, where she sung with the Drake Choir, and is currently studying for her Paralegal Certificate. In addition to her work for the Chorale, Lily is also a paralegal at the Elder and Disability Advocacy Firm of Christine A. Alsop, LLC, in Kirkwood. When she isn't in the office or singing, she enjoys knitting, crocheting, and doting on her cats, Liza and Leo. "I joined the Chorale after moving home from college - I thought it would be a nice way to continue singing while meeting new people. In the year that I have sung with the Chorale, it has become so much more than a pastime or a job for me. With the mentorship and support of these women, I have grown not only as a musician, but as a person."


Kaisa-Leena Stucke

Board President

One of the strongest childhood memories that Kaisa has is being surrounded by the transformative power of music.  Growing up in the Soviet-occupied Estonia, Kaisa experienced her nation sing itself free, quite literally.  During the Singing Revolution in 1988, what started as a spontaneous choral political protest developed into a 2 million singer human chain through the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  The Singing Revolution was one of a series of events that led to the fall of the Soviet Union, but music’s supernatural power to affect change in the world has been deeply engrained in Kaisa’s mind.  


Despite lacking musical talent herself, Kaisa has never felt more alive with emotion and connected to the human experience than while being immersed in music.  She believes that the joined voices of the Women’s Chorale’s have the same power to connect, transform and empower the singers and the audience.


Kaisa works in Equity Research at Confluence Investment Management, focusing on value investing.  She has experience working in the US and Europe.


Kaisa is a founder of 1419 Art, an art collective that supports exceptional emerging artists from diverse backgrounds.  She deeply believes in the importance of supporting arts and culture from the ground up.  As an immigrant herself, she is active in supporting new immigrants to the St. Louis region and keeping expatriates connected to their culture and identity.  She is currently a board member of St. Louis Women in Investments Network, which promotes female participation and advancement within the investment industry.


Kaisa graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Mathematics, and is a CFA charterholder.  She also studied architecture at Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, England and art at Tartu Lastekunstikool in Tartu, Estonia.

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Amanda Woytus

Board Member at Large

Amanda Woytus is the deputy editor of St. Louis Magazine, where she has covered politics, the pandemic, education, equity, arts, and culture in her hometown for the part four years. Prior to that, Amanda worked as an editor in New York City, at magazines including The Village Voice, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Veranda, Food & Wine, and Newsweek. She is a proud two-time graduate of the University of Missouri's journalism school. Although she is not a performer, Amanda's passion is storytelling, be it through written word or other mediums.


Alayna Epps

Principal Artist and Soprano 1 Section Leader

Alayna Epps, soprano, is a Soprano I section leader with the Saint Louis Women’s Chorale. She graduated from the University of Missouri- St. Louis (UMSL) with a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a Degree of Distinction in Creativity in the Arts. During her academic career at UMSL, she was a member of UMSL Opera Theater and performed the roles of Mabel in the NOA award winning production of Pirates of Penzance and Monica in Menotti’s The Medium. Alayna has also shared the honor of performing in Carnegie Hall, and as a guest performer with legend, Stevie Wonder in the Songs in the Key of Life Tour (2015). She was awarded First-Place in the NATS Classical Division in the St. Louis Regionals in 2019 and 2020. Her most recent accomplishment was First-Place winner of the 2020 College Division of the UMSL Young Artist Competition. Alayna is a member of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra InUnison Chorus as one of their Young Artist Fellows. She also serves as the Worship Leader at Agape Time Ministries, Inc – City of refuge.

Alayna believes her purpose is to help heal the city of St. Louis through music, so she is currently pursuing her Master’s in Music Therapy at Maryville University to become a certified Music Therapist and serve families in the St. Louis Community. As a Principal Artist in the Saint Louis Women’s Chorale, Alayna is excited to partner with and further the mission of the chorale, “to build a caring community of women whose excellent, innovative and inspiring choral performances foster hope in the lives of people throughout the St. Louis region.”


Kaytlin Houghtaling

Principal Artist and Alto 2 Section Leader

Kaytlin Houghtaling is the Alto II section leader with the Women’s Chorale. She loves to sing many styles of music from classical to jazz to rock and pop. In 2017, she graduated from Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. She has sung with St. Louis opera companies Winter Opera and Union Avenue Opera as well as with various choirs in the St. Louis area. She has also been featured as a vocalist and lyricist for the video game Our Life and as a voice actress in various other games while working with the independent music and sound design team Fat Bard.

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Benedetta Orsi

Principal Artist and Alto 1 Section Leader

Italian mezzo soprano Benedetta Orsi, now resident in the United States, has been praised by Teresa Berganza as “perfect voice for belcanto”. She is one of the 2018 nominee for Outstanding Achievement in Opera by St. Louis Theater Circle for her Carmen, reviewed by Broadway Opera World: “Benedetta Orsi has a quite breathtakingly beautiful voice, full and rich, with such easily accessed resources of power. She gives us a simply perfect “Habanera".

Mrs. Orsi is one of only a few contemporary mezzo sopranos to have performed all three of Donizetti's Tudor Operas: Jane Seymour in Anna Bolena, Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda and Sara in Roberto Devereux with Royal Opera Theater in Manchester, UK. Recent performances also include Adalgisa in Norma with Winter Opera St. Louis, the title role of Carmen with Winter Opera St. Louis and Boulder Symphony Orchestra in Colorado, Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera with the Miami Lyric Opera and Maddalena in Rigoletto with Amore Opera.

Her first album Christmas Around the World won the double Silver Medal at the Global Music Awards in Los Angeles as Best Album and Best Female Vocalist. Her latest one, La Voix de l’amour, released in December 2019 for the International label Limen Music, won the Gold Medal as Best album. 

Along with concert appearances at Carnegie Hall in NYC and throughout Italy, England, United States and Spain, Mrs. Orsi’s performance credits include roles in Verdi Rigoletto, Trovatore, Belli- ni Norma and La Sonnambula, Rossini L’Italiana in Algeri and Il Turco in Italia and Massenet Werther.

Benedetta is a first prize winner of the Barry Alexander International Voice Competition (IVC) and First Prize and Star Performer Award in the American Protégé IVC; Third Prize Winner of the Roschel IVC and Audience & Orchestra Award in the Boulder Music Institute IVC. In her home- land, she received the Audience Award and Special Prize of the Italian Music Federation during the 28th International Piero Boni International Singing Competition.

Benedetta joined the Women’s Chorale in 2017, as soon as she arrived in St. Louis. Since then, she felt part of something bigger than a simple choir: “The passion, dedication and love that this chorale spread through the music we sing is something that deeply touches hearts and people. This amazing group of women is able to reach your spirit and touch your soul! Each member became part of my life and I consider all of them like my second family! It’s simply a blessing to have them in my life!”

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Samantha Arten

Principal Artist and Soprano 2 Section Leader

Samantha Arten, soprano and music historian, has focused her performance activities in early music, singing primarily in liturgical church choirs and in Baroque ensembles. In addition to singing as a Principal Artist with the Saint Louis Women's Chorale, she is a principal singer with the Bach Society of St. Louis, a staff singer in the choir of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and a regular soloist with Early Music Missouri. Samantha holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from Duke University and teaches as a Lecturer in Musicology at Washington University in St. Louis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and Maryville University. “I believe so much in this choir’s great work of inspiring healing and joy. This is a place where women of all identities can come together to make beautiful music.”

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Janelle Pierce

Principal Artist and Alto 2 Section Leader

Janelle Pierce is a classically trained singer and budding entertainer in the St. Louis area, working for professional entertainment companies, public programming and dozens of contract and recurring roles for stages throughout the Gateway to the West. Janelle Pierce earned a B.A. in Vocal Performance from St. Mary's University, and holds over fifteen years experience in musical education and performance. Pierce studied drama in college, and has developed a love for the theater through her involvement with the St. Louis Fringe Festival, Emery Entertainment Company and the St. Louis Public Library Storytime Theater Program. Janelle has performed with companies such as Under The Arch: New Musical Theater Incubator, Winter Opera of St. Louis and The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus. You can also catch Pierce playing around town on the bass with local bands, performing solo with her ukulele and guitar for private events, and singing at Trinity Presbyterian Church on Sunday mornings. When Pierce is not on the stage, she enjoys traveling to new places, exploring the outdoors and spending time with family and friends. I joined the Saint Louis Women's Chorale in order to rekindle the original spark that ignited my burning passion for vocal performance: Women's Choir. I am excited to be a part of an ensemble that empowers women, strengthens the songstress and inspires harmony through the universal language of music.


Lauren Johns

Principal Artist and Soprano 2 Section Leader

Lauren Johns, Soprano, recently graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's in Graphic Design and a minor in Vocal Studies. In addition to the Saint Louis Women’s Chorale, she was hired to sing at the United Church of Christ in Kirkwood, MO, and enjoys volunteering to sing at various nursing homes. She also plans to sing at Carnegie Hall this summer with the Missouri State choir. She’s been taking private singing lessons for almost a decade and is currently learning piano and guitar in her free time. Aside from music, she works at an event planning company and a portrait photography studio. Her non-music related hobbies include: creative writing, podcasting and running half marathons on a whim.  “I wanted to join the Saint Louis Women’s Chorale because I love meeting people who are as passionate about singing as I am. Music is a universal language that brings everyone together”. 


Alexandria Paden-Uebinger 

Principal Artist and Soprano 1 Section Leader

Alexandria Paden-Uebinger is a soprano and plant enthusiast. She has focused her music performance activities in solo music events, choral groups, and a bit of karaoke for fun. In addition to being a Principal Artist with the Saint Louis Women's Chorale, Alex is also the soprano section leader with First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood, and a singer with the Black Tulip Chorale. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Culver-Stockton College, and works full time at a local plant nursery. "I love being able to sing with a choir of women who are welcome regardless of background or identity. I am grateful to sing with these amazing women and experience our growth together through music.".

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Meghan Abeln

Board Member

Meghan Abeln brings over a decade of experience in wealth management and tax planning to her role as a Senior Wealth Advisor at Krilogy, a registered investment advisor firm headquartered in Creve Coeur, MO. She holds designations as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and began her career in public accounting.  Meg earned her undergraduate degree in Accountancy from the University of Notre Dame and Master’s degree in Accounting from St. Louis University.  She grew up performing at the Muny and enjoys attending the theater and concerts in her free time. 


Jessica Roberts Martin

Board Member

Jessica Roberts Martin is a Professor of Practice in Communications and Senior Associate Dean of Operations at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School. Her expertise lies in operations management, strategic communications, and administrative leadership, and her roles at the business school allow her to support students both in and out of the classroom. As a long-term transplant to St. Louis, Jessica is excited to be part of a group bringing innovation to the cultural offerings of the region with a commitment that “affirms the worth and dignity of all people and strives to harness the power of music and exceptional performances to enrich and transform lives.”

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Darwin Aquino

Artistic Advisor to the Board of Directors

Known for his charismatic energy and musical versatility as a conductor and composer, Darwin Aquino’s career has taken him to orchestra halls and opera theaters across Europe, United States and Latin America. His constant presence as a Dominican artist in multiples stages is seen as a bright light for diversity and inclusion in classical music.

Recently appointed Music Director of the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra and Assistant Conductor for Opera Theater of St. Louis, Darwin’s 22/23 season includes a number of international engagements. Additionally, he serves as Music Director of the Gateway Festival Orchestra and Conductor-in-Residence for the Washington University Symphony Orchestra.

Meghan Abeln
Jessica Roberts Martin
Darwin Aquino
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