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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

Accompanist

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.

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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 and toured with the Drake Choir. Lily also works as a paralegal and completed her Paralegal Certificate in December of 2022. 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 three years 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."

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Andrea Ramsey

Season 29 Guest Artist: Composer of Suffrage Cantata

Dr. Andrea Ramsey enjoys an international presence as a composer, conductor, scholar, and music educator. Her teaching experiences range from work with adolescent and children’s voices to high school and collegiate voices. She enjoys regular opportunities to conduct all-state and divisional level honor choirs, festival events at Carnegie Hall, and served as a principal conductor for the Pacific International Young Women’s Choral Festival in Eugene, Oregon and conducted the National ACDA Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir in 2023. Before leaping into full time composing and guest conducting, Andrea held positions in music education and conducting at The Ohio State University and the University of Colorado, respectively.

An ASCAP Plus award-winning composer, Andrea believes strongly in the creation of new works. Her compositions are available with traditional publishers and also through MusicSpoke, a digital sheetmusic marketplace. She enjoys residency collaborations with ensembles and festival choirs, some of which have included: the University of Oregon, the Allegro Choirs of Kansas City, and the Crescent City Choral Festival in New Orleans.

As a scholar, she has presented for state, divisional, and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, the 6th Annual Symposium on Sociology in Music Education, as well as The Phenomenon Singing Symposium in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. She has co-authored articles published in the Choral Journal, as well as the Journal of Research in Music Education. A native of Arkansas, she has experienced in her own life the power of music to provide a sense of community, better understanding of our humanity, and rich opportunities for self-discovery.

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Bonita Cornute

Season 29 Guest Artist: Narrator for Suffrage Cantata

Bonita Cornute was a longtime broadcast journalist at KTVI Fox 2 News, retiring in December 2018 after more than 35 years at the station. A graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison, she relocated to St. Louis in the early 1980s. Throughout her career, Bonita reported and hosted many different programs at KTVI, as well as mentoring high school students of color through the Minority Journalism Workshop. In 2016, the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists presented her with the Living Legend Award. Bonita is now semi-retired, but continues her involvement with many organizations in the St. Louis community.

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Brittany Graham

Season 29 Guest Artist: Soprano Soloist for Suffrage Cantata

Lyric soprano Brittany Graham is the St. Louis District Winner of the 2019 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. After completing her Master of Music in Vocal Performance at Webster University in 2018, Ms. Graham received contracts with both Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Union Avenue Opera. At Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, she performed the roles of Belle in Marc Blitzstein’s Regina, featuring mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, and Spc. Toussant in the world premiere of An American Soldier by Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang. Ms. Graham was later a featured soloist in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars at Union Avenue Opera. She was seen in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 2019 world premiere of Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons’ Fire Shut Up in My Bones, based on New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s memoir. In January 2019, she appeared as a soloist in the South Florida Symphony’s production of Porgy and Bess. In addition, she has appeared as Alice in Falstaff, Dejanice in Catalani’s Dejanice, Anna Bolena in Anna Bolena, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, Musetta in La Bohème, Agathe in Der Freischütz, and the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Brittany has performed extensively in the St. Louis region, where she was featured as a Young Artist with the St. Louis Symphony’s InUnison Chorus. She has had the privilege of coaching and appearing in concert with soprano Christine Brewer. Ms. Graham was featured in Sarasota Opera as an Apprentice Artist for the 2020 winter season and was also seen in the #SongStrong concert series for Opera Fusion for the Summer of 2020. In the Fall of 2020, Brittany performed the roles of Gertrud and The Witch in Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel at Magic City Opera. Ms. Graham was seen as the soprano soloist for Handel’s Messiah and the Italian Excellence Concert with the South Florida Symphony Orchestra in the Winter of 2021. Ms. Graham was a featured guest soloist in Coral Ridge Concert Series American Songbook: Big Band Concert in the Spring of 2022 as well as the featured soloist in the Femmes Noires en Classique Fall Concert tour in 2022. Ms. Graham concludes 2022 as the soloist in Dr. Andrea Ramsey’s Suffrage Cantata, and once again the soprano soloist for the South Florida Symphony Orchestra’s production of Handel’s Messiah. In the Winter and Spring of 2023 Brittany will be seen as The Witch (Humperdinck) with Young Patronesses of the Opera In School Series and as a soloist in the concert series, Through the Storm: Women Walking in Greatness with Hued Songs, IlluminArts, and Vizcaya Museums and Gardens.

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Addie Akin and Cor Jesu Concert Choir

Season 29 Guest Artist: Collaborative Partner for Suffrage Cantata

Addie Akin is in her 2nd year at Cor Jesu Academy, having previously taught at St. Louis University High School and Central VPA High School. She holds a Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance and Composition from Belmont University, and a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Arizona. She is also the Executive Director of Vox Una Youth Chorale.

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Cor Jesu Academy is a Catholic college preparatory high school for young women, located in South St. Louis County. Founded by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart in 1956, Cor Jesu has a long history of music excellence. In 2022, 14 singers were selected for the Metro 8 District Honor Choir and 3 students were selected for the Missouri All-State Choir.  Students at Cor Jesu have the opportunity to sing in 5 unique ensembles.  Concert Choir, which will be joining forces with the St. Louis Women’s Chorale on November 10, is comprised of juniors and seniors who love to sing.

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Stuart Chapman Hill and Webster University's Aurelia

Season 29 Guest Artist: Collaborative Partner for Suffrage Cantata

Prior to joining the Webster faculty, Dr. Hill completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University, where he studied music education and choral conducting and taught courses in music education foundations and songwriting. While at Michigan State, he received the Excellence-in-Teaching Citation, a university-wide award given annually to six graduate students in recognition of their work in the undergraduate classroom. In his dissertation, he employed ethnographic techniques to examine the teaching and learning practices of professional songwriters in Nashville, TN, with the intent of informing the classroom practice of music educators who teach songwriting in formal settings. His other scholarly interests include music teacher identity and music education philosophy. Dr. Hill holds Master of Education and Bachelor of Music degrees from Vanderbilt University. Before to returning to graduate school, he taught middle school chorus in Greensboro, North Carolina. For six summers, he worked with high school students as a member of the faculty of the Governor's School of North Carolina.

Dr. Hill maintains an active schedule as a choral composer and conductor. His choral compositions are published by Hinshaw Music, which just inaugurated the Stuart Chapman Hill composer series, and G. Schirmer. Several of his compositions have been selected by popular distributor J.W. Pepper as "Editor's Choice" pieces. 

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Aurelia, the soprano-alto choir at Webster University, features singers from across the Webster University community, with a variety of majors both in and outside of music. The ensemble’s repertoire celebrates a diverse array of pieces composed for treble voices, with a special emphasis on uplifting the work of living composers who are women. The ensemble’s name, “Aurelia,” is a traditionally feminine name derived from Latin that means “golden one” and ties in with the ensemble’s mission and one of Webster’s official school colors. 

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Dr. Alicia Canterbury Vorel and the SIUE Treble Choir

Season 29 Guest Artist: Collaborative Partner for Love Letters

Dr. Alicia Vorel serves as Assistant Professor in Music Education in the Department of Music at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where she teaches undergraduate and graduate music education majors and conducts the SIUE Treble Choir.  She is also conductor of the Edwardsville satellite campus of the St. Louis Children’s Choir.  She earned the Bachelor in Music Education at Mercer University, the MM degree in Music Education from Texas Tech University, and the PhD from the University of Mississippi.  Dr. Vorel is an experienced educator focusing primarily on general music and choirs in a variety of settings from early childhood to adult.  She has presented at numerous state, regional, and national conferences on topics related to treble choir identity, assessment, and repertoire.  She is an award-winning researcher and her interests include feminist music education pedagogy, early career expertise development, and turn of the twentieth-century singing schools. Her publications can be found in journals such as the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, International Journal of Music Education, and Choral Journal.

The SIUE Treble Choir is the newest music ensemble in the Department of Music beginning in Fall of 2021.  The ensemble is non-auditioned, open to the community, and welcomes women and soprano-alto singers.  The ensemble focuses on the development of each singer's voice, as well as striving for a beautiful choral tone.  An emphasis is placed on developing individual musicianship.  They perform a variety of repertoire from various historical periods and work towards performing primarily repertoire by female composers, marginalized populations, and composers who write primarily for soprano-alto voices.  They also collaborate with a variety of vocal ensemble types including the SIUE Gospel Choir and other area soprano-alto choirs.  They were recently accepted as an invited ensemble to an international choral festival in Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's.  

Leanne
Ruth
Benedetta
Kaisa-Leena
Samantha
Janelle
Alexandria
Lily
Amanda
Meghan Abeln
Jessica Roberts Martin
Darwin Aquino
ARamsey
BCornute
BGraham
Cor Jesu
Webster Aurelia
SIUE
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