Alumni

Martha Hensler, mezzo-soprano

Martha Hensler, mezzo-soprano, is currently studying Voice Performance and Pedagogy at East Carolina University where she studies voice with Dr. Jami Rhodes. Martha holds a BM in Vocal Music Education from James Madison University where she studied voice with Kevin McMillan. She has appeared with Luray Opera Theatre playing Hänsel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, as well as Dido in Dido and Aeneas. Highlights with JMU Opera Theatre include the role of Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus and the Moniter in Suor Angelica. An active educator and chorister as well, Martha maintains a small private studio, is a Choral Scholar at Sr. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, NC, has been the music director for numerous musicals, and was in the cast of the award winning show, “Celtic Fyre” at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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Laura Mackay, coloratura soprano

Coloratura soprano Laura Mackay is a native of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. Known for her fine musicianship and brilliant high range, she earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Western Ontario. She studied with Kevin McMillan at James Madison University during her Master’s degree. An experienced performer, she has sung the roles of Yum-Yum, Mabel, and Josephine in productions of The Mikado, Pirates of Penzance, and H.M.S. Pinafore, respectively, in Medicine Hat and Edmonton. At UWO, she performed in UWOpera productions of Suor Angelica, and Smokey Joe’s Café. Most recently, she performed Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro in Sulmona, Italy. While at JMU, she sang the roles of Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, as well as a number of staged scenes.

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Ryan Olson, baritone

Ryan Olson, baritone, graduated as a Vocal Performance Major with a Minor in Music Industry from James Madison University.  He is a graduate of Downingtown East High School in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. While being an active member of Downingtown’s Drama and Music Program, earning leads in the school musicals, and performing as Choir Member and soloist to Downingtown East High School’s top choir, Vocal Ensemble, Ryan was also an active member of his community. In his final year of high school, playing the role of Don Lockwood, he took an active role in Downingtown’s production of Singin’ in the Rain. He also performed in Barley Sheaf Players, a local non-profit theatre group, every summer.

Ryan started studying voice at the age of 13. Before doing so, he mainly participated in choirs. While under the direction of the Pennsylvania Academy of Performing Arts (PAPA), Charles Moll, he found his voice teacher with whom he studied under for 4 years, Hester Young. Her teachings have then led his studies to JMU, under the guidance of Dr. In Dal Choi, and most recently Professor Kevin McMillan.

Ryan was an active member in the JMU community, having been a part of JMU Men’s Chorus, JMU Chorale, and JMU Opera. He had the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center for the Farewell Performance of Dr. In Dal Choi, JMU’s Opera: Carmen, and to do selected scenes for JMU’s Opera Scenes course.

Ryan feels honored and privileged to have studied at James Madison University in an environment that was both supportive and nurturing to the learning experience. He also felt blessed to be surrounded by such a talented and assisting School of Music Faculty. He is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in voice at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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Cecelia Pecka

Cecelia Pecka, soprano

Cecelia Pecka, soprano,graduated with her BMus in Vocal Music Education from the School of Music at James Madison University of Harrisonburg Virginia. She is a 2008 graduate of Hanover High School in Richmond Virginia. Cecelia was active in her high school’s choirs and with them participated in regional, state and national competitions. She also was an active member of Tri-M Music Honor Society and was President her senior year of high school. While serving as Tri-M President, Cecelia coordinated and performed in student recitals and also created a program for her high school in which high school music students traveled to elementary schools and performed for the students and helped teach and observe those classes.

Cecelia studied piano under Patricia Cook for 4 years and at the age of 10 began to study voice. She joined her elementary and middle school choirs and assumed the role of section leader. In high school, Cecelia participated in All-District choir and in her senior year placed second in her district out of 400 sopranos. She then participated in All-Virginia Choir in 2008. At the culmination of studying under James Barrack, the Choral Director of Hanover High School, Cecelia received the Choral Excellence Award for her growth, dedication, and skills developed in the choirs she was a member of: Festival Singers, The Chamber Singers, Mixed Chamber Singers (co-ed), Girls Show Choir, and Mixed Show Choir. Cecelia studied voice with Megan Amerson for 4 years, which led her to her studies at James Madison University. Cecelia studied voice with Dr. In Dal Choi for one year at JMU and experienced tremendous growth. Upon Dr. Choi’s retirement, Cecelia began studying voice with Professor Kevin McMillan.

Cecelia feels very honored to have studied Music Education & Voice at James Madison University’s School of Music because she was surrounded by many talented and distinguished professors, as well as talented and inspiring peers.

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Mattia D’Affuso, tenor

Mattia D’Affuso, baritone

Mattia D’Affuso, baritone, has studied voice with Dr. Harry Dunstan and  with Grammy-award winning baritone, Kevin McMillan at James Madison University where he graduated with a double major in Vocal Performance and Italian Language and Literature.

He has performed the roles of Spoletta (Tosca), Prunier (La Rondine) and Goro (Madama Butterfly), Trin (La Fanciulla del West) in partnership with the American Center for Puccini Studies. At James Madison University he has appeared as Toby (The Medium), Ke-Ki-Ka-Ko (Ba-Ta-Clan), Don Curzio (Le Nozze di Figaro), El Remendado (Carmen) and in the NYC Premiere of Jeremy Beck’s new chamber opera piece Review. Most recently he has appeared as Gabriel von Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus) and Ko-Ko (The Mikado) and the roles of Belcore (L’Elisir d’Amore) and Pirate King (Pirates of Penzance).

In addition to opera, he has appeared in musicals including Sweeney Todd (Pirelli), Grease (Teen Angel), Beauty and the Beast (Lumiere), Merrily We Roll Along (Joe Josephson) and City of Angels (Jimmy Powers). He also appeared in the world premiere stage adaptation of the 2006 Academy Award Winner short film, West Bank Story as David.

He has been a member of the JMU Chorale and has performed a variety of choral repertoire including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Handel’’s Messiah.

Mattia co-founded and is co-Executive director of the non-profit organization Eyes Closed Hearts Open, Inc. (ECHO), a 501(c)(3) arts organization whose mission is to encourage the community to actively participate in the arts as a healthy means of self-expression.

He is presently studying voice in the Master’s degree program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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Elliott Paige, tenor

elliott-paigeElliott Paige, Tenor graduated as a Vocal Performance major from James Madison University, under the studio direction of Kevin McMillan. He is a graduate of Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia. While at Huguenot, he served as Tenor section leader of various choirs and served as Vice President of both honor choirs at Huguenot. He is also an alumnus of the Richmond Boys Choir, in which he served as the Tenor section leader. This experience afforded him the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. with renowned stepping troupe Step Afrika. He was also provided the opportunity to sing for former First Lady Laura Bush at the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington, D.C. In his earlier years he performed with Nikki Giovanni and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Most recently, Elliott was able to sing at the James Madison University Employee Donors breakfast, and also afforded the opportunity to have a private coaching with Metropolitan Opera tenor, Gerhard Siegel. He was also  awarded ‘Best Male Classical Singer’ for Virginia in the 2013 NATS Auditions.

He has also been in various performances for the JMU Opera including: Ba-Ta-Clan, 2011; L’Enfant Prodigue, 2011; Le nozze di Figaro, 2010; and a variety of scenes from various opera’s, operetta’s, and musicals. Elliott sang the Heine poems song set from Schubert’s Schwanengesang, and covered the role of Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus.

Elliott has been a singer since the age of 5. He joined the Richmond Boys Choir when he was 8, where he began to learn proper vocal technique. He was a member until the age of 10, when he moved out of the city; he joined the choir again in his junior year of high school, until the summer before college. Throughout his years so far, he has received multiple awards for his achievements such as: the VAHCDO scholarship award for his high school achievements, a scholarship from the Richmond Boys Choir, an award for his creative writing abilities, and became a member of the James Madison University Centennial Scholarship Program, which was a full scholarship to the University.

Elliott is very appreciative of every opportunity he was able to have  at JMU and pleased with his studies under the tutelage of Professor Kevin McMillan. He is presently pursuing a Masters degree in voice at the Manhattan School of Music.

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