Our Performers

Archives

Click on any of the links below to learn more about our performers.

April Amante, Soprano Simi Valley LDS Community Choir
Bell Canto Ringers, Handbell Choir Simi Valley Music Elementary Chorus
Craig Mathias, Bagpipes Simi Valley High School Choral Ensembles
Elaine Litster, Harpist Simi Valley Mormon Youth Choir
Harmony Acapella Singers Sinaloa Middle School Vocal Ensemble
Hillside Middle School Choir St. Rose of Lima Master Choral
Looking Back Rock Band Stonebridge Bell Choir
Simi Community Children's Choir Trinity Lutheran Chancel Choir
Simi Valley Adventist School Concert Bell Choir Valley View Middle School Choirs
Simi Valley High School Music Chamber Ensembles Whitaker Family Singers featuring Stephen Gerzeli, solo pianist



April Amante, Soprano

Bell Canto RingersThe Bell Canto Ringers are thrilled to return for a seventh season at Simi Community Christmas. The Bell Canto Ringers are a handbell choir consisting of 11 musicians from Agoura Hills, Newbury Park, Simi Valley, and Westlake under the direction of Jodi Ream. Following her eight years as a youth and handbell choir director in Santa Monica, Jodi Ream and her sister, Sally Walter, organized the Bell Canto Ringers in 2008 as a tribute to their parents for the support and encouragement of their daughters’ musical pursuits. The Bell Canto Ringers have performed throughout Ventura County and will be featured performers at the Los Angeles Temple Visitors Center on December 16th. Handbell music brings a distinctive sound to traditional Christmas carols. Be sure to look and listen for the various techniques used by the ringers to create their unique tone and blend.


 Bell Canto Ringers, Handbell Choir

Bell Canto RingersApril Amante, soprano, has performed with Opera San Luis Obispo, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Pacific Opera Project, Glendale Centre Theatre, the Los Angeles Opera Outreach Program, and is currently a member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. She will sing Laurey (Oklahoma) with Opera San Luis Obispo this spring. April has been a featured soloist with the Opera San Luis Obispo Grand Orchestra in concert at the Vina Robles Amphitheater, Opera SLO’s Broadway by the Sea, The Astoria Music Festival, Songfest in Malibu, The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Music on Argyle, the UCLA Faculty Recital series, and Classical Music Encounters of Orange County. Roles performed include Johanna (Sweeney Todd), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), First Lady (Die Zauberfllöte), Frasquita (Carmen), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Suor Genovieffa (Suor Angelica), Valencienne (The Merry Widow), the title role in La Périchole, Drusilla (L'incoronazione di Poppea), Polly Peachum (The Threepenny Opera), and Gloria Rasputin (Bye Bye Birdie).

In addition, April was a semifinalist this year in the Festival Nuits Lyriques de Marmande, an international singing competition in France. She was the winner of the 42nd Annual American Educators of Italian Origin United (AEIOU) Opera Competition in 2012, a finalist in the 36th Annual Carmel Music Society Vocal Competition, and a finalist in the NATS National Musical Theater Competition in 2014. April received a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) magna cum laude in Vocal Performance from California State University-Northridge and a Master of Music (MM) from the University of Arizona.



Craig Mathias, Bagpipes

Craig MathiasCraig Mathias of Clan Buchanan has been playing the highland bagpipes since 1999. He performs throughout the year at community events throughout Southern California including Memorial Day observances, dedications and flag raisings. He has closed every evening of the Simi Community Christmas celebration since its inception.

During the nights of Simi Community Christmas, several pipe tunes will close each evening including Amazing Grace, Going Home and an assortment of traditional Christmas songs.

Piper Craig will wear traditional 19th century attire including kilts of Clan Buchanan in both modern (reds and yellows) and hunting (greens and blacks) tartans. His clan medallion shows an arm holding the crown of Scotland, signifying the role of Clan Buchanan in saving the Scottish crown in several battles of the 15th through 17th centuries.



Elaine Litster, Harpist

Elane LitsterElaine Litster performs and freelances throughout Southern California. She has played with many orchestras, including the Asia American Symphony Orchestra, the American Freedom Orchestra, the West Coast Symphony, the New Valley Symphony, and the Boise Philharmonic. For the past 17 years Elaine has organized and conducted “Harp Extravaganza,” California’s largest “spontaneous” holiday harp ensemble, averaging 25 harpists. Television appearances have included Mad Men, the Bold and the Beautiful, and the Supreme Master telethon. Elaine's solo album, has been well received. As Miss Idaho, Elaine received a special award in the Miss America pageant for her harp performance. She holds a Bachelors degrees from BYU and UCLA. Elaine resides in Simi Valley with her husband Greg and their five children.

 



Harmony Acapella Singers

 

Harmony is a Simi Valley group of four young friends whose mutual love of musical theatre brought them together through Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi’s summer musical theatre camp programs.

Autumn Jessel, Mia Vavasseur and Audrey Fischer have been singing together as an acappella trio for nearly two years, performing madrigal songs at the Nottingham Festival and other similar events. Emilie Schwarz recently joined the trio to create a holiday music quartet this year. They have been singing together since June of 2017 under the direction of Jan Glasband, artistic director of Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi, and have created a beautiful blend that can only be described as “magical”. The girls get great joy out of sharing their music and hope that the joy spreads to everyone who listens.



Hillside Middle School Mixed Choir

Hillside Middle School has a comprehensive, award-winning choral program. There are three choirs in this program, including the Mixed Choir, Concert Choir, and Choral Ensemble. These choirs produce their own on-campus concerts, as well as participate in choral festivals and off-campus performances. The choirs include students in grades 6th through 8th grade. The Hillside Middle School Winter Choral Concert will be Tuesday, December 5th at Hillside Middle School at 7:00 pm. Please join us for some more holiday cheer!



Looking Back, Rock Band

LOOKING BACK is now entering its second decade of bringing to memory the soft rock sounds of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to audiences around Southern California. This group came together to share a love of music and talent with a special touch of brotherhood that has been a lively part of our experience together. Our musical diversity and vocal harmonies cover a wide range of songs that defined some of the best music from several great musical eras.
 
The lineup of LOOKING BACK -- Del Steele (Keyboard, Accordion), Randy Moffett (Guitar and Lead Vocals), Kent Hambly (12 String Guitar, Bass and Banjo), Darrell Wight (Rhythm Guitar), David Sardoni (Mandolin) Steve Murphy (Percussion, Drums) and Dave DeGregorio (Acoustic Guitar and Vocals). Each of the members of the band enjoy a variety of musical tastes and backgrounds, from Classical Music to Classic Rock and Barbershop all of which brings a unique influence to the music we perform.


 
Simi Community Children's Choir
Directed by Cathy Cheney

Simi Valley Children’s Choir consists of children ages 6-12 from the Simi Valley area.  This group prepares to preform annually at the Simi Community Christmas to sing songs celebrating the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  This great group of kids and their big hearts create a pure and angelic sound that will help you remember the reason for the season.    

Cathy Cheney’s love of choirs began when she joined her first chorus in the 3rd grade and continued throughout her school years as she sang in Girl’s Glee Clubs and Mixed Chorus’ through her senior year of high school. Later this love blossomed into performances with Church and Community Choirs in Oklahoma and Southern California to the present day.

Cathy has been a Choir Director for 40+ years for her Church in each place she has lived (California, Oklahoma, Utah, and in Augsburg, Germany).  Cathy worked as the Music Specialist for Township Elementary School for 16 years teaching songs and producing music programs that she wrote for the different age groups. She cherishes those experiences. In addition to choral directing, Cathy has dabbled in music composition, six of which have been performed by choirs or soloists. Directing adult and children’s choirs has been a joyful challenge to her throughout the years. Working with both in association with the Simi Community Christmas has truly filled her heart with joy.

Cathy Cheney has been married to her Sweetheart, Don, for 44 years and is the mother of 5 children. Their ‘prolific’ children have made them the very proud Grandparents of 23 exceptionally adorable grandchildren.



Simi Valley Adventist School Concert Bell Choir

 



Simi Valley High School Choral Ensembles

Simi Valley High School has a rich choral history, spanning across many decades. The groups performing this evening at Simi Community Christmas are Concert Choir, Vocal Ensemble, and Vocal Jazz. All three are high-ranking, auditioned groups that perform multiple times per year. Concert Choir will be performing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne (arr. By Harry Simeone) and “Christmas Time is Here” by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi (arr. by Teena Chinn). Vocal Ensemble will be performing “Winter Wonderland” by Dick Smith and Felix Bernard (arr. By Leo Arnaud) featuring solos by Katie Pringle and Katty Sanchez and “Holy Night, Silent Night,” arranged by Ruth Elaine Schram. Vocal Jazz will be performing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” by Eddie Pola and George Wyle (arr. By Mark Hayes), and the Pentatonix contemporary Christmas ballad, “That’s Christmas To Me,” by Scott Hoying and Kevin Olusola (arr. By Mark Brymer), featuring soloists Melanie Whiter, Jacob Gibson, and Jackie Parra.        

Bell Canto RingersBrittney Wescamillo received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA in 2006, and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Longy School of Music of Bard College in 2014. She has released music as a solo artist (Brittney Westover) and performs regularly as a backup singer for Tom Kenny (voice of Spongebob Squarepants). The newly wedded Mrs. Wescamillo lives in Santa Clarita with her husband and two dogs, and although she has been teaching music full-time in high schools since 2014, this is her first year teaching for Simi Valley USD. She is honored and delighted to be working with the youth in this wonderful community.



Simi Valley High School Music Chamber Ensembles

Simi Valley High School Jazz Combo

 



Simi Valley LDS Community Choir

The Simi Valley LDS Community Choir is comprised of members from and friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Simi Valley area. The choir has been organized for almost 50 years and has enjoyed participating in the Simi Community Christmas event since it's beginning 12 years ago.

Megan Croshaw Hanks has been involved with music since a young age. Being part of an extended family that plays instruments, sings and enjoys all types of musical experiences she has spent much of her life surrounded by the joys and blessings of music. She has played the violin in numerous orchestras and has been a private violin teacher and assistant teacher in orchestra programs in Northern Utah. She has enjoyed singing with many choirs throughout her life and has been directing various church choirs since 2001.



Simi Valley Music Elementary Chorus

The Simi Valley Music Children's Chorus is directed by Ruth Elin Drossel, who strives to bring music into the lives of our city's elementary students. Mrs. Drossel has been directing elementary school choruses for over 20 years as well as teaching general music education in the Simi Valley and Conejo Valley school districts. She is also the Director for the Children and High School Choirs at Westwood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.



Simi Valley Mormon Youth Choir

Simi Youth Choir

The Simi Valley Mormon Youth Choir has a long tradition of sharing their Christmas Spirit in the community. The combined choir of youth – ages 12 to 18 years old - has been practicing since September in preparation for this performance. Conductor Robert Erickson comes from a rich musical background and has led various youth choirs over the last 20 years. This choir is made up of youth from many different Simi Valley Schools.

Our principal accompanist is Arianna Nelson is attending Cal Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks and majoring in Music Production and Business. She has been studying piano for 9 years.

These youth have spent many hours preparing for this program. Our music celebrates the sacred story of Christ’s birth and in addition we sing a few fun songs to share the joy of the season, including a Calypso number entitled Calypso Alleluia and a French Carol entitled “Bring A Torch Janet Isabella.” We all get to have fun with “Mistletoe” and a new Jingle Bell Rock number. The program includes a medley of traditional Christmas favorites. We hope you enjoy this performance of the Simi Valley Mormon Youth Choir.



Sinaloa Middle School Vocal Ensemble

The Sinaloa Middle School Vocal Ensemble is happy to announce their return to the Simi Valley Community Christmas Concert. Under the direction of Isaac Arias, these 6th-8th graders perform at local concerts and music festivals. Mr. Arias studied at California Lutheran University where he graduated with his B.A. in Music Education in 2014 and his Single Subject Teaching Credential in Music in 2016. This is Mr. Arias’s second year at Sinaloa, and he wishes nothing more than to bring astounding music to the Simi Valley Community.

 



St. Rose of Lima Master Chorale

St Rose of Lima Choir

The St. Rose of Lima Master Chorale is composed of talented parishioners from our church. All the members of the group are very dedicated and devote their time and talent in the music ministry at St. Rose. This past June the choir was honored to have performed Mark Hayes’ Requiem in New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. Their main ministry and joy is leading the congregation in song and prayer every Sunday at the 9:00 Mass. This enthusiastic group is directed by Clare Delto and accompanied by Dr. Rachel
Yoon.

The director, Clare Delto is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston where she received her Bachelor degree in Music Education. She also earned her Master of Music degree in Conducting from San Diego State University. Clare has been featured as a solo vocalist and conductor at prestigious venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Chartres Cathedral, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the King’s Chapel in Versailles, St. Chapelle, Melbourne Scots’ Church, Sydney Town Hall, and the Sydney Opera House.

The St. Rose of Lima Master Chorale would like to thank the Simi Community Christmas organizers for inviting us to sing again this year. If you would like to hear more from the group, their Christmas Concert is on Thursday, December 21st at 7:00pm and Christmas Celebration begins with a Chorale Prelude at 11:30pm on December 24th. In addition, St. Rose of Lima will be having their second annual Christmas tree lighting on December 16th at 6:45pm – all are welcomed to attend!



Stonebridge Bell Choir

Stonebridge Bells is a choir of 12 handbell ringers that rehearses weekly and plays at least once a month at Stonebridge Community Church in Simi Valley. This ensemble has been in existence for about 15 years. It has performed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Strathearn Historical Park, and at Simi Covenant Church, as well as participated in Handbell Concerts in Bakersfield and Ontario. The Bells play for regular worship services as well as special Christian holy days. Often other instruments such as cello, flute, or guitars are added. Handbells add a special joy to any worship setting and are especially appropriate for the Christmas season. Thank you for inviting us to join your special holiday event.

Peggy Sadler, Director



Trinity Lutheran Chancel Choir

Director: Larry L. Jarvis
Accompanist: Amy Komie

Trinity Choir enhances the worship services at Trinity Lutheran Church with sacred music from all genres, including Classical, Gospel, Spirituals, and hymn arrangements. The choir also presents concert performances which include both sacred and secular music.

The choir is directed by Larry Jarvis, a retired Professor of Music from California State University, Northridge. Their accompanist has served as accompanist for Oak Christian School’s choirs and for one of the Children’s Choirs associated with the Master Chorale in Thousand Oaks.



Valley View Middle School Vocal Ensemble

The Valley View Middle School Choirs are so excited to share their music with the Simi Valley Community! There are three choirs at Valley View; Mixed Chorus, Concert Choir, and Vocal Ensemble. The choirs participate in festivals every year and hold themselves to high musical standards, while also having a lot of fun! Some students from Vocal Ensemble will be performing solos that they have prepared as well. We hope you enjoy our performance, and we wish you a Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

Mackenzie Mildram is the choir director at Valley View Middle School. This is her first year at Valley View, and her first year teaching! Ms. Mildram received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Syracuse University in New York. She is originally from Massachusetts, and moved out to California in August to start her teaching career. She is delighted to be working with such wonderful students, and is grateful to be here making music!



Whitaker Family Singers featuring Stephen Gerzeli, solo pianist

The child star, Johnny Whitaker will be joined by family members, Laurie Thompson, Dora Whitaker-Gerzeli and Stephen Gerzeli, with Stephen Gerzeli performing at the piano, and friend Kristi Jensen. Johnny Whitaker was born on December 13, 1959 in Van Nuys, California, USA as John Orson Whitaker Jr. He is an actor, known for Family Affair (1966), General Hospital(1963) and Tom Sawyer (1973). He was previously married to Symbria Wright.

A bit more about Johnny:

He was the only six-year-old who screen-tested for the role of Jody Davis in Family Affair(1966), which originally was supposed to be for a 10-year-old boy, but when the producers saw the chemistry between him and Anissa Jones (Buffy), they promptly rewrote the parts for 6-year-old twins.

He gave Jodie Foster her first on-screen kiss in Tom Sawyer (1973).

Speaks several languages fluently, including Portuguese, Spanish, French and American Sign Language.

Began his acting career at the age of three. He was discovered while singing in his church's children's program, where he broke up the entire congregation after he'd forgotten the words to the song and started to improvise with his own. He went on to do his first on-air performance in a commercial for OK Used Cars.

A recovering addict since 1997, he has served to help others. He is President and Founder of Paso Por Paso, a California 501 (c)3 corporation dedicated to helping Spanish-speaking addicts / alcoholics find treatment and recovery.

In 1999, he received the Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award at the Young Artist Awards.