Tier II Judge
Artistic Director and Conductor of Masterworks Chorale since 2002, Bryan Baker also serves as Director of Music at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, Director of the men's vocal ensemble Thirst & Howl, and Assistant Conductor of the San Francisco Choral Society. He frequently conducts instrumental ensembles, and has led the Solaris Chamber Orchestra, the Masterworks Orchestra, the Peninsula Symphonic Band, and the New Millennium Strings Orchestra. Highlights of the recent seasons include leading performances of Faure’s Requiem, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Rutter’s Mass of the Children (with Ragazzi Boys Chorus,) Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with soloist Roy Malan, and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. Masterworks 40th Anniversary concert featured Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances, Brahms’ Nänie, and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, with pianist Jon Nakamatsu. Soprano Luana DeVol joined in the 42nd concert year opera gala.
While earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees in music, Dr. Baker studied with Eckart Sellheim, Ciao Pagano, Carlo Busotti, Dewey Camp, and Conrad Bruderer. He now serves on the faculty of the College of San Mateo. He formerly taught voice at San Francisco State University and at Truman University in Missouri, as well as piano at Foothill College and at Arizona State University. He maintains a busy private studio, and his students have won competitions and appeared in concerts and opera productions in the Bay Area and across the country.
Active as a concertizing pianist, Dr. Baker has played solo concerts, chamber music, and accompanied vocal recitals across the United States and in Europe. Locally he has performed in Davies Symphony Hall, Herbst Theater, at the Stern Grove Festival, on the Old First Concert Series, Concerts by the Sea, the Oakmont Concert Series, and on many other concert series. He gave the inaugural concert of the new Petrof Recital Series in Ashland, Oregon. During recent seasons, he performed with the Kensington Symphony Orchestra, the California Chamber Symphony, the New Millennium Strings, and the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra in concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, St-Säens, and Shostakovitch.
Dr. Baker has won prizes in numerous competitions, including first place in the Klatzin Contemporary Keyboard Competition and the Bay Area Keyboard Arts Competition, Living Composers. He received a grant for performances of chamber music and has performed a wide range of unusual works for small ensembles. Bryan has spent a good deal of time in the theater, first as a singer and actor, and now as a musical director. He has directed many musicals and operas including productions of Godspell, The Mikado, Company, Cabaret, Puccini's Suor Angelica, and Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti. The last two shows on which he worked are the review Side by Side by Sondheim and the opera La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart.
Tier II Judge
Martín Benvenuto is one of the leading choir conductors in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he has been Artistic Director of WomenSing (WS) since 2002 and the Peninsula Women’s Chorus (PWC) since 2003. Active as a clinician, panelist, and guest conductor, Benvenuto has served as Artistic Director of the Contra Costa Children’s Chorus, and has been on the faculty of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir for eight years.
Recognized for his exacting technique, and a passion for drawing the finest choral tone, Benvenuto’s repertoire is extensive. His choirs are dedicated to commissioning new works from upcoming and established composers from the U.S. and abroad, and have been selected to perform at Chorus America and the American Choral Directors Association conferences.
His choirs have also earned honors and high marks in international competitions in Argentina, South Africa, Canada, Hungary, and Spain. Of particular note are the PWC’s American Prize in Choral Performance (winner in 2015, second place in 2011), which recognizes the best recordings by choruses in the U.S., the 2010 Chorus America/ASCAP Alice Parker award, which recognized WomenSing for programming recently-composed music that expanded the mission of the chorus, and the Third Prize awarded to the PWC at the 2006 Béla Bartók International Choir Competition, one of the most prestigious on the European circuit.
Benvenuto highly values artistic collaborations: his choirs have collaborated with Veljo Tormis, Joseph Jennings, Karmina Silec and Carmina Slovenica, Charles Bruffy, Quinteto Latino, California Shakespeare Theater, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus, among others. Benvenuto has prepared choirs for organizations such as the San Francisco Opera, the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the Redwood Symphony, and the Kronos Quartet. He has also has appeared as tenor soloist with leading Bay Area ensembles.
Benvenuto holds a D.M.A. in choral conducting from Boston University, where he studied with Ann Howard Jones and the late Robert Shaw. He earned his master’s degree from Westminster Choir College, where he studied with Joseph Flummerfelt, majoring both in Choral Conducting and in Voice Performance and Pedagogy. His undergraduate degrees in choral conducting and composition are from the Universidad Católica Argentina.
Tier I Judge
Gregory Buchalter is the Artistic Director and conductor of Opera Fairbanks, Opera Las Vegas and Opera Camerata of Washington. In Fairbanks he has conducted La Boheme, Carmen, L'elisir d'amore, Don Giovanni, Tosca, La Cenerentola, and a Gala performance celebrating Alaska’s 50th anniversary featuring Vivica Genaux. During his leadership with these companies, he has brought in many internationally renowned singers including Paul Plishka, Sondra Radvanovsky, Francisco Casanova, Alessandra Marc, Cynthia Lawrence, Luana DeVol, Alexandra Deshorties, and Richard Bernstein. Maestro Buchalter is also an active symphonic conductor. He recently had a great successes in Fairbanks conducting Mahler's Fourth Symphony and Bernstein's West Side Story Symphonic Dances.
He has conducted Salomé at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland with Maria Ewing and Helga Dernesch, Die Fledermaus at the Vienna Volksoper, and Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail at the Spoleto Festival.
In October 2011, Mr. Buchalter conducted the American Premiere of Mercadante's I Due Figaro and Donizetti's Olivo e Pasquale with New York's Amore Opera and received glowing reviews for the performances. He was the first American to conduct with the Kazakhstan State Opera; the performances there included a televised Gala concert for the President of Kazakhstan. Mr. Buchalter has been Chorus Master of Santa Fe Opera, where he received great acclaim for his choral preparation for Peter Grimes, Turandot, and many other operas. In addition he was Chorus Master at the Bregenz Festival in Austria, Theater des Westens in Berlin, and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Buchalter is currently a cover conductor at the Metropolitan Opera where the position of "Maestro di Banda" was created for him. He has worked extensively with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus and has been Chorus Master at the Met for several productions including the telecast of Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Don Giovanni and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. He has also prepared several world premiers at the Met: John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, Philip Glass’ The Voyage, and John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby. In the latter, Mr. Buchalter created the on-stage part of the jazz band conductor.
February 1992, Mr. Buchalter founded his own chorus, Choros Aristos, and led them in a performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle at New York’s Merkin Hall in commemoration of the composer’s 200th birthday. In 1995, he conducted the Metropolitan Consort, a group composed of members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in a highly successful concert of Baroque music. For many seasons he was a guest conductor with the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble where he has conducted such works as Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky. As both pianist and conductor, Mr. Buchalter has toured such places as Cairo, Kuwait, Malaysia, Turkey, and Hong Kong. As a lecturer and speaker he has been invited to hold Master Classes throughout the United States.
Tier I Judge
Mezzo-Soprano Dr. Candice Burrows, co-chair of the vocal area at High Point University, is known for commanding a wide variety of musical styles. Initially a jazz singer, Burrows switched to the classical genre furthering her vocal studies and culminating in numerous vocal awards: a winner in the Oralia Dominguez International Opera competition in Mexico, a finalist in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera competition where she was also voted the “Outstanding Future Artist” award, the Oregon Governor’s Arts Award recipient and the Outstanding Achievement award at USC in Los Angeles. She has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Santa Fe Orchestra, Boston Pops and Symphony, Tanglewood Orchestra, Eugene Symphony, Phoenix Chamber Orchestra and Pops, New Jersey Symphony, June Opera Festival of New Jersey, Eugene Opera, New York Repertory Theater, Pasadena Chamber Orchestra, Schleswig-Holstein Orchestra, Oxford Symphony Orchestra and Oregon Bach Festival. Her many symphonic works have been under the batons of maestros Seiji Ozawa, Helmuth Rilling, Marin Alsop, John Williams, Gunther Schuller and her dear friend, the late, great Leonard Bernstein.
Active in opera, some of her more notable roles include; Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Dorabella (Cosi fan Tutte), Sesto (La Clemenza di Tito), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Cenerentola, Nancy (Albert Herring), Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Sesto, Baba (The Medium) and Helen Potts (Picnic/World Premier 2009). Reviews of Dr. Burrows include; “hauntingly beautiful voice” (Eugene Register Guard), “Praiseworthy vocalism…” (New York Times), “the next Janet Baker” (Albuquerque Journal).and referring to her opera performance of Rossini’s Cenerentola, “the role is hers forever!” (New Jersey Star Ledger).
Burrows received her B.M. from the University of Oregon after studying abroad at the Guildhall School of Music in London. She was a student of mentor, Arleen Augér and coached exclusively with Gwen Koldofsky at the University of Southern California where she pursued her M.M. In 2006, Burrows returned to academia and received her DMA at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. In addition to teaching at High Point University, Dr. Burrows is a performing artist and member of the voice faculty at SongFest International Music Festival in Los Angeles. Many of her students have won voice competitions at the state, regional and national levels.
Tier I Judge
Internationally renowned soprano Sheri Greenawald has been director of San Francisco Opera Center since 2002 and is the artistic director of the Merola Opera Program, two lauded organizations that recognize, cultivate and nurture the finest young operatic talent. She has performed leading roles with San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Venice’s La Fenice, the Munich Bavarian State Opera, the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet, Welsh National Opera, Seattle Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Netherlands Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Naples’s Teatro San Carlos and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, among others. She is featured on several recordings, including singing the title role of Blitzstein’s Regina conducted by John Mauceri and recorded for Decca.
A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and the Juilliard School of Music, Greenawald has been a recipient of a Rockefeller Grant, NEA Grant, and was named Seattle Opera Association’s “Artist of the Year” in 1998. She served as a professor of voice and opera at the Boston Conservatory, was a visiting artist at the University of Charleston, an artist-in-residence at the University of Northern Iowa, was the vocal coach of the Santa Fe Apprentice Program in 1999 and opera director of the program in 2000, and has given master classes with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Arizona Opera, Boston Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Boston University, Longy School of Music, Mannes School of Music and Manhattan School of Music.
Tier II Judge
Audrey Howitt teaches voice in the San Francisco bay area and has been an associated voice teacher with several award winning choirs including Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir under the baton of Robert Geary, the Young Women’s Choral Project of San Francisco under the direction of acclaimed director, Susan McMane, the Head Royce School under the tutelage of Robert Wells, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Ms.Howitt has sung with San Francisco Symphony Chorus under the direction of both Vance George and Ragnar Bohlin. Ms. Howitt has also sung with the San Francisco Chamber Singers (now Volti) under the direction of Robert Geary. She has appeared in opera and musical theatre roles, covering both the mezzo-soprano and the soprano repertoire. Ms. Howitt holds a master’s degree in music from Holy Names University and is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She maintains a private studio in Alameda.
Tier I Judge
Bryan Nies is Assistant Conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and Principal Conductor of Festival Opera. From 2004 – 2012, he led Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, including a tour of Australia and New Zealand during the orchestra’s 40th season. With “superb musical direction,” Bryan conducted sold-out performances of Puccini’s Turandot and Bizet’s Carmen with Festival Opera to rave reviews that stated, “Nies is undeniably a talent to watch.” In addition, he has been a cover conductor for the St. Louis Symphony, conducted performances with Opera Idaho (Barber of Seville, Cosi Fan Tutte), West Bay Opera (La Boheme), and the Oakland Chamber Ensemble. With Eugene Onegin, Bryan Nies made his Opera San Jose debut as principal conductor, after serving as assistant conductor for five company productions between 2003 and 2007: Don Pasquale, Die Zauberflote, The Crucible, UnBallo in Maschera, Manon and Werther and the west coast premiere of Anna Karenina.
Pursuing an avid interest in all musical genres, Mr. Nies has also been an associate music director with American Musical Theater of San Jose, Theatreworks in Palo Alto, and is on the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Jose State University.
During the summer of 2002, Mr. Nies was honored with a Leonard Bernstein Fellowship to participate as a conductor at the Tanglewood Music Center. There he conducted performances to rave reviews in the Boston Globe. In addition, he received personal instruction with many leading professional conductors, including Michael Morgan, Roberto Abbado, Jeffery Tate, Hans Vonk, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos and Grant Llewellyn.
A native of Chicago, Mr. Nies also holds a B.M. in Piano Performance and a B.A. in Psychology from Northwestern University. He has won numerous piano competitions in the Chicago area including a Gramma Fisher Scholarship to study at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. In addition, he has performed with William Warfield for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, as their Assistant Conductor. Mr. Nies also served on the staff of Northwestern University’s Theater Department as vocal coach and piano accompanist.
Tier II Judge
Michael Nutter made his directing debut with Eugene Opera on a semi-staged production of Cavalleria Rusticana. Since then he has directed over 40 operas including The Crucible, Meanwhile, Back at Cinderella’s, Wuthering Heights, The Old Maid and the Thief, The Saint of Bleecker Street, Susannah, Così fan tutte, The Medium, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, PDQ Bach’s A Little Nightmare Music, The Stoned Guest, Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus, Dido & Æneas, Don Pasquale, Mozart’s The Impresario, Riders to the Sea, Kirke Mechem's Tartuffe, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Puccini’s Il Trittico, La Bohème, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd; The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Merry Widow, The Abduction from the Seraglio, and the world premiere of Curtis Bryant’s, The Secret Agent, and most recently directed Gianni Schicchi for Eugene Opera’s Artist Mentor Program. In 2012, he directed for the Atlanta Opera’s 24-Hour Project where his team won both audience and judges’ favorite for the farcical 10-minute opera Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens, composed by Jennifer Jolley. He has also directed Two From Seuss for the Oregon Bach Festival, a production of The Telephone in Binghamton, N.Y., and the world premiere of Where Music Comes From in Eugene. Michael has worked in opera, classical music and theatre professionally for 30 years, including staff positions for The Atlanta Opera, Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, NY, Central City Opera in Colorado, Eugene Opera, Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta, and served for 15 seasons as Technical Director for the Grammy®-award-winning Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon. He works full-time in the Human Resource department at the law firm of Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta and is the Artistic Director and Stage Director for the Capitol City Opera Company in Atlanta, Georgia.
Burr Cochran Phillips
Tier I Judge
Burr Cochran Phillips, baritone, joined the faculty of the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music in 2007, where he teaches private voice, vocal coaching, lyric diction and assists in the preparation of opera repertoire. Phillips has performed with the Dallas Symphony, Royal Philharmonic (London), and the symphony orchestras of Fort Worth, Honolulu, and San Antonio. He has taught at the Big Bear Lake Festival of Song (Big Bear Lake, CA) as well as the Taos Opera Institute (Taos, NM). He holds a master’s of music degree in vocal pedagogy and performance from Texas Christian University and a bachelor’s of music degree in vocal performance from the University of North Texas.