Artist Bios, February 2024

Violinist Dr. Emily Acri (Feb 9) was born and raised in Winnetka, IL. Her collegiate studies spanned from 2011-2020 at Indiana University (BM ‘15), University of Michigan (MM ‘17) and University of Washington (DMA ‘20). After earning her doctorate, she worked for AmeriCorps as an ArtistYear Fellow (Colorado). There, she worked as music educator at Crystal River Elementary School and Aspen Music Festival and School’s Beginning Strings program. She was concertmaster of the High Country Sinfonia and co-founded the Sopris Quartet. Currently, Emily is based in Seattle, working as a violin and viola teacher and freelance performer. Emily coaches violinists in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and performs with ensembles including Puget Sound Strings, Symphony Tacoma, Federal Way Symphony, Sound Ensemble (Pacific Northwest), Juliani Ensemble (Chicago, IL) and MahlerFest (Boulder, CO). Emily attributes her musical inspiration to her late Grandfather, Robert Acri, a legendary Chicago pianist.

Janet Anderson (guest artist, Feb 1) grew up in Kent, Ohio, and studied music and philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Since moving to Seattle in 1992, she has been active as both a pianist and composer. Her compositions have been featured locally on the Ladies Musical Club series and on Classical KING FM. Janet is the music director at Wedgwood Presbyterian Church, and teaches piano students of all ages at her home in north Seattle, where she lives with her husband, the painter Jeffrey Simmons, and their daughter Mary. Please visit her website,

Dora Barnes (Feb 1) was born and raised in Yakima Washington and now resides in Seattle. She is a classically trained vocalist, pianist, and saxophonist, and is currently studying with Davida Kagen. Dora attended Yakima Valley Community College and Central Washington University with a focus on vocal performance. Dora has performed with the Seattle Art Song Society, Ladies Musical Club, and the Puget Sound Concert Opera, among others. Notably, she has performed as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, placed 1st in the PAFE Opera division, placed 3rd in the Seattle Opera Guild’s Singer Development Awards, and was an honorable mention in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Awards. When not singing opera, Dora is the lead singer and plays saxophone in two Motown/Oldies bands, and also composes her own music.

Silas Berlin (Feb 1) is a 2021 graduate of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Silas enjoys performing for communities in the Seattle area as well as for private events and parties. He was awarded the silver medal for both the 2020 Seattle Bach festival and Russian Music Competition. He has his own private teaching practice and teaches an adult extension course at Cornish College of the Arts.

Ana Isabel Frías (Feb 12) is a Spanish clarinetist and pedagogue based in Seattle. Classically trained, she graduated from the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Navarra in Pamplona (Spain), obtaining two Bachelor’s degrees in Clarinet Performance and Clarinet Pedagogy. She holds a Master of Music in Clarinet Performance from Centro Superior de Enseñanza Musical Katarina Gurska in Madrid (Spain). Ana performs on chamber music and orchestral projects on a regular basis and enjoys appearances in Arts in Education Conferences. Her passion about early childhood has taken her to complete her education obtaining certifications as an Early Childhood Music Educator from Musica in Culla (Italy), The Gordon Institute for Music Learning (U.S.) and the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). As part of her professional development, Ana works as a music educator in diverse schools and continues developing a music program for young children based on E. Gordon’s Music Learning Theory and the Montessori approach.

Stephanie Guasch (Feb 12) is a classically trained singer and educator with over 10 years of experience in formal singing. She earned her Master’s Degree at the Mannes School of Music (New York, NY) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico (San Germán, P.R.). During her time at Mannes she studied with Ruth Falcon, and performed in multiple master classes, opera workshops, outreach programs, and recitals. Back in her native Puerto Rico, and an active performer, she was a member of the San Juan Philharmonic Chorale as well as Coralia, the renowned concert choir of the University of Puerto Rico led by the distinguished conductor Carmen Acevedo Lucío. Since relocating to Seattle in 2020 Ms. Guasch has been an active freelance vocalist performing in a wide variety of genres including classical music, bossa nova, jazz, Latin jazz, as well as back up singer for local latin music ensembles.

Katie Hochman (Feb 1, 9), soprano, can be heard regularly giving recitals with Ladies Musical Club of Seattle. She has also enjoyed singing opera and oratorio with Puget Sound Concert Opera (PSCO), Opera Theater Oregon, Portland Opera, Utah Opera, Columbia Chorale and Southwest Washington Symphony (SWS). Highlights include the title role of Massenet’s Cendrillon and Héro in Berlioz’s Beatrice et Bénédict performed with PSCO and Exultate, jubilate performed with SWS.

A native of Taiwan, Li-Cheng Hung (Feb 9) holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance from the University of Washington, under the tutelage of Dr. Robin McCabe. A recipient of numerous awards, Li-Cheng was the 1st-prize winner of the 2014 Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, which led to a solo performance in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She was a top-prize winner at the UW Concerto Competition and has performed with the UW Symphony Orchestra. She has also performed with the Burmese Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Taiwan and received a scholarship from the American Taiwanese Charity and Education Association in Washington, D.C. Recent highlights have included an invitation as the guest pianist from the LA Taiwan Academy for the multimedia concert “Whispers of Trees” on a U.S. tour with the Seattle Symphony String members in Seattle and Los Angeles; a chamber music concert for the Hubbard-Males Piano Competition in Oklahoma City. Ms. Hung is currently a rehearsal pianist and teaching artist at the Seattle Opera and maintains her private piano studio in the greater Seattle area.

An emerging lyric tenor in the Seattle opera scene, Cary Lee (guest artist, Feb 9) has been recently featured by upnext arts in their Opera on the Hill concert and as a returning Studio Artist with Puget Sound Concert Opera. Cary is a regular soloist at First UMC Seattle and frequently appears as a professional chorister with groups such as Kirkland Choral Society, Sound City Singers, Radiance, and others. Originally from Orlando, he holds a degree in voice from Northwestern University and is a student of Stephen Wall.

Composer Eldon Leuning (Feb 9) has lived his entire life in Washington, growing up on a fruit orchard east of Yakima near Zillah. He earned a BA in English from Whitworth College in Spokane where he also studied music. He subsequently became a high school English teacher before eventually turning to teaching music in the Lake Washington School District. It is the combination of these two interests and studies, poetry and music, that led to and define his current work composing Art Song. His training and passion for both of these are apparent in his musical settings, combining the two into a singular statement of meaning. Music is a passion Eldon shares with his son, Mark, who is a trained tenor and French teacher. Art and artistic expression are central to his life, and are infused with the rigor learned on the end of a shovel, making sure that the irrigation water got all the way to the end of every row of pear trees. He has most recently studied with John Muehleisen.

Joan Lundquist (Feb 12) has served as a collaborative pianist for Seattle area musicians and organizations for 30 years. Since moving to the area from Humboldt State University in northern California, where she was staff accompanist, Joan has worked with the Northwest Boychoir, Seattle Choral Company, has taught at Seattle University and Northwest University, and has worked with several area private music teachers. Currently, Ms. Lundquist is the Director of Music at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle and rehearsal accompanist for the Seattle Choral Company.

Karin McCullough (Feb 9, 20) is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music who gives piano lessons in her Ballard studio & performs often in the Seattle area. She co-led two music history tours of Vienna in the early 2000s. She’s the Principal Organizer in Puget Sound for the international movement Bach in the Subways (this year on March 23 & 24) and is the Acting Librarian for Seattle Music Teachers Association. She has frequently played on KING FM’s show NW Focus Live; her most recent radio performance there was recorded & is available on NPR (

Rachel Anne Moore (guest artist, Feb 1) is a Seattle-born coloratura soprano who has traveled the U.S. and Europe singing musical theater and opera professionally. She trained at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, receiving a Bachelor of Music. After undergraduate studies, she went on to pursue her Master of Music degree at the University of Tennessee Knoxville as the 2008/2009 Spivey Humanities Fellowship recipient. During her time at UTK, Ms. Moore understudied and performed roles with the Knoxville Opera. After graduating, Moore relocated to Germany, where she had a successful musical theater career performing the role of Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera and Christine in its sequel Love Never Dies. Upon returning to the U.S., she toured with Love Never Dies and eventually debuted on Broadway in The Phantom of the Opera. In 2020, Moore opened her private voice studio, “Moore Than Music,” teaching budding musical and opera singers.

Peter Nelson-King (guest artist, Feb 14) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and writer based on the Eastside. Born and raised in King County, they earned performance degrees from University of Puget Sound and Boston University before setting here. They are a regular member of Lake Washington Symphony, Brass Band Northwest, Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra and the experimental improvisation group Scrambler, and freelance with many other groups in the area. They also teach private lessons, host solo and chamber recitals, and collaborate with Seattle’s poetry scene.

Patrick O’Keefe (Feb 9) retired from a decidedly non-musical career (computer programmer/analyst) in 2010, providing time to pursue his life-long interest in classical music. Since 2011 he has been studying music theory and composition with instructor, composer, and bass player Brian Cobb, D.M.A. His compositional style tends to be modal with somewhat nontraditional harmonies. Most of his works are for small chamber ensembles but he occasionally writes for orchestra. In addition to classical music, he also has a deep interest in Balkan folk music and recreational Balkan folkdance.

Known for her expressive and passionate performances, Jensina Oliver (Feb 20) has delighted audiences as soloist and chamber musician in the United States, China, Canada, Costa Rica, Israel, and throughout Europe. Her performances with orchestra include appearances with the Hubei Provincial Orchestra of Wuhan, China, and the Utah Philharmonia. She was a national finalist of the MTNA Chamber Music Competition, a resident artist at the Banff Chamber Music Festival, and has won several solo and concerto competitions throughout the United States. Dr. Oliver is in high demand as guest performer, clinician, and adjudicator at events, conferences, and competitions throughout the Pacific Northwest. She has taught at Shoreline Community College since 1998 and has a thriving piano studio with students of all ages. Dr. Oliver currently resides with her family in Shoreline, WA, where she loves to enjoy all of the beautiful outdoor opportunities that the Pacific Northwest provides.

Luke Raffanti (Feb 1) has been a frequent piano performer around Seattle since moving here in 2017. Before the pandemic, he performed frequently at house concerts, retirement homes, and for benefit concerts. In 2018, he earned the top prize in the Chopin Northwest solo piano competition and in 2019 he was featured as vocal accompanist and solo pianist on Classical KING FM. He has enjoyed collaborating with several professional opera companies: Seattle Opera, Seattle Modern Opera Company, and Northwest Opera in Schools, as well as numerous individual professional vocalists. Luke teaches roughly 40 students of all ages at Cascade Piano Studio in Ravenna, and is the collaborative pianist and organist at Richmond Beach Congregational United Church of Christ in Shoreline. Lately Luke has been taking voice lessons with Davida Kagen and singing with Seattle Pro Musica. He earned a BM in classical piano performance and a BA in environmental studies from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music.

Emily Riesser’s (Feb 9, 12) diverse experience encompasses opera, oratorio, theatre, and new works. She recently portrayed Missy Hart in 9 to 5: The Musical (Twelfth Night Productions), sang Dolcina in Suor Angelica (Puget Sound Concert Opera), and sang Frasquita in Carmen (Kitsap Opera). In concert, Emily is known for her interpretation of Bach cantatas, including Wedding Cantata, which she has sung in several venues. Favorite experiences include singing Iphigenie in Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride (Seattle Opera Guild), Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata (Kitsap Opera), Tamiri in Mozart’s Il re pastore (Off-Center Opera), and soprano chorus at Seattle Opera. Emily is a graduate of Goshen College (Goshen, IN) and past participant in Bel Canto Northwest (Portland State University).

Mary Riles (Feb 9, 14), cello, received her BA in Classics and BM in Cello Performance from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Andor Toth, Jr., and her Master of Music from the Ester Boyer College of Music at Temple University, where she studied with Jeffrey Solow, whom she met as an award student at the Chautauqua Music Festival. She then relocated to Seattle, Washington, where she provides private cello instruction and chamber coaching. Mary has performed with a variety of Seattle area ensembles, including NOCCO, Seattle Modern Orchestra, the Sound Ensemble, and Thalia Symphony Orchestra. She is currently principal cellist of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra. She has additionally been involved in many performances of both solo and chamber works in St. Louis, Ohio, Texas, New York, Philadelphia, and Juneau.

Katherine Roberts (Feb 9) has pursued an avocation in music primarily as a pianist and composer since 1983. An at-large member of the Ladies Musical Club, she is honored to have these pieces performed for the first time. Her compositions vary in genre from classical to blues and secular to sacred. She graduated from Indiana University with a degree in physics and earned her M.S. in space technology from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. In 2009 she retired from the US Air Force as a Brigadier General. Subsequently she owned her own business for over 10 years and is now a caregiver for family members. At some point she hopes to find more time to dedicate to music. Although originally arriving and settling in Seattle after her Air Force career, Kathy and her husband now reside in Lacey, WA.

Eric Shankland (Feb 9, 17) has been playing bassoon since age 15. He played in the NCR band and the Youth Philharmonic in Dayton, Ohio. He studied with Arthur Grossman and played in the University Symphony at the University of Washington, and currently studies with Paul Rafanelli of the Seattle Symphony. He was principal bassoon in the Eastside Symphony (Redmond) for fifteen years. Eric is a research scientist at the University of Washington.

Julie Shankland (Feb 9, 17) has played clarinet since marching band in the Ohio snow. Since moving to Washington, Julie has played in the UW Concert Band, Eastside Symphony, West Seattle Community Orchestras, Rain City Symphony, and various chamber music camps. Julie is an adult student of Jennifer Nelson and recently learned to play bass clarinet. Julie works in the Office of General Counsel at the Washington State Bar Association.

Caroline Swanson (Feb 17) has her master’s degree in viola performance from the Southern Methodist University, having studied with Barbara Sudweeks. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan with Yizhak Schotten. She has performed often with many professional orchestras and chamber ensembles, in concerts with music of various styles. She has studied music composition throughout her career, with a focus on expanding the solo viola repertoire, and has premiered several new works by other composers for solo viola, string quartet, and orchestra. Caroline currently resides in Lakewood, Washington.

Rob Toren (guest artist, Feb 1) has been a professional singer for most of his musical life, including most recently undertaking several small roles at Seattle Opera 1998-2014. After retiring from both singing and as a non-profit executive, he has returned to his first love, the piano. Because of his background as a singer and his earlier career days in NYC, he now gravitates towards the art song literature, with programs focusing on both the French (Debussy and Faure) and German traditions (Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss). He most recently studied with Joyce Gibb.

Dhanushi Wijeyakulasuriya (Feb 1), originally from Sri Lanka, holds a Licentiate Diploma in Singing from Trinity College of Music, London. She began voice lessons in 2004, in Sri Lanka with Menaka Sahabandu and also studied with Asitha Tennekoon. At age 17, she made her debut with the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, performing selections from operas and operettas. Dhanushi has performed extensively in Sri Lanka. Some highlights include soprano soloist in Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Chamber Music Society of Colombo, scenes from The Marriage of Figaro (Susanna) and The Barber of Seville (Rosina) with the Menaka Singers Opera Ensemble and The Phantom of the Opera (Christine Daae) by the Workshop Players. After moving to the U.S. in 2015 she studied voice with Timothi Williams and Dr. Rachel Copeland at Penn State. Dhanushi has since presented several solo recitals in the U.S. She currently continues her vocal studies with Rachel Anne Moore and Barbara Bonney. In addition to her musical pursuits, she holds a Ph.D. in Statistics from Penn State and works as a Senior Data Scientist at Microsoft.

Guitarist and composer Mark Hilliard Wilson (guest artist, Feb 12) has an engaging approach to teaching and programming concerts that draws from the deep well of history and a desire to relate contemporary interests to universal themes. Wilson is the founder and director of the 24-year-old Seattle Guitar Orchestra. He performs concerts once a month at St James Cathedral, where he is Cathedral guitarist, a position he has held for the last 12 years. Wilson has taught at Whatcom Community College, Bellevue College, and the Rosewood Guitar, and is currently at the Holy Names Academy. His compositions are published by Seconda Prattica and are performed widely. Wilson recently premiered a concerto written for him by the Ukrainian composer Oleg Boyko; directed Guitar ensembles at the 2023 Northwest Guitar Festival in Bellingham; and released The Music of Taiwo Adegoke, changing the canon of the classical guitar with music from Nigeria.

Sharon Wong (Feb 12) is a pianist passionate about playing chamber music with instrumentalists and singers. She began her collaborative piano journey during high school while serving as the organist and choir accompanist for her church. During her university years Sharon studied with Margaret Fabrizio on an 1812 fortepiano (twin to the piano Broadwood sent to Beethoven) while gratifying her inner nerd, earning a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering. Recently retired after serving as a technology executive at multiple startups and major software companies, Sharon now happily plays with many chamber ensembles and subs at various churches around Seattle.