Ashley Faatoalia

Tenor Ashley Faatoalia is a versatile, young artist born and raised in Los Angeles. Ashley studied vocal performance at Chapman University and has been singing professionally since that time. Opera News calls his singing “hauntingly beautiful” crediting him with “a voice of winning purity and variety of expression” and The San Francisco Chronicle calls him “Sweet-toned.” Ashley’s recent engagements include performances as: Bobby McCray in the world premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera The Central Park Five with Long Beach Opera, The Crab Man in Porgy & Bess with Seattle Opera, Lyric Tenor in EUROPERAS with LAPhil, and his debut as Marco Polo in the Emmy-Award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-nominated Invisible Cities with The Industry. For the last ten years, Ashley has also had the fortune of working with LA Opera Connects going into the community and sharing music with all who wish to enjoy. (AshleyFaatoalia.com – follow him @ashthetenor)

James M. Schaefer

Baritone James Martin Schaefer has an active performing career throughout the United States and beyond. He has received wide acclaim in many of the canonic operatic and oratorio baritone roles. He has performed in numerous productions with Los Angeles Opera and he was a member of Opera Pacific’s O.P.E.R.A. resident artist program.

Some recent engagements include appearances in Los Angeles Opera productions of Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Don Carlo, Wagner’s Tannhauser, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Bernstein’s Candide, Gluck’s Orfeus and Eurydice. He was recently featured as principal performer in Verdi’s La Traviata. In March 2022, Mr. Schaefer was “Bass Soloist” for St. Matthew’s Passion by J.S. Bach, which was a collaboration between Los Angeles Opera and The Hamburg Ballet. He also recently appeared as the bass soloist for the Berkshire Choral Festival.

Mr. Schaefer has garnered praise for his “marvelously expressive” (Los Angeles Times) and “powerful” (Orange County Register & Long Beach Press Telegram) interpretations of the most beautiful music composed for the baritone voice.

Mr. Schaefer has appeared as a featured / solo artist with Los Angeles Opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops Esplanade! Orchestra, the Pacific Chorale, the Long Beach Symphony, Les Grande Ballet Canadiens de Montreal, Distinguished Concerts International, New York, The Young Musician’s Fund Debut Orchestra, San Luis Obispo Opera, La Mirada Symphony, The California Quartet, Chorale Bel Canto, Opera Pacific, Intimate Opera of Pasadena, Center Stage Opera, the Bakersfield Symphony, Santa Maria Philharmonic, Pasadena Pro Musica, the Roswell Symphony Orchestra, and the Long Beach Camerata.

 

More information available at jamesmartinschaefer.com

LaKisha Jones

Best known to millions of TV viewers as a top four finalist during the 2007 season of “American Idol,” LaKisha Jones is ready to reclaim center stage in music, theatre and television.

Her last album, “So Glad I’m Me” was full of Jones’ expressive, full-bodied and arresting vocals, the same voice that electrified “American Idol” viewers with the Dreamgirls showstopper “And I Am Telling You” and later the Broadway stage in the Oprah Winfrey produced, Tony Award-winning musical, The Color Purple.

Having worked with hit-making songwriters and producers including Tony Nicholas (Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross), Ro & Sauce (Brandy, Ne-Yo) and Greg Curtis (Keyshia Cole, Yolanda Adams), Jones’ album featured a spirited mix of R&B and soul. A few noteworthy songs included the single “Same Song,” penned by award-winning songwriter Dianne Warren, Whitney Houston’s “You Give Good Love,” the gospel song “Just As I Am,” and Jones soaring ballad to her daughter, “Beautiful Girl.”

Her drive and motivation dates back to her childhood in Flint, Michigan. Raised by her mother and grandmother, Jones was exposed to music by legendary singers such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle, with her grandmother urging the young girl to “let your voice shine” thereby prompting Jones to sing in church choirs and music programs. Joining various chorale groups and a cappella choruses throughout high school, Jones entered and won the top prize at Flint’s local talent contest, The Super Show in 1997.

A two-year stint studying vocal performance at the University of Michigan left the high school graduate craving to sing more. She relocated to various cities (Dallas, Houston and Virginia Beach) to pursue her dream as a singer.  Jones then went to New York to audition for “American Idol” and made it to the 2007 season, where she became the fourth finalist. She segued from “Idol” to the Broadway stage for The Color Purple where she played two roles: that of a “church lady” and of the pivotal character “Sophia.” The latter role she alternated with R&B icon Chaka Khan, who became her mentor. Jones participated in Khan’s 35th Anniversary Tour. Following her Broadway stint, Jones provided vocal coaching on MTV’s reality competition “Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods,” a show designed to find and hone Broadway’s next star.

A frequent soloist with symphony around the world, Ms. Jones has performed as a guest soloist with the National Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Utah Symphony and Opera, Winnipeg Symphony, Evansville Philharmonic, Jacksonville Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Windham Chamber Singers, Grand Rapids Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Calgary Symphony, Battle Creek Symphony, Reno Philharmonic, Oregon Symphony, Long Bay Symphony and the Festival Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

Thelma Houston

After decades of performing, Thelma Houston continues to celebrate her long and outstanding career and shows no signs of slowing down! Over the course of many years, promoters have been asking Thelma, when is she going to return to her Motown roots?

After much thought, Thelma has decided that the timing was right to launch a brand new band show called: “THELMA HOUSTON’s MOTOWN Experience” The show features non-stop classic Motown songs (that we all know and love,) along with a tribute to Ms. Houston’s friend, the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin!

Thelma was asked to join a stellar list of artists honoring the illustrious career of the late Donna Summer, who Thelma knew. Thelma recorded covers of Donna’s classic songs: “Last Dance,” Could it Be Magic?” and “I Love You.” Thelma’s 23rd album, “A Woman’s Touch”, was released recently through Shout Factory Records (distributed by Sony/BMG) and offers her rich interpretations of many classic R&B and pop recordings originally made famous by such male vocalists as Luther Vandross, Rev. Al Green, Sting and Marvin Gaye.

A Mississippi native, Thelma started out in the 60’s performing in gospel music with the Art Reynolds Singers. She then signed to Capitol Records (home of the Beatles, Nat King Cole and Nancy Wilson) in 1967 and had her first hit song called “Baby Mine.” Soon Thelma was courted by several record labels and signed with ABC/Dunhill where she recorded and released her first solo album called “Sunshower” which was written, arranged and produced by the legendary Jimmy Webb. After this critically acclaimed album was released, Thelma decided to accept an offer from one of the biggest record companies around, Motown Records.

With Motown Records, Thelma claimed the top of the Pop, R&B and Dance charts with her high-powered rendition of “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” That Gold Record classic gave Thelma the distinction of being the first solo female artist at Motown to win the Grammy Award for “Best R&B Female Vocal Performance.”

Known as a humanitarian for her charitable causes and her tireless efforts in the battle against AIDS, the City of West Hollywood proclaimed January 29th as “Thelma Houston Day” in 2003. She has donated her talents to numerous charities including Devine Design for Project Angel Food, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the Minority AIDS Project, to which she donated her $20,000 winnings from the TV show Hit Me Baby. She is also very active in the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the NAACP.

Thelma has rocked Rockefeller Center on NBC’s The Today Show and the summer music special “Hit Me Baby, One More Time.”  She dazzled in ABC’s Motown 45 and glittered on ABC’s The Disco Ball. Along with Aretha Franklin and Mary Wilson, she raised the roof on Love, Rhythm and Blues for PBS.  Thelma appeared with Phoebe Snow, Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples and CeCe Peniston as the “Sisters of Glory” in New York City in a rousing performance that received a special request to perform at The Vatican for The Pope.

The legendary Nile Rogers called upon Thelma to be his special guest for a sold out concert at the Hollywood Bowl and she toured with Cher on her Living Proof Concert Tour. Additionally, she headlined at Harrah’s in Las Vegas. Thelma has also been inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York City and honored as an “Apollo Legend” on the syndicated hit TV show, Showtime at the Apollo.

In April 2009, Thelma was honored to perform on the #1 rated television show in the USA, Fox’s American Idol, where she tore it up for an estimated audience of over 25 million people. Shortly after, Thelma was called upon to open up the finale of the hit summer show, NBC’s America’s Got Talent, for an estimated TV audience of over 18 million people. Thelma performs at many national dinner receptions for the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) and was honored to perform in Denver when Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination. In January 2009, Thelma then was asked to headline the official inauguration dinner for President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., at the Mayflower Hotel along with her friends, Cyndi Lauper and Melissa Etheridge. HRC President Joe Solmonese says, “It doesn’t get much better than Thelma, as she adds nothing but class to our events.”

2020 looks good as I collaborated with Morrissey on “Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know.” “It was interesting and fun working in the studio,” he said. “I enjoy performing very much. The performance part of my job is what I enjoy the most. When I perform, I like to do all kinds of music and I try to incorporate that in my show. For me, to do one kind of thing all the time is boring. Morrissey heard the song and a few years later, he asked me to do this song on his album. It was very easy to work with Morrissey in the studio,” she said.

Also released in early 2020 is the the dance single “Turn Your World Around” (on Radikal Records) with Bimbo Jones. “I’ve worked with Lee Dagger from Bimbo Jones before. He has done some remixes for me. That’s how the song came about. We wrote the song a few years ago and it was a lot of fun.” The song was worked on the Billboard Dance Charts and went all the way to #7.

With appearances from Tokyo to Las Vegas to London and beyond, Thelma continues to bring audiences to their feet with her dynamic, energetic Motown show. This Diva logs over 200 performances annually and the singer/songwriter is enjoying every moment of her success. “I still feel a tremendous excitement about performing,” states the upbeat songstress. “I have so many more things I want to do and I have NO plans to retire anytime soon.”

Thelma’s makes her main home in Los Angeles, CA.

Capathia Jenkins

The Brooklyn-born and raised singer/actor, Capathia Jenkins, most recently released her single “I Am Strong” and her critically acclaimed CD Phenomenal Woman the Maya Angelou Songs with her collaborator Louis Rosen, sold out the world-famous Birdland Theatre in NYC for 3 nights. She starred as ‘Medda’ in the hit Disney production of Newsies on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in The Civil War, where she created the role of Harriet Jackson. She then starred in the Off-Broadway 2000 revival of Godspell, where she wowed audiences with her stirring rendition of ‘Turn Back, O Man’ which can still be heard on the original cast recording. She returned to Broadway in The Look of Love and was critically acclaimed for her performances of the Bacharach/David hits.

An active concert artist, Ms. Jenkins has appeared with numerous orchestras around the world including the Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony (with Marvin Hamlisch), National Symphony, Cincinnati Pops (with John Morris Russell), Philly Pops, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Utah Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, San Diego Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and many others.  She was also a soloist with the Festival Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic multiple times.  Capathia had the great honor of performing in the ‘Broadway Ambassadors to Cuba’ concert as part of the Festival De Teatro De La Habana. She will be returning to Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops for Get Happy: That Nelson Riddle Sound and also sang in a Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch at the Library of Congress.

Matthew Johnson

The multi-talented Matthew Johnson is an actor, singer, dancer, and musician who has performed with the likes of Pharrell, John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, Childish Gambino, and Stevie Wonder. His musical theater roots were cultivated at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, and through his mentor, Debbie Allen, who helped mold him into the triple threat performer he is today. Matthew has done vocal arrangements for the Grammy Awards as well as performed at the Emmys and the Billboard Awards.  He honed his skills as a vocal chameleon on some of the world’s most watched television shows such as American Idol, The Voice, X Factor and Late Night with James Corden.

Anne Runolfsson

Anne Runolfsson recently completed a 2 year run on Broadway as the tempestuous diva, Carlotta Giudacelli in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, the longest running show in Broadway history. Prior to that, she made an absolute splash in Victor/Victoria as standby to Dame Julie Andrews and Liza Minelli. She performed the title role over 120 times to great acclaim and went on to recreate the role in the National Tour which began in Seattle and Houston. Other Broadway and National Tour credits include:  the role of Gretta Conroy in James Joyce’s The Dead, Fantine in Les Miserable, Roxane in Cyrano-The Musical, Lili in The Secret Garden, and Aspects of Love. Off-Broadway and Regional credits include: Listen to My Heart (Studio 54), Rags, Jack’s Holiday, Cather County, A Little Night MusicShowboat, and Funny Girl.

She has appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall (with Tenor Jose Carreras), The Kennedy Center, Town Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, The National Theater in Iceland, Rainbow and Stars, The Russian Tea Room, Bay Street Theater, The Pump Room, The Cinegrill, The 92nd st. Y, and with The National Symphony, The Philly Pops, The Boston Pops, The Jerusalem Symphony, The Orchestra of St. Lukes, The National Symphony of Canada, The Hong Kong Philharmonic, The Cincinnati Pops, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, The Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Symphony orchestras of  San Francisco, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Indianapolis, Toronto, Milwaukee, Utah, Detroit,  Dallas, Houston, Columbus, San Diego., Colorado, Minnesota, and St. Louis among many others.  Her many recordings include the International Cast Album of Les Miserables, Listen to My Heart, Broadway Musicals of 1933, and her solo debut recording, At Sea, which was critically acclaimed nationwide.

Kevin Glavin

Basso Buffo Kevin Glavin’s career highlights have included Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola with San Francisco Opera; the title role in Don Pasquale, Mustafà in L’Italiana in Algeri, Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Don Inigo Gomez in Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole, and the Sacristan in Tosca with New York City Opera; the title role in Don Pasquale with Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Colorado, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and L’Opéra de Montréal; Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Washington Opera, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Florentine Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Vancouver Opera, the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), and the Teatro Teresa Carreño (Caracas); Mustafà in L’Italiana in Algeriwith Glimmerglass Opera, Opéra de Québec, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia; Don Magnifico in La Cenerentolawith the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Baltimore Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Columbus, L’Opéra de Montréal, and the Teatro Municipal de Santiago; Dulcamara in L’Elisir D’Amore with Florida Grand Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and Arizona Opera; Sulpice in La Fille du Regiment with Edmonton Opera; General Boum in Offenbach’s La Grande Duchesse and Benoit / Alcindoro in La Boheme with the Opera Company of Philadelphia; Scirocco in L’Étoile with Cincinnati Opera; Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Vancouver Opera, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia; Brighella in Wagner’s Das Liebesverbot with Glimmerglass Opera; Leporello in Don Giovanni, Don Alfonso in Cosi Fan Tutte, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Benoit / Alcindoro in La Boheme, and Pistola in Falstaff with Pittsburgh Opera; King Louis XVI in The Ghosts of Versailles with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; the Sacristan in Tosca with Lyric Opera of Kansas City; and Frank in Die Fledermaus with Baltimore Opera.

Additional highlights have included Holiday Concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marvin Hamlisch at the Kennedy Center.

Lori Zabka

Lori grew up in Houston, Texas and began singing at age 5.  She nurtured her love for music by singing in church and school choirs, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Belmont University as a music major.  While a student there, she not only landed her first recording contract, but secured a spot as a background vocalist for Gospel Music Artist, Michael W. Smith.  She spent the next 4 years touring as part of Smith’s band, writing songs, and recording.  Additionally, as a session singer, Lori sang background vocals on numerous albums from Country, to Pop, to Gospel.

Later, Lori became a one half of the pop duo “Wilshire” and the band relocated from Nashville to Los Angeles.  The band’s unique sound quickly caught on, landing them a record deal with Columbia Records and Warner-Chappell Publishing.  The duo wrote their hit single, “Special,” which climbed the Billboard Top 20 chart.  They toured with artists like “Train” and “Seal,” as well as performing live on Late Night, The Sharon Osbourne Show, Wayne Brady, and Pepsi Smash.

Today, Lori’s voice can be heard on national commercials for brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Claritin.  She has most recently performed with symphonies in Houston, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Detroit, Toronto, and Vancouver.

 

Valerie Simpson

Valerie Simpson is half of the songwriting-performing-producing entity formerly known as Ashford and Simpson. Their award winning collaborations began 4 decades ago and she along with her late husband Nick Ashford have penned classic hits such as, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “Solid,” “Your Precious Love,” “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned” among others.

She serves on the board of the ASCAP Foundation where an award has been established to aid struggling songwriters called the REACH OUT AND TOUCH Award which honors Nick Ashford. Valerie owns and runs a popular New York Westside Music Club and Restaurant called The Sugar Bar where young writers-singers-musicians have a platform to perform. Valerie has toured with Dave Koz and a special guest this year with Paul Shaffer & the Worlds Most Dangerous Band. Her Music is in constant demand and four Ashford & Simpson songs are now featured in the Broadway hit MOTOWN-The Musical, which is touring the country. “IM EVERY WOMAN” is featured in THE BODYGUARD the play which is currently on tour. Most recently, Valerie, as performer, was also featured in New York’s CHICAGO, The Musical on Broadway for a limited engagement in the role of Mama Morton–adding yet a new, exciting dimension to a diversified career.

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