In Praise of Music

Join us for a concert in praise of music. Including Benjamin Britten’s
Hymn to St. Cecilia.

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Past concert series

Special thanks to all our supporters for their time and financial support. It is only through your continued support that we can engage, enrich, and inspire through the choral arts.

Our Mission is to…

Build One Voice in the Greater Phoenix Area that Engages, Enriches and Inspires a growing community of new and seasoned lovers of classic musical arts through demonstrated artistry in choral performance and the unrelenting pursuit of excellence.

  • We engage with focused passion
  • We enrich with uncompromising commitment
  • We inspire with demonstrated excellence

Our Vision is to…

  • Reveal the mysteries of the best choral music of all time for the modern audience in live performance
  • Delight, move, and challenge our audiences, giving them a deep sense of fulfillment through engaging their hearts with expressed meaning and revealed beauty
  • Represent the greater Phoenix area with excellence demonstrated in performances world-wide
  • Absorb lessons from the artistry of the best choral minds from around to world to create a strikingly unique voice in the Greater Phoenix Area
  • Collaborate with arts organizations in the Greater Phoenix Area to produce unique and surprising performances and exhibitions
  • Establish a pivotal community that fosters and ingrains choral music in the mosaic of our multifaceted cultures
  • Reward generosity through producing fulfilling, tangible and verifiable results for financial commitments and individual efforts
  • Unlock the artistic potential and vision in talented people of all ages
  • Foster both accomplished and aspiring musicians and spur them into creative, generative action

Artistic Directors

Dr. David Schildkret

Dr. David Schildkret recently retired as Director of Choral Activities at Arizona State University, where he now holds the title Professor Emeritus. Educated at Rutgers University and Indiana University, he taught at the University of Rochester (NY) and Centre College (KY) and was dean of the School of Music at Salem College (NC) before coming to Arizona in 2002. He conducts the choir at Dayspring United Methodist Church in Tempe and a summer choir in Bar Harbor Maine. 

Dr. Robert Mills

Dr. Robert Mills is a Clinical Associate Professor of Music and the vocal coach/accompanist for Arizona State University’s Lyric Opera. He is a frequent guest artist with the Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale and the Three Tenors of Mexico and is in high demand as a coach accompanist in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Dr. Mills concertizes throughout the United States as a collaborative pianist and has special affinity for contemporary American art song.

Board Members




Keith has Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. He is a founding member of the Chorale having joined at its inception in 2005 as Schola Cantorum. An Arizonan since 1977, Keith began singing with the Tempe Corona del Sol High School choir and found a love for choral music from age 16. He has been a tenor with the Dayspring United Methodist Church Chorale since 1996. His family shares his love for singing and his son, JD, and daughter, Katie, are also members of Cantilena. When he is not singing with the chorale he enjoys working as a contractor through his company, Embedded Software Services LLC.




Katie is a second soprano and has been singing in choirs her entire life. She holds a BS in Supply Chain Management and a BA in Business Communication from Arizona State University. She works at Axon Enterprise as a Supply Chain Program Manager. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, making music, and spending time with friends and family! 




Nan Lawson has served as Treasurer on the Board of AZ Cantilena Chorale since 2021. She has been a member of Dayspring United Methodist Church since 1986 and served on their finance team since 2012. She is also an alto with the Dayspring Chorale.  An Arizona native, Nan holds a BAEd degree from the University of Arizona and a Certificate of Nonprofit Management from the ASU Lodestar Center of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation. She retired from Motorola after a career in Supply Chain Management. She has also served on the Boards of Arizona Women’s Business Enterprise Council, East Valley Interfaith Project, and Arizona Interfaith Network. She is married to Keith Lawson, and stepmother to Katie Lawson and James Lawson.


Marketing & Communications


Wendy earned her Master of Music in Flute Performance from the University of Minnesota. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Winnipeg and Bachelor of Religious Studies from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College, both in Music. While living in Minnesota, she founded the Crystal Flute Choir and ran a flute studio that included monthly master classes with her students. She has been President of the Upper Midwest Flute Association, adjudicator and flute choir director for flute competitions, soloist and orchestra member with the St. Paul Jewish Community Center Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and Exultate. In 2008 Wendy moved to Arizona with her husband and three children, joining the Maricopa Music Circle in 2010. As a singer, Wendy has had the opportunity to sing under the batons of Helmuth Rilling, Kazuhiro Koizumi and William Baerg. She began singing as a child, has sung throughout her life in the church, and remembers most of the words from a certain genre of music spanning the 1970s and 1980s. She is thrilled to be a part of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale.


Venue Management & Event Coordinator


John has been singing in choirs since his youth in Southern Ontario and graduated with a Bachelor degree in choral conducting from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College (Winnipeg, Canada) where he met his wife, Wendy. He moved from Minnesota with his wife and three kids to Arizona in 2008 and founded a community choir in Maricopa in 2013. John works as a geographic analyst (GIS) for a small American Indian community where he gets to make maps. He spends his spare time laughing with his family or updating his geographic database of Mennonite history.


Business Development & Donor Management


Robert is from a family of singers in Indiana with a rich musical history ranging from his father who sang for Fred Waring in Carnegie Hall, to an uncle who sang Back Home Again in Indiana at the 1980 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, to a brother and a sister who are professional jazz/rock ’n’ roll musicians. Robert graduated in Audiology and Speech Sciences from Purdue University where he was a soloist for the Purdue Glee Club and a professional group, Collegiate Singers, that traveled extensively in the Midwest. In Arizona, Robert has studied voice at Arizona State University, sang as a soloist at Trinity Cathedral, and is a tenor soloist for the Dayspring Chorale and Arizona Cantilena Chorale. He is a retired educator of 45 years. Robert and his wife, Pauline, have two grown sons and six beautiful grandchildren.


Board Member


Julia has enjoyed singing since she was a small child. Some of her fondest memories with her mother were singing music from the 1920’s-1960’s while her mother played the piano and sang harmony. She has sung in church from her youth as well as various school and community venues up to the present. She studied voice at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point under the direction of Dr. Smith as well as Judy May before changing schools and majors. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee with a degree in Educational Studies and a focus of Counseling and received her Masters in Educational Counseling some years later through the University of Phoenix. She also earned her certification as a Wellness coach and Holistic Nutrition Educator from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. Julia has published two books. Her book entitled “CROSSROADS And the Choices We Make” finally came out in March 2018, and she has also put together a book of her poetry that she wrote over a span of nearly three decades. Julia has retired from more than 27 years in various social service positions and finds herself volunteering, working on personal business ventures and spending as much time with her daughter and grandchildren as possible. Julia and her husband Mike have a blended family of three daughters between them and five grandchildren.


Board Member


Jack began his career as an officer in the US Air Force, spent 30 years in the private sector, and is currently with Oracle.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in business administration.  Jack inherited his love for singing from his mother and has sung in church choirs for many years.  Jack has been with the Arizona Cantilena Chorale for two years and is honored to be part of such a talented group and to be under the direction of Dr. Thye and Dr. Mills.  Jack and his wife Elisa have two children: a daughter in Boulder Colorado and a son in Chandler.  Jack enjoys reading, movies, sports, hunting, fishing, and of course music!


Board Member


Helen has been singing ever since she can remember. Her parents met in college and were both music majors. They all played guitars and sang harmony, and everywhere they went they had to sing for their supper! Helen studied music in college, sang in many choirs and vocal groups until she found Cantilena. Outside of music, she is a registered nurse and works in a local hospital as a lactation consultant.


Board Member


A native Arizonan, Kirk comes from a musical family, and has been performing in one form or another since 6th grade. He sang in choirs throughout high school, college, and in his church music programs for 30 years. He has performed in dozens of productions, including “A Chorus Line”, “42nd Street” and “Oklahoma”. Outside of music, Kirk played volleyball for many years, and was a club coach for several volleyball clubs. He and his wife enjoy bicycling, the beach, the mountains and watching K-dramas together. He is a certified Lord of the Rings nerd; his wife has put up with this for over 30 years, and they have two adult daughters who are almost as bad! He is thrilled to join the Cantilena family and hopes to stick around for a long time.

Cantilena Chorale Members

Laura, Barton, Soprano

Laura moved to the Phoenix area in 2013 from Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys living in the west with her husband and three children. She has a great love for the Arts and is a member of the Mesa Public schools Art Masterpiece Council. Laura has a BA in Humanities and an MS in Psychology. She has performed in various choirs and venues as a soloist throughout her life. Some favorite theater roles from the past include Lily in The Secret Garden and Adelaide from Guys and Dolls.

Melanie Bristol, Soprano

Melanie Bristol has been a member of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale since Spring 2022. She has been a performer, choir director and music teacher in various venues including the Phoenix Symphony Chorus, Arizona Sacred Chorale, Sonoran Desert Chorale, Riznica Chamber Choir, Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble, Glen Eyrie Madrigal Singers, Colorado Springs Chorale, Opera Theatre of the Rockies, Colorado Opera Festival, Chattanooga Choral Arts Society, and the Chattanooga Opera Chorus.  Melanie was a regular Handel’s Messiah soloist in Colorado Springs from 2004 through 2016. She keeps herself busy teaching private piano in Gilbert and managing the home. In her free time she enjoys walking, hiking, working in her yard, and reading. Melanie and her husband have three teenage children, a dog, and three backyard hens. 

Maureen Buza, Alto

Growing up in Tempe, Maureen has been singing in choirs since the 5th grade. As a charter member of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale, she is proud to be a part of the Alto section. Maureen holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University after transferring from Mesa Community College … back in the day. She has performed as a soloist in the community as well as in various ensembles. When she isn’t singing with AzCC, Maureen enjoys spending time with her husband Paul, her friends and family, her rescue dogs Oreo and Jackman … and listening to Rush. Long live music!

Ed Cluff, Bass

Edward had the love of singing instilled in him at a young age. He began performing in elementary school and continued singing through high school. After graduating, Edward served a two-year mission for his church in Mexico where his love of singing hymns in Spanish enabled him to utilize his glorious bass voice. Upon returning from his mission in 1971, Ed continued to sing at MCC and taught in the Mesa district for over 30 years. When Dr. Glenn Bennett began teaching choir in the valley, Edward was there as one of his first selected basses. A high point in his life was when Edward and his wife, of 41 years, served a mission for their church to Chile. He lives in Mesa and has 7 children, and 18 grandchildren.

Chris Hammond, Alto

Chris holds a BSN from ASU and a BS in Science and Technology from Purdue University.  She has been singing and playing viola at church for many years, and this is her 6th year with the Chorale.  Chris is retired from her job as a Pediatric RN and also working for a non profit.  When she is not singing she enjoys reading, travel with her husband -or with girlfriends, her 2 puppies and her 12 grandchildren!

Nicole Larson, Soprano

Nichole has a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of New Mexico and received her Master’s in Opera and Musical Theater Performance from Arizona State University in the spring of 2017.  In between degrees, her time was spent developing a music and choir program at a Montessori elementary school, directing and organizing several music education and outreach programs with the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, and performing around the world as the lead singer for Celebrity Enterprises.  Since then, she’s enjoyed an international tour with Artrageous, as well as several operatic appearances in Germany.  She comes from a diverse musical background, and has experience performing jazz, musical theater, pop and classical styles. 

James Lawson, Bass

James (JD) began singing with the Sun Valley Chorale under the direction of Glenn Bennett when he was in the ninth grade. He started singing at Dobson High School in the 11th grade and was accepted into the Arizona All-State choir in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, JD was awarded second chair in the All-State choir. He continued singing as a student at ASU as a member of the Men’s Chorus, Schola Cantorum and Solis Camerata. He first started singing with Cantilena as a student at Dobson and ASU and continues to enjoy performing with his father, Keith, also a member of Cantilena and the Dayspring Chorale. JD is also an instrumentalist and played cello for 8 years as a student. He and his wife, Sicily, are both native Arizonans.

Ryan McNiff, Tenor

Ryan has been singing in choirs ever since he was a little boy. After graduating from Marcos de Niza High School, Ryan was accepted to the music college at NAU on a full scholarship for voice. After playing the role of Nemorino in the opera “The Elixir of Love” his senior year at NAU, he was accepted at Northwestern in Evanston, IL, as a graduate student in voice studies, again on a substantial scholarship. Ryan now sings on the Praise Team at his Congregation, Beth Immanuel.

Russell Moon, Tenor

New Arizona resident, Russell Moon was born to sing! Starting at the age of five in church, he has been singing ever since. A “Top” Tenor with dynamic range and timbre, he was much in demand in the Los Angeles, CA area music community. Primarily a Church Choir soloist and section leader, he has an eclectic history of vocal performances in Opera, Musicals, Major Chorale works, Jazz and Pop including studio work. Trained in classical voice at Cal State Northridge, Russell also worked with several well-known private vocal coaches throughout Southern California. He performed and toured with choral groups such as The William Hall Chorale, The Pacific Chorale, The Sherwood Singers, and The Walt Disney Cast Choir and D23 Singers. Some of his most memorable vocal experiences include singing in the Sistine Chapel before Pope Paul VI, the 1984 Olympic Games Opening and Closing ceremonies, and sharing stages with many popular singers and celebrities. Russell and his wife of 38 years Laura raised four children and now live in Maricopa, AZ with one of their sons, and two cats. Russell
still works remotely full time for a Los Angeles law firm.

Kelly Merrill, Alto

Kelly has a Master of Arts in Teaching with an Emphasis in leadership and coaching. She is a certified elementary teacher with a K-12 music and English as a Second Language endorsement. She has created and conducted an elementary choir in an ESL school and has taught band, general music, 3rd, and 6th grade. Kelly has been singing most of her life and has performed in many choirs with opportunities to be both a conductor and a soloist. She works as faculty at Western Governor’s University helping students with their dream of becoming elementary teachers.  She has three children who are her life. Her family loves Harry Potter. Everyone has read the books, some multiple times, and often you will find them having a weekend of Harry Potter movie marathons. They love having fun, laughing, dancing, listening and singing to good music or just being together. Quote: “Music is so powerful and beautiful. It can change your mood, relax you, pump you up, move you to tears, relay a message, and create feelings of sadness, anger, happiness, joy, and love. I am so honored and grateful that I have the opportunity to, share in the power and beauty of music, and sing with this amazing Cantilena chorale. I absolutely love it!”


Steve studied piano and sang in choral groups and opera ensembles at University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, and his Master of Music degree from Arizona State University in piano performance and pedagogy. He has taught general music, choral music and orchestra in Arizona public schools for many years and has enjoyed singing in various ASU choral groups and church choirs.

DeAnna Robbins-Oman, Soprano

Acting & singing have been a huge part of DeAnna’s life for many years. She was a series regular character on daytime soaps, Young & the Restless and Days of Our Lives in the 80’s and guest star roles on The Waltons, Eight is Enough, Hotel & Matt Houston to name a few. Moving from Calif. to Ariz., DeAnna became a realtor 28 years ago & is still helping clients buy and sell homes. Besides real estate, DeAnna works with medical students in several universities & St Josephs hospital teaching and simulating patient/doctor communication. In her spare time, she adjudicates stage productions for the Arizoni awards. DeAnna has over 20 years of experience singing & ringing hand bells at Dayspring Methodist and Az Community church. She has three amazing children, two grandsons and resides in Tempe.

Sherry Scott, Alto

Sherry Scott comes from South Dakota but has been an Arizona resident for many years. She has been singing in church choirs since she was very young and then in High School and College choirs. While at GBC, she was active in the Music Department which included a choir trip to Europe. She graduated from Grace Bible College in Omaha, NE with a degree in Christian Education. She has had the privilege of singing with several choirs at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Dr. David Thye. Sherry is married and has 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren. Her spare time is spent enjoying her grandchildren and riding her horses.

Becky Shepherd, Soprano

Becky Shepherd is a mezzo soprano who majored in vocal performance at ASU. For decades, she has sung in countless choirs, chorales and chamber singers. She has been a featured soloist in many major works such as The Messiah, Mozart and Brahms Requiems, Schubert Mass in G and arias including “Un Bel Di” from Madame Butterfly. Becky performed lead roles in theater productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Annie and Pirates of Penzanse. As a retired music teacher of 25 years, she enjoys a full life with husband Bill of 47 years and her amazing family including 10 grandkids and one great grandchild. 

Jeff Wieland, Bass

Jeff is a graduate of Carroll University with a Bachelor of Science in Education with minor studies in Vocal Performance. He completed his K-12 music education certification in May 1999. While attending Carroll University, he studied voice with Patricia Crump, the music director/voice coach of Florentine Opera House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jeff is the president of the master’s Praise Choir and Orchestra at First Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. He and his three children presently reside in Chandler.

Lary Wieland, Bass

Larry holds a BA in Music and in Sociology. He also has his Master in Sociology and his Doctorate in Behavioral Health. He has been singing for 40 years and is in his 1st year with the Chorale. When he is not singing, he enjoys his church, playing volleyball and playing the ukulele.

Lauri Wieland, Soprano

Lauri studied voice as well as viola at Mount Senario College in Wisconsin. She continued her studies at Grand Canyon University after a move to Arizona. She has been involved in musical theatre, opera, symphonies, string quartets, church choir productions and orchestras. She also was involved with Arizona Masterworks Chorale. Currently she is in the Phoenix Praise Symphony, leads worship, sings in a professional quartet called Hosanna, teaches voice, piano, guitar, and is very involved in her church’s music ministry.

David Watson, Tenor

David has his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Arizona State University where he studied with Dr. Jerry Doan. He also holds a Bachelor of Computer Information Systems from Western Governors University. He has been singing and directing choirs for many years, having performed many musical theater roles including the Caliph in Kismet, Enoch Snow in Carousel, and Orpheus in Orpheus in the Underworld. David is a pilot for American Airlines and owns Artos Claret, a technology company. Married to Pamela Watson and the father of three musical daughters, he lives in Mesa, Arizona.

Karen Hubbard, Alto

Karen has a Bachelor of Music Degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She has been a member of Cantilena since 2006, when the Chorale began at Mesa Community College as Mesa Schola Cantorum. Her love of music has provided the opportunity to perform as a chorister and a soloist. She is proud to be a founding member of the Arizona Cantilena Chorale and the Vice-President for its inaugural year. When she is not singing, she works for Great American Title, Inc. as a Senior Escrow Officer.

Pamela Watson, Soprano

Pamela is from Mesa, Arizona, where she lives with her husband, David Watson. They have three daughters, Lauren, Erin and Amber. Pamela has her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Arizona State University, having studied under Judy May. She has sung with the Phoenix Symphony Chorus and various other groups in the valley. A flight attendant for American Airlines for 29 years, Pamela enjoys photography, history, scuba diving and travel.

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