The voice faculty is a dedicated group of teachers, scholars, and artists who emphasize good vocal health, efficient technique, and confidence in performance. These basics apply to all singing, no matter if your interests are traditional art music/opera, popular/jazz, choral music, or musical theater styles. Whether your wish is to pursue music as a career, or you just want to sing in the shower, our nurturing instruction will inspire confidence in your ability, help to develop your singing skills, and foster an appreciation of vocal music that will last a lifetime.
With some exceptions, we believe that serious vocal study should not begin before the age of 14, but we feel that it is never too late to begin instruction. The habits learned early in vocal study can determine the length and success of a potential singing career. We encourage students to participate in outside activities that support their dreams and ambitions. We encourage regular recital participation to help develop self confidence and a positive performance persona.
Come join us and see what your voice can become – we will be with you every step of the way, guiding and encouraging you.
James Bailey, tenor
Tenor James Bailey, a native of Baltimore, has sung leading roles with several regional opera companies including Greensboro, Annapolis, and Summer Opera at Catholic University, and National Opera, based in Raleigh, NC. These roles include, Ferrando, Lindoro in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algieri, Nemorino, Rinuccio, and both Dr. Cajus and Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff. Mr. Bailey has also been featured in secondary roles with Des Moines Metro Opera, Baltimore and The Washington Opera companies. He has appeared in TWO’s productions of Susannah, La Traviata, Baby Doe, and Roméo et Juliette, as well as The Crucible by Robert Ward. Mr. Bailey also appeared as Reverend Parris in The Crucible for the Lyric Opera of Cleveland. James has most recently appeared with Baltimore Opera as the Fourth Jew in Strauss’ Salome, and Trin in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West. Mr. Bailey has concertized throughout the Baltimore-Washington area in various works by Haydn, Händel, Mozart, Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Orff. He is a recipient of a Master’s Degree from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied voice with Phyllis Bryn-Julson. While Mr. Bailey maintains a private voice studio, he is also a member of the voice faculty at Howard Community College.
Susan Berkson, soprano
Susan Berkson has trained the voices of Washington-area youth in her private studio in Rockville since 1996, as well as in Los Angeles in the 1980s. She is currently an adjunct member of the music faculty of Howard Community College in Columbia, MD, and has taught voice at Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD. Ms. Berkson is also an accomplished vocalist in her own right, having sung at venues such as Town Hall in New York, Washington’s National Cathedral, the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center, and Strathmore Hall in North Bethesda, MD. Her new CD, Life as a Song, available on iTunes and Amazon, is a compilation of Jewish lifecycle music, growing out of her nearly 25 years of work as the first ordained female Cantor in the Washington area.
Karla Chisholm (Googins), vocals
The sound of her voice is full of delicious contrasts. It’s strong and strident, but soft and as smooth as caramel when it drops down to the breathy low register. She pulls dead-accurate notes seemingly out of thin air, the way Ella did, but then she’ll swing breezily into soul mode, bending and smearing blue notes so naturally you think you’re hearing Aretha.
And then there’s seeing Karla Chisholm live -- a whole different story. A lithe, slender girl in a cocktail dress with an adorable pixie hairdo, belting out standards and jazzed-up soul covers with such aplomb, such strength, that it almost seems unreal. Karla can channel Dinah Washington in one tune, then Mavis Staples in the next, then the breezy lightness of the Andrews Sisters in the next.
Take the cover of Bobby Hebb’s 1966 hit "Sunny," from Karla’s debut album, Live at Domenica’s, released in 2009 as the culmination of a long-running Washington DC Saturday night gig. Backed by the sparse, virtuosic guitar of Michael Raitzyk, Karla’s voice shines with confidence, moving from delicate crooning to blues diva to bebop scat-singing totally effortlessly. Or her version of "Beginning to See the Light." This isn’t your average Tony Bennett-style Vegas treatment of a classic swing ballad. It’s a girl bringing all the weight of her life experience, charged with the same crazy beams of infectious enthusiasm that give light to her personality, to a song that’s been worked over by every heavyweight lounge singer in history. Somehow, she makes it entirely her own.
A charming Southern Belle in both manner and spirit, Karla was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and studied vocal performance at the storied music program at the University of North Texas. After stints in Washington and Los Angeles, she now makes her home on the west side of Baltimore, not far from the old vaudeville theaters and chitlin circuit clubs where Billy Holiday cadged drinks from lovestruck hustlers and sang her soul out to the salty-aired night. Karla plays gigs all over the Baltimore-Washington area, including spots with musicians who regularly round out sessions with the likes of Prince, Justin Timberlake, Al Dimeola, Bebe Wynans, and Eva Cassidy. At 18, Karla debuted at Switzerland’s famous Montreux Jazz Festival. In 2009, she shared a stage with Mary Wilson of the Supremes. She has toured in the Greek Isles and Dubai, but feels just as comfortable reinvigorating the standards in front of a hometown crowd at Baltimore’s Federal Hill Jazz and Blues Festival.
So sit back and relax and just listen. Karla Chisholm has got some things she’d like to whisper in your ear. She’s also got some flirty, almost naughty things she’d like to tell you with her eyes. And some heartbreaking stories she wants to tell you, in a voice that’s halfway between a conservatory-trained, honey-sweet alto and a roadhouse groan. Sit back and listen. You won’t be disappointed.
Deborah Kent, soprano, Coordinator of Vocal Studies
Dr. Deborah Kent is Professor of Music and former Director of both The Music Institute and the Department of Music at Howard Community College, where her duties include serving as advisor to music students, coordinating voice and related activities, and teaching applied voice lessons, Music Appreciation, and Music Fundamentals. Her legacy as Director of Music was the revitalization of the HCC music program through close examination of coursework and the promotion of growth through the college’s performing ensembles, a project that resulted in many new credit courses and several new ensembles. As a result of this effort, the HCC Music Department received its accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music in 2009. In 2003, Dr. Kent further extended the HCC music program outreach by starting a community music school, the Music Institute. Through it a population that would not be reached through the credit program is served. With the formation of the non-credit program, HCC’s music department motto, “Music for a lifetime” is fulfilled, serving students ranging in age from infants through retirees.
Dr. Kent has served two terms as President of CHEM, the Council for Higher Education in Music, a statewide organization of music department representatives that promotes dialogue and coursework articulation between institutions of higher learning. During her tenure in that organization, she facilitated completion of an articulation of Music Theory and Eartraining requirements that was approved by MHEC, the Maryland Higher Education Commission. She is a former president of the Peabody Conservatory Alumni Association and member of the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Council. Prior to moving north, Dr. Kent served on the music faculty at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, MS.
Dr. Kent received a Bachelor of Music degree in Theory/Composition and Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Mississippi College. She later received the Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She is a member of NATS, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and is a much sought after voice teacher, attracting students from all over the Mid-Atlantic region. A dramatic soprano who has performed concert and operatic literature from the seventeenth century through today, she considers voice with orchestra literature and the operas of Verdi, Puccini and Wagner her specialties, as well as more intimate art song literature.
Lorriana Markovic, soprano
Lorriana Markovic, soprano, is an accomplished performer of opera, art song, and oratorio, specializing in the interpretation of Russian vocal music. Dr. Markovic received her D.M.A. in Opera/Vocal Performance from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she presented a three part recital series entitled “The Evolution of the Russian Romance Through the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries”. She is the recipient and winner of many awards and competitions including Vocal Arts Society Discovery Series in DC, Pittsburgh Concert Society, Concours d’Interprétation de Musique Tchèque et Slovaque in Montreal, a Russian Scholarship to study in Moscow from the University of Pittsburgh, and has been presented in recital by The Steinway Society by WQED-FM, Pittsburgh.
Dr. Markovic has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Russia. Locally, she has performed at the Walters Art Museum, BlackRock Center for the Arts, Music in the Great Hall, and with the Opera Theater of Northern Virginia. Her roles include Fiordiligi, Giulietta, Tatyana, Tosca, Countess, Marschallin, Mimi, and Musetta.
Matthew Osifchin, baritone
Baritone Matthew Osifchin, originally from Doylestown, PA, has enjoyed a rich and diverse career performing opera and oratorio throughout North America and Asia. At Carnegie Hall, he debuted the role of Pontius Pilate in the world premiere of Marcos Galvany’s Oh, My Son. With the Washington National Opera, Mr. Osifchin has performed the role of Minister of the Sanctuary in Iphigénie en Tauride alongside legendary tenor Placido Domingo. His repertoire includes Count and Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), Belcore (L'Elisir d'amore), Escamillo (Carmen), Sulpice (La Fille du Régiment) Sharpless (Madama Butterfly), and Lindorf, Coppelius, Miracle, and Dapertutto (Les Contes d'Hoffmann).
In addition to performing, Mr. Osifchin maintains a vigorous teaching schedule and is an active member of NATS. His students have been very successful in National Vocal competitions and he has produced national finalists in both the Classical Singer and the NFAA competitions. Mr. Osifchin, who received his MM in Vocal Performance from the University of Maryland at College Park, teaches at the Suitland High School for the Visual and Performing Arts and Gettysburg College.
Mr. Osifchin will be available for lessons beginning in the Spring of 2014.
Christine Thomas-O'Meally, mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano Christine Thomas has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin and the minimalism of Philip Glass. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has called her voice “an amazing instrument.” The Washington Post said, “her voice is lovely and her stage presence is natural and full of vitality."
Her performances include appearances with Racine Symphony, Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee, Washington Bach Consort, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of "The Woman in Red" in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera. Her concert appearances include performances with the Racine Symphony, Wheaton Symphony, Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Choral Artists, Washington Bach Consort, Handel Choir of Baltimore, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She recently performed as the alto soloist in the Hal Leonard Publishers' Showcase at the 2012 NATS Conference in Orlando.
On recordings, Ms. Thomas may be heard on Mark Brymer's Christmas Suite with Milwaukee Children's Choir under the direction of Emily Crocker, Flight Box with Present Music, and in "Cinq Poèmes de Tristan Tzara" with pianist Milton Peckarsky on the CD La Clé de L'Horizon.
Ms. Thomas received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory. She is a certified teacher of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method (Levels I-III). She has been a NATS member since 1997, and was a 2000 NATS Intern, working with George Shirley at Ithaca College. She has been adjunct faculty at Cardinal Stritch University, Carroll University (both in Wisconsin), and is currently on the faculty at Howard Community College.