Taught at Indiana University, the University of Illinois, the University of Akron, and the Scuola Italia Summer Program for Young Opera Singers in Urbania, Italy. Appeared in recital with Metropolitan Opera singers Martina Arroyo, James King, and Teresa Kubiak. Has been partner to many singers and instrumentalists in concerts throughout the United States, South Korea, Italy, and Puerto Rico, as well as being the official pianist for the Central Illinois Regional Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the University of Iowa Flute Seminars. While at the University of Illinois, he was a student of and assistant to the renowned pianist and coach John Wustman.
Active in the opera and music theater scenes in Chicago, Valerie Maze is currently on staff as Ballet Pianist for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and as a collaborative pianist in the Music Theater department at Northwestern University. She recently won an After Dark Award for Outstanding Musical Direction for the of Cats at Theater at the Center. She has also served as Music Director at Peninsula Players, Wagon Wheel Theatre, Chicago Light Opera Works, Bowen Park Opera, Provision Theater Company, and as a keyboardist with Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Marriott Theatre. She has served as a pianist with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Ryan Opera Center and has been involved in productions as Assistant Conductor and pianist at the Portland Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Chicago Light Opera Works, Harrisburg Opera, DuPage Opera, da Corneto Opera, and O.P.E.R.A.
Valerie has an MM in Vocal Accompanying from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, and has also studied at DePaul University in Chicago, Anderson University in Indiana as well as Lucca, Italy and Graz, Austria. She has performed internationally including Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Austria, Sri Lanka, and Mexico. Some of the more recent productions she has been involved at the Lyric Opera of Chicago include Berlioz's Le Damnation de Faust, Lehar's The Merry Widow. Verdi's La Traviata , Handel's Julius Caesar , Strauss's Salome, Bizet's Carmen ,& J. Strauss's Die Fledermaus . recent musicals include Cats, Kiss Me Kate , South Pacific , Spitfire Grill, Cabaret and A Little Night Music.
Since arriving on the music scene in Chicago Mr. Milioto has garnered praise from critics, colleagues, and audiences alike. The Chicago Tribune names him "one of the best young conductors working in the Chicago area".
He currently holds the positions of Music Director for the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Highland Park Strings. Mr. Milioto is in his eighth year as Music Director of the Summer Opera at the Chicago Cultural Center, where his is also frequently engaged as a chamber musician and accompanist. Since 2003 he has been a regular rehearsal pianist and assistant conductor at the Ravinia Festival where he works closely with Maestro James Conlon and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Milioto consistently makes appearances with Opera Elgin and Opera on the James. He is particularly proud of his involvement with the young dynamic group the New Millennium Orchestra which he co-founded in 2005. Mr. Milioto also has a long history of serving the community by reaching out to thousands of students as a teacher and performer with the Skokie Valley Symphony, Urban Gateways, Chicago Opera Theater, Gallery 37 and the Kraft Kids Series at Ravinia.
Born in Toronto, Canada of Italian parentage, Francesco Milioto began playing the piano at age 7. He entered the Royal Conservatory of Music for studies in history and theory, and was accepted into the piano studio of Gordon Hallett. Mr. Milioto earned his Bachelor's of Music in piano performance (with Honors and Distinction) from the University of Western Ontario. He was awarded the top scholarship by the music faculty to study with Ronald Turini, pupil of the great Vladimir Horowitz. It was at UWO that Mr. Milioto began to conduct, becoming the assistant conductor to the Symphony Orchestra and leading various ensembles in orchestral, operatic and contemporary works. Mr. Milioto was invited by the head of Opera McGill to earn his Masters Degree in opera repetition and orchestral conducting at McGill University in Montreal. He flourished as an accompanist and conductor. As assistant to both the McGill Symphony Orchestra and the Contemporary Ensemble, Mr. Milioto led many concerts and world premieres. He also acted as accompanist, coach, chorus master and music director for productions by Opera McGill as well as the Early Music Ensemble.
Since completing his studies Mr. Milioto has performed operas in Germany and taken part in workshops and conducting competitions in both Hungary and Italy. Having found his niche in Chicago, he continues to make an impact as a conductor, pianist, and vocal coach. Mr. Milioto was recently given the honor of being invited to the final stages of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra search for an assistant conductor, as well as the Montreal Symphony Orchestra search for a resident conductor.
Increasingly in demand as vocal coach and partner to singers and instrumentalists, Shannon McGinnis maintains an active performing, coaching, and teaching schedule in the Chicago area. She serves as member of the adjunct faculty and vocal coaching staff at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where she has taught courses in English, French, and Italian diction, as well as a graduate-level seminar devoted to the study of American Art Song since 1950. Dr. McGinnis works frequently with DePaul University Opera Theatre and recently assisted in preparation and performances of The Mikado and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. In summer 2009 she will serve as coach/repetiteur and harpsichordist for DuPage Opera Theatre’s production of L’Elisir d’Amore.
Highlights of Dr. McGinnis’s performance schedule include a recital with soprano Juliet Petrus as part of the Chicago Cultural Center's Classical Monday Series, upcoming performances of Dominick Argento’s Pulitzer-prize winning song cycle, From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, with Caitlin McKechney, mezzo-soprano, as well as appearances with soprano Amy Conn; tenor Nicholas Phan; and trumpeter Tage Larsen of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She also performs as a member of the Oberon Trio, semi-finalists in the 2006 Plowman Chamber Music Competition and 2006 fellowship recipients to the Chamber Music Institute at the University of Nebraska –Lincoln, where the group was chosen to premiere composer Clint Needham’s Trio.
Dr. McGinnis has held staff and internship positions with Columbus State University Opera, Dorian Opera Theatre, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and University of Michigan Opera; other recent engagements include a vocal coaching position with the University of Michigan’s “Arts in Florence” program at the Villa Corsi-Salviati (Sesto Fiorentino, Italy) and several summers as official pianist for the “Deutsch für Sänger” program at Middlebury College’s prestigious German Language School. Prior to moving to Chicago in 2006, Dr. McGinnis held the position of Assistant Professor of Piano and Coordinator of Accompanying at Truman State University.
Dr. McGinnis was awarded the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Accompanying and Chamber Music from the University of Michigan, as a fellowship student of renowned pianist and vocal coach Martin Katz.
Ken Smith received his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in piano from Indiana University, studying with Sidney Foster. He joined the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University staff as a vocal coach in 1992. He has performed as accompanist and soloist in Europe, Japan, and Central America as well as throughout the United States. For over thirty years he has been the accompanist for the Bel Canto Foundation of Chicago during its annual competition. This fall he continued his twenty-year association with the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions in both Chicago and Milwaukee, and was recently an invited performer and clinician at the annual conference of the South Dakota Music Teachers' Association.
Lisa Kristina began piano studies at age four. Among her teachers were Dimitry Paperno and Mary Sauer at DePaul University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in voice, and served as a member of the voice faculty from 2003-2009. She also has vocal performance degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she completed an additional master’s degree in choral conducting. Among her voice teachers were Anne Perillo, John Fiorito, Dominic Cossa and Lorna Heywood; among her coaches and diction teachers were John Wustman, Nico Castel and Thomas Grubb. Dr. Kristina appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, which she performed on Broadway, on tour in the U.S., and in Germany. While overseas, she also worked as pianist and coach on German-language productions of Miss Saigon, Sunset Boulevard, Cats, Les Misérables, and Beauty and the Beast. Dr. Kristina has been a solo singer with several American symphony orchestras, choral groups, and opera companies, and she has been heard live on WFMT both as a singer and as a pianist. Recently, she performed Rhapsody in Blue with the Trinity Christian College Wind Ensemble, and played the celesta part for Chicago Opera Theater’s production of John Adams’ A Flowering Tree, conducted by the composer. She has been the Chorusmaster for DuPage Opera’s Turandot, Tosca, L’Elisir d’amore, and Beggar’s Opera, in which she also appeared onstage as Mrs. Trapes. She is currently teaching voice extensively throughout the south suburbs, and continues to work as a freelance singer and pianist.
Roger Pines is dramaturg at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he joined the staff in 1995. He also serves as lecturer and consultant to the Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Opera's internationally renowned young-artist program. He came to Chicago having previously held positions at San Diego Opera, The Dallas Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera.
A frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions at both the Regional and District levels since 1991, Mr. Pines has also judged for several other important competitions nationwide, including the Zachary Awards, the Merola Opera program of San Francisco Opera, the Scholarship Auditions of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Young Texas Artists Awards, and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. In addition, Mr. Pines regularly undertakes repertoire research and counseling for internationally prominent artists. He has recently led master-classes at Chicago's DePaul University class and at Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory in Ohio.
Mr. Pines's writing includes numerous articles and reviews for leading American and European publications, including The Times (London), Opera News, Opera, and International Record Review, as well as programs of major opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Houston Grand Opera. His program notes have appeared in CD booklets for the Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Erato, and RCA/BMG labels. Most recently he has prepared material to accompany Deutsche Grammophon’s re-release of Beverly Sills's Norma recording and for Decca recital discs by sopranos Renée Fleming, Juan Diego Flórez, and Jonas Kaufmann. Mr. Pines has written more than 30 surtitle translations, many of which have been rented by companies throughout North America.
As a lecturer, Mr. Pines has been associated with major arts organizations in Chicago, Cleveland, and San Diego, as well as numerous opera-related conferences and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. Courses on Verdi operas and Rossini's The Barber of Seville prepared by Mr. Pines have been presented online by OPERA America, to whose publications he has long been a regular contributor.
2008-09 was the fourth consecutive season during which Mr. Pines appeared as a panelist on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts' “Opera Quiz.” He is also rapidly establishing himself as a broadcaster in Chicago with his work for Lyric Opera as commentator for the company’s broadcasts, beginning with the 2009 “Stars of Lyric at Millennium Park” concert and continuing with the eight opening-night broadcasts of the 2009-10 season. Mr. Pines also serves as a co-host for Lyric’s annual 16-hour “Operathon” on WFMT.
Amy Conn is an active performer and teacher in the Chicago area. She is a frequent soloist with Music of the Baroque and has sung with the Elgin Symphony, the Northwest Indiana Symphony, the Illinois Philharmonic, the Dayton Philharmonic and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. She collaborates frequently with chamber groups and performs recitals whenever possible. In 2010, she was a finalist in the NY Oratorio Society Competition and sang with COT as a chorus member and understudy. She taught for many years at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and at DePaul University and was the VP of the Chicago Chapter of NATS. She currently maintains a home studio in Evanston, IL. Amy has been practicing yoga for 12 years. In 2001, she completed yoga teacher training and taught at Moksha yoga studio and North Shore Yoga for 3 years. She continues to incorporate her knowledge of yoga in to her teaching and her singing work.