Originally from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Zach moved to Chicago in the fall of 2016 to further his career as a graphic designer/art director. He currently works for an ad agency in the heart of Chicago's downtown and does freelance for a number of musical groups throughout the city, including common pulse.
A musician since birth, Zach was a percussionist and vocalist throughout high school. He performed with a number of groups in college, and currently sings bass with common pulse, Chicago Chamber Choir, and Wicker Park Choral Singers. When he’s not singing, he’s most likely playing his banjo, talking about space, or wandering around in the woods.
Phil Brownlee currently serves as the Assistant Choir Director in Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park, Illinois. Originally from Iowa, Phil now resides in Chicago. Phil is an honors graduate of DePaul University’s School of Music, where he earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Education. Phil has been fortunate to have many performance opportunities including being a featured tenor soloist for Mass by Igor Stravinsky, the role of Prune Vendor in LaBoheme, as well as singing with the Grant Park Chorus Apprentice Chorale and the Wicker Park Choral Singers.
Music has always been an integral part of Phil's life since he first started playing the violin at the age of five. He would later go on to study violin, flute, and voice throughout his music education journey and finds joy in each opportunity to make music.
Recently, Phil was the guest conductor for the Elgin Master Chorale Children’s Chorus. Phil holds his Kodaly Level 1 certification and has completed graduate coursework in CMP (Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance). A passionate educator, helping students reach their highest musical and academic potential is the driving force behind his work in the classroom.
When not teaching or performing, Phil enjoys running, bowling, baseball, and trying new restaurants. He is looking forward to making great music with common pulse this season!
A Chicagoland native, Paula sings in several choirs around the city. While she favors the classical genre, Paula also loves jazz and musical theatre repertoire. Her passion for theatre draws her to opera. When Paula is not singing, you can find her going to see plays, exploring the outdoors, playing video games, or bouldering in climbing gyms around Chicago. It is a dream of hers to travel to different places around the world, explore nature, and sing in new and extravagant spaces.
Erin Coleman Branchaud
Erin Coleman Branchaud is a Lutheran pastor and community organizer, originally from Omaha, Nebraska. Her formative choral singing was as a member of the University Choir at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she majored in Music (Piano) and Spanish. During her college years, Erin's favorite work was as pianist and musical director for Wesleyan's musical theatre productions, and for Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministries. After college, Erin and her spouse Josh lived as volunteers in Argentina, where Erin was honored to sing in a local chamber music ensemble in Buenos Aires. A recent graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Erin now lives and works in Logan Square. Come by St. Luke's sometime and say hi!
A native of Tampa, Florida, Carey Crows moved to Chicago in 2011 to pursue a career in music education and performance. After freelancing for several years, she currently serves as the K-5 General Music Teacher and Choir Director at Prairieview School and Elizabeth Ide School in Downers Grove. Carey currently sings with La Caccina, and in the past has performed with various ensembles in the Chicago area, including Bella Voce, William Ferris Chorale, and Chicago Chorale. Outside of making music, Carey volunteers as a mentor for Bright Pink, an organization dedicated to providing prevention education for young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She is also a volunteer musician for Musicians on Call, providing music to patients at their bedsides in local hospitals and care facilities.
Emma Frey, a Chicago-based content and editorial specialist, is thrilled to join common pulse this season. Emma received her B.A. in English literature from Knox College, where she was a lucky member of the Knox College Choir, Chamber Singers, and Nova Singers. A lover of storytelling, Emma enjoys participating in vocal ensembles for the chance to explore firsthand music’s ability to communicate emotion. That—and she just can’t stop singing.
Outside of work and common pulse, Emma serves as the Event Chair on the Associate Board for Cinema/Chicago (the presenting organization of the Chicago International Film Festival) and a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, a text message service for people in crisis. She loves to read for book club, play games with friends and family, and continue getting to know her Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Bass vocalist and Chicagoland native, Eric attended Augustana College in Rock Island, IL and performed across the east coast, Midwest, and Northern Europe with the Augustana Choir and Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Jon Hurty. He graduated with his B.A. in Psychology and Music in 2015.
After returning to Chicagoland, Eric sang for two and a half years under the baton of Dr. Eric Johnson in the Dekalb-based professional chorus Cor Cantiamo, a group dedicated to the performance of the newest of choral compositions. In 2017, he moved to Chicago proper and joined the Wicker Park Choral Singers, at the time under the direction of Mark Tomasino.
Eric is passionate about issues of social justice, particularly with regard to issues affecting the LGBTQ+ population, and as such he is thrilled to take part in his first season with common pulse.
While studying biology at Knox College, Tony contributed to the music community as both vocalist and pianist, singing with the Knox College Choir and Chamber Singers, serving as accompanist for the music department, and performing solo works for both voice and piano. Tony has performed in Chicago with Wicker Park Choral Singers and is a founding member of common pulse. He has a passion for photography and an obsession with plants.
A founding member of common pulse, Oliver is thrilled to be singing with this this community of singers whom he met at Knox College where he studied bass/voice performance and creative writing.
Oliver teaches private lessons on upright bass, electric bass, guitar, voice, piano, and beginning drums. Oliver collaborates with his wife, Lydia, to offer combined studio recitals, where their students perform solos, duets, and trios.
Oliver produces monthly originals for his solo project, ohm, which is supported by Patreon. He also writes for ohm trio, an ensemble in collaboration with Sam Genualdi (guitar) and Graham Nelson (harmonica, vocals).
Chicago native Laura Landsberger is overjoyed to join common pulse this season as an alto. While in college in Galesburg, IL, she sang with the Knox College Choir and the Knox College Chamber Singers. She is also a member of dance and rhythm performance ensemble Be the Groove, which performs educational programs at schools and festivals around the world. Her passion for the body and all the incredible things it can do extends to her profession as a massage therapist. Laura is a road trip enthusiast, a cartoon aficionado, and a bonafide friendly person.
Luke Lemmeier, countertenor, moved to Chicago in 2017 after graduating from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance. He currently sings with several ensembles in the Chicago area such as Bella Voce and St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church Choir in the Gold Coast. He has been a part of Kathleen Battle’s: The Underground Railroad- A Spiritual Journey at The Auditorium Theater, and was a finalist in the Classical Singer Summer Competition, placing 2nd in the Classical Emerging Professional Division. He has also been a part of the Naked Voice Institute at Northwestern University Bienen School of Music, and most recently received an Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Justin Martin,tenor,is a member of Chicago Choral Artists and sings with Grace Lutheran Church’s Senior Choir and Bach Cantata Vespers. Justin has sung with the Chapel Choir of the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel; has performed with Bella Voce; and has recently made his debut at the McAninch Arts Center in Die Fledermaus singing with the chorus of New Philharmonic Opera. Justin has previously studied voice with Willard Thomen and Northwestern University’s Karen Brunssen. He is currently a student of David Govertsen, who teaches voice at Valparaiso University and is an alumnus of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center.
Allison Miller is a member of the soprano section. She received her Bachelors of Music degree in Music Education from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey in 2014. She finished her Kodály training at the Hartt School in 2018, and teaches elementary music in the southern suburbs of Chicago. She will be singing with the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir this summer, and is thrilled to join common pulse this season. When she is not teaching or singing, Allison enjoys learning and playing folk music, traveling, folk dancing, and spending time outdoors.
Claire Minnis is an educator, musician, and conductor creating purposeful musical communities celebrating all skill and experience levels. Claire inspires professional and novice singers to musical excellence together with a unified purpose of advocating for issues of justice through innovative programming and community partnerships. Her newest project, Justice Choir Chicago, launches this fall. Claire has performed with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and the St. Louis Chamber Singers; directed the St. Louis Women’s Chorus, Kirkwood Children’s Chorale; and founded Justice Choir of Grand Rapids and the St. Louis Community Chamber Singers since graduating from Millikin University with her Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Nonprofit Administration to continue combining her passions of music and justice.
Samantha Peña Odizor
Sam is a Texas native who has been living in and loving Chicago since 2014. One of her first tasks upon her move to Chicago was to find a choral home. She immediately auditioned and was selected for the Wicker Park Choral Singers where she met Lydia and was introduced to common pulse, which she has been a member of since 2015. Sam has participated in choral ensembles for as long as she can remember, singing her first solo in second grade, "Mission control do you need me...". She began her college career pursuing a degree in Music Theatre before realizing her dancing skills were so terrible, music theatre wasn't a strong career choice (she was asked not to wear tap shoes in a tap musical). Now she is a Human Resources Manager who is able to satisfy her need for artistic creativity through the ensembles she is lucky enough to be a part of and by singing show tunes to her husband and cats.
Veronica Raufer is excited to spend her first season with common pulse! She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in Choral Music Education, where she sang with the ISU Concert Choir, Madrigal Singers, and the Midwest Institute of Opera. She has since been teaching choir and opera in Chicagoland schools and works primarily as a Teaching Artist with Chicago Opera Theater. Veronica is Assistant Director and a member of the Wicker Park Choral Singers and also sings with Chicago Chamber Choir.
Ben Ross is so excited to join common pulse this season after graduating from the University of Iowa with Bachelor’s Degrees in Voice Performance and Music Education last year. He was featured in several roles with the University of Iowa Opera Theatre including Major General Stanley in Pirates of Penzance and Simone in Gianni Schicchi. They were also featured as a soloist and chorister with the Southeastern Iowa Symphony Orchestra, Cedar Rapids Opera, Vocal Artists of Iowa, and the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.
Ben has been seen in Chicago most recently with Transgressive Theatre-Opera, Glen Ellyn Opera, Wicker Park Choral Singers, and the Choral Scholars of Saints Peter and Paul. He is excited to explore the wealth of storefront opera companies and small ensembles that Chicago has to offer.
Kelsey is a Chicagoland native who received their B.A. in Music and Anthropology from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. During their studies, they had the privilege of performing across the U.S. and Northern Europe with the Augustana Choir and Chamber Singers, under the direction of Dr. Jon Hurty. Kelsey continued on to perform with numerous Chicago-based choral ensembles, including the Chicago Chamber Choir and the Wicker Park Choral Singers.
Since childhood, Kelsey has ardently wielded a passion for music and the empowerment of others, especially those within disparaged communities. As a proud transgender and nonbinary individual, they posses a deeply personal conviction to use their perspective to create progressive change through the arts. They intend to spend their life devoting their creative skills to help foster the growth of needed visibility, space, resources, and opportunities for all marginalized people.
Enanna /inana/ is a Chicago native (Rogers Park) and first generation Assyrian-American. Enanna is a certified and licensed Speech-Language Pathologist in the school systems, and Transgender Voice Specialist/Voice therapist. She received her B.A. and M.S. respectively from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University.
Enanna began her journey into transgender voice therapy as an early vocal performance major. The profession combined her interests of helping the LGBTQ community, while applying her background as a vocalist. She is a child of refugees and is a passionate advocate for all marginalized communities.
Enanna is a proud member of the Wicker Park Choral Singers and is extremely excited to be a new soprano in common pulse!
Jonathan Slowik is a Chicago-based vocalist, musician and educator who is thrilled to be joining common pulse for its 2019 season. Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Jonathan is a graduate of Illinois State University, where he studied choral education. Starting in 2015, he was an instructor for Music JAM, a rock band program for teens and adults with developmental disabilities. When not lending his voice to the baritone section, Jonathan is a section leader for the choirs of Grace United Methodist Church in Naperville and maintains a private voice studio. He is also a member of the indie rock group Spooktacular and performers regularly as a singer songwriter. Previously, Jonathan was the accompanist for the musical improv troupe Part Dog.
Baritone and bass section leader, William Spakowski is thrilled to join common pulse this season! Originally from Rochester, New York, William moved to Chicago in 2006 to study vocal performance and music education at DePaul University. Since graduating from DePaul in 2010 William has held several teaching positions in the Chicagoland area working with students of all ages. In 2018 he received his Masters in Music Education and Choral Conducting from Florida State University. William is currently the Director of Choirs and Performing Arts at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. In addition to his work in education, William is the bass section leader and an assistant conductor for the Wicker Park Choral Singers, and a member of Ensemble Alioni, a Georgian folk singing ensemble. When not singing, William can be found renovating his century-old Albany Park home with his lovely wife, Claire.
Karina is thrilled to join such a talented, dedicated group of musicians! She is a Michigan native who decided to call Chicago home in 2018, after completing a B.M. in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan. During her time in Chicago, she has dabbled in musical theater, theater education, and freelance singing. Though she enjoys performing a variety of genres, choral music was her very first love. In addition to common pulse, you can find her singing with Chicago Choral Artists in the fall. In her free time, Karina loves traveling, finding new eats, being outdoors, and petting all the dogs on the street.
Rhone Talsma is a public librarian, singer and composer engaged with the choral arts for the past twelve years. He is a former member of DePaul University Singers (2011-2012), a member of Wicker Park Choral Singers since 2012, and a founding member of common pulse. In 2011, Rhone received the third place prize in the Illinois Music Education Association's choral composition contest for his setting of Walt Whitman's "A Clear Midnight." He now works as a Multimedia Librarian at Chicago Ridge Public Library, having received his M.S. in Library and Information Sciences in 2018, and continues to develop his vocal and composing skills in his spare time. Rhone finds joy in cultivating community through the process of writing and performing music.
Hailing from Minnesota, much of Karl’s formative choral experiences happened at St. Olaf College where he performed with a variety of ensembles including the St. Olaf Choir. Following his graduation in 2012, Karl remained active in the choral community performing with ensembles such as the Minneapolis-based Magnum Chorum and the Chicago Choral Project. Karl moved to Chicago in 2015 to pursue a career in higher education administration where he works as a case manager and advocate for student success. Outside of singing and work, Karl enjoys traveling, running, and spending time with his Chicago community.
Catlin Watts, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, is ecstatic to join common pulse this season. Catlin has a B.A. in Spanish and International Relations and was a member of her college choir and chamber singers ensemble. While choral music is one of her favorite genres, she also loves to sing gospel, jazz, country, and r&b. There is rarely a moment when you will find her not singing, even to herself, but you can also find her practicing yoga, spending lots of time with her family and friends, or planning her next trip, as she loves to travel locally and abroad.
Lily Wirth is a Chicago-based licensed massage therapist and freelance soprano. She currently sings with the choir at St. Chrysostom's Episcopal Church in the Gold Coast and with nine-voice women's ensemble La Caccina. In the past she has appeared with a variety of ensembles including Wicker Park Choral Singers, Bella Voce, Chicago Chamber Choir, and Peregrine Vocal Ensemble. A founding member of common pulse, Lily is thrilled to dive into season three!
When she's not singing or giving massages, you can find Lily at the gym working towards her first pull-up, or in her home in Albany Park cooking and watching cartoons. And probably still singing.