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VOX Spotlight

VOX Femina is not the first women's choir that Soprano 2 Abbey Thompson has sung with and says that uniting voices with other women brings her joy that is unlike anything else she's ever felt.

To learn about her exciting choral reunion planned for this summer, why her first rehearsal with VOX is one of her favorite memories with the group, and why she's so excited about the June concert, read on...

1. What do you do outside of VOX (i.e. what is your other work?)

I'm a librarian at Mount St. Mary's University-Los Angeles. While many of my past jobs were on the music & performing arts side of librarianship, now I'm working in more of a generalist/administrator role. I love working for a historic women's college, especially one with such a diverse student body - around 43% of our undergrads are women of color!

2. What drew you to singing with VOX and how long have you been a member?

I think that what drew me most to VOX is the fact that this isn't my first Women's Chorus experience! Many decades ago, before going off to college as a vocal performance major, I successfully auditioned to sing with an Women's Chorus at my local Junior College. It was my first non-high-school choral experience and it had a profound impact on me. The joy that I felt, when uniting voices with these other women, was unlike anything I'd ever felt. I think that's when I truly got hooked on choral singing. Fast forward many years - and many choirs! - later, and I found myself newly moved to Los Angeles and desperately needing a singing outlet of some kind, any kind. I started researching local choirs, hoping to be in the right season to audition, and the first one I stumbled upon, somehow, was VOX! All the wonderful memories from singing in that Women's Chorus came flooding back, and I thought to myself how great it would feel to sing with other talented women again. The more I read about VOX's mission and background, and the more videos I watched and listened to, the more in-love I felt with this group, and I knew I needed to do whatever it took to join. As luck would have it, auditions were only a few weeks away. One nerve-biting audition and several heart palpitations later, I got that happy call, asking me to join! It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. And so, that is how I joined VOX in the fall of 2019 - yes, just months before the pandemic! I only had one full concert with VOX before the shutdowns began, but it was more than enough to tell me I'd made the right choice. 

3. What is your favorite memory of singing with VOX?

As cheesy as it may sound, my favorite memory of singing with VOX was my very first rehearsal. I felt so awkward and out of place, didn't know a single person, but everyone was so kind and welcoming, so full of smiles for me and each other. I felt like I was joining the best family, ever. And then that first time we sang together, literally just the vocal warmups, in the small, church choir-room with lousy acoustics, the power of it sent tingles shooting up and down my spine. I've done a lot of choral singing, but I don't think I've ever sang among such a powerful and talented group of voices as these in VOX. Every single voice I could hear was utterly phenomenal. As I got to know my fellow singers more, it didn't surprise me to see just how many of us are professional singers, voice teachers, choral conductors... We've gone on to sing some incredible things in the years since then, but that first moment you hear VOX? It's utterly magical. We all know that when voices unite together, whether in song or in protest - or both! - that something new is created, something so much bigger and more profound than the mere sum of its parts. VOX's biggest strength is in finding that sacred space, where multiple voices and hearts unite as one, and gifting it entirely to our audiences.

4. What are you most excited about for VOX this season?

This season has been a wild ride, with so much variation in our musical choices. I can honestly say that this upcoming final concert is the one I'm most excited about! When we think about "protest" songs, we often think of the many iconic 1960's folk- and spiritual-tunes, but the truth is that protest songs can come in so many forms and from just about any era. As long as injustice has existed, humans have sung about it! I think this concert is brilliantly selected, mixing older tunes (some familiar, some not) with new anthems about and against the many injustices of our current time. I love that we're shining a light on so many young, Black, and female composers and poets, the women who are standing up to fight against the hurts of our world, not with violence but one note and one stanza at a time. This concert has so much power in it for us to unleash, and I cannot wait.

5. Anything else you want to share (a fun fact, etc.)?

This July I'm heading up to Santa Barbara for 4 days to sing in a CHOIR REUNION! I went to UCSB for my undergrad years, during which I sang in their acclaimed Chamber Choir, directed by Michel Marc Gervais. He retired and moved home to his beloved Canada in 2016, but a number of us have stayed in contact over the decades, eventually forming a Facebook group to share pictures and memories, etc. Around 2 years ago someone suggested a wild idea, about how fun it would be to hold a reunion weekend, complete with singing some of our old favorites! There were a number of us who legitimately said we'd love to come back to Santa Barbara were this ever to happen, but Mr. Gervais himself was the deciding factor - once he committed to the idea (willing to fly down from Canada to conduct us all again!), we banded together and have made this dream a reality. At last count, there will be more than 75 singers attending, who span from across the 21 years of Mr. Gervais' tenure! It's going to be so fun to sing with old friends and new, reliving so many happy choral memories!  


VOX Spotlight

Singer Missy Nieto has worn many hats since joining VOX 14 seasons ago! As well as a singing in the Alto 2 section, and performing numerous amazing solos, she has also been our audition coordinator in the past, and is the producer for our annual Cabaret evening!

To learn about her self-adopted label of "HR Super Nerd," what VOX event has given her memories that are "best not printed," and how a challenge from VOX Founding Artistic Director Dr. Iris S. Levine compelled her commitment to VOX, read on...

1. What do you do outside of VOX (i.e. what is your other work?)

I'm a Senior HR Manager/Consultant for clients all over the US. I advise my clients from the Employer's perspective on how to protect their Company, operate within Employment law, and provide their employees with their rights. I am a SUPER HR NERD - So I love my job!

2. What drew you to singing with VOX and how long have you been a member?

Going through a tough personal time in 2007, I found VOX when looking for a choral community when I recalled how much I loved singing in a women's choir in college (University of Redlands). That same personal reason kept me out for another season, but in 2009, after a challenge to my commitment from Iris Levine, I auditioned and was accepted to VOX. This season concludes my 14th with the choir - looking forward to season 15!


3. What is your favorite memory of singing with VOX?  

The frenzy of organizing and working with the team for Los Angeles' First Women's March in 2017. I had the spark of an idea, and reached out to the fledgling Women's March organizers, and we made it happen! Also, the trip to Vancouver we took in 2018 has some amazing memories best not printed.... 


4. What are you most excited about for VOX this season?

The upcoming concert is going to be absolutely special - you'll be surprised to hear us, I promise. But I'm so excited about our upcoming Cabernet Cabaret. For the last several years, I've been the producer of this extravaganza - usually held at the historic Catalina Jazz Club. It's so special to see our individual Voxxies break out of their shell, perform solos of their choosing, and wow not only the audience, and Iris, but their fellow singers. I implore you not to miss this event, happening on May 6, to hear a selection of Voxxies as you've never heard them - I promise a rousing good time!


5. Anything else you want to share (a fun fact, etc.)?

Fun Fact - I bleed blue! Politics notwithstanding, I am a raging Los Angeles Dodgers fan. I rarely miss a televised game, and try to make it to the ballpark a few times a season. I love talking Dodgers, watching Dodgers, and often - dressing in Dodger Blue! #ITFDB  


Eileen Dorn

Singer Eileen Dorn has been singing with VOX for over a decade! A former folk singer and lead singer of rock band Dog Party, Eileen says that it was the close-knit harmonic structure she missed after she finished touring that inspired her to audition.

Part of our Alto Two section, Eileen is a retired preschool teacher who now teaches Krav Maga kickboxing to adults - yes, the two essences really can co-exist in one person - and loves the process of rehearsing for a concert, saying her favorite memory with VOX was the magic of singing together for the first time after the pandemic!

To learn more about what Eileen is looking forward to this season with VOX, as well as her secret about the alto two section, read on!

1. What do you do outside of VOX (i.e. what is your other work?)

I am a retired pre-k teacher who spent all her time teaching children to use their words and not their fists to solve problems. Now I am a Krav Maga based kickboxing instructor who tells grownups to absolutely use their fists! 

2. What drew you to singing with VOX and how long have you been a member?

I spent years singing in a folk duo (The Eves) and then as lead singer of a rock band (Dog Party) but when I stopped touring, I missed singing. I yearned for the close-knit harmonic structure of an SSAA group, and auditioned because I knew one of the singers. This was over 10 years ago! Basically I unknowingly stumbled into one of the most glorious musical experiences of my life. 

3. What is your favorite memory of singing with VOX?

Our concerts are always a highlight for me. But my favorite memories are our rehearsals, when we get to the honing process after the big picture is secured. My absolute favorite memory was our first concert after the pandemic. Not the concert per se, but the rehearsal when we stood on the steps of FCCLA shoulder to shoulder and sang "Sing Creations Music On" [by Stephen Paulus], and we had each other’s voices live, in our ears, and we could hear the glorious unified sound bouncing back at us. After being locked away in our homes, singing in closets for our virtual concerts, this was more precious than I think we all know. 

4. What are you most excited about for VOX this season?

I am looking forward to singing the great joy that is in Saunder Choi’s glorious ode to a recovering-from-the-pandemic Los Angeles, Our Streets, A Symphony Again (poetry by Brian Sonia-Wallace) Our whole upcoming concert promises to be fantastic but this piece resonates with me on every level. 

5. Anything else you want to share (a fun fact, etc.)?

Fun Fact: we second altos are secret divas who love to rumble in a register undetectable by the human ear.  

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Laurel Roberts-Meese

Singer and Board Representative Laurel Roberts-Meese joined VOX in 2021 after she moved to the LA mid-pandemic from the Bay Area.

Having been raised by two classical musicians, she notes that music was not an option in her house when growing up, but Laurel chose a very different professional path from her parents. This season, Laurel took the leap and got more deeply involved in VOX by becoming a Board representative for the singers, and we could not be more lucky to have her.

To learn more about what Laurel is looking forward to this season with VOX, as well as her advice for helping with mental health, read on!

1. What do you do outside of VOX (i.e. what is your other work?)

I help connect stressed out professionals to the best possible mental health therapist for them, whether that’s a therapist in my own practice, or someone in the community. Outside of work my biggest passion has always been musical theater, and I have a newfound interest in musical theater history. 

2. What drew you to singing with VOX and how long have you been a member?

Raised by two classical musicians who met at CalArts in the 70s, music was never optional in my house. I dabbled with a few instruments before I found the one I’d carried with me all along. I moved to LA mid-pandemic from the Bay Area and someone told me about Vox. I decided to audition and to this day feel like I tripped and fell into the most incredible mission-driven, high-calibre choir ever.

3. What is your favorite memory of singing with VOX?

I loved singing the Suffrage Cantata last season, both at ACDA and in our concert. I felt so connected to and appreciative of our foremothers who sacrificed so much so our voices could be heard.

4. What are you most excited about for VOX this season?

Our upcoming concert, Made In LA, is a perfect blend of music that represents this city I’m getting to know. With songs in so many languages by such diverse composers, it truly feels like a choral poem about LA.

5. Anything else you want to share (a fun fact, etc.)?

Singing is fantastic for your mental health! It uses both sides of the brain and challenges your language, tonal, and muscular systems at the same time. As a trauma specialist, I work with a lot of people who can be dissociative and struggle to emotionally regulate. Due to the way our brains work, you can’t be singing and dissociating at the same time. I’ve used singing in my professional work and for myself during difficult times. Try it, it works!

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Lori Marie Rios

Assistant Conductor Lori Marie Rios began singing with VOX during our 2017-2018 season. An invaluable member of staff, she leads our Music Education programs with the knowledge and passion that comes from many years as a educator of students of all ages.

To learn more about what Lori Marie is looking forward to this season with VOX, including some brand new programs we will be introducing this season, read on...

1. What do you do outside of VOX (your other job, etc.)? I am Professor of Choral/Voice Studies at College of the Canyons. I teach Chamber Singers/Just Jazz and Voices of the Canyons and administrate the Music 190 performance class for all music majors instrumental and vocal. . I also teach vocal development and private voice.

2. What drew you to singing with VOX? I have sung in a choir my whole life since the 1st grade. I love singing. I have known about VOX for a very long time and have known Iris for about 28 years. The time was never right but I decided to make time and asked her if I could come sing for VOX -she said of course! 

3. What is your favorite memory of singing with VOX? My favorite memory would be singing at the American Choral Directors Association, Western Division Conference in March of 2022. There was something electric about the ensemble when we took the stage. We knew the 'Suffrage Cantata' (by composer Andrea Ramsey) so well that we were living, breathing, understanding, and communicating the story with such passion and conviction. We walked off knowing that we made an impact on the audience and each other. My life was changed in an instant. It was a proud moment for all of us. 

4. What are you most excited for this season with VOX? I love the process, musically and being together. We work hard. However, we still find time to enjoy the laughter, tears, and joy of being together as a group of women who have a common goal together. One week a song may sound very different than the next time we sing it. It grows and then blooms into a music-making journey that validates the musical process called rehearsal. Performance is where we get to communicate it to an audience. 

I am also really excited about our future Music Education programs. A grant from Chorus America using the Justice Choir Songbook starts this week! This is spearheaded by Emma Benatar who has written the curriculum for this program and we will be working to bring this program to students and schools that may not have music programs already.

We are also bringing back the Choral Scholars program for the first time since Covid. This program allows us to bring 4 or 5 current high school choral music students into the VOX environment. Those singers will work with me before rehearsals, attend all activities and practice with us for a concert session and then  perform in the last concert of our season! Many of those past choral scholars are at major universities studying voice and music education. As a music educator of 33 years, I am honored to work with these young musicians.


In April, we have our Concert for Youth, in which I have the pleasure to conduct! This is the first live Concert for Youth that we have done since Covid and I expect that we can pack out the house!! In the afternoon that day, we will be hosting an Invitation SSAA festival for High School Treble Voices. This is the grand premiere of the festival. Artistic Director, Iris Levine and I will be the adjudicators and clinicians for the festival, which is really exciting!   Being together as a community, the students and VOX  members making music together and encouraging all ages to be music makers - it just does not get better than that!

5. Anything else you want to share (a fun fact, etc.)? I love bread! with real butter!! I hate broccoli. I love cooking my Dad's Mexican recipes, the enchiladas are to die for, and my mother's New York cheesecake recipe. I started coloring my hair when I found my first string of gray at the age of 30. I stopped during Covid...and it's colored again!! My hubby and I have a granddaughter, Meadow Moon who is 61/2 years old and I still call her baby girl - with her permission. 

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Marcela Pan

Audience members will recognize VOX singer Marcela Pan not only from her 20 years singing with the ensemble, but also as the moderator of our pre-concert talks!

Marcela brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to VOX as both a musicologist and Music Library Manager at USC, as well as a trained opera singer. To learn more about what Marcela is looking forward to this season, as well as what VOX has meant to her in the past, read on...

1. What do you do outside of VOX (your other job, etc.)? I am a musicologist and work as the Music Library Manager at USC. I am also a trained opera singer and sing all over Southern California as a soloist.

2. What drew you to singing with VOX? I have always loved singing in choirs, and have been a choir member since I was a teenager. The experience of choral singing cannot be compared to any other singing experience. I have been with Vox for about 20 years.

3. What is your favorite memory of singing with VOX? There are many favorite experiences. Perhaps for being so close in time, I loved premiering The Leonardo Notebooks. I also love traveling with Vox, the most significant traveling experiences being when we traveled to Mexico and to Canada. The sisterhood we created with choirs and the cultural exchange that happened was something I will never forget.

4. What are you most excited for this season with VOX? I'm excited about the whole season! But what I love the most is being able to present new works to the audience. 

5. Anything else you want to share (a fun fact, etc.)? Not a fun fact, but for me it was tremendously important that Vox did not "stop" during the pandemic. We found a way, a new way, to make music together. The support I got from the group was perhaps what helped me get through that time.


Angelica Rowell

The VOX staff continues to grow with another wonderful addition! Angelica Rowell joins VOX as our new Social Media Coordinator and as a new singer as well. With experience as a Content Producer, a screen writer, and an activist, among (many) other things, Angelica is a "modern day Renaissance Woman" that we are thrilled to have on our team.

Read on to learn more...

1. What do you do outside of VOX (i.e. what is your other work?)

I do about a million things! It's one of the reasons I like to call myself a 'modern day renaissance woman'. But right now I'm currently working as a Content Producer for a social media ad agency, serving as Vox's Social Media Coordinator, and cultivating my screenwriting career. I also curate and lead workshop seminars titled, "The Evolution of Black Music" and "Arts for Activism".  


2. What drew you to singing with VOX and why was now the right time?

I missed singing. The pandemic forced me to make a lot of music in solitude, or virtually, and I was craving the synergy that only singing in a choir can provide. 


3. What are you most excited about singing with VOX this season?

The music! Iris picks these incredibly moving pieces that not only touch your soul sonically, but poetically, and spiritually. I'm a sucker for crunchy, dissonant harmonies, and our first concert, 'No Place Like Home', features a lot of those! 


4. And what excites you about your new role as VOX's Social Media Coordinator?

I think just having the opportunity to help show the world who Vox is and what they stand for! I love how open, affirming, and equity based Vox Femina's mission statement is because it aligns with my own personal and artistic viewpoint. To show that through music to the Los Angeles community, as well as the world is something special. 


5. Anything else you want to share (a fun fact, etc.)?

I am an Annual Pass holder to Disneyland, I watch an unhealthy amount of reality TV, and I have a Pinterest board for everything! Oh, I also read tarot and oracle cards.


Emma Benatar

VOX is excited to welcome Emma Benatar as both a new singer this season and VOX's first Education Program Manager! With a wealth of both music education and choral conducting experience, and a BM in Music Education, with an emphasis in Choral and General Music, from San Jose State University, Emma will be a fantastic addition to the team.

Read on below to hear from her in her own words...

1. What do you do outside of VOX?

I teach elementary and middle school music in a tiny rural district in LA County. We've just started our first elementary and middle school choirs, and I love watching my students grow and change and discover just how much they are capable of!


2. What drew you to working and singing with VOX and why was now the right time?
I have been to many VOX concerts over the years - the director that inspired me to pursue music education, Lori Marie Rios, has sung in the group for years, and the first time I saw the group perform I thought, "I want to be a part of that". It's been about 8 years since then, and finally the stars aligned. I moved back to the LA area two years ago and this is the first time in a long time that I have had enough free time to make the commitment, and the courage to audition. 100% honesty, I've also been looking for a group of like-minded people to build friendships with and that's a huge part of why I auditioned - making friends in your thirties is hard, and I can think of no better place to do it!

While I was looking up audition information, I saw the post for the EMP position, and knew I had to apply. Not going to lie, I was a little terrified to do it. But I took a deep breath and jumped in anyway. I'm so glad that I did! I'm learning a ton, and the opportunity to use my skills to help build a program that will reach so many students, and share with them the opportunities I wish I had had is amazing. 

3. What are you excited about singing with VOX this season?
I don't think there is a specific piece that I'm most excited about - because I am LOVING the variety. I really love the challenge of the "Home in Me" set, because there is so much depth and storytelling happening - I feel like I'm on an adventure every time I dive in! But I also love the simplicity of "Crossing the Bar". Really leaning into those low alto foundations in "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is giving me life - it feels like coming home. 

My favorite part of the choral process is actually all the discovery that happens in rehearsals - I love the learning that is happening, from moment one. I came home from the last rehearsal all abuzz and inspired because we are actually making music, and starting to really play and create together. 

4. And what excites you about your new role as VOX's EPM?
I'm really excited about some programs we are building, in the hopes of bringing choral music to schools where students wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity. But mostly, I'm excited about what we're planning to DO with the programs. We're working to create spaces where young people can connect with their communities, have meaningful discussions about real life topics, dive into the context of the music they are experiencing, share their unique voices, and come to choral music in a really meaningful way. The work that VOX does to empower women's voices is incredibly powerful; I'm really excited to work with new voices and perspectives to discover what empowerment looks like for them. 

I joke that my life's goal is to take over the world through choral music, but really the goal is to change it. What could we create and accomplish if the world was more like a choir?

5. Anything else you want to share?
Sorry to disappoint, but no, I'm not related to Pat Benatar! I am, however, related to Jenny Lind, The Swedish Nightingale, who was rumoured to have had quite the affair with P.T. Barnum. 
VOX 2022 Intern Victoria Mitchell

VOX Spotlight

VOX is thrilled to welcome intern Victoria Mitchell to the organization!

Victoria, who is Native American, grew up on the Quechan Indian Reservation in Arizona before moving to LA to attend college. Currently a Music Major at Santa Monica College, Victoria is a percussionist who specializes in the marimba thanks to her desire to show off as a child! 

While she hasn't decided if her path will lead her towards a career in music education or music therapy yet, it seems clear that Victoria has the talent and tenacity for either! To learn more about what drew Victoria to working with VOX and how she ended up with a dog named Happy, read on...

Victoria Mitchell

1. What do you do outside of your internship with VOX?

I am currently starting my second year at Santa Monica College as a music major, so I’m usually doing some form of studying or practicing. My main instrument is the marimba, but I also like to include snare, timpani, piano, and drumset into my practice regimen. In my free time I love to cook, bake, and spend time with family and friends! 


2. What drew you to working with VOX?

As someone who is passionate about the arts, I wanted to work within a creative organization. My professor sent me a flier about the VOX internship, and I knew it would be a perfect fit. Not only did it align with my future goals of working in musical ensembles, but was also an organization that made its mission of inclusivity extremely clear. Being any kind of minority in the arts is hard, and I admired every aspect of VOX’s mission. 


3. What made you decide to study percussion?

This is actually a funny story! I started playing piano around the age of 10, so I had already had the ability to read basic rhythms and follow a metronome. In 5th grade, the middle school band directors came to my school to enroll students in band and help them decide on an instrument. Since percussion was the only section you had to audition and have prior knowledge for, I thought it would be nice to show off… and I ended up being accepted! I was definitely a child full of personality.


4. What would you like to do in the future?

While I’m still deciding on a path, my current goal is to finish up my last year at Santa Monica College and then transfer to a university. I have always wanted to go into music education, but lately have been considering going into music therapy instead. Music has healed me in profound ways, and I am so excited to spread my knowledge to future generations!


5. Anything else you would like to share?

I’m incredibly passionate about animal welfare, which had led me to become a foster dog parent through the organization named A Wish For Animals. In the past 6 months, I’ve fostered around 10 dogs, which have all been adopted into their forever homes. I did recently fail at this whole fostering thing though… and ended up adopting our most recent foster dog, our lazy cocker spaniel named Happy :)

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