Speakers and Artists

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Tammi Brown is the fresh and new voice of the award-winning Lost American JazzBook, recently nominated for Best Jazz with Vocals album in the 18th IMA (Independent Music Awards).  Brown has performed with some of the most notable Music Industry Icons known to the world including renowned Music Producer, Quincy Jones, Stanley Jordan, Dr. Maya Angelou, Joan Baez, Spyro Gyra, and Eric Bibb to name a few. She is currently a vocalist in the two-time Grammy Award nominated Vocal Ensemble, The Cultural Heritage Choir led by the Legendary, Musicologist, Linda Tillery.  Tammi’s music journey has placed her on several stages in more than ten countries worldwide including the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, The Monterey Jazz and Blues Festivals, and various prestigious venues throughout Europe and abroad.

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Brett Fowler is 50 years old and has been legally blind since he was a child. He grew up in San Jose attending Santa Teresa High and went on to receive a Bachelor's degree at San Jose State. He and his wife Lisa have been happily married for 25 years and have 3 wonderful children. He was a music leader for his church for 11 years and has performed at local restaurants and special events across Santa Cruz County as a guitarist/vocalist. He has also authored three children's books. He currently lives in Watsonville, CA as a stay-at-home dad and husband. He has been an active member of Vista Center Santa Cruz for 4 years.

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Zach Friend serves as Second District Supervisor for Santa Cruz County, a position he’s held since 2012. Prior to his election to the Board, Zach worked for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and for nearly a decade with the Santa Cruz Police Department as a press information officer and crime analyst. Additionally, Zach has served on Barack Obama's presidential campaign as a battleground press secretary. 
Turner Publishing released his book On Message, which became an Amazon best seller in the Marketing category. He has written for the Huffington Post and Business Insider and is a frequent guest on national news shows including CNN, Fox News, CBS and MSNBC. He serves on a number of local, state and national commissions on housing, criminal justice reform, health, transportation, flood protection, broadband expansion and the film and television industry.  
Zach has a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a BA with Honors in History from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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As a singer-songwriter, Keith Greeninger paints intricate portraits of the human condition with powerful melodic images, deep engaging guitar rhythms and husky, heart-wrenching vocals. His masterfully crafted tunes and powerful presence have earned him the top songwriting awards at the prestigious Telluride Blue Grass Festival, The Kerrville Folk Festival and The Napa Valley Folk Festival. Keith has toured the national Folk and Americana circuit extensively for over two decades. He’s performed at festivals and legendary venues, appeared on countless national radio shows, and shared stages with dozens of the country’s best-known artists. Keith’s records and personal appearances have garnered him a legion of devoted fans, and the respect, admiration and appreciation of music critics far and wide.

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Soprano, Lauren Haber is currently the principal soloist with Viva la Musica, under the direction of Shulamit Hoffmann. She recently performed Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living at Carnegie Hall as well as Forrest’s Jubilate Deo while on tour in the Baltic’s.  Lauren made her international debut in the title role of Puccini’s Suor Angelica with the Sienna Music Festival.  Her operatic roles include Amelia from Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, Desdemona from Verdi’s Otello, Woglinde from Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Madame Lidoine from Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, Mimì from Puccini’s La Bohème, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Fiordiligi from Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, the Countess from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Ottavia from Monteverdi’s L'incoronazione di Poppea and La Ciesca from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.  Her concert repertoire includes soprano soloist in Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus, Kim André Arnesen’s Magnificat, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

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Caitlin Hernandez is a former Vista Center youth student and full-time special education teacher of sighted elementary schoolers. She sang in choirs, musical theatre productions, and collegiate a cappella, and is now a section leader in the all-blind virtual choir Sing For Serenity. When not teaching or singing, Caitlin writes fiction and nonfiction about disability and queerness. She is currently seeking an agent for her #ownvoices young-adult novel about a queer, blind high schooler, and an early-reader chapter-book series featuring four disabled friends.

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Composer, singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Dayan Kai serves up the best of many worlds with his expansive voice and phenomenal musicianship. His depth of musicality spans genre from the blues and jazz to Americana, folk, bluegrass, world, rock and reggae traditions. He has performed on all families of musical instruments: keys, strings, winds, and skins. Dayan Kai has toured in the USA, Canada, Italy and Australia as a solo artist and in collaboration with an extensive range of musicians including Keith Greeninger, Hot Club of Spokane, Bakra Bata, Harmony Grits, Juan Sanchez, and Melissa Crabtree. He currently resides on the island of Maui, where he was born.

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Patrice Maginnis was on the faculty of UC Santa Cruz from fall 1986 through Spring 2015, where she has taught voice, opera production, repertoire, and recital preparation. As a performer, Ms. Maginnis has sung leading roles with Opera San Jose, Ensemble Parallele, the Santa Cruz County Symphony, New Music Works, the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, and the Santa Cruz Chamber Players. She has also performed recitals and given master classes in Germany and Montreal. Ms. Maginnis has been a featured artist on many recordings, including the opera Rapunzel by Lou Harrison in which she sang the title role. Other recordings include the music of Darius Milhaud, Eric Satie, Henry Cowell, and Germaine Tailleferre. She currently devotes her time as a volunteer and board member for the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. 

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Michael McGushin is a composer, conductor, and pianist based in Santa Cruz County.  His works have been performed recently by the New Music Works ensemble (Santa Cruz), Ensemble Monterey, San Francisco Choral Artists with Veretski Pass, and on programs of soloists and other chamber ensembles.  His one-act chamber opera, The Nightingale, is nearing completion and is slated for performance by UCSC's Opera Theater Program in the upcoming school year.  As a pianist he is frequently heard in Santa Cruz County, and in the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas.  He works as the coach and accompanist for the University of California, Santa Cruz's music department, and is the conductor of the UCSC Chamber Singers.  Additionally, he has a long-standing relationship with Cabrillo Stage for whom he has acted as musical director for numerous productions, most recently Rent, and will once again act in that capacity for this summer's production of Tomfoolery.

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Michele Rivard, mezzo-soprano, has sung in Classical, Jazz and Musical Theatre styles in many recitals, productions, recitals and concerts, appearing with the Santa Cruz Symphony, Cabrillo Music Festival, New Music Works, Ensemble Monterey, Trinity Chamber Orchestra, Novato Lyric Opera, Woodminster Summer Theater, San Francisco Simphonietta, Distinguished Artists Concert & Lecture Series, Cabaret Santa Cruz, Picasso Ensemble, and the University of California Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College Orchestras. She was the vocal coach for 20 productions for the professional musical theatre company, Cabrillo Stage. She retired in 2013 as Music Program Chair from Cabrillo College after twenty-five years, where she taught beginning through advanced voice classes. Michele’s vocal jazz quartet, Mainswing, has performed at the Monterey and Santa Cruz Jazz Festivals. Michele collaborated with Patrice Maginnis, Sheila Willey Hannon and Michael J. McGushin for several very successful “Women….” concerts. She currently teaches Classical and Musical Theater students at Santa Clara University and Solano College.   

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As creative director for Opera Parallèle, Brian Staufenbiel has directed and spearheaded the conceptual designs of the company’s productions since its founding in 2010. Specializing in multimedia, immersive, and interdisciplinary productions, he actively works across a wide range of artistic disciplines collaborating with film and media designers, choreographers and dancers, circus and fabric artists, and designer fabricators. His progressive approach to stagecraft has garnered critical acclaim for many of the company’s productions, including Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Glass’ Orphée and Les Enfant Terribles, Golijov’s Ainadamar,  Berg’s Wozzeck, Davies’ The Lighthouse, Blanchard’s Champion and Dove’s Flight. 

In the unique times in which we find ourselves, Staufenbiel recently directed several films for the online festival season of the Sun Valley Music Festival, a film of Dove’s Flight for Seattle Opera, and a graphic novel film of Talbot’s Everest with Opera Parallèle. Other upcoming projects include the premiere of Miguel Zenon’s Golden City Suite with SF JAZZ, new productions with Atlanta Opera and L’Opéra De Montréal, a dance installation IKKAI, about Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II which he is co-directing with Yayoi Kambara, and a documentary about the life of Frederica Von Stade with Paper Wings Films.

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Mario Suraci would never have thought to claim the title for himself, but many of his musical peers will remember the bassist as the world’s most interesting (jazz) man. A consummate musician whose seven-decade career included long-running work with Bernadette Peters, Broadway show pit bands, tours with Shirley MacLaine, concerts with Frank Sinatra, Morgana King, Hampton Hawes and Joe Pass, and two years in Las Vegas accompanying Elvis Presley. Known affectionately as “The Commodore,” “The Silver Fox,” or “Mario the Great,” he was a mainstay on the Bay Area music scene until failing eyesight forced him into retirement several years ago. Suraci recorded several albums with trumpeter Mike Vax’s orchestra, a Sophie Tucker tribute with vocalist Pat Yankee, and the francophone jazz project Paris Blues with singer Raquel Bitton. He’s probably best represented on album with pianist Dave Miller, who featured Suraci in his trio for almost two decades. He recorded three albums with the bassist (2008’s Everything I Love is my favorite), and often designed his arrangements around Suraci’s propulsive lines. Suraci passed away on January 9, 2021 at the age of 92. 

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Sheila Willey appears frequently with New Music Works, Santa Cruz Chamber Players, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival. A versatile soprano, she has sung leading roles in both opera and musical theater throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. She has appeared recently as a soloist with Espressivo Orchestra (Mahler IV) and the Sequoia Symphony (Messiah). She has recorded with New World Records (Polanski/Seeger “Sacco, Vanzetti,” 2020). Willey is a Lecturer in Voice and Opera at UC Santa Cruz. As Artistic Director of the UCSC Opera Program, she has directed various productions ranging from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte to recent works by UCSC faculty. Originally from Iowa, Sheila holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and the University of California, Santa Cruz.