Dana Lynne Varga, Founder and CEO / Master Teacher / Career Coach / Lecturer

Dr. Dana Lynne Varga is the Founder and CEO of The Empowered Musician, Founder and Co-Artistic Director of MassOpera, and an accomplished classical singer, voice teacher and career coach.

In addition to maintaining a full private voice studio for over 15 years, highlights of Dana’s teaching career have included seven years on the voice and opera faculty at the BU Tanglewood Institute, two years on the full-time voice faculty at UMass Amherst and two years on the voice faculty at the New England Conservatory Prep school.

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Dr. Dana Lynne Varga is the Founder and CEO of The Empowered Musician, Founder and Co-Artistic Director of MassOpera, and an accomplished classical singer, voice teacher and career coach.

In addition to maintaining a full private voice studio for over 15 years, highlights of Dana’s teaching career have included seven years on the voice and opera faculty at the BU Tanglewood Institute, two years on the full-time voice faculty at UMass Amherst and two years on the voice faculty at the New England Conservatory Prep school.

She is currently on the voice faculty at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge MA.

Dana regularly performs a wide variety of repertoire on opera and concert stages. Recently she made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with Mid-America Productions. Dana’s 2019 appearance as Pallas Athene in Gluck’s rarely heard Paride ed Elena with Odyssey Opera garnered critical acclaim.

Other recent notable engagements include Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with The Cantata Singers, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Wellesley Symphony and Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor with Coro Allegro. Favorite operatic roles performed include Musetta in La bohème, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Anna Maurrant in Street Scene, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Micaëla in Carmen, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, and the title role in Alcina.

Dana won the Second Place American Prize for Art Song and Oratorio in 2019 and was the First Place Winner of the professional division of the national Classical Singer Competition in 2016. She holds the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree in Vocal Performance from Boston University, the MM in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory, and a BM in Vocal Performance from UMass Amherst.

David Small, Master Teacher

Classical Voice

“Splendid singer, a masterful communicator… excellent command of his instrument.Is able to pinpoint and solve technical problems… offers appropriate useful musical and performance suggestions. Improvement results.”– Richard Miller, Professor; Emeritus Oberlin Conservatory of Music


“Top choice for singers who want to sing at their optimal level…also currently a fantastic singer.”– Wayne Tigges, bass-baritone; Met, Chicago Lyric, San Francisco, Opera del Liceu, Paris Opera, LA, San Diego, Glyndebourne, Santa Fe

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Baritone David Small currently serves as Artist Teacher of Voice and facilitator for The Mindful Performer class at The Longy School of Music, having retired from The University of Texas at Austins’s Butler School of Music (2020) after 20 years. During his tenure at UT he was selected as a NATS Master Teacher (2011) and was an invited NATS National Conference presenter on the topic “From Stage to Studio; The Life and Times of an Artist Teacher of Voice” (2008). His students have been finalists in the Metropolitan Opera National auditions, the International Verdi Baritone Competition, and have been hired as soloists and apprentice artists with many of the country’s leading regional theaters. He had the honor of serving as a reader/editor for Richard Miller’s last book, “Securing Baritone, Bass-Baritone, and Bass Voices” and has taught multiple masterclasses throughout the United States and in Italy, Mexico, and China.

David’s approach to teaching is grounded in the physiology of the singing voice but also closely tied to his long association with Mindfulness and meditation. As one of his mentors said, “Performance=Potential-Interference”; so one of his main goals in voice lessons is to minimize the interference (of both technique and one’s mind) so the student can enjoy expressing themselves more vividly through their music. His teaching style is demanding but always supportive, encouraging, and positive.

He earned a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from DePauw University’s School of Music while studying with Thomas Fitzpatrick (protégé of American baritone, Mack Harrell) and earned an Artist Diploma in Opera and an MM in Voice Performance from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of the great Italian basso Italo Tajo.

Chelsea Basler, Dramatic Coach

Character Development, Presentation, Role Preparation

Grammy award nominated soprano Chelsea Basler continues to make her mark in an extensive array of operatic roles due to her unique combination of vocal appeal and artistry. Praised for her “luminous voice” with its “easy soaring range”.

Chelsea has always had a passion for stagecraft which has made her a very sought-after performer. She has been praised for her “wonderful acting” on multiple occasions, garnering the attention of some of the top opera houses in the country. In dramatic coachings with Chelsea, singers will feel empowered to make stronger choices and take greater risks while performing. She also gives a systematic approach on how to tackle some of the more challenging characters in the repertoire.

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Chelsea specializes in modern American repertoire and has premiered some of the most popular operas of today. Learning modern repertoire can be challenging at times, but Chelsea will give you a step-by-step approach to learning and memorizing challenge repertoire while on a deadline. Chelsea specializes in modern American repertoire and has premiered some of the most popular operas of today. Learning modern repertoire can be challenging at times, but Chelsea will give you a step-by-step approach to learning and memorizing challenge repertoire while on a deadline.

Last year Chelsea returned to Boston Lyric Opera for the East Coast premiere production of Poul Ruder’s The Handmaid’s Tale as Moira, and made her company debut with Boston Midsummer Opera as Clorinda in La cenerentola. In the fall of 2019, she joined the roster of The Metropolitan Opera covering the role of Pousette in Manon, then rejoined BLO to sing Mary Johnson in Fellow Travelers.

Up until the COVID-19 crisis shuttered art institutions, Chelsea was slotted to make her Jordan Hall debut with Odyssey Opera, cover Musetta in La boheme with The Metropolitan Opera, return to Tanglewood to sing Angela in The Firebrand of Florence, and make her debut with Arizona Opera singing Julia Lowell in the world premiere of The Copper Queen.

Chelsea has also performed with Santa Fe Opera, Virginia Opera, Opera Festival di Lucca, San Diego Opera, Sarasota Opera, Nashville Opera, Pasadena Opera, Opera Saratoga, Opera Louisiana, Des Moines Metro Opera, Ohio Light Opera and Tanglewood Festival.

Brendon Shapiro, Musical Coach for Singers

Pianist, vocal coach, and conductor, Brendon Shapiro, is quickly garnering a reputation from coast to coast as a champion of new music and opera of the 20th and 21st centuries.

He is a recent alumnus of LA Opera's Young Artist Program where he performed with such artists as Renée Fleming and Susan Graham and played a key role in the musical preparation for the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin's Eurydice, along with productions of La TraviataEl gato montésLa Clemenza di TitoThe Light in the Piazza, and Satyagraha. He was an Emerging Artist with Boston Lyric Opera where he has served as pianist and coach for Pagliacci and The Rape of Lucretia, and will return this year for Madama Butterfly. He was a part of the creative team that recently brought the legendary "Drive-In" Tosca to life at the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, and looks forward to conducting the first fully-staged production of Omar Najmi's En la ardiente oscuridad there next summer.

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Locally, Brendon has been on faculty as a vocal coach at UMass Amherst and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, served as conductor, coach, and pianist for MassOpera, Boston Opera Collaborative, the Juventas New Music Ensemble, and NEMPAC (North End Music & Performing Arts Center). Brendon holds a M.M in Collaborative Piano from Boston University and a B.M.O. from Ithaca College School of Music.  

Sarah Bowe, Musicianship Teacher

Music Theory, Solfège/Aural Skills, Conducting

Sarah Bowe is a conductor, soprano, and educator currently based in the Boston area, and she is delighted to be a part of the Empowered Musician Studio. She has taught, mentored, and coached musicians of all ages and skill levels, and is committed to meeting musicians where they are and empowering them to advance their skills, nurture their musical imaginations, and achieve their personal goals.

Sarah maintains an active and varied schedule as a guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician. She has worked with choirs and educators in the Northeast and South, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Texas. She recently served as Director of Choral Activities at Central Connecticut State University, and as interim choral faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Alongside conducting and choral music, aural skills acquisition and music theory have been constant companions to Sarah’s teaching and scholarship.

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As a vocalist, Sarah is a versatile ensemble artist and enjoys a diverse range of repertoire. She sings regularly with Red Shift (Baton Rouge, LA), and Festina (Boston, MA), and in numerous sacred institutions in the Boston area. She is also a proud artist of Voce (Hartford, CT), and Vellichor (Worcester, MA). In addition to professional ensembles, Sarah sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (Boston Symphony Orchestra), and the Illuminati Vocal Arts Ensemble (Amherst, MA). Sarah is also a recent alumna of the Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute at Aspen Music Festival and School.

Sarah holds a Master of Music in Choral Conducting and Bachelor of Music in Music Education and Music Theory summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate in Choral Conducting with a minor in Music Theory at Louisiana State University.

Abigail Riccards, Teacher (Voice)

Jazz and Pop


Chicago musician Abigail Riccards has made an international name for herself in the jazz and pop music community for nearly 20 years. After launching her career in New York City in 2002 at storied clubs like Birdland, the Jazz Standard, Smalls, and the Kitano, she continued to garner praise as a selected semifinalist in the 2004 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition. After nearly a decade on the east coast, Riccards broadened her scope to the iconic Chicago jazz scene, where she frequently headlines legendary clubs such as the Green Mill, the Jazz Showcase, and Winter’s Jazz Club. After releasing her 3rd studio album in 2013, she performed on the main stage at the Chicago Jazz Festival with Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt tour. She has also collaborated with artists such as Jane Monheit, Peter Bernstein, Joel Frahm, and Mulgrew Miller.




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Her live engagements have been met with generous praise from top critics. The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich referred to her as “a breath of fresh air…possessing a textured but radiant quality” and Christopher Loudon from JazzTimes said “Abigail Riccards has mastered the increasingly dangerous art of making less more. Think Doris Day with Anita O'Day jazz smarts."

In addition to playing nearly every night at Chicago venues, Abigail enjoys teaching lessons and presenting workshops and masterclasses at colleges all over the country. 

Anna Carr, Teacher (Piano)

Piano for all ages and levels



Dr. Anna Carr is currently working as a vocal coach, accompanist, soprano, and teacher in the Boston area.  Currently a staff accompanist at Boston University, she has also accompanied the Handel and Haydn Society’s Young Men’s Chorus, and been a vocal soloist at the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston.

Anna’s DMA in Vocal Performance is from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign; she also holds an MM in Collaborative Piano from Boston University, and a BA in Music from Principia College.  In Champaign, Anna was a professional piano accompanist and coach, and sang several soprano roles in the University of Illinois opera program, including debuting an opera completed in 2012.  She has been a member of the St Louis Symphony Chorus as well as the Tanglewood Festival Chorus with the BSO, and was a Bella Voce Award recipient through the Bel Canto Foundation.  

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Anna has maintained a thriving teaching studio for over 2 decades, and believes there is great power in the process of learning an instrument. She strives to help each of her students discover their own unique artistry, discipline, and self-awareness through practice, patience, and the simple joy of music-making.

Katie Jillson, Teacher (Voice and Piano)

Classical, Musical Theater, other Contemporary styles

Katie Jillson is a seasoned voice and piano teacher, with experience in multiple genres and with all age levels. She teaches singers to use the most organic, tension free technique possible in order to discover their authentic voice, musicality and self expression. Her students have excelled in auditions, solo performances, intensive vocal study programs and competitions.

A versatile singer herself, she has been delighting audiences for two decades. She has performed as soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Poulenc’s Stabat Mater, Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen and Mozart’s Requiem. She has sung with Masterworks Chorale, the Paul Madore Chorale, Boston Cecilia, Zensemble and The Down East singers. Katie is a frequent soloist at St. Ignatius of Loyola church in Chestnut Hill, where she has been a member of the music ministry since 1999.

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Katie’s musical studies began with the piano at the age of 5, and she discovered her passion for singing in her early adolescent years. Katie holds a BM in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, and will complete her MM in vocal performance at the Longy School of Music in 2022. Always developing professionally, she attended the Boston Conservatory Vocal Pedagogy Professional Workshop in 2019 and the OperaWorks Winter Intensive Program in 2016. Katie is thrilled to join the Empowered Musician Studio, and can’t wait to work with you!

Anna Ward, Teacher (Voice)

Classical, Musical Theater



As a performer, Anna has been praised for her “jaw-dropping precision” and "amazing vocal as well as emotional range." Recent highlights include touring Ireland with Gare St. Lazare’s Here All Night (ensemble), premiering the title role in Mark Warhol’s opera JEANNE with Doppelganger Dance Collective and Ensemble Warhol, and entertaining thousands under fireworks as a soloist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (Celebrate America!). Ward has been featured with ArtsEmerson, the Mark Morris Dance Company, Lorelei Ensemble, Yale Choral Artists, Juventas New Music Ensemble, Seraphim Singers, and the Boston Chamber Symphony.

Anna Ward believes that vocal technique should facilitate an unbroken connection between the singer and the music. Lessons with Anna will empower the whole singer, strengthening stage presence and musicianship, improving body awareness, expanding vocal range, fine-tuning languages, building better practice strategies, and honing authentic characters.

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Anna’s approach to vocal technique blends the methods of her current teacher Dana Varga with those of longtime former teachers, Lynn Eustis and Rebecca Folsom. She received a Master of Music in Voice Performance from the Boston Conservatory and incorporates her years of experience as a certified yoga instructor into her lessons. She was an advanced artist at OperaWorks in 2012 and continues to use their interactive tools in her classes and private studio.

Ward has taught voice at Wellesley College, Roxbury Community College, Fall River Community College, and is approaching her tenth year as an adjunct faculty member at Middlesex Community College. Impassioned by years of experience in Massachusetts community colleges, she enjoys teaching students of wide varieties of musical interest, age, native language, and experience. Upcoming engagements include Dido (Dido and Aenaes) at Bismarck State College, and the 2022 world premiere of Richard J. Clark’s Te Deum (soprano soloist) in Paris. Amidst the cancellations of 2020, she released song collaborations for MCC World of Music Online and was the soprano soloist in Danbury Music Centre’s online Messiah. Currently, Ward is weathering the pandemic with her family in Bismarck, North Dakota while homeschooling her two boisterous sons. www.annawardsoprano.com

Cordelia Anderson, Teacher (Voice)

“Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” -Mary McLeod Bethune

Dr. Cordelia Anderson is Assistant Professor in Vocal Studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Alabama State University, and owner of SingCordeliaSing Vocal Studios housed in Birmingham and Montgomery Alabama, that focuses on vocal training for genres including: classical, musical theater, R&B, Pop, and Gospel.  A native of Birmingham, Dr. Anderson earned a Bachelor of Arts from Alabama State University, Master of Music from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and a Doctor of Musical Arts from The University of Nevada Las Vegas.

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Cordelia has had the honor to perform for the unveiling of the U.S. stamp of world-renowned opera singer, Marian Anderson, and a three-time winner of the National Association of Teachers of Singers (NATS) Vocal Competition for the Alabama chapter and Cal-Western Region. She has performed for the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) program in Graz, Austria, and was a Young Artist for Opera Las Vegas and Opera Birmingham for two full seasons. Cordelia has also done intense research on the music of African-American Women Composers, for performance and presentation for many conferences around the globe, recently touring internationally to Spain and Croatia.

The roles she has performed include Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Suor Angelica in Suor Angelica, Lakme’ in Lakme’ (Flower Duet Scene), Madama Butterfly in Madama Butterfly (Flower Duet Scene),  On the concert stage she has been a soloist for Handel Messiah, John Rutter Requiem, Dubois Seven Last Words, and The Gospel Mass.

Jessica Trainor Tasucu, Teacher (Voice)

Classical, Musical Theater




Jessica Trainor Tasucu is a passionate voice teacher and life coach. She tailors each lesson to the individual student’s needs, wants and skill level. She loves to work on all styles and genres. Jessica has been teaching voice for almost ten years, and is devoted to providing a solid technique for a life of healthy singing. And she believes that lessons should be FUN!

Jessica is a mezzo-soprano, and maintains a full performance schedule in New England. Her 2019-20 season included a company and role debut with Boston Opera Collaborative as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, company and role debut with Opera del West as Prince Charmant in Cendrillon and Alto Soloist for Handel’s Messiah at the Immaculate Conception Church in Easton, MA. She was a professional ensemble member with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra for Verdi’s Aida, Dan Shore's Freedom Ride with Chicago Opera Theater in conjunction with MassOpera, and in several operas with Odyssey Opera.


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She has performed roles with Opera NEO in San Diego, Promenade Opera Project (an immersive opera experience), MetroWest Opera and VOX New England. Future engagements include works by Gena Branscombe through The Gena Branscombe Project, a role debut as Dorabella in Così fan tutte with Due Donne Productions, and roles in Graceland and Cubs Win! (both world premieres) with Boston Opera Collaborative in their Opera Bites series. All dates are TBD due to Covid-19.

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Boston College and a Master of Music degree in vocal performance from the Longy School of Music. She has been a young artist at Opera NEO and the Vermont Music and Arts Center, and did additional training at the OperaWorks Winter Intensive.

Rae-Myra Hilliard, Teacher (Voice)

Rae-Myra Hilliard is equally at home in operatic, solo concert, and choral singing. Her operatic roles include the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Serena in Porgy & Bess, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Miss Pinkerton in The Old Maid and the Thief, Singing Spirit in Sunyata (world premiere), and Emma Berdis Jones (mother of writer James Baldwin) in The Baldwin Chronicles (world premiere). 

As a concert artist, Rae-Myra has performed Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Serenade to Music, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, Bach’s Magnificat in D, Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Mozart’s Regina Coeli and Requiem, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and The Creation, Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Christ, David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus and Beethoven’s Mass in C and Choral Fantasy.Rae-Myra, as an active recitalist, regularly programs works featuring Black-American composers/lyricists or works written for a classical singer of color. Her debut CD, Lifescapes: One Woman’s Journey is a compilation of songs written by Black-American composers.  The CD is available on CD Baby for download.  Her second recording project, a Christmas CD featuring classical and popular works, is underway.

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As a voice teacher, my approach to teaching the voice is both regimented and different. I have adopted and adapted the warm-up regimen that is championed by W. Stephen Smith in his The Naked Voice: A Wholistic Approach to Singing.  His approach encourages the coordination of the breath and the release of unwarranted tensions in the body to produce seemingly effortless sounds.

Rae-Myra is on faculty at the University of St. Francis, the Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston Township High School as an independent contractor and most recently has joined The Empowered Musician, LLC team.  In addition, Rae-Myra is the Director of Music at St. James Lutheran Church in Lake Forest, IL. Her newest project is a lecture series entitled “Queens of Composition: Excellence in the music by Black-American Women”.  She holds her MM from the University of Northern Iowa and is a member of NATS, AGMA, and the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM) through the R. Nathaniel Dett Club.

Xia Chen, Overseas Liaison

Xia Chen, mezzo-soprano, completed her Master’s degree in Vocal Performance at the Longy School of Music of Bard College and a Graduate Professional Diploma from The Hartt School. She recently debuted the role of Mother in Amahl & the Night Visitors in the collaborative program, Opera Connecticut-The Hartt School.


Xia also recently performed Lenora in Captain Lovelock and Adela in the Finishing School. She actively performs in concerts in New England, was one of the soloists of Sino US Vocal Artists Association Recital Series in 2018 & 2019, and is a student of Dana Lynne Varga.

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With a Bachelor’s in Economics and a strong business background, Xia is also a managing specialist and an English- Chinese translator. She used to work as loan manager and interpreter in bank and music festivals. She is thrilled to join the Empowered Musician team.

Jessica Bloch, Social Media

Jessica Arielle Bloch, soprano is beginning a multi-faceted career as a performer, educator, and arts administrator. As the Director of Social Media and Marketing for The Empowered Musician, and the Treasurer and Finance Manager of Opera NexGen, Jessica seeks to uphold these companies’ missions of championing young singers like herself and being a place for all to learn, perform, and make music.


Jessica’s interest in pursuing coordinating careers in music began during her time at the University of Connecticut while obtaining her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance.While involved in her academic course work and performances, she maintained a full voice studio at the Mansfield Community Center. There she taught students of all ages and abilities, and continues to teach privately and with the Maestro Musicians Academy.

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She has also been a Guest Teaching Artist for music at the Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, FL in the fall 2019, and was hired to perform opera outreach concerts for their lower and upper school student body in 2018. Currently she has an online private voice studio in addition to teaching at the Maestro Musicians Academy in Lexington.

As a singer, Jessica has recently advanced to the semi-finalist round for the 2021 Music International Grand Prix. She was also a semi-finalist for the 2019-2020 American Prize in Art Song/Oratorio for the Women's Collegiate level, a semi-finalist for The Orpheus Competition 2020, and a finalist at the 2019 Great Italian Songs Competition. Fresh out of her collegiate education, Jessica sang Despina (​Così fan tutte​) as a Resident Artist with the Mountain Opera Company's inaugural season, Mozart in the Mountains​, and continued as a 2019 Renee Greenberg Emerging Artist with Opera Fusion in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. At Opera Fusion she covered Nella (​Gianni Schicchi​) and sang in her third production of ​Suor Angelica​ as Sorella Cercatrice II. Moving into 2020, Jessica made her Boston debut singing scenes as Phoebe from ​A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder​, and Francesca from ​Bridges of Madison County​ with the up-and-coming musical theater company, The RC Performing Arts Company ofBoston. Recently she has appeared in concert with NEMPAC Opera for their 2020 summer Opera from the Balcony series, singing selections by Richard Strauss, Mozart, and Donizetti.

Throughout the COVID-19 lock-down and phases in her locale, Jessica has continued to be a part of several virtual concerts broadcasting on both YouTube and Facebook. She was also invited by Angel Blue to sing Sophie's part in the Presentation of the Rose (​Der Rosenkavalier​) by Strauss, on Christine Goerke's virtual masterclass with the Opera Training Studio. Currently Jessica looks forward to her next performances involving song repertoire. This December, she will perform "Hearts on Sleeves" in recital with Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's recital series: ​Songs from Hibernation,​ including works by Robert Owens, Juliana Hall, Cecil Cohen, Undine Moore, Poldowski, and Strozzi. To kick off 2021, Jessica will be recording Dana Kaufman's ​Three Beasts​, adapted for piano and voice with the Christman Opera Company. In addition, Jessica will be making her (hopefully live) New York City debut as a Young Artistwith Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble's ​Love For Truth Festival​ in 2021 as the Concepcion/Young Juana cover and Ensemble for Carla Lucero's new Spanish opera, ​Juana​.

Past performance credits include originating the role of Miss Johnson in Douglas Buchanan’s World Premiere of ​Bessie and Ma;​ covering Belinda in ​Dido and Aeneas; ​Amalia Balash in UConn Opera Outreach’s ​She Loves Me;​ and completing her Master of Music in Vocal Performance degree recital. Jessica also made her debut with Hartford Opera Theater as Titania for their New in November Nine Festival, exploring Paul Richards new work, ​The Loathly Lady.​ Other operatic credits with UConn Opera Theater include Noèmie (​Cendrillon)​ , Suor Genovieffa (​Suor Angelica​), and Susanna (​Le nozze di Figaro​). After performing Susanna, Jessica has since tackled more Mozart heroine’s such as Zerlina (​Don Giovanni)​ and Pamina (​Die Zauberflöte), both under the baton of Maestro Christian Schulz at the Vienna Summer Music Festival in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Theodora Nestorova, Virtual Administrator

Bulgarian-British-American soprano, researcher, and teacher Theodora Ivanova Nestorova loves creating interdisciplinary and cross-cultural musical connections.

Theodora maintains a varied international career as both a vocalist and scholar. She was a 2018-2019 Fulbright Study/Research Grant Recipient to Vienna, Austria, where she studied MA Lied/Oratorio at Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien (University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna) and conducted voice science research. Theodora graduated with a BM (Voice Performance/Musicology) from Oberlin Conservatory in 2018 and is currently pursuing her MM (Vocal Pedagogy) at New England Conservatory in Boston.

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The 2018-2019 first-place winner of the American Prize in Vocal Performance (Art Song College/University Division), Theodora is an avid early and contemporary musician. She has recorded world premiere compositions at the Bulgarian National Radio in Sofia, with the Indictus Project, and performed at the Balabanov’s House Music Days International Festival, Wien Modern Festival, Bang on a Can, and Emmanuel Music’s The Bach Institute. As an emerging opera singer, recent operatic credits include Tamiri (Il re pastore) [NEC Opera at Jordan Hall], Clorinda (La Cenerentola), Noémie (Cendrillon), and Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel) [Schlosstheater Schönbrunn], as well as Oberto (Alcina) [Oberlin Opera Theater], and Amore (L’incoronazione di Poppea) [Oberlin in Italy]. Theodora was also a featured soloist in Mozart's Requiem (St. Paul's Episcopal Church Brookline), Handel’s Messiah (Credo Music—Oberlin), and Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (Oberlin Mozart Players).

Awarded the Pan American Vocology Association’s Best Student Presentation for her original vibrato research at the 2020 Virtual Symposium, Theodora looks forward to presenting at The Voice Foundation's 50th Anniversary Symposium in June 2021 and publishing an article in PAVA's July 2021 Newsletter (Issue 2, Vol. 3). She has previously presented at the 2020 National Opera Association conference and The Voice Foundation’s New Investigator Research Forum. Theodora actively and innovatively teaches private voice, pronunciation/diction, and language lessons online.

She is a formerly competitive figure skater and pentalinguaphile with a passion for traveling internationally. Theodora is delighted to join The Empowered Musician’s team under the guidance of her longtime mentor, Dr. Dana Lynne Varga. Visit: theodoranestorova.com

Cassie Kollman, Outreach


Cassie Kollman is a Massachusetts-based soprano who excels in multiple vocal genres, including baroque, classical, jazz, and pop. A versatile singer-songwriter and enterprising producer, Cassie will release her first album of original music, Lady in Shoes, in winter 2020. Cassie has performed with the artist-led opera company Panopera, and will perform with the Greater Worcester Opera company in 2021. A former grade-school music teacher and children’s theater director, Cassie is passionate about youth arts accessibility, and currently teaches K-8 music programs at the Listening Wellness Center in Central Massachusetts. As a non-traditional music student herself, Cassie strongly supports community music programs, currently performs with the Petersham Musicians Collective, and studies Music at the Holyoke Community College. Cassie holds a BS in Psychology & BA in Linguistics from the University of Mary Washington, and currently studies classical vocal performance with Jane Shivick in Worcester, MA.


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Cassie practices mindfulness in her daily life and uses principles of mindfulness in her approach to vocal performance. A Buddhist practitioner and online education professional, Cassie is the Online Programs Manager at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, where she develops, produces, and manages online education courses in the subject of Buddhist Studies across different traditions.

Amara Pappas, Intern

Amara Pappas, soprano, recently completed her freshman year at The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She is currently studying under Andrew Skoog to receive her Bachelor's of Music in Vocal Performance, while also completing minors in Leadership Studies and Entrepreneurship.

She has been a NATS Mid-South Regional finalist, as well as a multi-time National NATS qualifier. In addition to classical performance, Amara loves musical theatre, and has played numerous roles through her high school and Knoxville community theatre.

Amara's career aspirations include advocating for the performing arts in schools, as well as creating a space for performers to obtain the skills they need to succeed in the ever-changing world of music. She is excited and thankful to be interning with The Empowered Musician.

Qiuyu Li, Apprentice

Soprano Qiuyu Li, a Chinese native, recently completed her Master's degree in Vocal Performance at the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She obtained her Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from the Tianjin Conservatory of Music in China.


Her recent performances include the role of Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro with the Boston Opera Collaborative/Longy School and a solo appearance in the Operatica concert with the Longy orchestra. At the Tianjin Conservatory, she performed many scenes from the operatic repertory, including the roles of Mimì from La Bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor and Tosca.


Qiuyu Li is a student of Dana Lynne Varga and is thrilled to be working with her on this new endeavor!

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