Artistic/Executive Director, Rising Voices Director
Taylor Gudbrandson is a vocal music educator and Mezzo-Soprano in the West Michigan area. After receiving her Bachelor of Music Education in 2013 from Central Michigan University, Taylor taught Middle School and High School Choir at Otsego Public Schools for seven years as well as serving as the Bella Voce director for the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus- an organization which she sang in herself as a growing musician. KCC was an integral experience that inspired her to become the choral director that she is today. During the 2020-2021 season, Ms. Gudbrandson stepped back from the public schools to take on the role of Artistic/Executive Director for the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus. She is eager to carry on the legacy of excellent choral music while also stressing the importance of community and togetherness that choir can provide. In addition to working with hundreds of students each year, Taylor enjoys performing onstage at The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre as well as other featured solo work in the area.
Caitlin attended DePauw University where she obtained a Bachelor of Music degree in Oboe Performance and continued studies at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she completed a Master’s Degree in Oboe Performance as well, studying with San Francisco Symphony oboists and also participating in the Conservatory in the Schools outreach program which took her to area schools to help young oboists.
For over a decade, Caitlin lived, taught and performed in Las Vegas. Over the course of her tenure there, she not only performed in area orchestras, but also very often in orchestras on the Las Vegas Strip backing celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Johnny Mathis, Il Divo, Andrea Bocelli, Amy Grant, Seth MacFarlane, Weird Al Yankovic, and MANY more!
A dedicated teacher, Caitlin has always kept a private studio of Middle and High School oboists which are her absolute favorite to teach because of their enthusiasm, energy, and willingness to learn. Caitlin now performs with the Kalamazoo Symphony, Battle Creek Symphony, West Michigan Symphony, South Bend Symphony, and other area groups on Oboe, English horn, and Oboe d’amore in addition to being a full time Mom to her sweet, musical son Noah.
Randi Simons-Miller is a choral educator dedicated to helping young musicians discover their best selves through the rehearsal and performance process. Randi earned her Bachelors of Music Education from Valparaiso University in 2013, then began her teaching career directing 5th-12th grade choir in Indiana. After 5.5 years, she then earned her Masters of Choral Conducting Degree from Michigan State University. Mrs. Simons currently teaches choir at Portage Central Middle School and Portage Central High School, where she works with amazing students and brilliant colleagues. She also adjudicates through the Michigan School Vocal Music Association and has served as vocal faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Randi is grateful for her amazing partner, Josh, and their son, Cooper, who is 18 months old. She loves to spend time outside, talk about Harry Potter, and purchase everything in yellow.
Rising Voices Accompanist
Patricia Hughey has been the accompanist for the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus since 2003. She has worked in several other choirs during her tenure with KCC. Patricia has spent nearly her entire life in Kalamazoo. She graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and received her Bachelor of Music degree from Western Michigan University. Patricia is also a much sought-after performer and a private piano teacher.
Kay is originally from Minnesota, and has been working as a freelance piano accompanist in the Kalamazoo area since 2013. Over the years, she has accompanied different school choirs in the area, along with many musical theater pit orchestras. She also tutors Japanese online, and is a kindergarten teacher at the Battle Creek Saturday Japanese School. This is Kay’s first season accompanying for KCC.
Board of Directors
Fred Sang received his undergraduate and graduate training at Western Michigan University where he studied with Dr. Ellwyn Carter, Thomas Hardie and Mel Ivy. Fred retired from Portage Public Schools after thirty two years of teaching. During those thirty two years he taught in London England, Constantine, Hartford, Paw Paw and Portage Michigan. His public school choirs received consistent Superior ratings at District and State Choral Festivals. His students have recognized Mr. Sang by nominating him to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers nine times.
Since 1992 he has been involved with the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus and in 1999 was named the artistic director. In that time the chorus went from two ensembles and 100 choristers to six choirs and over 220 singers with a staff of nine. As a result of the pandemic and lockdown, the chorus is rebuilding under new leadership. In 2015 Mr. Sang was awarded the Community Arts Award for Arts Leadership in Kalamazoo.
Mr. Sang is an active clinician and adjudicator for Michigan School Vocal Music Association. He served as co- manager of Michigan School Vocal Music Association District XI and Regional and State Honors Choir Coordinator. He was selected by his colleagues around the state to be the SSA Middle School State Honors Choir Director. He began a music program for the students of the Van Buren Intermediate School District’s Behavioral Education Center, a building serving children with severe emotional issues. The program provides general music to the students in that building K-12. Fred also served two terms on the board of The Kalamazoo Bach Festival.
He has been invited to conduct festival choirs throughout the state. He is also active as a mentor for teachers.
Fred has recently retired from the position of Chancel Choir Director for Portage Chapel Hill Church.
Dr. James T. Brand
James T. Brand AuD., CCC-A, graduated with his doctorate in clinical audiology from Salus University and lives in beautiful Cincinnati, Ohio, where he works as a pediatric audiologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
During his tenure at Salus University, he served as the Student Member of the Board of Trustees, A member of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, and as a student ambassador. He earned a degree in biomedical sciences from Western Michigan University with a WMU Signature in Diversity and Inclusion in 2017. During his tenure at WMU, he sang with Western Michigan University Collegiate Singers. An alumnus of the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus, he sang with the choir for six years and has been proud to continue serving the organization as a board member in various roles since 2016.
Ms. Colgren is the Finance Director for Drug & Laboratory Disposal, Inc. in Plainwell MI. Prior to that she taught Accounting at both Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
She has been an active board member of the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus since 1999 and has filled many roles within the organization during that time.
Ms. Colgren is a Notary Public for the State of Michigan, a member of the Gilmore Car Museum and lives on the outskirts of Kalamazoo near Plainwell.
Sheila is a retired teacher with over 30 years of experience with elementary age children. She earned her teaching certificate at Western Michigan University.
She had the pleasure of collaborating with Education for the Arts teachers for over 10 years bringing music, visual arts, and theater to life for her students. Additionally, Sheila has assumed leadership roles as a Site Liaison and Coach for Girls on the Run.
She maintains her enthusiasm for coaching half marathon training groups in the community. As a parent, Sheila was actively involved with her children’s Suzuki lessons for over 12 years. Currently, Sheila enjoys playing the piano recreationally and is a member of the JuBellation Bell Choir.
Dr. Rhea Olivaccé
Adjunct Assistant Professor at Western Michigan University, Dr. Rhea Olivaccé, soprano, is known for her “wonderfully warm lyric soprano voice.”
She has performed the leading soprano roles of Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème, both conducted by Martin Katz at University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. Other roles at UMAA include La Contessa in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Suzel in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz. Being from the performing arts, she offers an exciting perspective for the chorus and a lot of knowledge.
Jane Pearson graduated from Central Michigan University earning both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education with a vocal focus. She taught music in the public school systems of Mt. Pleasant, Alma, and Plainwell area schools, as well as teaching at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She has received certification for Level III in Orff-Schulwerk and Level II in Creating Artistry Indianapolis Children’s Choir. Jane is a former director of Prep and Concert choirs for Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus, as well as being a former accompanist as well.
While working as a public school teacher, Jane also served as Secretary for the Kalamazoo Area Music Teachers Association. We are fortunate to have not only a former KCC director serving on our board, but also one who is a caring Mother, and Grandmother to a musical family.
Parent League Representative
Whitney is a licensed K-12 music teacher and counselor-in-training who’s lived in the Kalamazoo area for the past 15 years. She is a proud graduate of Western Michigan university and holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music Education (Secondary/Choral) and is currently working on a Master’s degree in Counseling Education/Counseling Psychology.
Whitney served as the choir director at Reeths-Puffer High School, Edwardsburg Public Schools, and Portage Northern High School, where she conducted several ensembles and was vocal director for the school musicals. Currently, she’s a teaching artist with Education for the Arts, and works with the advanced musical theater class. Whitney also works as a professional singer and actor in Southwest Michigan, and has appeared on the Farmers Alley Theater’s stage in numerous productions and cabarets.