extraordinary weekend
oct 2 & 3 Program Notes

BIOGRAPHIES 

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Roger “Dean” Gillispie

Despite his innocence, Dean was convicted in Montgomery County, OH in 1991 of multiple crimes he did not commit. He spent the next 20 years of his life in a prison cell. With the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, Dean was exonerated by the State of Ohio in 2015, which has declared him innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted. In his freedom, Dean has continued to show the world his many talents. He has been a featured artist in the Museum of Modern Art, and his works have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and many other publications. But Dean is most proud to have been featured in AirStream Life, which showcased him and Soulshine, an Airstream that he painstakingly restored to glory over the span of a year. Dean is now a member of the Board of Advisors of the Ohio Innocence Project, a tireless advocate to end wrongful conviction, and a friend to every innocent man and woman who was imprisoned. He continues to make the world a better and more beautiful place for all of us.

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Barry Rowen

Barry Rowen is a filmmaker and editor based out of Cincinnati, OH. He has been involved with the Ohio Innocence Project since 2018, creating documentary shorts for their annual fundraisers. In 2020 his short film "Self-Surrender" premiered at the Chelsea Film Festival. Barry has done work for musical artists such as the Jonas Brothers, Halsey, and Katy Perry.

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Marian Vogel, soprano

Hailed as, “thrilling”, “surprisingly powerful”, and “bursting with dramatic intensity”, lyric soprano, Marian Vogel has been recognized as a gifted performer both on the concert and on the operatic stage. She has debuted in Carnegie Hall under the baton of composer/conductor John Rutter performing both the Mozart Requiem and Rutter’s Magnificat. Ms. Vogel has performed on several occasions with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall with the conductor, Franz Welser-Möst, and on their recent European tour to Vienna and Luxembourg performing in their groundbreaking production of “The Cunning Little Vixen”. Other notable concert appearances include the complete Egmont Incidental Music of Beethoven, the Requiems of Verdi, Brahms, Mozart, Faure, and Rutter, Dvorak’s Te Deum, The Peacemakers (Jenkins), The Seasons (Haydn), Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, Bach Cantata No. 191 and No. 140, La Petite Solenelle (Rossini), Regina Coeli (Mozart), Mozart’s Grand Mass in C Minor, the Poulenc Gloria, Exsultate Jubilate (Mozart), Vivaldi's Gloria, Les Nuits d’Ete (Berlioz), Knoxville Summer of 1915 (Barber), Four Last Songs (Strauss), Concert Suite from Porgy and Bess (Gershwin), and Carmina Burana (Orff). Ms. Vogel appeared with the Summit Choral Society in Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” at E.J. Thomas Hall and in Respighi’s “Laud to the Nativity”. Regarded as “resplendent both vocally and dramatically,” Marian is quite at home on the operatic stage and had frequent appearances with Cleveland Opera. She made critically acclaimed performances as Violetta in La Traviata, Cio Cio San in Madama Butterfly, Micaëla in Carmen, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Tosca in Tosca. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described her as “magnetic” and “ a glamorous and poignant Violetta who responds to every nuance in the score.“ Of La Boheme, Cleveland Classical wrote that “Marian Vogel’s sparkling performance… ignited the production.“ Her rendition of Elvira’s aria in Don Giovanni was described as, “superlative.” A versatile performer, Ms. Vogel has performed such roles as Mimi and Musetta (La Boheme), Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Pamina (The Magic Flute), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel), the Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), and a wealth of Gilbert and Sullivan heroines such as Josephine (H.M.S. Pinafore), Yum Yum (Mikado) and Patience (Patience). Described as “exquisite”, “vocally alluring”, and “irresistible“, Marian has toured extensively as a soloist, both in the United States and in Europe. Ms. Vogel is a two-time first prize winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council District Auditions and the winner of the Belle O. Morse Young Artist Award given by Cleveland Opera and is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music.

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Sandra Ross, mezzo-soprano

Sandra Ross, Mezzo-soprano, has been praised as having a “supple, warm, and grandiose” voice. Equally, at home on both operatic and musical theater stages, Ms. Ross has performed with such companies Cincinnati Opera, Cleveland Opera, Central City Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, and ten seasons with the Ohio Light Opera. In Hamburg, Germany Ms. Ross appeared as Madame Giry in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera. A frequent concert soloist Ms. Ross has performed works including Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings Symphony, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Prokofieff’s Alexander Nevsky, to name a few with organizations including the orchestras of Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Ashland, Toledo, and Youngstown. Recent engagements include Madame Butterfly with Cleveland Opera Theater and the European tour of Cunning Little Vixen with the Cleveland Orchestra.

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Timothy Culver, tenor

Tenor Timothy Culver has been described as having “a rich but penetrating tenor” and that he “faces florid tenor writing with a fearless vivacity.” Since his professional debut in 2003, he has performed almost forty different stage roles. Equally at home in both operatic and musical theatre works, Mr. Culver has performed with Atlanta Opera, Ann Arbor Symphony, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, The Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Cleveland Opera Theater, Canton Symphony Orchestra, Porthouse Theatre, Akron Symphony, Nightingale Opera Theatre, Bar Harbor Music Festival, and the Cleveland Orchestra. Some recent roles include Calaf in Tosca, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Werther in the title role, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Luigi in Il Tabarro, Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Canio in I Pagliacci, Il duca di Mantua in Rigoletto, Alfredo in La Traviata and Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore. During the inaugural season of the Opera Theatre of Lucca in Lucca, Italy, Mr. Culver performed and studied under the direction of internationally renowned baritone, Lorenzo Malfatti. A frequent recitalist, oratorio, and concert soloist, Mr. Culver sang in the U.S. premiere of Erwin Schulhoff’s H.M.S. Royal Oak with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. In 2012, Mr. Culver was selected to participate in the Cleveland Art Song Festival where he worked with international artists Christine Brewer, Roger Vignoles, and Warren Jones. Currently, Mr. Culver is an Associate Professor of Voice at the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University, where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  He resides in Stow, Ohio with his wife and three children. 

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Brian Johnson, baritone

Brian Keith Johnson has performed many roles in opera from Figaro in il barbiere di Siviglia to Ford in Falstaff.  As a member of the Actors’ Equity Association, he has also performed a variety of musical theatre roles ranging from Jim in Big River to Father/God in Children of Eden.  His concert repertoire includes most of the major baritone works such as Carmina Burana, Elijah, The Verdi Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, The Brahms Requiem, and The Faure’ Requiem.   He has performed operatic and musical theatre roles across the United States including performances with The Cleveland Orchestra, Akron Symphony Orchestra, Canton Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Blossom Festival Orchestra, Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh, Opera Western Reserve, Carolina Master Chorale, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and Porthouse Theatre.  Mr. Johnson received his Bachelor’s Degree from The University of Akron and has also studied abroad at The New Opera Academy of Rome in Rome, Italy, and The American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.  Currently, he is in his 29th year of teaching music in The Akron Public School System, where he teaches general music at Findley CLC.

Karen Prasser, piano

Karen is both a musician and arts administrator. She is the Executive Director of Chagrin Arts and also a collaborative pianist at Kent State University – The Hugh A. Glauser School of Music. In addition, Karen is the music director at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Solon, Ohio, a position she has held for 11 years. Her extensive experience in arts administration and management includes serving as Executive Director of Summit Choral Society, Solon Center for the Arts and The Children’s Museum of Cleveland, and marketing director at Cleveland Ballet, Great Lakes Theatre Festival and the Wheeling Symphony. However, Karen is first and foremost a musician. She has served as pianist and conductor for opera and ballet companies including Michigan Opera Theater, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Fort Worth Opera, Dallas Opera, Western Opera Theatre, Lake George Opera Festival, Artpark, Orlando Opera Company, Augusta Opera, New Orleans Opera, Skylight Comic Opera, Richmond Ballet and the Edinburgh International Music Festival. Karen earned her Master of Music in piano accompanying from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and her Bachelor of Music in both piano and voice from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.