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Soprano, Crossover & Belting Specialist - Founder, Voice, and German

As a master class instructor and vocal technician specializing in musical theatre belting technique as well as operatic vocal technique, soprano Darla Earnest has worked in Austria, Germany and the United States producing students currently working in the musical theatre and classical music industries worldwide. Her students can be seen in touring productions of musicals as well as in opera houses, conservatories, universities and young artist programs around the globe.  Studying under Metropolitan Opera soprano Dr. Barbara Daniels and Ms. Daniels’ former teacher, Lucille Evans, Ms. Earnest developed as an opera singer as well as securing a technique for belting that is well suited to the modern ingénue repertoire for 20th and 21st century musical theatre.

As a performer, Ms. Earnest has a diverse career that includes being a member of the vocal jazz ensemble “Voices of Liberty” at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, as well as being the soprano soloist in EPCOT’s Italy specializing in Neopolitan songs and Italian opera arias. She has also sung numerous musical theatre and opera roles including Grace Farrell in Annie, Laura in the world premiere of Parable, the Soprano role in Trouble in Tahiti, Lead Role in Nightclub Cantata, Anna in The King and I, and The Sound of Music’s Maria, Ms. Southingham in a modern adaptation of Mozart’s Impresario, Nella in Gianni Schicchi, Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Gretel in Hansel & Gretel, Edwina in Mystery on the Docks, Gasparina in La Cantarina, Maria in Monkey See, Monkey Do, Blonda in The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Drusilla in The Coronation of Poppea. Concert works to her credit are various Rodgers and Hammerstein tributes, Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass, Bach’s Jesu, Meine Freude, Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, Menotti’s Steal Me, Sweet Thief.  Ms. Earnest has sung as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, was the soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem under the baton of New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor, Delta David Gier and made her debut in the role of Liú in Puccini’s Turandot with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, also conducted by maestro Gier.  She will be making her Mobile Opera debut as Musetta in La Boheme in 2018.

Darla has served on the voice faculties of the Hochschule fur Musik und Theater/Bayerische Theaterakademie August Everding (Conservatory for Music and Theater/Bavarian Theater Academy) and in the Prinzregententheater both in Munich, Germany. She is currently adjunct Professor at the University of Mobile teaching Musical Theatre and Classical Vocal Technique. Darla holds a Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology from Bethel University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Central Florida where she studied under lyric soprano Elizabeth Wrancher. 

International Mezzo Soprano - Director of Voice and Opera, Master Clinician

Mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez is considered one of the most riveting and significant young artists performing today. She is praised for her luscious and velvety tone that transcends classification, with its rich evenness in her lower register and the easy ripeness of the top. The combination of the dramatic intensity of her acting, along with her natural physical beauty, make her an arresting and unique presence on the operatic stage. During the 2010 - 11 season Ms. Chavez was heard as Maddalena in Rigoletto with The Metropolitan Opera and with the Dallas Opera, and as Carmen at the Arena di Verona in Italy and at Central City Opera. The 2011 – 2012 season includes leading the production of Dead Man Walking with Tulsa Opera, Baba the Turk in the Rake's Progress with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and Carmen with the Graz Opera, among others.

Ms. Chávez has captured attention and acclaim in her signature roles and is now known as one of the definitive Carmens of the day, a role that she has performed with great success throughout the United States, and elsewhere in the world, including in Japan, China, Taiwan, Europe, and Australia. Opera News reported that her Carmen in Graz, Austria was “the Carmen of a lifetime. With her dark, generous mezzo, earthy eroticism, volcanic spontaneity and smoldering charisma, Chavez has it all, including a superb command of French and a sense of humor.” She has also been praised for her renditions of Rosina in il Barbiere di Siviglia (San Diego Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Orlando Opera), Dorabella in Cosi fan Tutte (Orlando Opera, Connecticut Opera), Cenerentola in Cenerentola (Kentucky Opera, Fresno Opera), Desideria in The Saint of Bleecker Street (Central City Opera) and Maddalena in Rigoletto (San Diego Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia).


The mezzo-soprano sang the title role of Carmen with the China National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, at The New National Theatre in Tokyo, Japan, Manitoba Opera, Opera Carolina, and Opera New Jersey all during the 2009-2010 season. During the 2008-2009 season she was Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice (Metropolitan Opera), Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Opéra de Nice, France) the title role of Carmen (Staatsoper Hannover, Germany, and with the Opera Australia on tour in Taipei), Dorabella in Cosi fan Tutte (Oper Graz in Austria), Maddalena in Rigoletto (San Diego Opera), and Preziosilla in La Forza del Destino (Caramoor Festival, NY). In addition, she joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for concert performances at the Meadow Brook Music Festival and she appeared with the Wintergreen Performing Arts Festival in performances of Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo. Ms. Chávez has also performed regularly on the concert stage with works such as: Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Bach’s Magnificat, and Rossini’s Stabat Mater, and will add the Bach B Minor mass to her repertoire with performances in New Mexico in the spring of 2012.

Kirstin Chávez was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but spent most of her formative years in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where her parents worked as English and Music teachers. She received a Bachelor of Music degree, with Honors, from New Mexico State University, and a Master of Music degree, in Performance, and the Performer’s Certificate, from the Eastman School of Music. After beginning an Artistic Residency with the Orlando Opera, Ms. Chávez won several major international competitions, including The Sullivan Foundation, The George London Foundation, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, the Opera Index Foundation, The Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Jensen Foundation, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (National Finalist).



Pianist - Director of Collaborative Piano, Coach, German Lied

Pianist Michael Bunchman maintains a fulfilling schedule as a collaborative pianist and chamber musician with both singers and instrumentalists throughout the United States.  He is currently on faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi as the director of the Collaborative Piano Program, where he is honored to coach, teach and guide the next generation of collaborative pianists in both vocal and instrumental repertoire.  He has given masterclasses at Texas Christian University, University of Texas at El Paso, Illinois State University and the University of Albany.  Prior to working at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Bunchman served as coordinator of Collaborative Piano at Truman State University from 2015 to 2017.


Dr. Bunchman maintains an active performance schedule outside of his work in academia.  He has spent five seasons as a principal coach and pianist at the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater, as well as appointments with the Natchez Festival of Music and Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra. His many collaborations with opera companies include Santa Barbara Opera, Opera Saratoga, the Princeton Festival and El Paso Opera.  Also active as a concerto soloist, Dr. Bunchman has performed with the Ridgefield Symphony, the Breckenridge Music Festival, the Antara Ensemble in New York City, the Utah Festival Opera Orchestra and the National Repertory Orchestra. He and wife, singer Jessica Medoff, have been invited to opera houses and theaters nationwide to perform their highly acclaimed cabaret show ‘The Truth About Love…and the Usual Lies”.  Dr. Bunchman had the honor to be counted among the amazingly diverse and talented group of artists of A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Garrison Keillor, on their multi-city European cruise. 


Dr. Bunchman holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a Master of Music in Piano Performance from the Peabody Conservatory, and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Collaborative Piano from the University of Texas at Austin.  He spent three summers at the prestigious Aspen Music Festival.  His teachers have included Anne Epperson, Rick Rowley, Marian Hahn, Joseph Kalichstein, Antoinette Perry, Adrienne Sielaff and Doris Pridonoff-Lehnert.

International Stage Director - Stage Directing, Acting, Opera Scenes

Eric Gibson is a stage director residing in Flagstaff, Arizona who feels equal comfort with opera and musical theatre, with a particular passion for educating young singers.

Gibson is the Director of Lyric Theatre at Northern Arizona University where he has staged productions of Signor Deluso, Il Campanello, Dido & Aeneas, Kiss me, Kate, Trouble in Tahiti, The Pirates of Penzance, The Magic Flute and the world premiere of Judith Cloud’s Beethoven’s Slippers.

Gibson served as the director of education for Tulsa Opera for three seasons and as artistic director of LOOK Musical Theatre in Tulsa where he directed original productions of Guys and Dolls, Die Fledermaus, The Pirates of Penzanze, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Ernest in Love, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado, Naughty Marietta, Iolanthe, The Merry Widow, I Do! I Do!, South Pacific, The Sorcerer, Sweeney Todd, The Music Man, Trial by Jury, Candide, Into the Woods, My Fair Lady, The Gondoliers, Patience, Kiss me, Kate, The Boy Friend, The Light in the Piazza, Trouble in Tahiti, Evita, Gypsy, Avenue Q, Hello, Dolly!, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Side by Side by Sondheim. Two of these operettas, The Mikado and The Sorcerer, were co-productions with the OK Mozart International Festival in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. 

Guest appearances to universities, directing original productions, include Die Fledermaus and Albert Herring for Bowling Green State University, The Toy Shop and Little Red Riding Hood for The University of Central Oklahoma, Dido and Aeneas, Gallantry and Signor Deluso for Baylor University, where he served as director of the opera program, and The Old Main and the Thief and Trial by Jury for The University of Kansas.

Professional engagements include staging productions of Die Fledermaus, Madame Butterfly and The Pirates of Penzance for Fargo-Moorhead Opera, The Barber of Seville for Opera Tampa and Mobile Opera, The Mikado and HMS Pinafore for Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis, and L'Italiana in Algeri for Winter Opera.

Gibson received a bachelor of music education degree at the University of Michigan and his masters in the stage direction of opera from Indiana University.  An avid pianist since his very early years, Gibson feels equal comfort both in the classical and Broadway styles and accompanies many of his artists at special events and cabarets.

Gibson has taught acting at the AIMS program in Graz, Austria for several seasons and is director of scenes for the Kashu-do Opera Studios in Harnosand, Sweden. Upcoming engagements include The Light in the Piazza at Northern Arizona University and Cosi fan tutte for Varna International in Bulgaria. His production of Die Zauberflöte recently won first prize in the National Opera Association production competition.

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Sidonie Smith is in demand internationally both as a musical theatre artist as well as a violinist and speaker.

A bilingual artist, she has graced stages the world over for the past 10 years performing in both English and German in starring roles from classic soprano to rock/ pop musicals. 

Sidonie has appeared in such well known large scale musicals as The Bodyguard (Rachel Marron), Jekyll & Hyde (Lucy), Legally Blonde (Pilar), Sister Act (Deloris van Cartier, appearing in the iconic lead role in three countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland),  AIDA (Aida), Cabaret (Sally Bowles), Sweeney Todd (Johanna, as the first woman of color to play the role in Europe), Jesus Christ Superstar (Mary Magdalene), RENT (Maureen)  and West Side Story (Anita), Chicago (Velma Kelly); most recently starring in the European premier of Memphis the Musical in the role of Felicia Farrell.


Ryan Graytok is a theatrical director and choreographer who believes that the art of live storytelling can truly change the world. He received a BA in Theatre and BA in Sociology from Florida State University In Tallahassee, Florida before moving to New York City, where he is currently based, and traveling the world. 


Ryan is passionate about teaching and working with artists at every level through equal parts of hard work, dedication, and fun. While he has a true soft spot for old MGM-style “song and dance” production numbers, he also equally enjoys working with artists who don’t consider themselves dancers. He believes that movement used in many ways, not just traditional dancing, to tell a story. Movement should not be scary, and every artist can develop those skills to enhance any character, scene, or song onstage. 


Most recently, Ryan created original choreography for a regional production of A Chorus Line in central Florida. Other favorite credits include Jekyll & Hyde (Co-Director, Choreographer) Off Broadway at The Players Theatre, Ragtime (Choreographer) and Chess (Choreographer, Asst. Director) Off-Off Broadway at The Gallery Players, and Titanic (Director and Choreographer) with Village Light Opera Group in NYC.


Ryan was accepted into the 2018-2019 Observership class with the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. From within that class, Ryan was chosen as the SDCF Observer to work under and assist Karen Azenburg, Artistic Director of Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, on her production of Sweeney Todd at PTC. Upon completion of this prestigious opportunity and yearlong development  program, Ryan became an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the theatrical union for professional directors and choreographers in the United States. 

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Graham Anduri
American Baritone - Voice, Master Clinician

Husband, father, and baritone Graham Anduri is an ambitious performer, director, and teacher serving as the Director of Voice Studies at Colorado Mesa University.  Dr. Anduri is passionate about utilizing music as a vehicle for improving the world, and looks forward to directing the upcoming season of CMU Opera productions.  As a performer, Anduri has been fortunate to sing throughout Europe, America and South Korea in works ranging from opera, musical theatre, chorus and art song, to rock, bluegrass, and barbershop. Dr. Anduri holds a DMA in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from The University of Southern Mississippi, an MM in Vocal Performance from University of Florida, and a BM in Music Education from Colorado State University. 

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StefAnie Anduri
American Soprano - Voice, Master Clinician

Soprano Stefanie Anduri is currently on the voice faculty at Colorado Mesa University. She earned her D.M.A. degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy at The University of Southern Mississippi, her M.M. in vocal performance from The University of Florida in 2011, and her B.M. in vocal performance from Colorado State University in 2007.  Dr. Anduri has performed internationally in Italy, Germany, and South Korea.  As an operatic performer, she has been seen as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, the Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro, both First and Second Ladies in different productions of Die Zauberflöte, Frasquita in Carmen, the title roles in Suor Angelica and Susannah, Lia in Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue, and Elle in Poulenc’s La voix humaine.  Dr. Anduri is also an avid concert performer and recitalist, especially enjoying contemporary and lesser-known art song composers.  She will be performing the Alto solo in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Grand Junction Symphony in May.

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Daniel Ley
Pianist - Music Director for Musical Theater

Daniel Ley is a music director, pianist, and conductor based in Shreveport, Louisiana. He has worked as conductor and music director for over 100 professional, academic, and amateur theatre productions. Daniel is the Director of Music Theatre at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He has a B.M. from Centenary College of Louisiana and a M.M from Northwestern State University


Matthew Oglesby

American Tenor - Voice 

Mr. Oglesby was praised by Charles Ward from the Houston Chronicle as “a fearless tenor with great voice” for his portrayal of Lindoro in L’Italiana in Algeri. His extensive list of operatic roles include Camp Williams in Cold Sassy Tree, Uncle Vezzinet in the Italian Straw Hat, Governor in Candide,  Basilio in La Nozze di Figaro, Borsa in Rigoletto and Gherrado in Gianni Schicchi. As a concert soloist Mr. Oglesby has performed the tenor solos in Carmina Burana and Mozart’s Requiem under the direction of internationally acclaimed conductor and composer Z. Randall Stroope.  For these performances Dr. Stroope praised Mr. Oglesby saying “His lyric tenor voice carries quite easily above an orchestra and he brings a unique artistry to his performances.  His musicianship and work with conductors is second to none” Mr. Oglesby also enjoys performing with the West Texas A&M University Orchestra where he has performed the role of Obadiah in Mendelssohn’s Elijah, as well as the tenor solos in Carmina Burana and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  In 2017 Mr. Oglesby performed with the Texas All-State Mixed Choir as the invited Tenor Soloist in the Lord Nelson Mass. In recital, Mr. Oglesby recently performed Schumann’s Dichterliebe at Lycoming College in 2018 an in 2017 presented for the Song Collaborators Consortia, along with composer Dr. BJ Brooks, on Dr. Brooks composition on the Goethe texts of the Harper Songs.  In 2008 Mr. Oglesby was selected as one of twelve to participate in the prestigious National Association of Teachers of Singing intern program.  During his time as an intern Mr. Oglesby participated in a documentary highlighting the Future Artist/Teachers of the next generation.   Mr. Oglesby can be heard on the Premier Recording of Dominic Argento’s Casanova’s Homecoming on the Newport Classics Label.


As a teacher of singing, Mr. Oglesby’s current and former students have performed on Broadway, and regional opera companies as well as National and International Tours. In competition, Mr. Oglesby’s students have won on regional and national levels.

 Mr. Oglesby currently is the Coordinator of Vocal Studies at West Texas A&M University School of Music.  Along with teaching at WTAMU he is also a sought after Master Class instructor, most recently, being invited to Houston Baptist University and Oklahoma State University as a Master Class Instructor as well as an Artist in Residence with Lycoming College in April 2018. As an adjudicator, Mr. Oglesby has adjudicated the National Prelims for National Association of Teachers of Singing in 2017 and 2018 as well as many semi-final and finals for regional NATS conferences.  Mr. Oglesby has previously served as one of six Teaching Fellows with the International Performing Arts Institute in Kiefersfelden, Germany.  

Mr. Oglesby earned his B Mus. from the University of Houston and an MA in vocal performance from West Texas A&M University.  Mr. Oglesby has studied voice with Mr. Joseph Evans, Dr. Robert Hansen and Mila Gibson.



Theatre Performer - Dance & Movement, Musical Theatre Scenes

Christopher Niess is pleased to return to IPAI this summer. His creative work spans over 200 productions in musical theatre, dance and devised work; as director, choreographer, actor, dancer, performance artist or movement coach throughout the U.S., and in Canada, Germany and Scotland. He has received meritorious citations from the Kennedy Center-American College Theatre Festival for directing and choreography for his work on The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein, Reeling, Trevor, Scapin, Lend Me A Tenor, and Marisol. He co-directed, with Artistic Director Jim Helsinger, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby as well as served as an associate director for West Side Story and The Hound of the Baskervilles for the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

Mr. Niess has served as Chair/Artistic Director for the University of Central Florida Department of Theatre, Artistic Director for the Great Lakes Festival Ballet and Ballet Theatre Ohio. Directing and choreographic credits cover a diverse roster including Godspell (Balhaus, Rosenheim – featuring a cast from the U.S., Netherlands and Slovenia), Grease, Urinetown, West Side Story, Camelot, Working, Babes in Arms, Bye Bye Birdie, Waiting for Godot, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Equus, and As It Is In Heaven. Dance choreography has included productions of Giselle, The Firebird, Aurora’s Wedding, a full-length Alice in Wonderland with commissioned score, and many contemporary works as well.

Niess has performed for companies including the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Cleveland Play House, Nebraska Repertory Theatre, Porthouse Theatre, the Berkshire Ballet, the Tennessee Festival Ballet, and the Lexington Ballet; danced a good share of the classical repertoire and noted as a "memorably fine-scaled" performer by critic Jennifer Dunning (NYTimes); acted in productions of Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, King Lear, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Country Wife, Proof, To Kill A Mockingbird, as Richard in a Suzuki-style Richard III, and Off-Off Broadway in Tap Shoes.

His current research interest includes creating movement for Street of Crocodiles, a devised imagining of the work of Polish artistic icon Bruno Schultz during World War II. His work with movement for actors and dancers has been presented at national and international conferences, and led to publishing Essence to Action: An Actor’s Developmental Journey into Process, and a contribution to Playing with Theory in Theatre Practice (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2012).

He also has been working in the area of health & wellness for the performing artist, presenting or collaborating with Nemours Childrens Hospital, UCF Medical Center, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Niess also manages a Health & Wellness class for Music and Theatre students at the UCF School of Performing Arts, where he teaches acting and stage movement – having designed the movement sequence for the MFA Acting program and the BFA Acting track. Niess has been fortunate to have taught students who have gone on to perform on Broadway, regional theatre and internationally.

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