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Yulene Velásquez, Conductor

Alto

Yulene Velásquez is a Venezuelan singer, music educator and conductor. She has performed internationally as a member of the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela and has worked with world renowned composers such as John Adams and Osvaldo Golijov. In 2010 she moved to the United States to earn her Masters degree in Music at the University of Florida.  Yulene moved to New Orleans in 2013 and since then she has worked with Make Music NOLA, the Louisiana Academy of Performing Arts and Anna's Place NOLA. Yulene founded the Schola Cantorum of New Orleans in 2015.

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Coyah Gamble

Bass

Coyah is a multi-genre vocalist, songwriter, and bandleader. He has been in New Orleans since 2015. He is currently managing several collaborative projects, as well as composing solo works. Coya's mission is to curate safe and supportive spaces for people to co-create and express themselves musically.

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 Russel Ramirez

Baritone

Russell Ramirez has been playing the trombone since the age of thirteen, but only began singing during his time at the University of South Carolina as a member of the jazz vocal ensemble. Upon earning his bachelor’s degree he moved to New Orleans in early 2012 to pursue a career in music. Since then the city has offered Russell countless opportunities to hone his craft as both a trombonist and vocalist. He is very thankful to be a part of the Schola Cantorum and looks forward to performing with this beautiful group of people.

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Jonathan Wigand

Tenor

Originally from Dallas, Jonathan has been singing in church and school choirs since he was six years old. He developed a love for a capella singing during his high school years in Mesquite, TX. He got a degree in acting and directing from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN and spent a couple years in New York before deciding to return to his home town in 2010.

When Jonathan moved to New Orleans in 2015, he had no idea he would be joining a group of musical geniuses led by a crazy woman from Venezuela, but that's exactly what Schola NOLA has given him the opportunity to do. In his spare time, Jonathan likes to apply for jobs and teach himself to code. He practices yoga and writes fiction once a week. He currently resides in the Bywater with his beautiful chihuahua/min-pin mutt named Gary.

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Donnie Lawson

Tenor

Donnie is a long-time singer and trombonist. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri singing in church choirs, select choirs, all the way up through university ensembles. At age 8 he learned piano, then became interested in the slide trombone at age 12. All through secondary school he played in concert, jazz, and marching bands. His passion led him to pursue the Bachelor of Trombone Performance degree at Missouri State University. He continued to thrive in the world of bands and ensembles, and honed his skill as a solo player.

After graduation, Donnie moved to New Orleans to dive in to the music and culture. Becoming involved in the Schola Cantorum has furthered his love of making music with others. The choir’s emphasis on performing new music has expanded Donnie’s horizons. He sees this as one step of many to making his way in New Orleans’ musical hustle.

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Susan Neahring

Tenor

Susan is a teacher and historian who specializes in the history of New Orleans and French colonialism. She earned a degree and became a school teacher after raising her family. Today she works as a French Quarter tour guide and Lyft driver and volunteers as a docent at the Chalmette Battlefield.

Susan started singing along with her parents' records as a child in Kansas. Early on she developed an affinity for singers such as Mahalia Jackson, Della Reese,  and also classical music such as Wagner, Beethoven, Bach, Listz, Offenbach, Mozart, and Chopin. When a neighbor gave her her first guitar in high school, she found she had a natural aptitude for it and quickly became a folk and blues singer. Now that she lives in NOLA, she is trying to learn some traditional jazz chords.  She has also spent many years singing and playing in church choirs.

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Shannon Moses Smith

Mezzo Soprano

Shannon began singing at the age of 13 in her high school choir. She moved to New Orleans in 2006 to attend the University of New Orleans, where she sang in the University Choir. After college, she took a break from singing until 2016, when she joined the Bay Area Chorale in Tampa, Florida. She performed with them in the 2016 Disney World Candlelight Processional before returning to New Orleans in 2017.

After a two-year singing hiatus, during which she discovered that she has what can only be described as an all-consuming passion for drumming, she began singing with Schola Cantorum in 2019 and is happy to be continuing her journey as a musician.

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Jennifer Balazadeh

Soprano

Jennifer participated in church choir throughout her youth. In college she sang with the University Singers while she attended the University of Memphis. Upon graduation in 2001, she became a High School English teacher in Florida and left music behind for a while.

After starting her family in 2006 and relocating several times (Seattle, Chicago, Buffalo), she found she was drawn back into music. She started taking lessons privately at the Buffalo Community Music School with teacher, Maria Goodrich, in 2014. She earned top honors by being the adult Marcy Scholarship Winner two years in a row (2015,2016), earning her place at the CMS Honors Recital.

In 2016, she relocated to New Orleans where she continues to explore her love of music with Schola NOLA.

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