Lorna Castaneda Brain
A native of Calgary, Lorna received her A.R.C.T. from the Toronto Conservatory of Music, and attended Opera Departments at the University of Toronto, U.C.L.A. and Stanford University. After performing with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto and on tour in Canada and the United States, she performed in Opera Houses in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand. Recently, Lorna was Chair of the University of Toronto Opera Department Alumni Committee, and since 1996 has been teaching singing in her home in Courtice. Lorna has also enjoyed the opportunity to produce Opera and Broadway concerts in the McLaughlin Park Bandshell in Oshawa. These concerts have given many of her music students the opportunity to perform in front of enthusiastic audiences each summer.
Currently director of Opera by Request, William Shookoff initially appeared in the music scene in 1971 as part of the University of Toronto's opera division. After working briefly with the Portland (Oregon) Opera as well as a longer period with the Netherlands Opera, he returned to Canada in the 80s, where he appeared with Edmonton Opera, Workshop West, and Citadel Theatre. In 1989, he returned to Toronto as Associate Music Director for the Canadian premiere of Les Misérables, a position he also held with the touring production of Phantom of the Opera. He currently resides in Toronto and has an active private coaching studio, in addition to Opera by Request (operabyrequest.ca)
Heather Williams completed her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Canada and the USA before moving to London, England. During her 23 years in the UK, Heather worked as a collaborative pianist, choir accompanist, church organist, and Music Director for various theatre and opera companies. For nearly twenty years Heather also taught classroom music in London and the south east, including six years as Director of Music at the renowned Harrodian School. Her school choirs have performed at the International Eisteddfod in Wales, the Czech Republic, and France. Heather has had the privilege of performing and conducting at venues including Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Royal Albert Hall. Since returning to Canada, Heather has worked in Toronto as a collaborative pianist and vocal coach at the University of Toronto and as accompanist for the Toronto Children’s Chorus. She and her family are now settled in Port Perry.
Yma Frison graduated with honors from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio (B. Mus. Vocal Performance) and has resided in Durham Region for over twenty years. She has been a frequent soloist guest of the Durham Philharmonic Choir and has participated in the Opera Pops concerts held here in Oshawa. Yma has also appeared with the Toronto Opera Repertoire (Tosca), the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Oshawa-Durham Symphony Orchestra, the Université de Québec à Montréal (Suor Angelica), as well as appearing in concert performances, both in Canada and in the States. Yma coaches with Lorna Brain. In addition to singing, she teaches French Immersion at the elementary level and is a proud mom of two wonderful daughters. She is delighted to share her love of singing with others!
Brie is an accomplished soloist and music teacher from Oshawa, Ontario. As a young girl, Brie was always drawn to music, and began studying voice at age 7. Over the years, she has trained with a variety of vocal coaches and has expanded her repertoire to include everything from Opera and Oratorio to Broadway and Jazz. As a music teacher, Brie has trained through the Royal Conservatory, Music for Young Children, Music Pups, and Music Together. She is currently the music teacher at Blaisdale Montessori School, where she is able to combine her love of music and her love of children through instrumental and vocal music. She is also the founder of MusicTime Studios, a private studio in the area, which offers lessons in piano, voice, guitar and music theory. As a soloist, Brie continues to perform throughout Ontario.
Kevin Dashney is a trained singer, pianist and conductor who performs a wide variety of styles. He plays and sings Classical, Broadway, Jazz standards, Pop and Sacred Music. He has performed leading roles in Musicals in Whitby and Oshawa and has sung with Lorna Brain’s Ensemble for five years.
Kevin is a retired high school music teacher and is presently the choir director at St. John the Evangelist RC parish in Whitby. He regularly sings at weddings, special events and senior’s residences. Kevin is very proud of his three children who continue to pursue their musical dreams.
Marisa Dashney is a triple threat performer with an Honours Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance degree from Sheridan College 2017. She recently finished her Grade 9 Vocal for the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music. Past Credits include: Sheila Franklin/HAIR (Hart House Theatre), Mercy Coles/Confederation Players (Charlottetown Festival), Background Vocalist/ Josh Groban (Niagara Falls), Background Vocalist/ Sarah Brightman (Sony Centre). She was also cast as Josie Pye in Anne and Gilbert, at The Guild Theatre in Prince Edward Island.
Laura grew up in Courtice, Ontario and began officially taking dance lessons at the age of 4, though her mom says she was singing and dancing before she was talking and walking, which she has no reason to doubt; she loves performing. Laura has received her ARCT in Voice Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Grade 8 piano, also with the RCM, Royal Academy of Dance Advanced Two Ballet and is trained in Tap and Jazz, as well as Classical, Pop and Musical Theatre vocal styles. Laura graduated from Randolph Academy with the Triple Threat Award, and has been fortunate enough to perform at some of the most prestigious theatres in Canada, including the Ed Mirvish Theatre and the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. Most recently, Laura was a part of the Virtual Community in Mirvish’s Dear Evan Hansen at The Royal Alexandra Theatre. At the Regent Theatre she has played Sophie Sheridan in Mamma Mia!, Scaramouche in We Will Rock You, and just finished playing Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
Emily Rocha is a vibrant, captivating young soprano of Portuguese and New Zealand descent from Courtice, Ontario. A third year at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music under the tutelage of Lorna MacDonald, she has been a grateful recipient of the Mary Morrison Award in Voice Performance, the Arthur Plettner Scholarship, and the Andrew Alexander Kinghorn Scholarship. Recently, she was awarded the opportunity to sing in U of T’s John R. Stratton Visitor in Music Public Master Class, where she worked with renowned bass-baritone Eric Owens. She has performed the roles of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro (Long Reach Opera Workshop, 2019) and Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Halifax Summer Opera Festival, 2018). Some musical theatre role experience includes Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (O’Neill CVI), Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls (Simply Theatre Switzerland), and Widow Corney in Oliver! (Oshawa Little Theatre Youth Group). She has performed as a featured soloist in the Durham Chamber Orchestra’s Concert Ciao! Italian Favourites (2019), as the soprano soloist in the Beethoven Mass in C Minor (Resound Choir, 2019), as a featured soloist with the Durham Philharmonic Choir (2018), as a special guest in the Professors of Funk Friends and Family Christmas Special (2018), and as a soloist singing Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum” with the Durham Youth Orchestra (2017). She looks forward to performing as the soprano soloist in Resound Choir’s Mozart Requiem Mass, and singing with the Ontario Pops Orchestra in their spring concert.
Originally from Bowmanville, Ontario, Emma began her formal education in theatre at Randolph College for the Performing Arts, where she attended for two years. She has since had the opportunity to work with Disney Cruise Line, where she played roles such as Rapunzel, Cinderella, Mary Poppins, and many more. Emma has also performed with Royal Caribbean Cruises as a Lead Vocalist for their production shows. Now back at home, she is ready to hit the performing scene on land and is looking forward to upcoming performances in her hometown.
Recently, James has performed with a community theatre group in Bienfait, Saskatchewan. The two-act comedies have included The New Kid on the Block (Parker Klawson), KOLD Radio (Walter Gissleson), and Drinking Habits (George). James also took part in local productions and has participated in Lorna's summer concerts since 2012.