Bel Canto Ensemble


Ted von Pohle - Director

Ted von Pohle began his musical studies with piano and choir at age six.  In high school, he began private studies in voice and organ as well.  He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin with a Bachelors in Music (vocal performance emphasis) and received his Masters in Music (choral conducting emphasis) from San José State University where he studied under Dr. Charlene Archibeque, and was the Assistant Conductor of the international award-winning SJSU Choraliers.  Ted has taught all levels of music from early classroom music through collegiate ensembles and classes.  He has taught at Napa Valley College, Pacific Union College, Vintage High School, Santa Rosa Junior College, and Ursuline High School, where his choral ensembles regularly scored high marks in adjudications and contests.  Mr. von Pohle has been active as a concert and musical theater performer throughout the North Bay and Bay Area, having performed as a featured soloist with the Napa Valley and Santa Rosa Symphonies, Lamplighters Music Theater, Contra Costa Civic Theater, Cinnabar Theater, Napa Valley Conservatory Theater, and The White Barn. 


Lisa van Stuijvenberg - Soprano

Lisa made her operatic debut as Sieglinde in Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre and has performed in numerous operas and ensemble groups, some of which are the San Francisco Lyric Opera, Golden Gate Opera, North Bay Opera, Sonoma City Opera, Cinnabar Opera, Grainger Singers, Quire Quodlibet and Consort Music.  Local solo and ensemble performances have been with Vocali, four fabulous operatic sopranos from the Napa Valley; Napa Valley College Friends and Faculty Concert Series, Concert and Women's Chorale; Napa Valley Chorale; Jarvis Conservatory Opera Nights; St. Helena Chamber Singers; Napa Valley Music Associate’s Mostly Mozart Concerts; and The White Barn. For the past twelve years, Lisa has sung with Chanteuses, Sacramento's premiere women's vocal a cappella ensemble. When delivering singing telegrams didn’t quite pay the bills in college, Lisa switched her major from voice to accounting and has had a long-time career as an accountant for Saintsbury, a Carneros winery. More than any other kind of performing, her favorite is the collaborative effort among all the performers gathered for each and every rehearsal.


Suzanne Quinlan - Soprano

Suzanne studied music at the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music. She has enjoyed performing frequently as part of choral ensembles and as a soloist in the Bay Area.  Most recently, Suzanne has been a member of San Francisco Choral Artists, a chamber choir focusing on newly composed music.  She has also been a soloist for Sing Napa Valley! and was featured in Handel’s Messiah with the Solano Chamber Singers.  Local performances include Don Giovanni at Lincoln Theater with the San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellows and Napa Valley Symphony, and Jarvis Conservatory’s It’s a Grand Night for Singers, in Napa.  When not singing, Suzanne enjoys spending her time with her husband and new son and is a Social Studies teacher in Napa.


Chuck Dresel - Tenor

Chuck received his formal training at Humboldt State University where he studied voice with Dr. James Stanard.  This has led to numerous stage credits in a variety of East and North Bay Musical Theaters.  It is the music made in a choir, however, that has always drawn him.  From the stage of Davies Concert Hall in San Francisco to the many smaller venues of Napa Valley, singing in a choir has been his privilege these many years.  He is delighted to be a charter member of Bel Canto and to join this outstanding group of musicians.  Chuck lives in Napa with his wife and son and teaches at Redwood Middle School.


Eileen Hunt - Soprano

Eileen has enjoyed a career in opera, oratorio, early music and recital with companies and orchestras throughout the Bay Area.  She received a Bachelor of Music degree from San Jose State University and sang in Charlene Archibeque’s Choraliers and Irene Dalis’s opera workshop.  Ensemble work of note includes San Francisco Opera Chorus and Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices, with whom she recorded renaissance motets at Skywalker Ranch for Harmonia Mundi USA.  As a coloratura, she performed opera roles of Lucy, Miss Wordsworth, Mme. Silberklang and Blonde.  She performed as 1st Seal in a world premiere of The Sealwoman at Julia Morgan Theater, which entailed singing and “swimming” in a full body seal costume.  Oratorio solos include Orff Carmina Burana, Bach B minor Mass, Handel Messiah, Psalm 112 & Roman Vespers and Haydn Creation & Lord Nelson Mass, among others.  In Napa Valley, she has been a soloist with Napa Valley College Chorale, St. Helena Chamber Singers, Vocali (4 operatic sopranos) and at The White Barn.  A charter member of Bel Canto, she is thrilled to join this group of dedicated singers.


Suzi Gilbert - Alto

Suzi Gilbert sings the gamut from spiritual and semi-classical to popular styles of music.  She has performed with diverse ensembles internationally and locally, including the Bohemian Club, the former Concord Pavilion, Willows Theatre, Mondavi Concert Series, Napa Valley Opera House, Copia, Silo’s Jazz Room and The White Barn.  She has been a featured soloist with Napa Valley Symphony and has performed for corporate, private and fundraising events.  Her favorite roles have been Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Maria in West Side Story and Guinevere in Camelot. She recently performed in the Master Series concert presentations at NV College. She has released two CDs: A Christmas Collection and Spice of Life.  Suzi holds a Master of Arts Degree in gerontology from San Francisco State University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in music therapy with a minor in vocal performance from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.


Dan Bunnell - Tenor

Music has been a major character-building, formative and inspirational part of Dan’s entire life.  From singing with his family, in school and church, to operas and musicals in LA, to many years singing with Roger Wagner in his UCLA choir and occasionally with the LA Master Chorale, music has been a joy.  Dan lives in Napa with his wife, Cathy.  With his kids all grown up and after retirement from 30 years of medical practice - which limited his music making – now Dan is looking forward to a lot more joyful singing!


Karen May - Soprano

Karen May has enjoyed a musical career in opera, vocal coaching and music education. After receiving her degree in music from Occidental College, she appeared with several opera companies in the U.S. and abroad, and was lauded by the Bel Canto Foundation Opera Competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council and the National Association of the Teachers of Singing. Karen taught elementary choirs while raising her three children in Napa.  She has most recently directed the women of the Choral Department at Napa High School since 2011, and is currently serving there as visiting choral clinician for the women of the Chamber Choir. 


Ben Schmidt - Bass

Ben studied music at San Francisco State University. As his day job, he works as a flight paramedic on a regional search and rescue helicopter. He has been known to sing a tune while being lowered down to lost hikers.


Annie Budash - Soprano

Annie found her passion for choral music while studying under Travis Rogers at Napa High School. She advanced through the ranks to become a member of the Chamber Choir and 12-person a cappella group, Vocal Music Workshop. Attending the University of Redlands, she received a Music degree under the instruction of Dr. Joe Modica and Dr. Nicholle Andrews. In her free time, she instructed the women’s collegiate a cappella group and was an active participant on the Executive Board of Sigma Alpha Iota, a women’s music fraternity. Annie has travelled nationally and internationally performing in various choirs, building her repertoire and collecting some of her favorite memories. She is excited to be a new member of Bel Canto!


Thomas Hinesley - Baritone

Thom started singing in the children’s choir at church when he was four years old.  His first memorable choral song was: “It’s a Small World.” After serving in the Navy, Thom took music classes at El Camino Community College where he decided to continue studying music.  Eventually he obtained a Music Education degree at Northern Arizona University.  Since returning to Napa Valley, Thom has sung with Cantare Musica, Napa Valley College Chorale, Napa Valley Chorale, St. Helena Chamber Singers and has performed in many musicals.  Currently he is singing with the St. Helena First Presbyterian Church.  Thom is excited about being a part of Bel Canto, having missed this level of musicianship since leaving college.


Joanna Mittman - Alto

Joanna’s singing glory began (and ended) when in the second grade she received the Premier Prix de Chant from the École Communale des Filles in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France.  Since then, she has sung to wild imaginary cheers in many a shower. She also sang in high school musicals and in the college chorale at the University of Washington. A 27-year resident of Napa, she has sung with the St. Helena Chamber Singers and with Sing Napa Valley. Professionally, Joanna is retired General Counsel for the Napa Superior Court and is now an artist.


Frank Hernandez - Tenor

Frank Hernandez grew up in Salina, Kansas in a family of eight siblings, all of whom are singers.  Music has been a lifelong love.  The family has recorded four albums of a cappella songs. He is also a violist, playing in string quartets and a local trio called Full Chizel.  Besides Bel Canto, Frank also sings and plays the guitar, performing singer-songwriter tunes at local venues.  Classical guitar repertoire is also a pursuit.  Frank is a semi-retired chef and has been a resident of Napa since 1978.


Dana Zaccone - Tenor

Dana’s love of music spans his entire life.  He has performed in many musicals at Napa Valley College, with Cantare Musica, under the direction of the late Carolyn Bisel, and is lead in a barbershop quartet. Small ensembles are his favorite groups to sing with, and he is honored to be with the talented individuals of Bel Canto.  Music holds a special place in Dana’s heart, for it is music that brought him together with his wife, Holly.  “We are proud to share our love of music with our children.”  Dana is a vineyard consultant with grower and winery clients throughout Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties.


Wendy Valle - Alto

Wendy grew up in Napa and began singing at a young age and continued to sing in choral groups, as a worship leader, a soloist, and in musical theater productions ever since.  She graduated from Vintage High School where she was an active member of the choral music program. After 15 years of teaching middle school in Napa she is now in her second year as a middle school teacher in Santa Rosa. She loves to spend her free time with family and also enjoys almost any outdoor activity.  Wendy lives in Santa Rosa with her husband John, sons Garrett and Connor, and their cat Kallie.


Hunter Hollingsworth - Soprano

Hunter has been singing as long as she can remember. “Music was big growing up in our family, both singing and playing.”  Hunter has studied voice and choral singing under Dr. Eve-Anne Wilkes at Napa Valley College and with Vaida Falconbridge.  She has performed with Napa Valley College Chorale, Sing Napa Valley! and First Presbyterian Church Choir where she occasionally performs special music as soloist. Hunter is also a member of The Four Sopranos.  As owner of ArtWorks & Marketing, an advertising and design firm in Napa, Hunter also is a bona fide tennis nut.


John Kasten  -  Bass

John has sung in church choirs since childhood and continued choral activities in high school and college.  He was a member of Kingsmen Quartet while at California Lutheran University, performing in concert tours with the University Concert Choir where he met his wife Cynthia.  More recently, he has taken part in select local choral groups including Sing Napa Valley! and Cantare Musica.  He also enjoys singing in the church choir at St. Mary's Episcopal Church. Professionally, John has an architecture firm in Napa and has been involved in many historic restoration projects in Napa Valley as well as custom residential and commercial developments.  He also owns and manages Kasten Family Wines with his wife Cynthia.  In addition to the architecture and wine activities, John is an accomplished fine artist having won many awards over the years.


Cynthia (Cyndi) Kasten  -  Alto

Cynthia was born into a very musical family.  Her mother was a classical pianist and her father was a flutist.  Her whole family sang in choirs.  It was a given she would be involved with music and began learning piano and singing in choirs at an early age.  Cyndi has performed with many select choral groups including concert choir in high school and college where she met her future husband. More recent music opportunities have been singing with Cantare Musica with Carolyn Bisel and Sing Napa Valley! with Jan Lanterman, as well as the church choir at St. Mary's Episcopal under Travis Roger's leadership. Professionally, Cyndi has been a Human Resources Administrator, recently retiring from the City of Napa as their Personnel Director for 20 years.  Since then, she has been providing Human Resource consulting services for cities and counties throughout California.  She also manages Kasten Family Winery with her husband John.


Peter Mellencamp - Bass

With Napa Valley College, Peter recently sang Dr. Pangloss in Candide and played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls.  He translated fifteen songs by Jacques Brel and directed them in a cabaret evening, which won an Entertainment Today award for "Best Cabaret in Los Angeles."  His play, Struggling Truths, was nominated by the L.A. Drama Critics Circle for "Best New Play of the Year."  His translation of Brecht's Baal ran for five sold-out months in New York.  His translation of Brecht's Saint Joan of the Slaughterhouses ran for four months in Los Angeles.  Peter has written a musical, Panache!, loosely based on "Cyrano de Bergerac," and is working on getting it produced.  He was a Story Analyst for 25 years, analyzing over 5,000 screenplays for all the major studios.  He taught at the American Film Institute, and is a judge for the Humanitas Prize for film and television writing intended to promote human dignity and meaning.


Gina De Luca - Alto

After winning an enormous belt buckle at the Belmont, CA Bicentennial Talent Show (for her 1st place piano performance of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"), ten-year-old Gina De Luca was hooked on performing.  Switching to vocal performance in high school, Gina participated in every available choir, play and musical.  At Stanford, she joined the large University Choir but yearned for a smaller musical ensemble that combined voice and comedy.  The result?  She co-founded "Mixed Company," the university's first co-ed a cappella group (which still exists today).  Since that time, Gina continued to enjoy her passion for a cappella – performing, competing, arranging – eventually co-coaching Napa High's Vocal Music Workshop.  She's continued to enjoy traditional choral literature as well, with Sing Napa Valley! and at St. Mary's Episcopal Church.  Gina currently spends her days working in the Vintage High School Activities Office and is so happy to be part of Bel Canto.  She and her husband, John Raven, have resided in Napa since 1997 and are the proud parents of their two children, Jeremy and Julia.


Carissa Wendt - Soprano

Carissa grew up in Sacramento where she first began to perform at church and school. Under the direction of Dr. Beverly Wesner-Hoehn, she joined an ensemble of choirs to sing Faure’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall. She was also a member of the Sacramento Children’s Chorus. During high school summers, Carissa attended Indiana University’s Summer Music Clinics. While attending Pacific Union College, she sang under Dr. Genevieve Kibble in Pro Musica. Carissa lives in Napa with her husband, Jason, a few cats and a husky.


Cassi Tynan - Alto

A home-grown Napa girl, Cassi has been singing in school choirs since seventh grade at Silverado Jr. High!  Next came Musical Theater, Concert Choir, and Vocal Music Workshop at Napa High followed by several years with the San Francisco State University Concert Choir.  In THIS century, she sang many seasons in several choirs and theater productions at Napa Valley College directed by Dr. Eve-Anne Wilkes, including three years of Gospel Choir directed by Myiia "Sunny" Hawkins.  Along the way, Cassi gratefully had the opportunity to take voice lessons from Vaida Falconbridge and Vicky Van Derwark.  While keeping her day job as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, the challenge of ensemble singing with Bel Canto has her over-the-moon thrilled to be in the company of such dedicated vocalists.


Matthew Gracy - Bass

Growing up in Napa, Matthew began his love of the performing arts while singing in the choir at Redwood Middle School. At Vintage High, he enjoyed being a member of Concert Choir and Vocal Music Workshop along with his first taste of the stage as Mr. Snow in Carousel. From the play, he discovered dance and studied with the late Shirley Ray and her Silverado Ballet Troupe. Getting to tour with them in Japan was a wonderful experience. Since then, Matthew has had roles in several musicals in Napa, Solano and Contra Costa counties. He has also sung with numerous choirs and chamber groups. His biggest blessing is being a member of the Worship Ministry at his church.


Robert Mittman - Bass

Thirteen-year-old Robert’s singing career ended before it began when his children’s theater director told him to speak Prince Charming’s lines in time while Sleeping Beauty sang hers in their duet.  Since finding his voice ten years later, he has sung around.  Robert has been a member and soloist in Unitarian Church choirs across the Bay Area.  He sang in several chamber choirs, including the Berkeley Chamber Singers and the Sierra Master Chorale.  Many snowy Christmases were spent in Yosemite Valley as a member of the Bracebridge Singers.  He has sung with the choruses of the San Francisco Opera and the West Bay Opera.  Robert has presented solo recitals of arias, art songs, and sacred music.

© Bel Canto 2017