Staff Directory

Meet our staff!

Staff: Artistic

Paul Caldwell
Paul Caldwell
Artistic
Director
Tenure began 2016
he/him
About Paul

Now in his sixth season as Artistic Director of Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus, Paul Caldwell defines the creative trajectory for one of the nation’s largest community choral organizations. He conducts both choruses for performances in Seattle’s most prestigious venues. He has redesigned the chorus’s small ensemble structure, creating the first permanent group to include members of both the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses. His focus on community engagement has enabled the organization to establish sustained, meaningful relationships with new civic partners.

Before coming to Seattle in 2016, Paul was in Chicago, serving as Artistic Director of the Windy City Gay Chorus and Windy City Treble Quire. He was also Artistic Director for the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago, a community- based after-school program enrolling 200 young people in Chicago’s northern suburbs. Paul’s work with youth garnered national recognition when his chorus received the Chorus America/ ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. Paul composes and arranges music collaboratively with Sean Ivory. Their choral works have been telecast on PBS and A&E and performed at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Legendary guitarist Steve Vai collaborated with Caldwell and Ivory to create a choral-rock fusion song, “Book of the Seven Seals.” Paul made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut in 2014, leading concerts comprised entirely of music he composed. He has also been artistic director for the ¡Canta! Costa Rica festival in San Jose. He returns to the Sing A Mile High choral festival in Denver biennially. Paul served three terms on the Board of Directors of Chorus America. His efforts on behalf of the choral field nationwide were recognized when he received the Michael J. Korn Founders Award for Philanthropic Contribution to the Arts. 

Nikki Blackmer
Nikki Blackmer
Director of The Pitch Crew,
Assistant Conductor, SWC
Tenure began 2018
she/her
About Nikki

A classically trained soprano, Nikki Blackmer holds a master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Washington. Nikki sings the lead vocal part with Frenzy, an a cappella women’s quartet that won the 2017 Sweet Adelines International Quartet Championship, earning the title of Queens of Harmony. The quartet performs and teaches all over the world and has recorded a CD, Diva Las Vegas. She has directed Region 13’s 2018 Championship Chorus, A Cappella Joy, since 2003. Under her direction, the chorus has grown from seven members to over 60+ and has climbed from a C- score to A-.

Nikki is a full- time private voice and piano teacher based in Kirkland, Washington. She is also a world-renowned a cappella ensemble coach, traveling all over the United States, Canada, England, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia. She is frequently asked to lead youth a cappella events as well, as her energy is tireless!

Nikki is the director of The Supertonics, a mixed a cappella ensemble representing Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, the largest volunteer LGBT+ choral organization in the world.  She was also recently named the new Assistant Conductor of the Seattle Women’s Chorus. She is excited to be working with these nationally recognized choruses in their new musical venture.

Nikki lives in Kirkland, Washington, with her partner, parents, and their two dogs Lily and Snoopy.

Benjamin Killey
Benjamin Killey
Principal Accompanist,
SMC
Tenure began 2011
he/him
About Benjamin

Benjamin Killey is thrilled to transition from singing with the Seattle Men’s Chorus for 10 years to playing the piano for them.  Ben attended Illinois Wesleyan University for college, earning a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a BA in Biology.  While at IWU, he won the 1997-98 MTNA collegiate state piano competition for Illinois as well as Illinois Wesleyan’s concerto-aria competition.  After college, he went to Southern Illinois University for medical school and specialized in emergency medicine.  After a 17-year career in emergency medicine, he switched to aesthetic medicine and founded Blue Haven Medical Spa in Seattle in 2011. 

Ingrid Verhulsdonk
Ingrid Verhulsdonk
Principal Accompanist,
SWC
Tenure began 2022
she/her
About Ingrid

Ingrid Verhulsdonk has been an active performer, collaborator and teacher in the Seattle area for the past 20 years. She has worked with the Emerald Ensemble, Northwest Opera in Schools Etcetera, Cornish College of the Arts and Northwest Sinfonietta’s chamber music series. Currently, she is adjunct music faculty at Holy Names Academy, Principal Organist at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Everett and staff accompanist for the Cascadian Chorale and the University of Washington. Ingrid holds degrees in piano performance from the University of Washington and the University of Hawaii. Aside from having an active performance schedule, she also thoroughly enjoys teaching and operates a small piano studio in the Shoreline area.

Dennis Coleman
Dennis Coleman
Conductor
Emeritus
1981-2016
he/him
About Dennis

Dennis Coleman was the conductor and Artistic Director of Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus from 1981 until his retirement in 2016.

Dennis led the Choruses to a position of artistic and administrative excellence with a combined singing membership larger than any community chorus in North America. He served for six years on the national Board of Directors for Chorus America and was on the founding Board of Directors of GALA Choruses. As a UCC church musician, Dennis has conducted the choir of First Congregational Church of Bellevue since 1981.

Dennis Coleman commissioned and premiered choral works from many leading composers including Gian Carlo Menotti, Ned Rorem, Robert Moran, Conrad Susa, David Diamond, Robert Seeley, British composer Paul Patterson and Canadian Stephen Hatfield. Of Rage and Remembrance, a 15-minute work for male chorus, mezzo soprano, speakers and orchestra by composer John Corigliano, was premiered by Seattle Men’s Chorus in Seattle in 1991. A recording of this work and the companion Symphony 1, also called Of Rage and Remembrance, by the National Symphony under Leonard Slatkin was awarded the 1998 Grammy for Best Classical Album. Dennis has collaborated with acclaimed artists including Maya Angelou, Frederica von Stade, Judith Martin (Miss Manners), Bobby McFerrin, Tatiana Troyanos, the Mark Morris Dance Group, Harvey Fierstein, Michael Feinstein, Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Marni Nixon, Diane Schuur, Chely Wright, Armistead Maupin, Lucy Lawless, Faith Prince, and Lily Tomlin.

R. Elisabeth Burton
R. Elisabeth Burton
Rehearsal
Manager
Tenure began 2023
she/her
About Lizzy

R. Elisabeth “Lizzy” Burton joined Seattle Men’s Chorus / Seattle Women’s Chorus and Flying House Productions in 2022 as the Assistant Stage Manager. In 2023, she expanded her role to include Rehearsal Manager. Lizzy is a production freelancer, making the magic happen in theatrical stage management (Seattle Shakespeare, Book-It Theatre, ACT, and Village Theatre), television commercial production (Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, and others), and documentary production assistance (National Geographic, Animal Planet, Netflix, and Discovery Channel). Lizzy also works as a stagehand with IATSE Local 15. Lizzy is a founding member of the Board of Directors for HONK! Festival West, a non-profit organization that produces an annual brass band festival in Seattle.

Staff: Administration

Craig Coogan
Craig Coogan
Interim
Executive Director
Tenure began 2022
he/him
About Craig

Prior to joining the Seattle Choruses Craig Coogan served as Executive Director from 2012-2022 of Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. He is an expert in developing strategies and programs to help LGBTQA and other nonprofit organizations achieve their operational and artistic goals. A graduate of Syracuse University, he brings experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arenas. Mr. Coogan previously served as Executive Director for One Voice Mixed Chorus in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a founding board member and treasurer for ten years of the acclaimed women’s choral group Vox Femina Los Angeles. He has also produced independent films, award-winning documentaries, and acclaimed original plays that tell the LGBTQA experience. To learn more visit craigcoogan.com.

Rick Jung
Rick Jung
Director
of Development
Tenure began 2022
he/him
About Rick

Richard Jung comes to the Seattle Men’s Chorus & Seattle Women’s Chorus with more than 30 years of experience in the non-profit sector including over 6 years as the National Senior Program Officer at the Gill Foundation in Denver, CO where he worked on various LGBT initiatives targeting Community Centers, Communities of Color and Statewide Organizing. Rick has extensive background in HIV/AIDS, both at the community level, having served as the Director of Development for the Boulder County AIDS Project in Boulder, CO and nationally, as a member of the Ms. Foundation’s ‘Women and AIDS Advisory Committee’ and as the Vice-Chair of Funders Concerned About AIDS.  He has worked in higher education as a Director of Development for his alma mater, Boise State University, and at Rutgers University and Portland State University. He is also the Executive Director of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. Rick hales from Boise, Idaho and is a proud graduated of Boise State University where he earned a degree in Theatre Arts. He is a U. S. Navy veteran.  (Pronouns: He, Him, His)

Michael Willer
Michael Willer
Director
of Video
Tenure began 2022
he/him
About Michael

Michael Willer is an award-winning film producer, director, and editor with over a decade of experience working around the world. His films are watched internationally, from feature documentary Music Triumphs Homophobia to the award-winning sci fi short film The Volunteer.

Michael has dedicated his film expertise to social change through his seven years as Director of Video for the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, and now with the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus. It is Michael’s goal to create art and tell stories that will reach through walls and broaden understanding.

Samantha Berry
Samantha Berry
Marketing Director,
Sponsorship & Events Manager
Tenure began 2021
she/her
About Samantha

Samantha joined Flying House Productions in the spring of 2021 to lead the choruses marketing and corporate sponsorship initiatives.

After earning a Cultural Communications degree from The University of New Hampshire Keene State, Berry worked as a Global Communications Specialist for Markem-Imaje Corporation. There she collaborated with an international team and successfully drove revenue in the Vertical Markets through targeted campaigning.

Samantha spent her youth performing in theatre productions and was a member of her college’s acapella group, ‘Chock Full O’ Notes’. With a lifelong passion for music and singing, Samantha hopes to combine her love of the arts and experience in Marketing Communications to grow the organizations opportunities and expand upon the already robust audience that the Seattle Choruses captivate.

Have a sponsorship opportunity? Please reach out to connect: samb@seattlechoruses.org

Andrea Bowling
Senior Financial Analyst
& HR Manager
Tenure began 2023
she/her
About Andrea

Bio coming soon.

Mandie Frye
Mandie Frye
Senior Data Analyst &
Accounts Receivables Manager
Tenure began 2021
she/her
About Mandie

Mandie moved to Seattle in January of 2021 from Fairbanks, Alaska and originates from Chicago. She joins the Seattle Choruses family with a background in Customer Service and Administration, and as a performer herself, having been a member of the Sweet Adelines since 2017.

Mandie is a Music Business graduate from Full Sail University, and attended Gallaudet University for Theatre: Production/Performance. Additionally, she is an Improv graduate from Bovine Metropolis Theater in Denver, CO. Fun fact: she started a Disney Acapella group in Colorado, although short-lived. 

As a child of Deaf adults (Coda) and a member of CODA, International, Mandie brings a welcomed perspective to the choruses along with her first language, American Sign Language. Her personal hobbies include knitting, crocheting and playing the ukulele. Say hello at the next concert where Mandie is our Box Office extraordinaire! 

Justin Cobern
Justin Cobern
Constituent Services
Coordinator & Box Office Manager
Tenure began 2023
he/him
About Justin

Justin moved to Seattle in late 2014 and joined the Seattle Men’s Chorus as a Lower Baritone. After 8 years of singing, he decided to step down from the membership and join the ranks as a staff member. With a degree in Theatre, Arts Administration, from Slippery Rock University he looks forward to strengthening the mission of the choruses. When he is not working, he enjoys relaxing at home watching political dramas, fantasy, and science fictions shows. Oh, and he loves to talk about Star Trek! Qapla’

Benedict Hough
Administrative
Assistant
Tenure began 2022
he/him
About Benedict

Bio coming soon.


Nancy Hautala
Production Stage Manager

Johnny Baca
Sound Designer

Doris Black
Artist in Residence (Costumes)

Peter Bracilano
Lighting Designer

Kurt Walls
Set Designer

Kate Neville, PoleStar Communications
Grant Writer

WHY for Good
PR and Media Management, Graphic Design

AGVY Enterprises
Social Media Content Creator

John Pai
SMC Photographer

Conrado Tapado of eQuality Images
SWC Photographer

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