Kent Jue, Artistic and Executive Director
Kent Jue is an experienced choral conductor, music educator, and facilitator for lifelong learning in music. An energetic teacher, adjudicator, guest clinician, workshop presenter, and mentor, he is known for building high-level musicianship skills through his engaging style and rapport with students. He has a passion for uncovering the full artistic and expressive potential of individual choristers in an ensemble setting. Kent conducts Ragazzi’s most accomplished treble singers, Concert Group, and the select tenor and bass Choral Scholars. He has toured extensively with the Ragazzi program and has led Ragazzi choirs to numerous festivals. An avid collaborator, Kent has prepared ensembles for performances with organizations including San Francisco Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Opera San Jose, and West Bay Opera. Kent has also conducted youth choruses at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and performed and recorded with the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus and the Gay Men’s Choruses of San Francisco and Boston. He has a Masters of Music Education, with a Kodaly Emphasis from Holy Names University, a Bachelor of Music, Music Education from the University of the Pacific, a certificate in the Orff-Schulwerk method of music education, and holds a CA teaching credential. As Ragazzi’s second Artistic Director, Kent is honored to continue Ragazzi’s legacy of musical excellence, and its tradition of developing choral artists of character and distinction.
Travis Rogers, Young Men’s Ensemble Director
Travis Rogers has been a professional choral conductor for 45 years. He retired from Napa High School in Napa, California, in June of 2017 after thirty-seven years as the choral music director. Mr. Rogers directed the activities of over 300 students (at least half of them boys) each school year in seven different ensembles. Choirs at the school toured frequently nationally and internationally, performing in world famous venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City, St. Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals in Dublin, Notre Dame in Paris, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, Westminster Abbey in London, and Sagrada Familia and the Barcelona Cathedral in Spain. NHS ensembles also earned top honors at several national and international competitions in New York City, Hawaii, Australia, Austria, and England as well as top ratings and awards at local, regional and state festivals and competitions.
In 1981, during his second year of teaching at Napa High, Mr. Rogers began the school’s first Men’s Choir with 20 students. In subsequent years, as many as 220 young men sang in one or more of three separate male ensembles at the school. Typically each year, up to 80% of new enrolling male singers did so with no previous choral training yet earned “Unanimous Superior” ratings at area choral festivals for the quality of their performances. The 2016-2017 NHS Beginning Men’s Choir was the subject of the documentary “Top Row,” currently available on Amazon Prime, which chronicled the group’s preparation and subsequent performance at their first choral competition.
Mr. Rogers has served the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) California Chapter in many capacities including repertoire and standards chair for high school and male choirs, summer conference chair and President. He is also a Past-President of the western region of ACDA. Travis Rogers has conducted over thirty honor and district choirs in northern and central California. He has been a choral competition/festival adjudicator and clinician for over thirty years as well as a frequent presenter at professional conferences for ACDA and California Music Educators Association (CMEA).
Thomas Wade, Avanti Director, MUSICIANSHIP TEACHER
Thomas Wade is a choral conductor and freelance singer based in the Bay Area. An alumnus of Ragazzi, Thomas brings over a decade of choral experience to the program.
He has taught and conducted at public schools and private music programs and worked with organizations like Chanticleer, San Francisco Symphony, Philharmonia Baroque, West Bay Opera, and Opera San Jose. From 2017-2020, he worked as a vocal coach and theory instructor for Ragazzi. In addition, Thomas sings with Ragazzi’s alumni ensemble, Ragazzi Continuo, and directed the group for two seasons. Before serving as the Avanti Director, Thomas directed Level I of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.
Thomas holds a B.M. in vocal performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has studied as a Choral Fellow for the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco, under the tutelage of Susan McMane, and pursued continuing study of the Kodály methodology at Holy Names University.
Kaori Nakano DeNoia, PREMIERE DIRECTOR, MUSICIANSHIP TEACHER
Kaori Nakano DeNoia graduated from Japan’s prestigious music school, Kyoto Horikawa Music High School, where she studied vocal performance. She earned her BA from Kobe College and graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with an MA in vocal performance, having studied with Herman Leroux and received a first place prize in the American Art Song Competition. She received preschool and teaching credentials from San Francisco State University, studied pipe organ with Wyatt Insko, and has Kodály training from Holy Names University. Kaori is passionate about teaching and has served as a choir director, pianist and organist for many organizations. These include the San Francisco Girls Chorus (20 years), A.P. Giannini Middle School choir, Christ United Presbyterian Church, and her very own children’s choir Kirakiraboshi Children’s Choir in Japantown. She currently teaches over 1,000 K-5th grade students in the Burlingame School District, and teaches private piano and voice students at Spindrift School of Performing Arts in Pacifica.
Nathan Wilen, PREMIERE DIRECTOR
Nathan Wilen teaches 5th grade choir in the San Mateo-Foster City School District through Music for Minors. He also has a growing private voice studio. Nathan is a veteran of the Ragazzi program himself, having been a chorister from age 8 to 18. He has enjoyed passing on Ragazzi traditions as a Ragazzi Premiere director. Nathan graduated from Chapman University with a B.M. in Music with a vocal emphasis in 2016, and graduated from Holy Names University with a Master of Music Education (Kodály emphasis) in 2020. He performs with Ragazzi Continuo and appears as a professional soloist and chorister around the Bay area. He is the tenor section leader of the Chancel Choir and the Oratorio Society at First Congregational Church, Palo Alto.
John Collaros, PRIMARY GROUP DIRECTOR, COORDINATOR OF TRAINING ENSEMBLES
John Collaros has had the pleasure of working with elementary and middle school choirs in Arizona, New Mexico, and the Bay Area for the past 14 years. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University with a Bachelors Degree in Choral Music Education and a Masters Degree in Education, Curriculum and Instruction. While at NMSU, John sang with the Dona Ana Lyric Opera, the University Singers, and was selected as the guest student conductor for the Jack Ward Choral Invitational Festival. John has taught middle school choirs in Tempe, AZ and Las Cruces, NM. His choirs have participated in competitions at Disney Magic Music Days and constantly received superior ratings at regional festivals and state competitions. He has adjudicated elementary and middle school choral festivals, and directed several musical theater productions and summer camp programs. John currently is a Music Specialist with the Burlingame School District, directing the middle school choirs at Burlingame Intermediate School
Nancy Whitecar, PRIMARY GROUP DIRECTOR, YOUNG MEN’S ENSEMBLE DIRECTOR, COLLABORATIVE PIANIST, MUSICIANSHIP TEACHER, REMOTE LEARNING CO-TEACHER
Nancy Whitecar is a professional musician and music educator with over 25 years of experience. She teaches general music classes at The Music School at the Sunnyvale Presbyterian church, and accompanies for instrumentalists and choirs throughout the Bay Area. Nancy has directed children’s and youth choirs, and taught piano to students of all ages in her private piano studio. She served as accompanist and assistant director of the BeckRidge Chorale in Southeast Michigan for over 20 years, and as Associate Director of Music at the First United Methodist Church in Plymouth, Michigan. Nancy is a member of the Music Teachers National Association, and the California Association of Professional Music Teachers. She graduated from the University of Illinois, and holds a Piano Teacher Certificate from Schoolcraft College in Michigan.
Jose Agustin (Justin) Deanon, COLLABORATIVE PIANIST, REMOTE LEARNING CO-TEACHER
Jose Agustin (Justin) Deanon holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from San Jose State University. He currently teaches piano & voice lessons in the East Bay and serves as an accompanist, cantor, and as the choir director for Anima Christi – a Filipino volunteer ensemble from St. Edward Roman Catholic parish in Newark, CA.
Jose took private piano lessons at the age of 10 and started his journey as a school accompanist in 6th grade for Alvarado Middle School (now known as Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School) in Union City, CA. His love for music continued into high school where he accompanied advanced choirs.
He joined the San Jose State University Concert Choir under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Benson. During the Winter of 2017, Jose composed a sacred motet, Ave Maria, which was premiered by the St. Joseph the Worker Schola Cantorum in celebration for the centennial Roman Catholic tradition of the Apparition of Fatima. His piece was again performed a year later by the Sancta Cecilia Choir, with Jose as their guest pianist for a fundraising concert at their church in Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Manila, Philippines. Jose received piano instruction from Dr. Frank Levy and Dr. Gwendolyn Mok. His solo piano repertoire focused on the rigorous works of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Brahms, Scriabin, & John Williams.
Yongyu Gao, COLLABORATIVE PIANIST
Music has been a part of Yongyu Gao’s life from a very early age. She began playing the accordion at age four, establishing a strong musical foundation for piano studies she began at the age of 10. In 2005, Yongyu won first place in the Beijing National Accordion Competition, and third place in the Beijing National Piano Competition. This experience helped her focus on piano, and in 2009, she graduated with a BA from South China University in Music Education with an emphasis in piano performance. After moving to the United States, she played for the Inna Opera Group at the Community Music Center in San Francisco. Yongyu continued her study in piano performance as a Walker Scholar at San Jose State University, earning her Master’s degree in 2013. She accompanies for the Burlingame School District and Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, and is an active performer throughout the Bay Area. She also serves as a pianist and organist at Burlingame United Methodist Church. She is a member of the Music Teachers Association of California, and her piano students regularly participate in the Certificate of Merit and Royal School of Music programs and exams.
Othello Jefferson, COLLABORATIVE PIANIST, CHORUS oRGANIST, MUSICIANSHIP TEACHER
Othello Jefferson holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a music teaching credential from San Francisco State university. An award-winning Choir Director while teaching at San Francisco’s Lowell High School for ten years, he is currently the Choir Director at Redwood City’s Sequoia High School and Minister of Music for the First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, in San Francisco as well as the Western Episcopal District. Othello received a Gospel Music Award from San Francisco’s Academy of Gospel and a Negro Spirituals Heritage Keepers Award from the Friends of Negro Spirituals in Oakland, and has completed the first level of the American Guild of Organist’s examinations for professional certification (Service Playing Certificate).
Ihang Lin, COLLABORATIVE PIANIST, MUSICIANSHIP TEACHER
As a a winner of the American Protégé concerto competition, Dr. Ihang Lin was invited to make her Carnegie Hall debut in 2012, performing solo piano works by Maurice Ravel. Dr. Lin received a special recognition award in 2012 at the San Antonio Piano Competition and First Prize in the 2009 Aaron Richmond Piano Competition. From 2007-2013, Dr. Lin taught at Boston University and was a piano faculty member and accompanist at South Shore Conservatory. A Ragazzi Boys Chorus accompanist since 2014, Ms. Lin is also the rehearsal pianist at Opera San Jose, where she has participated in numerous productions. Currently she also teaches piano at Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View and works at San Jose State University as a collaborative pianist for faculty recitals.
Dr. Lin holds a Bachelor’s degree from Taipei National University of the Arts, a Master of Music from New England Conservatory, and Doctoral of Musical Arts from Boston University. For more information, please visit ihanglin.org.
Marilyn Wells, COLLABORATIVE PIANIST
After graduating from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s degree in choral education, Marilyn taught high school music and humanities in Tempe before moving to the Bay Area in 1984. Marilyn created and implemented the music curriculum for a magnet school in the area, teaching all grades from K-8, and has taught elementary music at the Ocean Shore School for the past 15 years. She has also directed adult and children’s choirs including a swing choir of college students and has a private piano studio. Marilyn’s three sons all joined Ragazzi and she has accompanied the various groups as her boys moved through the program. Her other passion is quilting and sewing and to the delight of many, she has generously donated her handwork for many Ragazzi gala auctions.
Carol Panofsky, DIRECTOR OF THEORY EDUCATION, OBOIST
Carol directs Ragazzi’s theory program, which serves to teach choristers to read music and to understand the theoretical foundation of the music they are singing. She is an active free-lance musician, which has provided her with opportunities to perform on both coasts as well as in Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, China, and Korea. She received a Master of Music in the Performance of Early Music from the New England Conservatory of Music. She performs and teaches early music, modern oboe, and piano, as well as music theory. She has been on the faculties at the Music School of the University of Idaho and at U.C. Santa Cruz. She has many private music students, both children and adults. Carol serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony and is President of the Santa Cruz County Branch of Music Teachers’ Association of California.
Maggie eggert, Music and Movement DIRECTOR
Maggie Eggert grew up in the Midwest and moved to the Bay Area in 2015. With a long history of musicians in the family, she knew she wanted to be a music educator at a young age. She received the John Phillips Sousa Award for superior musicianship in high school and went on to obtain a bachelor’s in music education from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where she studied under Paul Doebler (West Point and Julliard). She holds a master’s degree in music education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois, where she studied choral, general, and instrumental music with some of the best educators in the Midwest. She is a Level III Orff Certified educator and continues to advance her music education by taking workshops and classes with educators from around the world. Maggie teaches at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School in San Mateo, and has been teaching young flute students for over 12 years. She performs with local community groups and other professional musicians whenever she can.
Dawn Horst Reyen, Music and Movement Director
Dawn Reyen received her BA in Music from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont and her masters degree in Choral Conducting from Loyola University in New Orleans. She has conducted children’s choirs and taught elementary music for many years. She is the founding conductor of Palo Alto-based Aurora Singers, is the assistant conductor and accompanist of the Schola Cantorum in Los Altos, and director of music at UUFRC. Dawn has accompanied professionally since the age of 12, and enjoys working in many different musical styles and genres. Dawn also enjoys her freelance work as pianist and coach, and writing and arranging choral music.
JON ELLIS, VOCAL COACH
Jon Ellis has brought his powerful tenor voice and dramatic presence to numerous concerts, operatic performances and solo recitals throughout the United States and Europe, as well as several televised and radio performances. Mr. Ellis has sung with Opera San Jose, Opera International, Torrey Pines Opera Theatre, Contemporary Opera of Los Angeles, OperaWorks, Chelsea Opera, Novato Concert Opera, Scholar Opera, Monterey Opera, Cleveland Opera Theatre, Seattle Civic Light Opera, appearing in a wide variety of roles including Cavaradossi (Tosca), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), and Don Ramiro (La Cenerentola). Mr. Ellis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance from Seattle Pacific University, a Master of Music Degree from Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master Degree of Music from Case Western Reserve University, focusing on Vocal Performance and Vocal Pedagogy.
Mr. Ellis has enjoyed a long association and collaboration with Ann Baltz performing operatic improvisation, including two one–act operas with the Bay Area Playwrights Festival where the music was entirely improvised every performance. Mr. Ellis and Ms. Baltz have performed numerous operatic improv concerts in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles; performing improv recitals for several Classical Singer conventions, fundraisers and in 2020, performed at the National Opera Association conference in Cleveland, OH.
Mr. Ellis serves on the Board of Directors of Music in the Schools Foundation and OperaWorks. Jon currently is a Certified Personal Trainer, Licensed Zumba Instructor and Certified Aqua Fitness Instructor specializing in the Senior Adult and Active Aging populations. Mr. Ellis has served for a number of years as a vocal coach for Ragazzi Boys Chorus’ Concert Group, working with soloists and choristers alike and also maintains a voice studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. His students have sung with many opera companies and symphony orchestras including, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony and Opera San Jose.
MARK PENG, VOCAL COACH
Mark Peng is a performer and educator based in Orange County. A Ragazzi alum, Mark credits his years as a chorister for laying the foundation to his musical interest and training. Mark holds a B.M. in Vocal Performance from Chapman University where, under the tutelage of Dr. Peter Atherton, he studied and performed a variety of operatic and musical theatre roles. Mark also currently holds positions at St. John Neumann in Irvine as a cantor and section leader, at a music studio in Yorba Linda as a private teacher and administrative assistant, and at Chapman University as an adjunct professor.
Joyce Keil, Founder
Joyce Keil has served as panelist, adjudicator and guest conductor for music teachers and choirs throughout the Western United States. An experienced teacher, she has served on the faculties of the College of Holy Names, Notre Dame de Namur University, and Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. She holds a B.A. from Occidental College, where she studied with Howard Swan, known as the “Dean of Choral Music”. She holds M.A.s from the New School for Social Research and California State University Northridge, where she studied with John Alexander. Ms. Keil has prepared choirs for San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony, for conductors such as Herbert Blomstedt, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Robertson, Donald Runnicles, Raymond Leppard and James Conlon. She is the founder of the choral program and Advanced Placement Music Theory curriculum at Crystal Springs Uplands School, where students received unanimous superior ratings for their ensemble and solo work. Ms. Keil has served as the Western Division and California State Chair of the Boychoir Committee for the American Choral Directors Association, and has sat on the College Board for Advanced Placement Music Exams. Ragazzi Boys Chorus, under Joyce Keil’s leadership, received a Grammy Award for participating in the San Francisco Symphony’s recording of Stravinsky’s Perséphone. Under her baton, Ragazzi was named a CBS Best Choir of the Peninsula in 2013, made its Carnegie Hall debut in 2014, and has been cited by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of four elite youth choruses in the Bay area. At the 2016 Western Regional Conference of American Choral Directors Association, Ragazzi was acclaimed for its innovative programming and moving performance. Recognized nationally and internationally, Ms. Keil’s leadership built Ragazzi’s stellar reputation among American boys choruses.