Artistic Leadership

dawnwillis Dr. Dawn O. Willis, Artistic Director

Dr. Dawn Willis is the Artistic Director of Solaris Vocal Ensemble, founding the twenty-four to thirty member mixed-voice ensemble in 2013. Under her leadership, Solaris has performed throughout the Northeast region, and has produced its first CD – Vivat Musica – Music is Life. In 2015, Dr. Willis led Solaris as the featured ensemble at “Gather at the River” – the American Choral Directors’ Association conference in New Hampshire, and on a performance tour of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.  Solaris has also performed at the Vermont statehouse in Montpelier by invitation, and regularly performs in Waterbury and Burlington, under Dr. Willis’ direction. In 2017, she will conduct the ensemble in performances in Portland, Maine. Her broad knowledge of exceptional choral repertoire is at the base of the Solaris mission to present exciting and meaningful performances to its varied audiences.

Dr. Willis is also the founder and Artistic Director of Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont, and she has served as the Music Director at First Baptist Church, Burlington; Chorus Director for the Green Mountain Opera Festival; and as the Assistant Director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Dr. Willis holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Music from Arizona State University, and Master’s degrees in Sacred Music and Choral Conducting from Southern Methodist University. Dr. Willis has served as the Director of Choral Activities at McMurry University and Iowa Wesleyan College and conducted choral ensembles at the University of Vermont, Arizona State University, and Iowa State University. She has conducted performances of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the New England Symphonic Ensemble, and the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra. She has also prepared choruses for regional orchestras in Iowa and Texas, in addition to conducting numerous festivals, clinics, workshops, musicals, operas, and madrigal dinners throughout the Midwest, Texas, and New England. Dr. Willis composes and arranges sacred and secular choral music and music for handbell ensembles.

frank_conductorFrank Whitcomb, Assistant Conductor

Frank is presently serving his 40th year on the New England Music Festival Association’s Executive Board, and also serves as the Treasurer for the Vermont Chapter of the American Chorus Director’s Association. He has taught private piano for many years and has also served as accompanist for choirs, musicals and many former students and young musicians. He has served as President of the Vermont Chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association and the New England Music Festival Association.

Frank attended the Northern Conservatory of Music until its closing in 1972, and received his Bachelor of Science in Music Education Honors Degree from the University of Vermont. He has a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Maine at Orono, mentoring with Dr. Dennis Cox. He taught in the Colchester Public Schools for 22 years and recently retired from 17 years of teaching at Burlington High School.

SummerfieldSusan Summerfield, Collaborative Accompanist

Susan Summerfield has a long career of performing and teaching music. She received degrees in music from Douglass College (Rutgers), Mills College and Stanford University, specializing in historical performance practice on keyboard instruments. She also studied organ with William Hays (Westminster Choir College) and, in Paris, with Pierre Cogen and Michel Chapuis. Before moving to the Burlington area, Susan was the Luther B. Marchant Professor of Music at Mills College where she taught for 18 years. Now at Saint Michael’s College, she teaches music history, theory and performance. She also serves as the Saint Michael’s College Organist. Susan has accompanied choirs for many years, including nine years as organist at the First Baptist Church, Burlington, working with Dawn Willis.  Susan lives in Essex, Vermont.

Voices of Solaris

Brianne Keith
Claire Hungerford
Linda Wheeler
Stacy Chadwell
Robyn Madison
Jennifer Carpenter
Nan O’Leary
Karen Baron
Becky Peterson
Sarah Gleich
Jenny Berschling
Dawn Willis
DJ Tetrault
Matt DiDiana
Frank Whitcomb
Dean King
Ethan Tischler
John Buck
Mark Madison
David Hall
Steve Olson
Shawn Chapman
Adam Grundt