Academy of Vocal Excellence: Faculty



Dr. Michael ShasbergerDr. Michael Shasberger's endeavors include conducting the Westmont College Choir and Orchestra, private voice instruction, working with the office of the campus pastor, and developing artistic collaborations with the Santa Barbara arts community. He is also the conductor of the Santa Barbara Chamber Singers, guest conductor for the West Coast Chamber Orchestra, Director Emeritus of the Musica Sacra Chamber Orchestra of Denver and sings with the Santa Barbara based Vocal Scholars vocal ensemble.
He is active as a conductor, educator, composer and singer. Dr. Shasberger has considerable experience as a performer in professional opera, oratorio and musical theater. He has been a resident artist with the Indianapolis and Arkansas opera Companies, and has performed professionally with several vocal chamber ensembles, including the Denver based vocal chamber ensemble “AVE” in appearances on concert series throughout the western United States and in England. Dr. Shasberger has been a guest conductor with the Fine Arts Chamber Orchestra of Mexico City, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Lithuanian National Chamber Orchestra, Estonian Chamber Orchestra, Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra, and the Ft. Wayne Philharmonic among others, as well as preparing choirs for performance with the Indianapolis and Arkansas Symphony orchestras.
He has presented papers at state, regional and national conferences of the College Orchestra Directors Association, the Music Educators National Conference, and the American Choral Directors Association. Choirs under his direction, including those from Augustana Lutheran Church, Butler University, Colorado Christian University and Hendrix College, have appeared at many state, regional and national conventions of organizations such as the American Choral Directors Association, the American Guild of Organists and the Music Educators National Conference, as well as on tour in Europe, Latin American, and the United States. Dr. Shasberger has served as a visiting faculty member at the University of Colorado Boulder, directing the University Choir and University Chamber Singers, as well as holding the position of resident scholar on the CU faculty serving as the director of the Musica international choral music database project at the University.
He has also served as a member of the national committee on technologies for the American Choral Directors Association, and board member for the international choral music internet resource site ChoralNet. He earned his bachelors degree in music from St. Olaf College, his masters degree from Redlands University, and his doctorate from the University of Southern California.

picture of Ms. Celeste TaveraCeleste Tavera is a National Winner of the Metropolitan Opera Competition in New York City. She has also performed a variety of operatic roles with Opera Companies such as the New York City Opera National Tour, San Diego Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Santa Barbara Grand Opera, and San Francisco Western Opera Theater. Celeste has also performed in Italy at the festival dell' Opera Lirica Siciliana with Vincenzo La Scola. She sang in concert with Jose Carreras, in Vincenza, Italy and again at the Villa Albergati in Bologna, Italy. Other honors include the Golden Eagle awards, International Bellini Competition, Leiderkranz Foundation, and winner of the Victor Fuchs competition and People's Choice Award. She performed as soloist for the Los Angeles Master Chorale at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as well as soloist with the Pacific Symphony, San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Las Vegas Symphony and the Palm Springs Desert Chorale. Celeste is a versatile performer of concert, Broadway and commercial music. Her recording credits include: musical promotion for the 1996 Academy Awards and background vocals for Universal Studios soundtrack "Land before Time." Other CDs include "Their Thought & Back Again," "Ivory Joe Cole," "Best Loved Arias," and "You Keep Me Singing." In Musical Theater Celeste has performed in "West Side Story," "Kismet," and in the world premier of "Cole & Will (together again)." She studied voice and vocal performance at Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. She also studied Italian at the Cultura Italiana language school in Bologna, Italy and studied voice under the tutelage of Jane Randolph, Herta Glatz, and Egidia Bonessi. She has also coached with Metropolitan Opera's Jane Dornermann and Carol Neblett and in Italy with vocal coach Paula Molinari. Celeste has taught voice at Westmont College for the past nine years. Her students have participated in various orchestral concerts and competitions, Celeste developed the vocal program for the Yamaha Music Education Center in Irvine, California, and she went on to produce, direct, and stage the Not So Royal Opera Company's production of "Iolanthie." Ms. Tavera has taught privately for over twenty years and is a member of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singings). Website:

Dr. Grey BrothersGrey Brothers teaches music history, world music, church music, and voice at Westmont, where he also directs the Westmont Chamber Singers and the Men’s Chorale.

He completed a Ph.D. in musicology at UC Santa Barbara with a dissertation on settings of the Passion composed at the Mexico City cathedral in the seventeenth century. He has lectured on this and other topics in music history locally and nationally and has delivered papers at national and regional conferences of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music, and the American Choral Directors Association. His edition of the Passions of Antonio Rodríguez Mata is in the process of publication.

He has appeared as tenor soloist with Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura choral ensembles, has sung lead roles in local stage productions, and has performed as a choral artist at the Oregon Bach Festival and the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival.

A long-time church musician, he has served for over twenty years as Minister of Choral and Congregational Music at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara.

Dr. Steve HodsonDr. Steven Hodson’s duties have included directing choral ensembles and teaching piano and organ, conducting, church music, and music survey. He holds a doctor of musical arts degree in the literature and performance of choral music from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Dr. Hodson is Past President of the Western Division of the American Choral Directors Association (encompassing California, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona), and Past President of California ACDA. Before coming to Westmont, he was Director of Choral Activities at Modesto Junior College in California’s Central Valley.
Dr. Hodson has directed honor choirs and adjudicated choir festivals in California, Oregon, Iowa, Wyoming, Colorado, and British Columbia. An avid pianist and choral accompanist, he enjoys performing on piano and has accompanied for many choral events around the United States.

Emil DorianBorn in Romania, Emil Dorian Cristescu left the country in 1986. After a few years spent in Italy, Germany, Switzerland he moved to United States where he went back to school. A Bachelor’s Degree in voice/performance from the University of Arizona, a Master’s Degree from Indiana University and a Doctoral Degree from University of California at Santa Barbara, gives him more than adequate academic background but also a vast performing background.
He has performed in a wide variety of operatic roles among which two world premiers, Performed in Oratorios, Requiems, as well as TV and other camera appearances His facile ability to learn music and memorize text as well as a cognizant grasp of English, Russian, French, German, Italian and his own Romanian language is testimony of a fine academic knowhow and musicianship. His acting technique is sure and he is capable of dramatic interpretations, from broad comedy, where his comic timing is sure and effective, to the heartfelt and honest sympathy required in productions such as “ La Boheme”. He had worked with famous teachers in the filed. Among them are Giorgio Tozzi, Virginia Zeani, Elizabeth Mannion. He performed on stage with the likes of Pablo Elvira, Eduardo del Campo, Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, etc. He performs in Oratorios/Requiems, such as the 2006 Requiem tour in Western Europe with CalPoly University. He is also the winner of numerous competitions, honors and grants, including among them the Igor Gorin Memorial Award, Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition, Academy of the West in Montecito -Leni Fe Bland competition, Ellen Faul Gordon, and The Metropolitan Opera Voice Competition. And now, he is a faculty member of the prestigious Westmont College, in Montecito, California where he continues to give his amassed knowledge from around the world to a new group of young artists, all part of Westmont and part of a new refined group or classical artists, that will happily represent Westmont College on the world stage.

Photo of Nichole DechaineNichole Dechaine currently teaches private voice lessons at Westmont College. She graduated from the University of Redlands and earned her master’s degree and doctorate from UC Santa Barbara, where she taught for six years. Dechaine is an active performer with UCSB, Opera Santa Barbara, the Music Academy of the West, the Amherst Early Music Festival Baroque Academy in Connecticut, and numerous local ensembles including Vocal Scholars, Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces and the Santa Barbara Choral Society. She also sings at All Saints’-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.



Bob RockabrandDr. Robert Rockabrand, Professor Emeritus from Principia College, earned his Bachelor’s Degree in vocal performance, and his Master of Music Degree in Choral Performance from Westminster Choir College. He joins the Westmont College faculty as an adjunct voice instructor in fall 2011. In 1969 he was awarded a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from Stanford University. He was a professor at Westminster Choir College, Ball State University, the North Carolina School of the Arts, and Principia College, and held the Charles Stewart Harding Mott Distinguished Professorship Chair at Principia until his retirement in 1997. At Westminster he prepared major choral works for, and also sang with, The New York Philharmonic Orchestra and The Berlin Philharmonic. While a doctoral student at Stanford, he performed the same duties for The San Francisco Symphony. As Principia College’s choral director, Dr. Rockabrand conducted major choral works with orchestra, led frequent tours in the United States, conducted the orchestra and also acted in musical theater productions. He was a voice teacher and vocal coach at Ball State University, NCSA and Principia College, where he chaired numerous junior and senior voice recitals. Many of his students now earn their livelihoods in the professional world and/or as college or private studio voice teachers. Dr. Rockabrand has lectured and performed in England, France, Germany, Austria, India, and Hawaii, taught in Elderhostel programs, and soloed and accompanied in churches for more than 50 years. With his wife Sara and other musicians he has presented classical recitals and Broadway-variety shows.

Sara RockabrandSara Turner Rockabrand has enjoyed an active career as a performer and teacher. She will join the Westmont College faculty as an adjunct voice instructor in fall 2011. She is a graduate of Westminster Choir College, where she studied voice, choral conducting and piano, and earned degrees in both Music Performance and Music Education. She pursued master's level work at Westminster Choir College, the University of Utah, and Southern Illinois University, as well as studies in historic dance at Stanford University. Her performing experience includes solo recitals, oratorio work, and church soloing, as well as choral performances with The New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony and other orchestras. In 2008 she performed on a program at Steinway Hall in New York City. While serving as a teacher in the Princeton, New Jersey Public Schools from 1962-66, she co-authored the first comprehensive vocal music curriculum for the district. She continues to serve as a consultant for Kodaly and Suzuki-based programs in music education, as well as in historic dance. Mrs. Rockabrand served as a voice teacher and vocal coach at Ball State University from 1969-1974, and at Principia College from 1975 to 2010, where she chaired numerous junior and senior voice recitals. Her students have gone on to complete successful graduate degrees at major universities, and many are pursuing careers as professional singers and teachers. Together with her husband Bob she has lectured and performed in England, Germany, Austria, India, and Hawaii, presenting both classical recitals and Broadway-style productions. They also received the Alumni Merit Award from Westminster Choir College in 1996 for excellence in teaching.


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