PROFILES

We are a small organization and rely heavily on our volunteers to get the work done.
A huge thank-you for all their hard work! Here are the people on our team, who make Working In Concert a success.

Barb Smith, Claudia Hommel, Christine Steyer

BOARD of DIRECTORS

Christine Steyer

Christine Steyer, soprano, has distinguished herself as an artist of great versatility. The 2020 recipient of The American Prize for outstanding contributions to the arts, and winner of the Johnny Mercer Award, Steyer has received acclaim for her portrayals of the title role in Madama Butterfly and Violetta in La Traviata. Since 2000, she has sung in 40 productions at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Steyer is an avid recitalist specializing in contemporary works by women lyricists and composers. Prior to the pandemic, she sang at the Schubert Festival at Unity Temple sharing the stage with Lawrence Brownlee, members of the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestras, and was featured on WFMT’s program Music Notes: Music of Healing and Peace singing the aria “Red is a Trick”.

In 2019 Steyer sang in France with The Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion at the Montpellier Opera House, Paris’ Salle Olympe de Gouges and the Lapin Agile. She and French composer, Jean-Claude Orfali, are writing a book of original cabaret songs to release in 2023.

In April 2021, Steyer premiered the role of the Rio de Janeiro Health Care Worker in the opera On Call: COVID-19 and in 2022, premiered the role of Flanna in the opera Future Perfect–a tale of curiosity. Additionally, Steyer served as librettist for these two operas (composed by David Shenton) which are part of Bellissima Opera’s Award-Winning Tales of Transcendence

Steyer is President of the new vocal arts alliance, Working in Concert, as well as the Artistic Director of its Bellissima Opera initiative, an organization founded by Steyer. Bellissima’s In the Classroom, has brought classical music to 24,000 youths in underserved areas throughout the Chicago area. She has taught voice privately in Oak Park for two decades and is a member of the voice faculty at Concordia University in River Forest. She is also the music instructor at Ascension Catholic School in Oak Park sharing her deep love of music with a new generation of young people.

Barbara Smith

Board member Barbara works on logistics and communications for Working In Concert. Retired from AT&T where  she was responsible for Sales and Customer Service training, Barb has taught at Loyola University and Harper College. She holds a Master’s degree in English and is a certified instructor for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

As a singer, Barb’s repertoire includes jazz, blues, folk music and cabaret. She has performed at Davenport’s, Underground Wonder Bar, Rosa’s Lounge, Chief O’Neill’s and the Cliff Dwellers Club, and was the winner of the 2018 Skokie Idol Contest. She participated in the Singers Jazz Workshops in 2014 and 2015 in Paris; participated in the first Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion in 2017, and has been an active volunteer organizer of the Cabaret Connexion ever since.

As secretary of the board, Cappy is the go-to person for fund-raising, outreach and logistics for Working In Concert. Cappy is principal of Informed Energy Decisions, an environmental services and engineering consulting firm. As a certified energy manager and independent consultant, he advises commercial and institutional building owners and managers, including supervising LED lighting retrofitting. In recognition of his contributions to improving building energy performance, he was inducted into the Environmental Hall of Fame and received an Energy Star leadership award for work at the Great Lakes Naval Training.

Contact: www.energydetectives.com

     

 

Claudia Hommel

Executive director and treasurer of Working In Concert, Claudia directs the Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion, SongShop workshops and concert productions.

Claudia received her Master’s in Library Science from Wayne State University and founded the archives of the Detroit Institute of Arts prior to pursuing a full-time career on stage, first in New York City, then Chicago. Actor-singer, teacher, cabaret promoter, Claudia brings her personal connections and passions to Working In Concert. Her recordings of Paris/Paree, Paris in the Jazz Age, Romance Language: French Songs for Lovers, and the two Jazz Fauré Project albums are a reflection of her Paris-centric repertoire.

She is on faculty in the Community Music Division of DePaul University School of Music with SongShop, her ongoing class in song interpretation. She is one of the founders of Chicago Cabaret Professionals and a coordinator for Chicago Cabaret Week.

David Stephens

After 35 years of entertaining as a magician and circus clown in the Metro New York City area, David moved to Chicagoland in 2014 and, under the influence of his spouse Dan Johnson, has embraced the art of singing. A frequent participant in SongShop, his musical influences lean towards jazz, pop and R&B (with a touch of Broadway). In 2016 he debuted in CCP’s “Strut Your Stuff ” showcase and premiered his first solo show The Times of My Life at Davenport’s in 2019. He initiated the call in 2020 for Black Voices in Cabaret and serves as its managing director, successfully steering the March 2021 online Healing through Song forum and concert series, and emceeing BVIC’s shared concert of 100 Years of Chicago Cabaret. By day, he serves as a federal employee.

Susan Huizinga

Retired real estate broker, David serves as co-chair of the Paris Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International (supported by World Business Chicago). David was asked to join the committee upon its inception in 1996. Having already spent much time in France—one school year in Normandy and six months in Geneva teaching French to America business students—this was a fortuitous invitation.  He had already helped create a “sister” relationship between the Chicago and Paris marathons, welcoming French runners in Chicago and promoting “Go, Go Chicago” at the Paris Marathon.  These activities continue to this day, along with many other successful exchange programs.

David is an amateur violinist and singer who loves music in its multiple forms.  He finds cabaret to be a fine way of blending music and words as an expression of the spirit.

In 2012 the French Republic decorated David as Knight of the National Order of Merit (Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite). 

A Chicago native, Jeanne Franks is director of marketing for Brook Architecture, Inc, of Chicago received her BA in Political Science and Spanish from Know College and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.

Jeanne Franks has been one of the hosts of “DCB Jazz” (WDCB-90.9 FM radio) for more than a decade. Music has always been an important life of her life. As a kid she listened to her father’s jazz combo rehearse the popular tunes of the day. After one of those rehearsals, the 5-year old informed her dad that she wanted to play the piano. He took her seriously, bought her a piano and she’s been playing music ever since.

She played the flute in her school bands and studied classical and jazz piano. She currently performs as a jazz vocalist for corporate and private functions.

Amit Patel, a Finance and IT Consultant and Project Manager, at DLC Inc Consultants, is an avid francophile who has spent several years studying the French language and culture.  He is also proficient in Spanish and Hindi.  He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)/, Chartered Accountant (CA) and Project Management Professional (PMP).

Amit has a dual bachelor’s degree in French and Accounting from the University of Southern California, along with Masters Degree from University of Notre Dame and Arizona State Thunderbird School of Global Management.  He lived in Belgium and France for eight years, working for accounting firms Arthur Andersen and KPMG, before returning to the US to work as an Internal Audit Manager and Corporate Profit Reporting Director at J. E. Seagram and Sons, Inc. in New York City. In Chicago, Illinois for the past twenty years, he has worked for French multinational companies within several fields of Finance and IT. He brings to our board his rich experience with Financial and Tax Reporting, General Accounting, Financial Auditing and internal Controls, Financial Planning and Analysis, Financial Modeling, Project Management and Business Process Improvement, and Transaction Due Diligence.

His personal interests include tennis,badminton, volleyball, hiking and biking, all forms of the Arts including cinema, music, painting, sculpture, world history and politics, the preservation of wildlife, curing childhood cancer, and of course foreign languages and traveling the globe!

VOLUNTEERS, STAFF and CONSULTANTS

Tom Arvetis is a values-driven leader with over twenty years’ experience in the Chicago theatre community building adaptive capacity in teams and organizations by nurturing a culture of curiosity, clarity, and collaboration in order to achieve sustained success.  In 2021, he served as Working In Concert’s strategy consultant. Later that year, he joined the Oak Park Theatre Festival as Managing Director. He founded the award-winning professional theatre for families and youth, Adventure Stage Chicago, in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood in 2004.  Tom brings expertise in community engagement and organizational development to the Festival and has designed and led initiatives supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as several state and local foundations and agencies.

As an artist, Tom is an accomplished director and his published plays are regularly performed by professional and amateur theatres across the United States. Tom is an alumnus of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education’s Theater Leadership Institute as well as a former Ann Shaw Fellow with Theatre for Young Audiences/USA.  He has served as an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University’s School of Communication and on the boards of the League of Chicago Theatres and the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.

Tom lives in Oak Park with his wife and four children.

portrait of Kenneth Gourlay with green leaves and blue sky in the background

Currently acting as webmaster and online media consultant for Working In Concert, Kenneth Gourlay has provided Internet services for this and related organizations on and off since 1998.

Kenneth also provides website development and social media marketing services for Art & Element, an independently owned art studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Additionally, Kenneth authored the book, Lessons Learned: Life-Altering Experiences of Incarceration, exploring some of the more impactful experiences of life behind bars.

While he loves working in the Internet industry, his current plans have taken him to Wayne State University where he is pursuing a PhD in Sociology. His goal is to study social discourse around sexuality and gender.

Louise Gale

Lou Galeki has been performing for five decades! Recent performances include Broadway Broads at Davenport’s, Chicago Cabaret Professionals’ productions of Merry Measures and Strut Your Stuff. She joined the Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion’s Tour de France in 2019. She is a concert producer and wardrobe mistress for Working In Concert, and heads her own theater ensemble, S.W.A.G.

Paul Geiger

Paul is Working In Concert’s master carpenter, videographer, lyricist. Trained as a bass-baritone, he has performed throughout the United States. With Chicago Opera Theater, he sang principal roles in The Marriage of Figaro, The Turk in Italy and Belcore in The Elixir of Love, Mustafa in The Italian Girl in Algiers. With Des Moines Metro Opera he sang Olin Blitch in Susannah, the Four Villains in The Tales of Hoffman, and the title role in Sweeney Todd. He recently toured the U.K. with Chamber Opera Chicago’s Persuasion as Admiral Croft. Bellissima Opera audiences remember him as Germont in La Traviata and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.

Katie Rub

Nick Sandys

Nick is a renowned actor, director, and fight choreographer. He serves as creative consultant to Bellissima Opera’s Tales of Transcendence. A graduate of Cambridge and Loyola universities, Nick is a certified teacher and fight director with the Society of American Fight Directors. He has been adjunct faculty at the DePaul University Theatre School and has choreographed there. He serves as resident fight director at Lyric Opera of Chicago and has choreographed violence for the Goodman Theater, Steppenwolf Theater, and others.

He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and American Guild of Musical Artists. He is the producing artistic director at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company and an artistic associate at First Folio Theatre.

Lydia assists organizing our Connexion conferences, website updates, graphic design and press releases. Lydia holds a B.A. in Theater from Kent State University and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Northwestern University. Now retired, she worked in the development department of the Museum of Contemporary Art, for the ACLU of Illinois before directing marketing and arts programing at Skokie Public Library.

Craig is a C.P.A. with experience in auditing, tax, and business consulting. Craig received a Master of Taxation, with distinction, from DePaul University. He is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, teaching classes in taxation. Craig is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Illinois CPA Society. He is a certified QuickBooks adviser.

Dr. Mann is a social worker who works with infants and toddlers in the child welfare system. She currently serves as Deputy Director of Research and Child Well-Being at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Kim has been involved in choirs since her undergraduate days at the University of Illinois in Urbana where she sang in the UI Black Chorus. She joined SongShop in 2015 and now studies voice with Dr. Greta Pope.