Bios

Casual Headshot JABJ Austin Bitner – Host

Hailed by the Baltimore Sun as having a “…strong and glorious voice…” Tenor J Austin Bitner is renowned for his vivid and memorable performances. A continuous Baltimore-Washington performer, J is in his 17th season as a soloist and chorister with the Washington National Opera performing alongside and under the baton of Placido Domingo during Mr. Domingo’s tenure with the company. Mr. Bitner’s solo work with the company includes roles in Menotti’s The Consul – directed by the composer, Floyd’s Of Mice and Men – under the direction of current WNO Artisitc Director – Francesca Zambello, and Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani – conducted by Placido Domingo,  and La Traviata – directed by Marta Domingo. This past December Mr. Bitner was engaged to perform with the Guatemalan National Symphony Orchestra in concert and as the tenor soloist in Handel’s Messiah, with performances in Guatemala City and Antigua. Residing in Baltimore, J Austin performs throughout the Mid-Atlantic region; most recently as Erstes Minnesinger in Richard Strauss’s Guntram with the Washington Concert Opera in March 2015. He performs regularly with Annapolis Chorale (his most recent concert appearance in April 2015 as soloist in Bruckner’s Te Deum), Anne Arundel Community Opera (January ’10 as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus), and as Monostatos in The Magic Flute at Opera Vivente in 2010 as well as Lyric Opera Baltimore (La Boheme 2012), Opera Carolina, Spoleto Festival Opera, and Summer Opera (DC). In addition to operatic pursuits Mr. Bitner has performed with Pantolites as Scratchembitem in the World Premiere British Pantomine Puss in Boots and at Young Victorian Theatre as Frederic in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. His repertoire includes over 25 roles including Rodolfo (La Boheme – Lancaster Opera), Laca (Jenufa – Summer Opera), and Steuermann (Der Fliegender Holländer – Spoleto Festival Opera). J Austin serves as the tenor cantor at Church of the Immaculate Conception, Towson, MD. He came to Baltimore in 1995 to study at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, where he earned 3 graduates degrees in voice and operatic performance. J Austin is the current Secretary for, and a founding member of, the Baltimore Concert Opera now preparing for its seventh season.

In addition to his vocal pursuits, Mr. Bitner serves as the 4th Vice President of AGMA (National Officer in the union for opera singers, ballet dancers, stage directors, and production staff) and is the Associate Executive Director of The Engineers Club located at the National Historic Landmark, The Garrett-Jacobs Mansion. His duties at the Engineers Club include directing the Wine & Spirits programs and the Club’s Wine Society. Prior to coming to the Engineers Club, J was notably employed in the food and beverage industry as Manager at Mount Vernon’s Combalou Fromagerie & Café, Manager and Master Coffee Roaster at The Green Been Coffee House (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) and as Sommelier and Server at Louisiana Restaurant in Fell’s Point.  J is also single-handedly bringing back the ascot.

PageCropPage Stroup Bitner – Regular

A native of South Carolina, Page Stroup Bitner is a life-long music lover and avocational singer. As a 4 year old, she began studying piano and joined her church’s Junior choir. Her early exposure to piano and reading music caused her to pick up French Horn in middle school. After the initial phase of mating moose calls, she found her footing with the instrument and continued playing through high school. In college, Mrs. Stroup Bitner discovered a love of choral music as a member of the Wofford Singers. Today, she performs regularly as a member of the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Chorus, where her most notable musical theater role involved giggling and snorting. Her most performed musical theater role with the Chorale is “random girl walking across stage”.  She frequently makes guest appearances at Mo’s Piano Bar, most notably as “Ariel” from Disney’s Little Mermaid. Additionally, her interpretive dance skills during “100 Greatest Love Songs” have been described as “unforgettable and unique”.

When not engaging in her unpaid musical pursuits, Mrs. Stroup Bitner is a Learning and Development Specialist for Keller Foundations, a geotechnical Engineering company based out of the United Kingdom. In her spare time, she enjoys learning about wine, drinking wine, catching up on her Hulu queue, embroidery, and has a love/hate relationship with running, earning her the nickname “The Lazy Runner”. Mrs. Stroup Bitner lives in Baltimore in the historic Spy House and Zoo with her husband, 2 dogs, and 2 cats.

catrindavies5Catrin Davies – Regular

Described as having “…bright vocalism and flawless diction…” by the Baltimore Sun, mezzo-soprano Catrin Rowenna Davies has established herself as a presence on the operatic stage. Born in Washington, DC, but possessing EU citizenship, Ms. Davies has lived and performed in the United States, Canada, and the UK.

In 2014, Ms. Davies made an important role debut as Carmen for Opera AACC. She had the very great pleasure of coaching with the inimitable Denyce Graves for these performances. Additionally, she had another role debut as Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana, had her third appearance as a Messiah soloist with the Annapolis Chorale, and performed several concerts dedicated to the centenary of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Highlights of the 2012-2013 season include: her solo debut on the stage of the Modell Performing Arts Center with Lyric Opera Baltimore in their Bravissimo Bel Canto! gala concert, and her Toronto debut at the North American Fesitval of Wales. She was also the mezzo-soprano soloist in Einhorn’s Voices of Light with the Annapolis Chorale, in which the Baltimore Sun said her performance was “…serenely assured.”

Ms. Davies has performed roles with Baltimore Opera, Lyric Opera of Cleveland, Annapolis Opera, Live Arts Maryland, Young Victorian Theatre Company, and Baltimore Concert Opera. Favorite roles include: Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe, Phoebe in Yeomen of the Guard, Pitti Sing in The Mikado, Meg in Little Women, and Maria in The Sound of Music. As an oratorio soloist, she has been seen with Annapolis Chorale, Handel Choir of Baltimore, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Prince William Symphony Orchestra, and Peabody Symphony Orchestra. She is also a member of Lyric Opera Baltimore’s educational program and of the chorus. Ms. Davies is an avid recitalist, and is also in demand for straight theater, musical theater, and cabarets.

Ms. Davies specializes in Welsh repertoire, and won the mezzo-soprano competition at the National Eisteddfod in Wales in 2012. She is also a three-time first-prize winner at the North American Festival of Wales. In addition, Ms. Davies is a frequent soloist with Welsh choirs, and has performed at the Smithsonian, in Stratford (Canada), and in Philadelphia.

She is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory in the Graduate Performance Diploma program. She was a Young Artist for the Lyric Opera of Cleveland. Previously, she studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, Wales, where she received an Advanced Diploma in Voice with honors. Additionally, Ms. Davies holds an honors degree in History from McGill University, Montreal, and a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from Oxford University.

Recent performances include Bach’s St. John Passion with the Annapolis Chorale.

Zoe_Johnstone_Steward1Zoe Johnstone – Regular

Zoë Johnstone Stewart – guitarist, is an active performer and educator in the Baltimore area. As a solo artist, she has performed throughout the U.S. Canada and Italy, including appearances in the Trinity Church concert series, the Assisi Performing Arts Organization, and as a concerto soloist at Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center. She is a founding member of Atlantic Guitar Quartet, an ensemble dedicated to the creation and promotion of music by living composers. With virtuosic performances, innovative programing and collaborations with artists in other media the AGQ has broadened the definition and repertoire of the classical guitar quartet.

“Mesmeric chamber music that … radiates an intensity that has nothing to do with volume or the layering of instruments.  Instead they draw upon an internal combustion that smolders without igniting.  It’s a perfect match for music that wafts and curls and, ultimately, lingers so hauntingly.” – John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine

As a collaborator in various chamber groups she has performed extensively throughout the Northeast United States and has been featured at the Alexandria Guitar Festival, the Long Island Guitar Festival, the Mannes School of Music Festival and the Connecticut Classical Guitar Society’s “Guitar Day”.  She has received her Bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Eastman School of Music and her Masters from the highly esteemed Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. In addition to her performing career she is a highly sought after guitar teacher.

She is the founding director of the Evergreen Academy of Talent Education, a Suzuki guitar school and also a faculty member at the Preparatory division of the Peabody Institute.

_RHP7174_crop01Jessica Satava – Regular

“Soprano Jessica Satava lent great beauty and intensity of feeling to her performance.” (The Baltimore Sun, 2015) Ms. Satava has appeared as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi with Opera Lancaster, La Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro with Zeiders American Dream Theater, Musetta in La bohème, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Inez in Il Trovatore with Center Stage Opera, Voce dal Cielo in Don Carlo with Repertory Opera Theater of Washington, and as Mimí and Micaëla in concert performances of La bohème and Carmen.  While at Peabody Conservatory, she performed the roles of Nella in Gianni Schicchi, and Polly in The Threepenny Opera. Ms. Satava has appeared with The Figaro Project in the premiere of a new opera, Strong like Bull, by Joshua Bornfield, and as Donna Elvira in Who Killed Don Giovanni? both to critical acclaim.

In concert, Ms. Satava was the soprano soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem with the American University Symphony and Chorus, in Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem with Bach in Baltimore, in Bruckner’s Te Deum, Bach’s St. John Passion, and Handel’s Messiah with the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, in Dvořák’s Stabat Mater with the Lancaster Symphony and Chorus and the Franklin and Marshall College combined choirs, in Britten’s Ceremony of Carols at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA, and with The Bach Concert Series as soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1. Her New York recital debut took place in Merkin Hall, featuring the premiere of a song cycle written for her.

Ms. Satava has taken prizes in competitions such the Baltimore Music Club Competition, the Marian B. and Samuel Bernstein Memorial Prize for Opera, the Wonderlic Competition, the Kennett Symphony Voice Competition, NATS, and was awarded a Peabody Career Development Grant.

Upcoming appearances include the solo work in Schubert’s Mass in G and SaintSaëns’ Christmas Oratorio.

lockardHeather L. Lockard-Wheeler – Regular

Heather L. Lockard-Wheeler is a native of the Maryland area, Germantown, Maryland to be exact. Upon graduation from Seneca Valley High School, Miss Lockard spent three years enrolled at Montgomery College where she obtained her A.A. in Theatre. Heather then matriculated to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she received her B.F.A. degree in Music Theatre. After graduating from the University of the Arts, Miss Lockard performed with such companies as the Opera Company of Philadelphia, The Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, and the Spoleto Festival Choir in Italy.

While working as a professional singer in Philadelphia, Heather was accepted to the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland. Studying in the voice studio of Steven Rainbolt with Robert Muckenfuss as vocal coach, Miss Lockard enrolled in the Graduate Performance Diploma Program. While at Peabody, Heather has been involved in productions such as; Papagano! with the Peabody Opera Roundabout where Miss Lockard sang the roles of Queen ofthe Night and First Lady, as well as Ravel’s, L ‘enfant les sortileges, where the roles ofNightingale and Fire were sung by Heather. Towards the end of Miss Lockards enrollment, she sang the role of Cunegonde in Bernstein’s Candide. Plus, Heather also made her professional debut in The Baltimore Opera Company’s production of Die Fledermaus in the role of Ida.

For the 2003 Peabody commencement ceremonies Miss Lockard was asked to sing for honored guest, Andre Previn. The honor was all Miss Lockard as she sung I Want Magic! from Streetcar Named Desire. During Heather’s enrollment at Peabody, she has been awarded talent, merit, and career development scholarships as well as the George Castelle Memorial Award.

Miss Lockard sang the role of Elsie Maynard in the Young Victorian Theatre Company’s production of Yeomen of the Guard where the following was said about Heathers performance; Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun said, ” … her sure, vibrant singing complemented a winning characterization” and Mike Giuliano of the Towson Times commented that,” Lockard is the most consistently impressive, with a clearly enunciated and heartfelt performance that makes Elsie come to life on stage”. Heather had the pleasure of working with the Young Victorian Theatre Company the very next season in their production of the Pirates of Penzance singing the festive role of Mabel.

Heather had the honor, again, of singing with the Baltimore Opera Company as Stella in their production Les Contes d’Hoffman. As well as performing in Artscape 2005 where she sang the role of Nellie Mae in The Tale of Johnnie S. Kickey composed by Giacomo Puccini with New English translation and adaptation by James Harp.

Most recently, Heather had the wonderful opportunity to sing with Opera Columbus in their production of The Three Penny Opera as the role of Lucy Brown. She is also a founding member of an original B-More Hon production –  Champagne Hour, a cabaret that highlights variety acts like Lawrence Welk with singing, big hair, fun, accordion playing and of course bubbles. Heather resides in Hampden (Hon!) with her fantastic husband and daughter.