Performer Bios

Dianela Acosta is a mezzo-soprano, voice teacher and the founder and Director of Boulder Opera, a local non-profit in its tenth anniversary season making opera accessible and engaging to all.

Diane Atherton has been a professional singer and educator for the past 25 years. She enjoys singing a variety of repertoire including opera, oratorio, art song and contemporary music. Her career has taken her all over Europe performing such roles as Gilda, Tytania, Susanna, Musetta, Pamina, to concert tours and recordings of The Fairy Queen, Handel’s Messiah and professional choral work with The Royal Opera House Covent Garden and The English Consort. Her work as an educator encompasses teaching the outreach program for The Children Chorus of Washington DC, former Professor at American University, plus her ever expanding private voice studio of 40 plus students! Bel Canto Boot Camp has been an inspiration and lifeline through the pandemic. From Diane: have taken both the Vaccai  and Daily Exercise courses and both were exceptional. Rachelle and Derrick have helped me get my singing “legs” back after many months of not performing and I could not be more grateful. 

Born in London and raised in Rome and New York City, Judith Barnes is a singer, stage director, producer, translator, and sculptor. She is the founder and artistic director of Vertical Player Repertory (VPR), an indie opera company in Brooklyn, New York that “has developed a following for intense performances of unusual works” (The New York Times). As a singer, Judith has been praised as “vocally and dramatically present in every moment” (Parterre), serving an eclectic assortment of roles from the 17th to the 21st centuries (sorceresses and ill-fated mythological characters among her favorites), and she has worked closely with many contemporary composers. She recently staged some pieces incorporating herself and her sculpture, including a video of Poulenc songs called “The Mute Child” for the UNFIX International Festival, and “Women of Salt and Longing” based on music of Messiaen, Monteverdi and Bernstein’s Lamentation, for the LEIMAY SOAK Festival. The Bel Canto Boot Camp is responsible for saving at least part of her sanity this past year. Deep gratitude to Rachelle and Derrick and all the participants for creating this beautiful community.

Brianna Braun is a classically trained vocalist and instructor. Born and raised in Pennsylvania and one of seven. She is a graduate of Bucks County Community College with an Associates in Music, ‘17 and an undergraduate at Arizona State University with a major in Business Administration. Besides singing worship on Sundays, she has performed all around Bucks County and the Philadelphia area. She is eager to expand her horizon and knowledge through BCBC. Is this okay?

Andrew Garland has performed numerous recitals at illustrious venues including Carnegie Hall, the New York Festival of Song, the Ravinia festival, college campuses around North America, and internationally in Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey. A champion of American composers, he has premiered new works by Jake Heggie, William Bolcom, Stephen Paulus, Steven Mark Kohn, Eric Nathan, Edie Hill, and Gerald Cohen, and had works written for him by Lee Hoiby, Tom Cipullo, Thomas Pasatieri, and Gabriela Frank. He is a sought-after concert artist, having performed with the orchestras of Atlanta, Washington, Colorado, Nashville, Boston, and Houston, and the Takács, Dover, Amernet, and Deadalus String Quartets. He has sung leading roles at  the Seattle Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Cincinnati Opera, Minnesota Opera, Boston Lyric, the Bard Festival, and Opera Saratoga, among others. Garland is a member of the voice faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Andy bicycles year round and for the past 28 years has raised funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute through the Pan Mass Challenge.

Kristin Gornstein is a mezzo soprano who first began working with the BCBC crew as an Apprentice Artist with Bel Canto at Caramoor.  She was lauded for her recent portrayal of Piramo in Johan Hasse’s baroque gem Piramo e Tisbe with The Little Opera Theatre of New York, with Opera News calling her performance, “…masterful.  She sang the difficult role with a truly flawless lyric mezzo.” One of her favorite and often-sung composers is Mozart, and in recent seasons she has performed as Tamiri in Il re pastore, Ramiro in La finta giardiniera, and has sung the Soprano II solos in his Mass in C Minor both in the US and abroad. She has toured with Mark Morris Dance Company’s acclaimed production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as an ensemble member, and appeared at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic for Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher.

Mezzo soprano and Bel Canto Boot Camp Mentor Madeleine Gray was born in New York, but for many years made her home in the United Kingdom.   Since her return to the US, she has performed regularly as a principal artist with opera companies and orchestras across the country, including the Caramoor Festival, where she first met Rachelle Jonck.   While she continues to perform,  she has a busy schedule as the Voice Department Chair at Peabody Preparatory Institute where she is privileged to introduce the next generation to the joys of classical singing,  and in 2021 was named the recipient of the Suzanne Seff Kuff Excellence in Teaching Award.  She decided to join the Bellini Project to dust off her vocal folds after a forced hiatus due to the pandemic and an intense year of online teaching.

Melanie Helton is Professor of Voice at Director of Opera at Michigan State University. She first met Rachelle in 1998 when stepping into the title role in Caramoor’s Lucrezia Borgia. During the pandemic, BCBC has truly changed her teaching and opened up her eyes to so many more possibilities. Melanie has enjoyed being a mentor and plans to continue. This season she will have two recitals at MSU: one a “standard” recital but the first half being Vivaldi, Donizetti and Vaccai, all suitably BCBC-ized, the second half being Mahler, Debussy and Cipullo; the second recital with famed jazz guitarist Randy Napoleon featuring American songbook.

Janet Hock is a retired periodontist, biomedical research scientist and biotech executive. She led various research programs in osteoporosis; environmental risks for cancer; and community-based research in child nutrition. With her retirement in 2014, Dr Hock pursues her life-long interests and deep commitment to the arts through volunteer work. She is an advocate for mentoring adults at risk for homelessness. These days, she is studying to become a lyric soprano, trilling 18th century pop songs, and singing in Covid-inspired global virtual choirs. 

Coloratura soprano Jane Hoffman brings her engaging stage presence and expressive voice to a variety of repertoire. She has sung with the Victor Herbert Renaissance Project, Pasadena Opera, New Camerata Opera, Utopia Opera, and others. She is a passionate advocate for new and rarely performed works. She has premiered pieces by Kaley Lane Eaton and Gemma Peacocke as a Fresh Squeezed Opera Resident Artist. In 2020 Jane had planned to appear as the soprano soloist in Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), and she’s looking forward to rescheduling that performance. When she’s not singing, Jane bakes bread, pies, and cakes in her kitchen in Hamilton Heights. She has participated in Bel Canto Boot Camp Vaccai Summer 2020. 

Kimberly Gratland James is an active classical performer and an associate professor of music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She also serves as the VP of Outreach for the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Her recent pre-COVID performances included Gertrude Stein in Gordon’s 27, Mme de Croissy in Dialogues of the Carmelites, Mahler’s Second Symphony, and several chamber and guest artist recitals. A vocal pedagogy expert, she led the BCBC Book Club discussion of Stark’s Bel Canto and has enjoyed connecting to her bel canto ‘roots’ through the Vaccai Project and BCBC’s other excellent programming.

Jennifer Moore studied singing at Rice University and New England Conservatory before singing as an Apprentice Artist at the Bel Canto at Caramoor program and subsequently joining the International Opera Studio at Zurich Opera. After that residency she returned to New York City and has since performed locally in various concerts and operatic productions, as well as at the Catholic Church of the Holy Name of Jesus on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she has served as cantor for the past 11 years. In that time Jennifer has also developed her professional career at Kaplan Test Prep, where she currently leads the division that helps aspiring medical students succeed on the MCAT. In her free time, when she’s not working on her legato with BCBC, she enjoys running, tennis, and playing with her dog Max.

Jorie Moss is an arts admin professional by day and soprano by night. She first met Rachelle and Derrick while a graduate student at Westminster Choir College and has coached with them on a variety of repertoire in the years since. She joined Bel Canto Boot Camp as part of the Vaccai Project in summer 2021 and continued into the fall with Prima le parole; both of these projects taught her so much and she continues to learn and benefit from this amazing community. In the “before” times, Jorie sang often around her current home base of Philadelphia with Opera Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and hopes to continue opera chorus work as theaters reopen. She also started working in nonprofit development and fundraising as part of her “pandemic pivot” and is enjoying learning about this aspect of the arts world to complement her life as a performer.

Mezzo-soprano Leslie Ratner has worked with various New York City organizations and companies such as Bronx Opera, Amore Opera, Utopia Opera, International Vocal Arts Institute, and is a current participant of the BCBC Vaccai Project. A versatile singer, and lover of all types of music, she has been praised for her richness of tone and overall striking presence. Leslie is a native of Long Island, New York and has studied with many wonderful teachers and coaches in the greater New York area. Her vision is to use her voice and dramatic abilities to open the minds and hearts of music lovers in every part of the world. 

Laura Stanell studied voice at Peabody Preparatory for four years where she met Rachelle and had the privilege to work with her in masterclasses. She first participated in the fall Vaccai Project as well as the Daily exercise intensive and both have dramatically changed her view of singing. Laura recently graduated from Souderton area high school in June 2021, and she will be attending the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM) in Fall 2021 to pursue a BM in vocal performance and will study with Daniel Weeks. She also wants to pursue a piano minor at CCM as she wants to accompany vocalists, and she’s been studying piano for 14 years. 

In love with the craft of singing, Leah Yackanech has been studying voice for three years. She has participated in NATS, Schmidt Vocal Arts, and 2021 American Music Talent Competitions. She hopes to bring the beauty of classical music to the world.

Ying Yu is from China and has a s long interest in vocal arts and music education. She is a recent Temple University graduates with a Master’s in Vocal Arts and has been working in music education after graduation. Prior to that, she had a Bachelor’s in China. She has a handful of award-wining performance in and around NY.