The Phoenix Session Summer Retrospective Series is eight weeks of live entertainment presenting artist combos previously heard in the digitally offered Aeolian Phoenix Sessions:
For two years, the Aeolian Phoenix Sessions have provided patrons with a cross-section of the music going experience. From classical to jazz, rock to country, and bluegrass to folk, the Sessions aim to bring music back into your home and heart.
With over 200 musicians having participated, the sessions have been a safe and consistent experience during rather uncertain times.
Our goal was has always been the same: reignite live music and get artists on stage, technicians behind the soundboard and our patrons on their feet listening to extraordinary talent in extraordinary times.
Concerts will be recorded on the Dundas Garden Stage or in the Dave Southen Lounge depending on the weather and instrumentation and presented as part of the digital series.
“Sonja is an uncommonly versatile performer…”
Music has been an integral part of Sonja’s life since childhood. Growing up with a music historian and a classically trained soprano as parents exposed her to a great deal of classical repertoire. Sonja spent much of her youth singing in choirs and playing the violin. In her late teens, she was presented with the opportunity to audition for the world reknowned Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan. She decided to audition for the voice department, where room was available for one more student.
Sonja graduated from Interlochen with flying colours and returned home to Canada to continue studying voice at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at The University of Western Ontario. As part of her studies at UWO, Sonja performed in several operas to gain more experience on the stage. She also took up the position of soprano soloist at First St. Andrew’s United Church, which is widely recognized for its fine music program.
Simultaneously, a close friend encouraged her to try Jazz. Her initiation into the Jazz world was a New Year’s Eve gig at a local restaurant. That night proved to be a trial by fire as Sonja spent the evening entertaining the crowd with Jazz standards she’d only just learned (and more than a few which she had to sight-read!). Finding it to be an exhilirating experience, Sonja continued to work on expanding her jazz repertoire and finding a vocal technique that lent itself better to jazz than opera.
Following graduation, Sonja found herself performing more and more Jazz at local restaurants, clubs and private functions. She also worked full-time as a waitress, performing for enthusiastic crowds on nights and weekends. She collaborated with many of London’s very talented Jazz musicians, learning the skills of jazz musicianship as she went. Their mentoring of her singing paid off and in 2005, Sonja was recognized with a London Music Award for Most Popular Jazz Performer.
It was at this time that a life-changing opportunity arose. At the prompting of her mother, she sent an audition CD to the producers of a new television reality/documentary series entitled Bathroom Divas. Chosen from hundreds of CDs to come and audition live, she earned a spot on the show as one of six finalists that would attend a three week Opera ‘Boot Camp’ in Toronto. Having gone six years without any voice lessons, this was the ultimate opportunity for Sonja to receive not only training, but invaluable feedback from some of Canada’s top operatic performers and trainers. The experience was incredibly valuable and renewed her interest in the classical and operatic repertoire, as well as her confidence in her operatic capabilities.
After three weeks of boot camp and a second-place finish, Sonja decided to continue the process of musical growth by returning to her classical music studies at UWO, where she obtained the degree of Master of Music under the tutelage of Mary Lou Fallis, one of the instructors and producers of Bathroom Divas. During her studies Sonja kept a busy performing schedule, which included roles in several operatic productions with UWOpera and Orchestra London. She also released her self-produced debut jazz CD, which has been met with great enthusiasm from her fans and the arts community in London and the surrounding area and led to an invitation to perform at London’s highly successful summer music festival, Sunfest in 2008. Sonja was the only local performer to take the stage in the festival’s jazz village, performing two shows for enthusiastic crowds.
On the classical side of things, Sonja was pleased to be a featured soloist with Orchestra London, the Victoria Symphony and the Vancouver Island Symphony in a Christmas Pops show written and arranged for her and conducted by fellow Jazz musician and UWO grad, Jeff Christmas. Hence, she has become a regular guest performer in the Orchestra London Pops series.
Desiring to create more opportunities for herself and other UWO music grads in the London area, she formed her own production company, Diva Lounge Productions, which is busy developing several original works in collaboration with local London composers. In addition to these many accomplishments, Sonja was also honoured to win several awards, scholarships and competitions for both her jazz and classical performing.
Whether crooning jazz standards with her band, singing with the symphony or performing on the operatic stage, Sonja’s passion for music is evident in her presence and attitude. It is this passion coupled with her consummate musicianship, sparkling voice and versatility that make her a performer to remember and enjoy!
Rick has been working as an independent music & theatre professional in various capacities since proudly graduating with his BFA from the University of Windsor’s, School of Dramatic Art. Rick received his Masters degree from UWO’s, Don Wright Faculty of Music in Literature & Performance with a focus in Music Theatre. He is a member in good standing of Canadian Actor’s Equity Association (CAEA). In 2020 Rick was nominated 2020 Jazz Vocalist of this year – the same award he received in 2019 (Jazz Vocalist of the Year Award) through the Forest City London Music Awards (FCLMA). Several projects he’s led have received Brickenden Awards – Vigil, Saucy Jack & The Space Vixens & The Secret Garden. Fringe Festival Awards include JUDY: Stonewalled!, Saucy Jack & The Space Vixens. He is also a proud LAC Community Investment Grant Investment recipient. He has worked as an artistic director, producer, director, actor, singer, voice teacher/coach, acting teacher/coach & workshop leader. Scroll down for full list of awards below…
He served as Artistic Director at The Port Stanley Festival Theatre in Port Stanley, ON, and at The Bluewater Summer Playhouse in Kincardine, ON. Rick created the professionally engaging (CAEA) theatre company in London, ON, a missing link theatre company (amltc). In its two seasons amltc staged JUDY: Stonewalled! (Outstanding Cast Award – London Fringe 2014), Billy Bishop Goes To War, A Really RETRO Christmas Special – 2014, 2013 & 2012, VIGIL (2013 Brickenden Award Winner – Outstanding Comedy & Actress), The World Premiere Production of Norm Foster’s The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby & A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.
Rick is the Artistic Director of LINK theatre which began in December of 2015 with a really Retro CROONER Christmas. The show has become an annual production. Since 2015 the show toured the Province of Ontario. The Crooners visited Huron Country Playhouse, Drayton Festival Theatre, Meaford Performing Arts, to name a few… In 2020, due to Covid, the show had only two live performances at Paradigm Spirits at 100 Kellogg Lane – a stripped down version of the show called, An Intimate Crooner Christmas. In 2021 the show enjoyed a limited tour. (Check out LINK theatre’s page for information – www.linktheatre.ca). In 2017 LINK staged the OUTRAGEOUS musical comedy Saucy Jack & The Space Vixens. Due to being wildly popular with audiences, it was remounted in 2018… Both productions were presented in The TABU Lounge at Jack’s on Richmond Street in London.
Some favourite acting credits include: Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, JUDY: Stonewalled!, The Rocky Horror Show, Songs From The Bar… and one more for the road , My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, The Wild Guys, Toronto, Mississippi and Side By Side By Sondheim.
Some favourite directing credits include: The Secret Garden: A Musical, JUDY: Stonewalled!, Billy Bishop Goes To War, Vigil, the World Premiere Production of Norm Foster’s The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby, A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline for amltc, Hedwig & The Angry Inch for the London Fringe festival 2012, Wang Dang Doodle for the Grand Theatre in London, Steel Magnolias for the University of Windsor’s, School of Dramatic Art, Sweeney Todd for the University of Western Ontario, Mary’s Wedding, A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, The Wild Guys, Suds: The Rocking ‘60’s Musical Soap Opera & Forever Plaid & the World Premiere Production of Norm Foster’s Storm Warning for The Bluewater Summer Playhouse, Maggie’s Getting Married, Pith, You’ll Get Used To It! The War Show & Bordertown Café for the Port Stanley Festival Theatre.
Rick has created, produced and performed in a variety of Jazz/Swing/Musical Theatre themed shows such as the a really Retro CROONER Christmas show, a Really RETRO Specials, Songs From The Bar …and one more for the road, From Broadway to Jazz…, A Holiday Celebration of Jazz…, Broadway Lights & Hot Summer Nights, A New Years Eve Celebration of Swing…, The Gangsters of Swing & What Happens In Vegas… Other projects are currently in the works…
Rick has been very involved in many youth mentorship initiatives at the Grand Theatre in London. For 10 years Rick worked as Vocal/Singing Coach on The Highschool Project; Les Miserables (2016), Hello Dolly, The Addams Family: A New Musical, Legally Blonde, My Fair Lady, Footloose, Anything Goes, Grease, The Pirates of Penzance & Les Miserables (2007). As well as having worked with The Grand Academy for several years as the acting coach & voice through Broadway Songs instructor.
For the past several years now, Rick has been adjudicating with the RISE 2 FAME Youth Talent Search with contestants from across Southwestern Ontario. He has taught acting at both Fanshawe College in the Acting Program as well as UWO’s Continuing Studies and the Don Wright Faculty of Music Master’s Program.
Rick teaches Singing & Acting from his home Studio in London, ON.
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