Mila Vocal Ensemble

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Bios

headshot of Jen Blecha

Jen Blecha

Jen joined Mila in 2006 after deciding that vocalists have a better deal than instrumentalists: there’s nothing heavy to schlep around when you’re a singer! Having performed for more than 10 years as a dancer and instrumentalist with several Eastern European ensembles, as well as having done a Master’s thesis on the rights of Roma populations in Bulgaria, Jen brings valuable skill and history to Mila. Jen helps the ensemble master the trickiest of rhythms by teaching dances during rehearsal.

headshot of Laura lentzLaura Lentz

Laura has been singing in choral groups since fifth grade. She received her B.A. in Music and English at Mount Holyoke College, where she studied voice and sang with several ensembles. She fell in love with Mila when she saw the group in concert in 2008; she is thrilled to learn about Eastern European vocal traditions with such a talented group of women.

headshot of Kerri Meyer

Kerri Meyer

Originally a devoted fan of the ensemble, Kerri’s first exposure to Eastern European music was a Mila performance at the church where she works. She joined the group in 2007 and enjoyed a steep learning curve. She’s still surprised that 7 and 21 beats per measure comes naturally to some people. She is grateful for the legacy of cultural authenticity and musical excellence left by past Mila singers and looks forward to living up to the name “Mila” with the new group of singers.

headshot of Abby MorrisetteAbby Morrisette

Abby Morrisette has been singing in some capacity since she was five, performing in everything from neighborhood Christmas pageants to impromptu concerts at Ground Zero. Musicals, jazz ensembles, choirs, and voice lessons took up most of her time until she started college. As an engineering student at the University of Minnesota, she desperately needed a creative outlet. It was at the University that she first heard and collaborated with Mila, and she was struck by the power and intricacy of Eastern European music. Now, this close-knit ensemble is an exciting, enriching part of her life.

 

headshot of Bernadette MurphyBernadette Murphy

Bernadette has been singing almost her whole life, participating in groups such as Bel Canto Voices, Hill-Murray's Pioneer Performers, and One Voice Mixed Chorus. She was brought up with folk music from a very young age, her dad accompanying her on the guitar as she sang American folk tunes. She was drawn to Mila after hearing them perform with Ethnic Dance Theater and is ecstatic to be singing with the group.

 

Headshot of Marie RuleMarie Rule

Marie Rule is a musicologist and clarinettist who found her way into singing Eastern European folk music through participation in the University of Illinois "Balkanalia" music group under the direction of Donna Buchanan. Singing with Mila has become an exciting and rewarding part of her life.

Headshot of Jackie SmithJackie Smith

When Jackie was 16 years old she discovered "le Mystere des Voix Bulgares" and was transfixed by the beauty and soul of Bulgarian music. She was promptly informed by her voice teacher that she would never use her voice in such a way. She is thrilled to be in Mila, living her dream and making music the way her voice was meant to. Her twenty years of singing has included madrigal ensembles, Gospel, and Hebrew and Swedish folk music. She lives in Falcon Heights with her husband and three children.

 

headshot of Phala Tracy

Phala Tracy

Phala Tracy is a classically trained harpist (BM Oberlin Conservatory of Music / MFA California Institute of the Arts) who also loves to sing Eastern European folk music. Before moving to Minnesota, she sang in a six - person Bulgarian Women's Choir at the California Institute of the Arts under the direction of Kate Conklin. Phala sings in English as well! Her CD of "Critter Songs" (Catalpa Tree Publishing, 2004) is a collection of original animal songs with pedal harp accompaniment - all about cats, fish, dogs, bugs, tree toads, fruit bats, imaginary lizards and a frig frog fairy dog wog. She is thrilled to be a part of Mila!

headshot of Kristi Larson

Kristi Larson

Kristi is a classically trained singer with a passion for folk music and foreign languages. She studied voice for 10 years and attended the Tanglewood young artist vocal program, summer home of the Boston Symphony. As a Marketing Specialist at Target and board member for the Alliance Francaise, Kristi is thrilled she found Mila as an enriching, challenging, creative outlet.

 

 

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