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Meet The Performers

In order of appearance
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Karina Montgomery

Happily Ever After

from Once Upon a Mattress

Music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer

Karina Montgomery joined Encore in 2011 and has been a member on and off since, occasionally taking time off to focus on her other hobbies of writing, nerd conventions, and cosplay crafting, but she always comes back to singing! She is a proud alto with a loving cat called Tobias and an enormous collection of physical media. She loves to visit the zoo, write letters, improvise, and work with props.

What Karina says about the song:


Once Upon a Mattress opened off-Broadway in 1959, at a time when conventional ambitions for women peaked at being a wife and mother. Superficially, Mattress is a retelling of the Princess and the Pea, with the heroine proving her worthiness to marry the prince by being extremely delicate.


This show finds Winnifred, a rough and ready princess of the swamp and polar opposite of a stereotypical perfect bride, auditioning to marry the prince. She is independent and unconventional, everything a typical 1959 bride should not be, and even today an unusual sort of lead.


Here she expresses her relatable wish for love and companionship, and her fantasy that settling for this mousy prince will result in a happily ever after life. It’s a song of longing and frustration at having to do everything herself to find happiness– but really, Winnifred is too good for Dauntless, and the most capable character in the whole show.

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Shae Hudson

Fast Car

Music and lyrics by Tracy Chapman

Shae Hudson (they/them) is a native San Diegan and original Encore Vocal Ensemble member since 2011. Parent of twin teenagers and full time Art Director and Photographer, life is crazy busy but creative outlets make it worthwhile.

What Shae says about the song:

I knew I wanted to sing a song by Tracy Chapman for this performance as I love her style and sound and grew up listening to her music, so I've always found her to be iconic. I also relate to the lyrics of fast car, having experienced many setbacks in my life all the while hanging onto the glimmer of hope of finding peace in an existence where I can be who I want to be.

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Steven Slatten

Not My Father’s Son

from Kinky Boots

Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper

Steven is thrilled to be on stage for the Encore Cabaret. He most recently had the world premiere of Christmas Cookies & Chaos: A Camp Holiday Musical that he wrote and directed. He has performed on stages from San Francisco to N.Y.C. Other favorite roles include Jesus (Godspell),  Mr. Simpson (Tommy), and a two year run in the off-broadway hit show Tony & Tina’s Wedding. Special thanks to his husband, Jarret, for always supporting his talents over the last 25 years.

What Steven says about the songwriter:


Not My Father’s Son was written by the iconic Cyndi Lauper, who is best known for her pop hits from the 80’s. When Ms. Lauper brought to life the story of a Drag Queen and a shoemaker through her beautiful music and lyrics in the musical Kinky Boots, she cemented her place as an ally for the LGBTQIA community forever. This song tells the familiar story of what it is like to grow up not being accepted, and finally learning that it is ok to be yourself even when others don’t understand it. I chose this song because, just like Cyndi wrote in the song, “I came to a realization that I could just be me,” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Marie Marandola


Written by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff

Special arrangement by Marie Marandola and Tim McKnight

Marie Marandola (she/her) grew up singing in children's choirs and has been with Encore since 2018. A tortured poet in her middle-aged mom era, she still sometimes lets herself believe that all her friends secretly hate her. This is her first Taylor Swift song.

Marie would like to extend a special thanks to Tim McKnight for taking on this project with her, and sticking it out even in its most dream ballet-ish iterations.

What Marie says about the songwriter:


Arguably one of the most prolific singer/songwriters of our time, Taylor Swift is often commended (and condemned) for her raw and vulnerable lyrics. In writing "Anti-hero" (2022), she joined a tradition of artists giving voice to their own insecurities and self-loathing, including P!nk in 2001, Thom Yorke of Radiohead in 1992, and Fiona Apple in 1997.

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Leah Grijalva

Heart of Stone

from SIX the Musical

Music and lyrics by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow

Leah is a native San Diegan who spent a large majority of her adult life wrangling penguins and flamingos. During her evenings and weekends, she moonlights as a fake rock star covering famous people's songs for that cash monaaaay. You can find her singing anything from AC/DC, to Cyndi Lauper...from Dido to Whitney and JJ Fad. She is incredibly stoked to have found Encore and is grateful for the wonderful family that comes built into this super group. Leah dedicates her song selection to her late mother who passed away on Feb. 28th of 2023. She was her biggest fan.


What Leah says about the song:

SIX the Musical is a production focused on the six wives of Henry the VIII. Heart of Stone represents the point of view of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, who passed away soon after giving birth to Henry's only son. She sings of her complicated love for the king and also of her unconditional love for her son.

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Susan Williams

Once Upon a December

from Anastasia

Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty

Susan, a member of Encore since early 2020, was born into a music and theater-loving family in San Diego. In her youth, she was in Junior Theater, sang in school choirs and later earned a BA in Drama from UC Irvine. She studied voice in college and then privately in Los Angeles for several years. Over the years, she's performed as a church soloist, and been in several community theater musicals and workshops in the Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego areas.

What Susan has to say about the song and lyricist:

"Once Upon a December" is a song filled with longing and nostalgia, and a favorite of my daughter's since we saw the animated feature Anastasia years ago when she was a child. Lynn Ahrens wrote the lyrics to this and all the songs in both the film and Broadway adaptation of Anastasia. Ms. Ahrens is the lyricist and book writer of the award winning team of Ahrens and Flaherty.  She and music composer, Stephen Flaherty, have written songs for theater, film and television over thirty years. Learn more on their website:

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Richard Wood

Cowboy Take Me Away

Music and lyrics by Martie Maguire & Marcus Hummon

Richard has been a proud member of Encore for seven years and is thrilled to be singing in his second Cabaret. He has previously performed with In aChord Men's Ensemble, Looking Glass Theatre, MenAlive: the Orange County Gay Men's Chorus, the Prosecco Players, and the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus. In his free time he enjoys biking by the beach and hiking with his handsome boyfriend, Ronald Jason Ligon.

What Richard says about the song:


The Chicks, formerly The Dixie Chicks, were co-founded by sisters Emily and Martie Erwin - both multi-instrumental virtuosos. After touring and performing for years, they achieved international success once powerhouse vocalist, Natalie Maines, joined the group. They are the best-selling all-woman band and best-selling country group of all time.

Martie co-wrote this song for Emily in honor of her sister's (first) marriage. Its message of hope and joy - and finally finding the man of his dreams! - is why Richard has chosen to sing a love song, for the very first time, for you all tonight. Enjoy!

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Harumi Parnell


Performing with Richard Wood

Harumi Parnell has been playing the violin since she was 3 years old. Currently she plays and sings in the San Diego Women’s Chorus. Outside of music, she has recently taken up karate with her family and has earned a 5th kyu rank in the Shotokan karate.

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Lisa Ranft

Closer to Fine

Music and lyrics by Emily Saliers

Duet with Missy Hendrick

Lisa Ranft joined Encore in January 2014. She has always fancied herself an ensemble singer, versus a soloist, and could not pass up the opportunity to sing with her cherished friend, Missy. Making music with her people makes her heart happy.

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Missy Hendrick

Closer to Fine

Music and lyrics by Emily Saliers

Duet with Lisa Ranft

Missy has been a proud member of Encore since 2015. She is excited to have this opportunity to sing with one of the first friends she made in the group. When she’s not singing, Missy enjoys dancing, hiking, snorkeling, cooking, baking, and paddle boarding. Go vote! 

What Lisa and Missy say about the song:


“Closer to Fine” was first performed by the Indigo Girls, a folk-rock duo made up of Amy Ray and Emily Sailers, which was written by Sailers. It speaks to the search for meaning in many different places and admits that there are no real answers to be found. It’s a bit of honesty that we think we all need at some point in time. 

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Jennifer Blanton

Hold On

from The Secret Garden

Music and lyrics by Lucy Simon

Jennifer Blanton is excited to be performing musical theater again after a lengthy hiatus. Prior to moving home to San Diego for law school, she was in many productions in the Washington, DC area. Her favorite productions include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Little Shop of Horrors, Urinetown, and Assassins. Jennifer is an attorney who also enjoys swimming and being very competitive at trivia.

What Jennifer says about the song:

The Secret Garden is a rare Broadway musical written entirely by women. It is the only collaboration between songwriter/composer Lucy Simon (Carly Simon's older sister) and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Marsha Norman ('night Mother). At this point in the show, Mary is devastated because she is told she will be sent away to a boarding school because she is making her ill cousin worse. Her chambermaid, Martha, sings this song to inspire her.

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Randall Ulyate


Music and lyrics by Stevie Nicks

Randall Victoria Ulyate is a professor of mythology, spectator of the supernatural, and lover of fine nachos. You can find her around town roller-skating, making music, practicing yoga, or some combination of the three.

What Randall says about the songwriter:

Stevie Nicks writes songs that speak to my soul just as much now as when I was an angsty 15 year old. Stevie Nicks wrote "Dreams" in response to her estranged husband, Lindsey Buckingham’s, “Go Your Own Way,” and recorded it with him and the rest of Fleetwood Mac in the middle of their divorce. The band originally didn't want to record it, and it ended up being their only number one hit song in the US. Stevie Nicks was and continues to be an incredible performer, soulful songwriter, a style icon, and head witch in charge.

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Elisa Ruben

Because of You

Music and lyrics Kelly Clarkson, David Hodges, and Ben Moody

Duet with Jessica Snodgrass

Elisa Ruben has been a soprano in Encore for over 14 years and has loved every minute of it. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist by day, and enjoys volunteering, dance, game nights and pub trivia in her spare time. For fun, you can find Elisa singing the national anthem at events all around San Diego.

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Jessica Snodgrass

Because of You

Music and lyrics Kelly Clarkson, David Hodges, and Ben Moody

Duet with Elisa Ruben

Jessica Snodgrass started taking singing lessons when she was 8 years old and continued singing until she finished her Bachelor’s. And just like that, she didn’t know where to sing, and life was a little sadder after that. Until her bestie told her about Encore just over a year ago! While joining a large singing group of strangers was scary and anxiety-ridden, Jessica wouldn’t change being in Encore. When she’s not singing with Encore (or in the shower or car), Jessica writes curriculum and activities for students from Transitional Kindergarten - 5th grade about wildlife and conservation. Feel free to talk to her about it, but know she talks forever. Her dream is to one day hug a raccoon.

What Jessica and Elisa say about the song:


Kelly Clarkson became an American household name in 2002, when she won the first season of American Idol. Since then she has topped the charts worldwide. “Because of You” was originally written by Clarkson when she was 16 years old to cope with the emotional distress of her parent’s divorce and her deteriorating relationship with her father. It was released in 2005 and went platinum in the United States and 4 other countries. In 2007, “Because of You” was recorded as a duet for Reba McEntire’s album, Reba:Duets. It went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Country Collaboration and hit number 2 on the Hot Country Songs Chart.

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Dorian Sailer

Someone to Lay Down Beside Me

Music and lyrics by Karla Bonoff

Dorian has been singing and playing piano since age 5. She sang in her first band in college and has been performing regularly ever since in rock bands, contemporary and traditional church groups, and the La Jolla Playhouse WOW festival, in addition to Encore. Currently, she is the lead singer in Pomerado, a local classic rock band that performs throughout the county. She has taught fitness classes for over 40 years and currently teaches 3 yoga classes weekly. In addition, she is a nationally ranked tennis player.

What Dorian says about the songwriter:


“Someone to Lay Down Beside Me” was written by Karla Bonoff and originally recorded by Linda Ronstadt in 1976. I was blown away by its haunting melody the first time I heard it. Karla then released an equally beautiful rendition of her song on her self-titled album in 1977. While Bonoff has released a number of albums, she is primarily known for her songwriting. During my first Encore show, I had the great pleasure of performing her song, “Somebody’s Eyes” from the 1984 Footloose soundtrack.

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Jeni Noerenberg

Falling Slowly

from Once

Music and lyrics by Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard

Duet with Steve Lin

Jeni has been privileged to sing with Encore Vocal Ensemble’s family for 3 seasons since 2022.  She is the proud founder of the Northwestern Undertones a cappella group and former musical director of Chorda Tympani at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. Steve Lin has been a gracious partner in this beautiful duet for Falling Slowly. Jeni is grateful to have the support of family and friends to continue her love for music!

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Steve Lin

Falling Slowly

from Once

Music and lyrics by Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard

Duet with Jeni Noerenberg

Steve’s first show with Encore Vocal Ensemble was in the Fall of 2014 and this will be his 10th season with this wonderful organization. His other credits include Rent (On Stage Playhouse), Into the Woods (Pickwick Players), and 9 to 5 (Patio Playhouse). Steve is excited to be performing Falling Slowly with Jeni as it is a beautiful duet.  Most of all, he is grateful for the love and support of friends and family, especially the Encore Vocal Ensemble family.

What Jeni and Steve say about the song:


Jeni and Steve selected Falling Slowly as a duet for Music, She Wrote, not only for its Academy Award recognition, but for its beautiful simplicity in lyrics and melody.  It communicates a love story in reality, illustrating hope and loss, which ultimately define the compromises required in any long-term relationship.  

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Dennis Schamp


Lyrics by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, music by Chris Stein

Dennis Schamp has been performing since 3rd grade, when he portrayed a singing caboose for the Spring Festival at his elementary school.  Since then, he has sung with church choirs, The Sun Harbor Barbershop Chorus, The Mesa College Choir, the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, and has dabbled in musical theater.  He is especially fond of New Wave music, cover bands, and the crooners of the Rat Pack.  Dennis would like to thank his lovely wife of 38 years, Marianne, and his four boys for their love and support of his musical hobby.

What Dennis says about the song:

I’ve always been fascinated by Debbie Harry and her ability to turn a phrase. With her partner, Chris Stein, providing the notes, together they create songs that can make you dance, but also make you think.  From the 1979’s album Eat To The Beat, “Dreaming” asks you to determine if the chance meeting being described is real, or just in the singer’s imagination. Legend says it describes the first meeting between Harry and Stein.  But they both agree it was influenced by ABBA’s “Dancin’ Queen.” 

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Giana Rodriguez


Music and lyrics by Dido Armstrong and Rollo Armstrong

Giana is enjoying her 8th year in Encore and is excited to sing in this cabaret. She is thankful for the support of her family and friends and lives being part of this amazing group.

What Giana says about the songwriter:

Dido is an English singer-songwriter who writes from her heart. She was the soundtrack to my early 20s and I have much respect for her raw storytelling.

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Vivian Schmitz

All I’ve Ever Known

from Hadestown

Music and lyrics by Anaïs Mitchell

Duet with Steven Slatten

Vivian V. Schmitz has a passion for all music. Everything from classic rock to classical. She received her B.A in Music from the University of Central Florida. She has most recently portrayed Norma in Hands On A Hardbody (Coronado Playhouse), Beatriz in Miss You Like Hell (Patio Playhouse), and Camila in In the Heights (Patio Playhouse). Vivian has been an Encore member since 2018.

What Vivian and Steven say about the song and the musical it is from:

Hadestown is a folk opera with music, lyrics, and book by Anaïs Mitchell. It tells a version of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Through many iterations, Anaïs spent over a decade adapting this show to eventually become an awards-winning musical. All I've Ever Known is a song about falling in love in a world so dark and cold.

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Ronald Jason Ligon

A Thousand Years

Music and lyrics by Christina Perri and David Hodges

After almost 30 years of living as a bachelor, Ronald had abandoned any hope of a happily ever after with anyone. He built up walls and kept everyone at arm's length. That is, until he met his one true soulmate, Richard Wood!

What Ronald Jason says about the song:

“A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri isn't just a song; it's an experience, an exploration of the depths of human emotion. It's about the joy and pain of loving someone so deeply that the boundaries of time become meaningless.

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Chrissy Allen

Me and the Sky

from Come from Away

Music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein

Chrissy Allen is a San Diego native. She grew up at the San Diego Jr. Theatre, and graduated from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SDSCPA). Music and musical theatre have been in her blood since she was old enough to sing. She was blessed to find Encore in the spring of 2022, and can't imagine her life now without it. She says that “this is what a musical family and home look like.” When she is not rehearsing with or for Encore, she spends time with her husband of 27 years, and her three kids, Breeanna - 26, Jessie -18, and Braden - 16.

What Chrissy says about the song:


My song, "Me and the Sky,” was written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, a married writing duo from Canada. This song was recorded by Jenn Colella, and has been a favorite of mine since the first time I heard it. In fact, the subject of this song, Beverly Bass, was even in the audience that night. Girl Power reaches "new heights"  in this true story, musically illustrating the journey of a pilot who became the first female captain in history for American Airlines. What a wonderful example of strength and perseverance, truly proving dreams have no boundaries when you set your sights on something and never give up.

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Sarah Brothers

She Used to Be Mine

from Waitress

Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles

Sarah Brothers is a nonprofit communications executive by day and a member of the 10+ years club of Encore enthusiasts at night. She enjoys spending time in her Bankers Hill neighborhood walking with her French bulldog, Louie, drinking a nice coffee with her husband, Jason, and discovering fun new ways to be an athlete.

What Sarah says about the songwriter and the song:

“She Used to Be Mine” and the entire waitress soundtrack are the brainchild of Sara Bareilles, one of my longtime favorite singer-songwriters. I’ve always been struck by her ability to capture the complexities of the human condition, particularly from a woman’s perspective. This song reflects that complexity as the main character Jenna grapples with the challenges of an abusive relationship, an unexpected pregnancy, and the crumbling of the path she had been creating to build a new life. 

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Amanda Hibshman

Automatic Rainy Day

from Head Over Heels

Music and lyrics by Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, and Steve Plunkett

Duet with Krystle Hart

Amanda Hibshman has been a member of Encore since 2014. She currently sings in the alto section and starts every season with the hope that at least one Sweeney Todd number will find its way into the show. Between performing, her work as Dietetic Internship Director at the VA, and her two very active children, she doesn’t have free time, but if she did, she would spend it trying to find something to fill the free time.

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Krystle Hart

Automatic Rainy Day

from Head Over Heels

Music and lyrics by Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, and Steve Plunkett

Duet with Amanda Hibshman

Krystle Hart has been a member of Encore for more than a decade and is currently serving on the Board of Directors as Vice President. She has been a singer and performer most of her life and also enjoys working behind the scenes, most recently as the Managing Director of JCompany Youth Theatre. If you are interested in supporting Encore and our mission, talk to Krystle about the benefits of joining us as a sustaining member!

What Amanda and Krystle say about the song:

“Automatic Rainy Day” is from Head Over Heels, the sleeper hit musical based on music from the Go-Go’s. Originally released by the Go-Go’s on their 2001 album God Bless the Go-Go’s, “Automatic Rainy Day” discusses the impact one person can have on another’s emotions and well-being by bringing a storm of negativity into their lives.


Tim McKnight

Musical Director and Accompanist

Tim McKnight has proudly served as Encore Vocal Ensemble’s Music/Artistic Director since 2012. Tim originally hails from the Midwest where he received his Bachelors in Music Education and his Masters in Accompanying & Vocal Coaching from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign. Over the past 17 years, he has also served as the Director of Music at Chalice Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Escondido.


Tim is a private piano teacher, accompanist, vocal coach, and award-winning musical theatre director & conductor. He has received 3 National Youth Arts Awards for Outstanding Music Direction as well as 4 nominations for his work at J*Company Youth Theatre in La Jolla. In addition, Tim has had the honor of being the Music Director for the Broadway San Diego Awards since their inception in 2014.


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