Mary Anne Sims is an educator and musician with over twenty-five years experience in the classroom, including thirteen as a vocal music instructor in the Des Moines public schools. She received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Iowa and her Master of Arts in Music Education from the Ohio State University, where her thesis developed pedagogy for English language-learners in the music classroom. While in pursuit of her Master’s degree, she sang and soloed in The Ohio State University’s Gospel Choir “Inspirational Voices,” and studied urban music education under Dr. Jan Edwards. She has taught at every grade level, with experience in urban, rural and suburban general music and choral programs, including leading the highly successful Des Moines Roosevelt Varsity Show Choir and receiving ten consecutive Highly Superior state ratings for her Women’s Ensemble. She has also served as a mentor and consultant to programs across the country, working with Gospel and youth choirs of all ages. She is a successful choral arranger, having written commissions for several schools in Iowa, as well as community organizations such as the World Food Prize, and is also an accomplished pianist and accompanist. She serves as an adjudicator during show choir season, and loves to work with young performers.
Napoleon Douglas is a traveling Actor, Choreographer, and Teaching Artist who received a BA in Theatre Arts from Drake University. The Roosevelt High School Alumnus (’10) has been very involved in the Des Moines Area Arts Community throughout the years. While at Drake, Napoleon studied with Leanne Freeman-Miller and Christine Fortner-Blanner and worked under the direction of Aimee Beckmann-Collier in the prestigious Drake and Chamber Choirs. He received a Master in Business Administration from Southern New Hampshire University. Since graduation he has worked extensively in music theater, as a member of the Resident Artist Company at Midtown Arts Center in Ft. Collins, CO and as a Teaching Artist at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Denver, CO. His notable credits include Jimmy Early in Dreamgirls (Playhouse on the Square), Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol (Denver Center Theatre Company), Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and T.J. in Sister Act (Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities), Seaweed Stubbs in Hairspray (Rising Star Theatre Co and Playhouse on the Square), Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd (MAC), Jud Fry in Oklahoma, (MAC), Franco in Superior Donuts (StageWest). He will play the Simba track in Festival of the Lion King (Hong Kong Disneyland) commencing in September 2018. Institutionally, Napoleon has worked for various non-profit organizations as a consultant and assistant in arts administrative departments, including City Voices. Napoleon is also a former member of the renowned Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corps, who performed for both Inauguration Parades for President Barack Obama and was the national representative at the Afro-Academic, Cultural and Technological Olympics (Vocal Music: Classical, Oratory and Dance).
Amanda Lowe is an ’08 graduate of Roosevelt High School, where she won the Superintendent’s Award for vocal music. Amanda continued her music education at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN with the support of a vocal performance scholarship. She received her Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy and finished her music therapy internship at Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas. She has studied under Janet Fried, Sonya Thompson, and the choir director Peter Hendrickson. Amanda was the recipient of Augsburg’s prestigious Hognander Scholarship her senior year. She has soloed with numerous choirs and studied at the Wesley Balk Opera Institute workshop.
Sarah Jorgenson has been teaching voice both privately and in the collegiate setting for nearly 20 years. Before landing in Iowa, Sarah began her musical journey by graduating with a classical voice performance degree and extensive master’s pedagogy classes from the University of NE- Lincoln. She has won many vocal competitions including the Soli Deo Gloria Voice Competition and has been selected as the soprano soloist to perform with multiple orchestras including the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and the New York Symphonia. She can be heard on the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album singing with Johnny Mathis. Deciding that musical theatre was an exciting change from the classical voice and opera she had studied for so long, she moved to NYC. Sarah has performed lead roles in numerous operas and theaters regionally. As an equity actor in NYC, Sarah had the pleasure of joining performers such as John Groff and Michael Zygo in raising money and awareness by performing with Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS. After stopping in Des Moines while en route to Chicago for an audition, Sarah met her husband and decided to plant her roots permanently in Iowa. She is the founding director of Rising Stars Show Choir 4 Kids, a non-audition fully inclusive choir for children of all ages and abilities. She is now a professional blogger for the local chapter of the City Moms Blog group and often blogs about the most favorite role she’s ever had: being a mama to four amazing kiddos who keep her on her toes every minute of every day.
Natalie Simon (nee Lowe), Keyboard teacher, is a DMPS class of ’02 graduate and holds a B.S. in Professional Music in Voice from Berklee College of Music. She spent 9 years in New York City writing/singing/playing in Ellis Ashbrook and with other fellow graduates around the tri-state area to the tune of some 600 shows and countless rehearsals. Ultimately relocating to Des Moines in August of 2016 she now heads a local band of jazz-heads called LIGHTCUBE for which she writes and performs at local venues. She is also a band member of Annalibera and books jazz night at The Lift. She is happy to pass on any knowledge gained through years of live performance. She would like to remind you to practice. Whatever you want to do better, just practice.
Dang Felton, guitar teacher, is a multi-instrumentalist specializing in stringed instruments. As a story and songwriter with over 15 years of experience studying and performing music he loves to share his knowledge of how to make music into a fun hobby or even a lifestyle. With an understanding of the work that makes writing and performing music possible, including promotion, networking, booking, audio processing, and sound engineering, Dang is able to teach students how to turn their practice into achievements. He has been a featured performing artist in multiple Des Moines, IA magazines and television shows. His culturally proficient approach to teaching music allows students to learn very quickly with personally-tailored instrument exercises focusing on the techniques used in any of their favorite styles of music.
Michael Xayavong, keyboard and voice teacher, is a Performer, Vocal Coach, and Music Director who has worked in and out of Chicago and Des Moines. He graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance – where he spent a lot of his time music directing and teaching. As a performer, a few of his favorite roles have been Dick in High Fidelity (Columbia College Chicago, Will I? Soloist/Restaurant Man in RENT (Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre), and the Ensemble in South Pacific (Des Moines Playhouse) which won the Cloris Leachman Award for Best Musical. He’s also performed on many stages including the Des Moines Civic Center, Kum & Go Theatre, and the Den Theatre (Chicago). As a music director, he’s assisted the finest music directors in Chicago and done some work of his own. He has worked with Jermaine Hill on Caroline, or Change and Xanadu (where he also conducted the pit band) & Andra Velis Simon on Little Shop of Horrors, (Columbia College Chicago’s Mainstage productions.) His own work include music directing and conducting Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party and several cabarets and workshops for musicals. He is a DMPS graduate (North, ’15) and a member of the first cohort of City Voices students.