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Staff Biographies

Burns Taft

Artistic Director

Always interested in the total musical experience, Burns Taft is at the center of many and varied endeavors. His first forays into the professional world focused on his career as a concert pianist following extensive training which culminated in a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from USC, succeeded by post doctoral work at Stanford and in Germany. As a recitalist, symphony soloist, chamber musician and conductor, he established an enviable reputation.

But his interests in education led him to devote a great deal of his life to young people. Today, as over the more than 40 years of his professional life, many students surround him, over time numbering into the thousands... among them this evening’s piano soloist, Llellyn Kingman Sanchez Werner. As a group, they have explored keyboard performance, music history, theory, composition, analysis and the broad spectrum of music genres from choral and orchestra through music theater and opera, to electronic music and even computer-generated music studies. It has been an unending quest, both challenging and satisfying. Dr. Taft has been awarded two Ventura College Outstanding Faculty Achievement Awards and recognized as a leader on the Ventura County music scene, especially as founder of the Ventura Chamber Music Festival.

Elizabeth Helms

Associate Conductor & Collaborative Pianist

Elizabeth Helms, Associate Musical Director and principal accompanist for the Ventura Master Chorale, lives and works in Ventura County, and is proud to be part of the musical community here year round. She began work with the Master Chorale in 1981 as accompanist, and was named Associate Director in 2005. Also musical director of the Gold Coast Concert Chorus, Elizabeth was the principal accompanist for that group from 2000 to 2005 under the direction of her husband, Ken, and assisted the GCCC in keeping the music alive by directing their June 2005 concert.

She has also performed with the Ventura Chamber Festival Orchestra, the Ventura County Chamber Orchestra, the New West Symphony, the Ventura County Symphony, the Ventura College Theatre and Music Departments, and the vocal studios of Geraldine Decker and Linda Ottsen, to name a few.

Elizabeth has taught in the Ventura College Music Department since 1991, and coordinated the College's Private Music Lessons Program from 1990 to 2005. She directs the College Choir, the College Chamber Singers, and teaches Musicianship. She also accompanies and coaches vocal students in the California Lutheran University Music Department. In the spring of 2007 she is substituting as director for the CLU Women's Chorale.

She received her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Subject Area (Music) from California Lutheran University in August 2005. She spent a week in August in Seattle at the Tallis Scholars Summer School, a workshop that consists entirely of practicing and performing Renaissance choral music.

Elizabeth has three children. Her daughter Katherine is attending Cal Lutheran as a music major, with a double instrumental emphasis of violin and percussion. Her daughter Jessica, a graduate of Cal Lutheran, is working on her graduate degree in collaborative piano at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Her son Geoffrey, a nationally certified acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist, has returned from a year of teaching in China to begin building his practice. He specializes in the treatment of dancers and musicians. A tenor, he has also resumed his vocal studies with Geraldine Decker.

Valentine's Day Dinner

Thank you to all the people who participated in the Valentine's Dinner Benefit!

Upcoming Events

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AUDITIONS!  The Master Chorale Children's Choir is auditioning talented students now by appointment. Please call 805-390-6500. Children ages 6 to 16 are encouraged to audition.

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