The Faculty

Meet our talented and accomplished faculty: Shawna Avinger, Kristen Ramer Liang, Daniel Story, Yigit Kolat,  Janna Wächter, Warren Woo, Sarah Kelly Beeson, Christine Dove, Helen Roundhill, and James Galbraith.

Shawna Avinger – Artistic Director, Co-Founder

Shawna is a classical singer and voice instructor who has been teaching for over 15 years. She received her Bachelor’s of Music from the University of Washington in vocal performance and her Master’s degree in Opera Performance from the Maryland Opera Studio. She served on the voice faculty of Music Center of the Northwest for eight years and as the director of education for The Fisher Ensemble for four years. Her teachers have included Carmen Pelton, Linda Mabbs, Elizabeth Moore, Erich Parce, and Charlie Riecker.

Operatic roles include the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos, Countess in Marriage of Figaro, Nedda in I Pagliacci, Antonia in Tales of Hoffmann, Atalanta in Xerxes, Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito, and Michaela in Carmen. Shawna has premiered roles in many new operas, including Clara, Reunion, Wild Ride, A Night at the Opera, Clarion Call, and The One. Shawna has appeared as a recitalist and soloist in Maryland, Washington D.C., New York, Santa Fe and Seattle. She has appeared in two operatic films as both an actor and vocalist that were shown in many film festivals, notably SIFF and SXSW (Hand of Bridge and Bachianas Brasilieras). Voiceover credits include TV pilots, feature films and assorted silly ventures.

A frequent soloist with The Esoterics, she is featured on 10 of their CDs and is their Director of Education. With the Fisher Ensemble, Ms. Avinger was featured on the recording of Psyche, Seattle version of Magda, the New York and Boston premiere of At The Hawk’s Well, and the Seattle and New York premieres of Kocho.

kristenKristen Ramer Liang – Managing Director, Co-Founder

Kristen has been performing and teaching in Seattle since 2001. She holds a BA in Music from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where she studied with Laurence Paxton. Kristen is a founding director of Fisher Ensemble Education; in addition to teaching private lessons and performance classes, she has worked with hundreds of young musicians in her role as artist-in-residence at local elementary schools.

Kristen has sung with the Seattle Opera chorus, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Bellevue Opera and Puget Sound Concert Opera, Driftwood Players. She has also sung and recorded with The Esoterics. In 2008 she began performing with Seattle-based Fisher Ensemble; the group’s outdoor production of Psyche was deemed “Best of ’08” by Seattle Magazine. Kristen premiered the mezzo role in Garrett Fisher’s opera At The Hawk’s Well in Seattle, Boston and New York in spring 2010. She has sung in productions of modern operas Psyche and Moon in the Bucket in Seattle and New York and on the recording of Psyche.

From 2001-2004 Kristen sang with Northwest trio Straw Into Gold and recorded the album Many Moons. She reunites with trio founder Nadine Sanders each May at the Northwest Folklife festival,where they teach a popular workshop on healthy vocal technique and harmony singing. Kristen is a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists.

Daniel Story – Stage Direction and Design

Daniel Story is an emerging theater director and playwright who has been staging amateur productions for the past seven years. He has written the book for the original musicals Show People, Coming Together, and Lonely House, as well as directing plays at Shoreline Community College.  He has also begun scenic designing, including the recent production of Winter Bird at Eclectic Theater Company.

jannaJanna Wächter – Dramaturg

American born Janna Wächter, mezzo-soprano, is an artist who performs a wide range of music as well as her own compositions.  In the operatic field, she has sung opera with Seattle Opera, Tacoma Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, the Floating Opera, Opera Northwest, Lake Chelan Bach Feste and Kitsap Opera.  Janna has won numerous awards, including the San Francisco Opera Study Award and as finalist in The McAllister Auditions. Janna has performed Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with the Thalia Symphony and was first alto soloist in Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Northwest Mahler Festival under the baton of Geoffrey Simon at Benaroya Hall.
Janna has given recitals at the Frye Art Museum, the Arts West Music Series, the OK Hotel, performed on the Curtis Taylor Vaudeville Stage and for the Seattle Fringe Festival. Janna has given modern American art song recitals in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Little Rock Arkansas in America.  Performances in Germany include an experimental work with Kain Karawahn in Oberhausen and private recitals in Berlin and Hannover.

More in the Avant-garde realm: Janna wrote, produced and performed “Live at the Film Forum: Don’t’ Assume I Cook, “ was a soloist in The Floating Opera-water performance art, performed ‘Rome’ at COCA-voice and saxophone, and soloed in New Prometheans International Fire Festival-fire performance art.

In film, Janna starred in, “A Hand Of Bridge” directed and produced by Curtis Taylor.  She has been in numerous films of Matthew Brown, including “A Mother’s Song“ shown at SIFF.

Composing her own music, sometimes on the spot, she has sung in countless, unusual situations, buses, bridges, barges, rock formations; with and without various strange instrumentation: bass drum, glass harmonica swing bands, accordion, found objects.  Add to that singing along with an active volcano in southern Italy on the Island of Stromboli.


Warren Woo – Choreographer

Warren Woo is a yoga instructor, personal trainer, photographer, choreographer, and dancer in the Seattle area. He is passionate about teaching movement and creating experiences. He majored in dance at the University of Washington and participated in the program as a dance student association officer, performer, and choreographer, along, with having conducted honors research on dance partnering. Born in Hawaii and having to relocate often, he was homeschooled and studied music in his youth. His development as a physical mover began with Ultimate Frisbee, yoga, running and weight training in his late teens. He found his passion for dance at the age of twenty in social partner dance and gradually found his way to ballet, contemporary and circus training over the years. Frequently collaborating with those in the area he has had the opportunity to perform in many productions including Full Tilt, Strictly Seattle, Men in Dance, and companies including the Cabiri, Relay Dance Collective, Northwest Ballet Theater, etc. As a choreographer, he has created work for the UW dance majors concert, INFLUX, Battle for the Dance Belt, Relay Dance Collective choreographer showcase and more.

Sarah Kelly Beeson – Teaching Assistant (Acting)

Sarah is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has degrees in Musical Theater and Theater: Design from the University of Tulsa. She has a passion for storytelling through violence. Sarah works as a fight choreographer and is a Member in good standing with the SAFD, having completed training with all eight weapons. She is also proud to be a Company member with The Fern Shakespeare Company. In her spare time she is an avid gamer, baker of delicious goodies, and ardent Disnerd! Some of her favorite roles include the Witch in Into the Woods, Macduff in Macbeth, Tecumapese in Tecumseh!, Annette in God of Carnage, and Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. Sarah recently won the Musical Theater voice division for Adults at PAFE 2017 (The Performing Arts Festival of the Eastside).

Christine Dove – Teaching Assistant

Born and raised in the Denver metro area, Christine Dove has called Seattle her second home since 2005. She received her Bachelor of Music from Cornish College of the Arts, where she studied classical voice and musical theater under Dr. Natalie Lerch. Christine has performed with The Esoterics, Seattle’s premiere contemporary a capella vocal ensemble, for the last eight years, and is often featured as a soloist. Recently seen in Les Miserables in the role of Fantine, Christine is excited to be returning to the Viva Vocalists stage for Putnam! In early June, she will also be performing in the choral ballet Approaching Ecstasy, a thrilling collaboration between The Esoterics, Whim W’Him dance company, and Skyros String Quartet (first two weekends of June at the Cornish Playhouse).

Helen Roundhill – Costume Designer

​Helen Roundhill is and actor and costume designer who lives in Fremont on a mountain of tulle with her sewing machines and many aspirations. She thanks Shawna for inviting her into the Viva fold. For more of her work attend almost any show at Renton Civic where she is Costume Designer in Residence or as an actor in “Next Fall” with Fantastic.Z, coincidentally this fall.

Yigit Kolat – Accompanist

Yiğit Kolat’s music explores the liminal frontiers of musical activity and potentialities in (mis)translating data into musical information. The complicated political and social environment of his native Turkey is a recurring theme in his diverse output, which includes acoustic, electro-acoustic, and electronic works written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, voice, and solo instruments. Kolat earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Washington, studying with Joël-François Durand. He currently resides in Seattle.

James Galbraith – Accompanist

James Galbraith has been passionate about music all his life. He began training in classical piano thirty-five years ago, along with years spent studying violin, clarinet, voice, and dance. He has degrees in Spanish Literature and Philosophy from Brigham Young University, where he also studied piano with Paul Pollei. After receiving his JD from Brigham Young, he moved to Arizona where he sang with Arizona Opera and the Phoenix Symphony Chorus. He has been involved with Viva Vocalists since 2013 as both a singer and collaborative pianist. James has many roles to his name and some of his recent favorites include Rodolfo (La Vie Boheme) and pianist (Les Miserables). James originally studied to be a solo pianist, but discovered the joy of collaboration and now prefers ensemble and accompanist projects. James lives in Seattle.