Instructor, Voice

Brenda Witmer, soprano, has been described as singing "with deep emotional involvement and an upper register of pure silver," (Washington Post).   She has performed with the St. Charles Art and Music Festival, Savannah Onstage International Music Festival, Richmond Music Festival, Staunton Music Festival, Shenandoah Bach Festival, James Madison University’s Contemporary Music Festival, Český Krumlov Music Festival (Czech Republic), International Roussel Festival (France and Belgium), Operafestival di Roma (Italy), and currently serves on the summer voice faculty of InterHarmony International Music Festival. 

 Prof. Witmer has studied privately with Elly Ameling, Linda Mabbs, Mariana Busching and Beverly Hay. Vocal coaches have included Kenneth Smith (Bel Canto Opera, Da Corneto Opera) and Stephen Crout (Washington Concert Opera). Prof. Witmer holds a Master of Music in vocal performance from James Madison University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Music from Goshen College (IN).  Opera and oratorio credits include Purcell’s Dido and AeneasDumoulin's La Roussalka,  Mozart's Cosi fan tutteLéhar's The Merry Widow, Donizetti's Rita, Stephan Paulus’ The Village Singer, Simon & Norman’s The Secret Garden;  Bach's Magnificat, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn's Creation, Mozart's Requiem, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9Dvořák's Te Deum, Fauré's Requiem, Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis PacemBritten’s Te Deum in C Major, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem. Ms. Witmer's American premieres include Vranický's Mass in Eb, as well as Karl Růžička's Jazz Mass, performed at the National Cathedral, D.C. for the 80th anniversary of the Czech Republic.  Along with classical and operatic repertoire, ProfWitmer also performs Music Theater and Jazz, for several years with the late Chicago jazz pianist Karl Klawiter, and most recently for her summer Bel Canto Recital series. 

ProfWitmer built her first voice studio in Paris, France, during the two years that she lived there after college, and began teaching for JMU’s School of Music in 1993.  As a member of the Virginia chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), ProfWitmer was one of twelve interns chosen for the NATS Internship Program at Ohio State University, 1993. In 2001, she was selected as an opera intern for the National Opera Institute of the St.Charles Music Festival. An active member of the College Music Society, she has co-presented lecture-recitals for National College Music Society conventions held in San Francisco and Puerto Rico, featuring the art songs of Rebecca Clarke and Lili Boulanger, respectively. Voice majors from the Witmer studio have been accepted into major Graduate voice programs of the U.S.  Her Music Theater alumni have been featured in National Tour productions of Catch me if you Can, Jersey Boys,Les MiserablesLittle Women, Mama Mia!, Phantom of the OperaRock of Ages, Sweet Charity, Thoroughly Modern Millie, as well as claiming a lead role in the TV sitcom Royal Pain.   

ProfWitmer lives with her family outside of Harrisonburg, VA, at the foot of the Massanutten mountain range.  She maintains an active bee-hive and also enjoys the art of Yoga, appreciating the parallels found in a healthy singer’s breath, alignment, strength and coordination. 

Voice Professors and Instructors

Don Rierson

Don Rierson
Associate Professor, Director of Opera and Music Theatre
riersodg@jmu.edu
Contact Information

Jo-Anne van der Vat-Chromy

Jo-Anne van der Vat-Chromy
Assistant Professor, Director of Choral Activities
vanderjx@jmu.edu
Contact Information

Bryce Hayes

W. Bryce Hayes
Associate Professor, Associate Director of Choral Activities
hayeswb@jmu.edu
Contact Information

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