Bob Miller – Organist and Choirmaster
Our organist and choirmaster, Bob Miller, first started playing for church services when he was nine years old, at a little rural Methodist church in Kentucky where his dad was pastor. He studied piano for sixteen years, and organ for twelve years, studying under renowned concert artists Corrine Aughinbaugh, George Calvin Gibson, Timothy Miller, and Robert Sterling Beckwith.
Bob was educated at Emory University in Atlanta, from which he holds three degrees – including a Master’s Degree in Theology, with a specialty in liturgics and church music. His post-graduate studies include a summer of study with the Royal School of Church Music. He was university organist at Emory University, and accompanist of the famed Emory Glee Club as well as the choir of the Candler School of Theology. He has traveled extensively on concert tours, both throughout the U. S. as well as abroad, and appeared frequently on both television and radio. For three years he was organist for the Protestant Radio Hour, broadcast internationally by the Armed Forces Network.
Bob says some of the favorite pipe organs he has played include the organ at Old North Church in Boston; the organ at the National Cathedral in Washington D. C.; the organ in the home of Charles Howard Candler, founder of the Coca Cola Company, who hosted soloists from the Metropolitan Opera for private concerts in his home; and the organ in the home of John Ringling, founder of the Ringling Brothers Circus, where the pipes are installed inside the walls of every room throughout the house – making the entire house come alive with “the sounds of music.”
His extra-musical activities have included a two-year tenure as Rotary Club president, during which Bob headed the Rotary Operation for African Relief. As part of this, he spent a summer in Ethiopia with Doctors without Borders and UNICEF. He also spent a summer in Haiti, building a school and a medical clinic.
Bob lives in Rancho Cucamonga, where he has a music studio and lab, teaching piano to students in innovative ways with computers, software programs, and interactive digital keyboards. He is married to Karen, a hospice R.N. They have two daughters, Laurel and Kathryn, and four grandchildren.
Bob thoroughly enjoys being at St. John’s. He especially enjoys working with the choir — both the volunteer singers and the professionals. He deeply appreciates the support of the music program provided by the people of St. John’s and the Bishop’s Committee. He says that the music program at St. John’s is based on sacred classical music from the rich musical tradition of the Anglican Church, and that all music is sung and played to the glory of God.
Choir Lead Singers
Erin Baker Pence – Soprano
Erin is our soprano section leader / soloist. She has held church positions at several churches prior to coming to St. Johns this year. She was section leader and soloist at Sts. Simon and Jude Church in Huntington Beach. She was section leader and soloist at The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, and also Temple Judea in Laguna Woods. She has also been cantor at St. Philip Benizi Church in Fullerton. Erin has performed solo and oratorio roles in J. S. Bach’s Cantata Nos. 66,26,23,80,12, and 34 and also Mozart’s Requiem at St. John, Orange. She has been soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the Southern California Chamber Singers.
Her opera solo roles have included Gianetta in Elixir of Love and also Countess in Daughter of the Regiment, with Orange County Opera. She has sung the role of Olga in Eugene Onegin with Lowell House Opera. Her performances with the Boston Conservatory include the role of Ramiro in La Finta Giardiniera, Sam in The Construction of Boston, Miss Penelope Newkirk in Help! Help! The Globolinks!, and Ore 2 in L’Egisto.
Erin’s opera chorus roles include Suzannah, The Magic Flute, and Carmen with Opera Pacific, and Verdi’s Requiem with LA Opera.
Erin holds a Bachelor of Arts in music from Salem College, and a Masters Degree in Music, with a specialty in Vocal Performance, from The Boston Conservatory.
Erin lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steve, (also an accomplished musician) and her 4 year old son, Duncan.
Lisa Naulls – Mezzo Soprano
Lisa has been a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Singers and the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers and has toured the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, Europe, and South America. She co-created Japan Harvest, a Gospel Music Workshop for Japanese youth conducted in Osaka, Japan incorporating vocal coaching and performance in a Christian setting.
She has been a featured soloist in such venues as the Verizon Amphitheatre, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Hollywood Bowl, and Carnegie Hall, and has sung with numerous philharmonic orchestras including those in Hawaii, Berlin, and Vienna, Austria. Lisa was the guest soloist at the State Capitol for California’s official September 11th Remembrance Day. Her operatic credits include playing leading roles in “The Marriage of Figaro,” “The Magic Flute,” “Die Fledermaus,” “Amahl and The Night Visitors,” and “Porgy and Bess.” She has participated in several CD recordings such as Barbra Streisand’s Higher Ground and Larry Farrow’s Star in the East.
Prior to singing with St. John’s Episcopal Church choir, she was a section leader for St. John’s Catholic Church in Costa Mesa, First Congregational, Founders, and Crenshaw Christian Center Churches in Los Angeles, and First Christian Church in Santa Monica. Lisa has also sung in the synagogue choirs for Shabbat and High Holy days at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach, and Temple Judea, Laguna Woods.
She is the director of a professional a cappella vocal group called BASIC providing entertainment for holiday and special events. Lisa has a B.A. in English Literature from Stanford University and Master’s Degree in Music, Vocal Performance from UCLA. She has a nine-year-old son and currently resides and teaches private voice to youth and adults in Laguna Niguel, CA.
Jason Francisco – Tenor
Jason joined St. John’s Choir in January 2009. He was born and raised in San Diego, C.A., where he began playing the alto saxophone at the age of ten. He continued playing for the next fourteen years and received a Bachelor of Music Degree from California State University Fullerton (2002) and a Master in Saxophone Performance Degree from the University of Southern California (2004).
The summer of 2003, he was given an extraordinary opportunity to be a saxophone soloist with the Pacific Chorale on their tour to Spain. It was after this experience with the Chorale that Jason discovered his love of singing, and began his vocal studies with two of Southern California’s most respected teachers, Dr. Mark Goodrich, professor of voice at California State University Fullerton, and his current voice teacher, Dr. Karl Snider, professor of voice at Loyola Marymount University. He became a member of Pacific Chorale’s tenor section beginning in the 2003-2004 season, and then joined the professional ranks of the John Alexander Singers in 2005. Since that time Jason has been heard as a soloist with the Pacific Chorale, the John Alexander Singers, Pacific Symphony, and the Corona Del Mar Baroque Orchestra. Jason has also appeared and/or toured with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under John Mauceri and John Williams, the Boston Pops Orchestra under Keith Lockhart, Musica Angelica under Martin Haselbock, the Munich Symphony uner Ludwig Wicki, and Andrea Bocelli. Jason is also featured as vocal soloist in Roger Bellon’s soundtrack of the film 186 Dollars to Freedom.
When not singing, Jason runs his own home-business focused on architectural drafting and graphic design in Laguna Beach. He swims almost every morning and enjoys traveling, photography, Starbucks, HGTV, and when weather and time permits, snowboarding!
David Cramer – Bass
David has been employed with the City of Anaheim in the Utilities department for over 20 years and is looking forward to retirement within the next four years!
David has sung with the William Hall Master Chorale, The Pasadena Classical Singers, the Long Beach Bach Choir and the South Coast Chorale. As a member of the Pasadena Classical Singers he has sung in Russian, Greek, Hungarian, and Serbian. As one of the few choirs in California that specialized in exotic repertoire he was privileged to sing for many important events. The Singers sang for the Serbian Ambassador, for the Greek Patriarch (the “Pope” of the Greek Orthodox religion) as well as with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition, David appeared at the Hollywood Bowl singing Handel’s “Messiah” as part of the Olympic Arts Festival in 1984 when the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. He also sang at the Redland’s Bowl as part of the chorus in “The Barber of Seville.”
As a solo performer, David has sung several operatic roles with the Casa Italiana Opera Company in Los Angeles and has appeared in numerous musicals across the Southland. These include roles in “A Little Night Music,” “Damn Yankees,” and “Baby,” as well as numerous roles in “The Mikado,” “Pirates of Penzance,” and “H.M.S. Pinafore.” He also starred as Drake the Duck in the Olivier award winning show “HONK” at the Laguna Playhouse.
David is also a composer and has had his works performed by most of the choirs he has sung with as well as various church choirs. Previously David has worked at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana, Laguna Hills United Methodist Church, and St.Michael and All Angels in Corona del Mar.
Carolyn Van Velzer – Accompanist
Carolyn is very grateful and proud to have been part of St. John’s family and music ministry since 2004. She studied piano formally for fourteen years and was one of ten Young Artists in the state selected by the California Music Teachers Association. She graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in music, and went on to complete graduate studies for her California Teaching Credential. She accompanied varied school and church choirs throughout high school and college, and continued accompanying school, church, community choral, and musical theatre groups in volunteer and paid positions while raising her two children. She has worked full-time as a professional accompanist since 1985, playing for various groups in six different states and in England.
Carolyn just completed her twenty-third year as a staff accompanist for the Santa Ana Unified School District. She accompanies all the choral groups at Valley High School and also plays for fully-staged musicals and district solo competitions and Honor Choirs. She has been the accompanist for the Southern California Vocal Association High School Honor Choirs and the American Choral Directors Association All-State Honor Choir.
In addition to her primary accompanying jobs at Valley High School and St. John’s, Carolyn also serves as an accompanist for musical theatre and voice classes at the Orange County School of the Arts and for the Southern California Children’s Chorus.
Carolyn feels so lucky to be able to have music in her life every single day and to be able to work with so many amazing and talented people. Her greatest joy and proudest accomplishment, however, is being the mother of daughter, Jill, a professional actress and singer, and son, Christopher, who works in Shanghai, China and is completing his Ph.D in Education. Chris and his wife, Marga, are the proud parents of Carolyn’s beautiful twin granddaughters, Catherine and Emily.