Megan Schmid, principal soprano, has sung with the Masterworks Chorale since the 2017-18 season. She has appeared regularly as a featured soloist in repertoire ranging from German Lieder to Celtic folk music to Broadway. Megan holds a degree in Music Education with a vocal emphasis from McKendree University. She is in her fourth year of teaching in the Collinsville School District as a K-6 music teacher as well as choir director. She is also principal guest soprano at Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Saint Louis.
Andrea Lair, principal mezzo-soprano, holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Music Education at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis. She has performed in numerous roles with the UMSL Opera Theatre, appearing in productions of Die Fledermaus, The Mikado, Hansel and Gretl, and Dido and Aeneas. A past second place winner in the NATS competition, she has also performed with the UMSL University Singers and the ensemble Vocal Point. Andrea is also the Assistant Conductor for the Masterworks Children’s Choruses. Since 2018, Andrea has served as Camp Director of the Masterworks Summer Youth Experience. Andrea is a music instructor and choral director at McNair Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District, for whom she has also presented clinics for elementary grade choirs. She is also handbell choir director for Salem United Methodist Church (Saint Louis), and cantors and sings with the Salem Chancel Choir.
Jeffrey Ballard, principal tenor, trained as an instrumental and vocal major at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and also studied abroad at the Rachmaninoff State Conservatory in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, where he studied choral and orchestral conducting. A native of St. Louis, he has sung with several local choruses, including the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, the American Kantorei, the In Unison Chorus, and the Bach Society of Saint Louis, with whom he appeared as tenor soloist in a performance of the Vaughan Williams Mass in G minor. Jeff serves as principal singer at Webster Groves Presbyterian Church, and is an annual guest director of the St. Anselm Abbey Schola Holy Week services. Masterworks credits include solo appearances in Kodály’s Missa Brevis, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music; Copland’s Lark; Cantata BWV 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden by Bach; and stellar performances of selections from Handel’s Messiah. Jeff is also the Assistant Conductor for the Masterworks Chorale.
Brandon Smith, principal baritone, is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, where he studied voice and opera performance with Stella Markou. He has also studied with Vinson Cole at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Brandon was the featured soloist in performances of the Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs. He was also the baritone soloist in the Chorale’s performances of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, and Bach’s Cantata BWV 4, and Faure’s Requiem. Brandon is a winner of the Sigma Alpha Iota-Saint Louis Alumnae Chapter scholarship. In 2012, he was named the Outstanding Musician in Opera at UMSL, and honored in 2013 as the university’s Outstanding Vocal Musician.
STEPHEN MAGER, MUSIC DIRECTOR & CONDUCTOR
Stephen Mager holds a Doctor of Music degree in choral conducting from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where he also completed his master’s studies. His minor field studies include organ, piano, and musicology. He studied organ with Christopher Young; Baroque performance practice with Elizabeth Wright; and piano and harpsichord with Mary Mottl, Daniel Schene, and Carl Smith. His choral teachers have included Jan Harrington, Julius Herford, Thomas Binkley, Robert Shaw, Margaret Hillis, Robert Porco, Dale Warland, John Poole, and Carmen-Helena Tellèz.
Dr. Mager has served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Masterworks Chorale, Belleville, Illinois, since 2009. The ensemble performs in an annual subscription concert series, serving the southwest Illinois region. Under Dr. Mager’s direction, the Chorale has performed numerous major works including the Bach’s Cantatas BWV 4 and 147; Handel’s Messiah (part I); Berlioz, L’Enfance du Christ; Carissimi, Jephte; Haydn’s Nelson Mass; Poulenc, Gloria; and Requiem settings by Mozart, Brahms, Fauré, and Duruflé.
Other conducting credits include the Arcangeli Chamber Chorus, with whom he has produced two CD recordings; The Providence Singers, Saint Louis; St. Louis Chamber Chorus; The Baden Chamber Orchestra; Saint Louis University Chorale; and education outreach performances for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Washington National Opera.
An active composer, Dr. Mager has written extensively for chorus and orchestra. His works have been performed by such distinguished ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus; VocalEssence, Minnesota; and the Dallas Symphony Chorus. In 2004, Mager was appointed composer-in-residence by the Bach Society of Saint Louis, which has since commissioned a number of major choral works. His publishers include Oxford University Press and MorningStar Music.
SUSAN NIEDERER, ACCOMPANIST
Susan Niederer received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from McKendree (College) University, where she studied voice and organ with Glenn Freiner, and piano with Robin Chadwick (Seiber) and Richard Bass. She earned her Master of Education degree, with an emphasis on curriculum and instruction, from Olivet Nazarene University, and has continued post-graduate studies in education through the University of Saint Thomas (Minnesota). Mrs. Niederer was appointed accompanist for the Masterworks Chorale in 2002, and continues to sing with the chorus as well. She also performs regularly with the Bach Society of Saint Louis as a principal soprano. She was also accompanist for the Masterworks Children’s Choruses from the chorus’s inception in 1985,through 2001; and again from 2008 to 2012.
Mrs. Niederer has served as organist and director of music in area churches, in which she directed adult and children’s choirs. She was recently appointed as music director of Winstanley Baptist Church, Fairview Heights. She also taught for thirty-four years as a music instructor in the Mascoutah public school system. She has performed in numerous musical and stage productions, and has directed the music for many youth and adult musicals. She is an active accompanist for choral festivals and music contests, and has served as an adjudicator for area high school and elementary school contests.
Cary (Nall) Robinson, principal soprano, a native of Festus, Missouri, studied voice at Southeast Missouri State University, where she received a Bachelor of Music Education degree in Vocal Music. She has been a featured soprano soloist in various works including Handel’s Messiah, Rutter’s Requiem, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. Cary was a winner of the St. Louis District Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1994. She has taught music and chorus at the elementary, middle, and junior high levels at schools in Missouri, Georgia and Japan, and has served as choir leader for numerous community churches. Cary joined the Chorale in 2018, and was an instructor in the 2019 Masterworks Summer Youth Experience.