Junior Mendelssohn Staff & Faculty
Junior Mendelssohn singers are instructed in vocal technique by the Music Director, as well as mentored by voice faculty. This allows students to interact with trained vocalists, and allows a student-faculty ratio of 7-1 or less.
Timothy Heavner, Interim Music Director, Junior Mendelssohn Choir
Timothy Heavner moved to Pittsburgh in the fall of 2012 to accept a teaching position as the Choral Teacher and the Music Director for the Senior School Musical at Sewickley Academy, and he has since expanded his duties to include teaching Band and Orchestra. Since moving to Pittsburgh, Mr. Heavner has worked extensively with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh as a singer in the professional core, accompanist, and rehearsal assistant; prior to taking on the role of Music Director, he served as the Assistant Conductor and Accompanist for the Jr. Mendelssohn Choir. Mr. Heavner has appeared on stage with the Butler County Symphony Orchestra playing piano, harpsichord, and celesta, and he was featured as a jazz piano soloist with Dee Daniels. He currently serves as the Music Director and Organist at the Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon.
Mr. Heavner moved to Pittsburgh from New York City, where he maintained a busy career performing and teaching. He taught as a choral director at Friends Seminary, the Allen-Stevenson school, and the Manhattan School of Music; additionally, he served as the Accompanist and Assistant Conductor of the Hudson Chorale and has appeared with the West Village Chorale as a guest conductor, singer, accompanist, and percussionist. As well, Mr. Heavner was active as an accompanist and vocal coach for auditions, recitals, and masterclasses.
Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Mr. Heavner has worked as an accompanist and assistant conductor for the Anchorage Concert Chorus, the Alaska Chamber Singers, the Alaska Festival Chorus, and the University of Alaska’s Jazz Singers and University Singers. For over ten seasons, Mr. Heavner was the Chorus Master, Assistant Conductor, and Man-of-Many-Hats for Anchorage Opera.
Mr. Heavner has helped prepare choruses for Fiora Contino, Manfred Honeck, Karen Keltner, Mstislav Rostropovich, Gerald Steichen, and Stephen Sulich, and he has performed in masterclasses with Stephanie Blythe, David Daniels, Peter Eldridge, Lauren Flanigan, Jerome Hines, Warren Jones, Martin Katz, Catherine Malfitano, Richard Miller, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Dave Samuels, Janis Siegel, Carol Wincenc, and Brian Zeger.
Mr. Heavner holds a degree in Piano Performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Peter Takács and David Breitman; as a student, he served as Choral Assistant for both the Oberlin College Choir and the Musical Union under Hugh Ferguson Floyd. Mr. Heavner has pursued graduate studies in Vocal Accompanying at the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Ken Merrill.
Gail Roup, Soprano Section Leader, Junior Mendelssohn Choir
Gail Roup, Soprano, is a member of the professional core of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. During her 31 years there, she has been a soloist in Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte, Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and in the Victorian Christmas concert, just to name a few. Highlights with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra include soloing for the Holiday Pops concert series and Beethoven’s Mass in C Major as well as for Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites which was performed locally and at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She also performed in the nationally-acclaimed staged version of Handel’s Messiah at Heinz Hall.
Ms. Roup is a soloist and chorister at Shadyside Presbyterian Church; has performed with Chatham Baroque, Voces Solis, and Resonance Works; and is a member of the newly formed chamber choir, Virago. In addition to singing professionally, she was blessed to share her love of music with others as the director of Kindermusik of the Eastern Suburbs for 22 years.
As a member of the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh’s faculty for several years, she has had the privilege of teaching and mentoring high school singers both as a group as well as one-on-one. Gail has also run a private voice studio for over 24 years, and her students have received various awards and nominations including Gene Kelly awards and college vocal performance scholarships. She is absolutely thrilled to be working once again with the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh!
Briana Brickner-York, Alto Section Leader, Junior Mendelssohn Choir
Briana York is a Choir Director and a Mezzo-Soprano from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her BSED in Music Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Voice. While teaching high school choir in Greene County, PA, she pursued and successfully completed
her MA in Choral Conducting from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she studied with Dr. Ryan Beeken. She currently serves as the Choir Director at Penn Hills High School, where she is also the Vocal Director for the PHHS Musical Program.
Briana has been a member of the Professional Core of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh since 2014, where she has appeared as a soloist on multiple occasions. This completes her “TRIAD” journey; first singing with the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus (formerly Children’s Festival Chorus) and then The Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (in the alto section, of course!). She has also performed with Resonance Works, and other various ensembles in the city. In 2019, she served as a Festival Host for Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), and in 2020, she had her first Guest Conducting experience at the Greene County Music Educators Association (GCMEA) Middle School County Choir Festival.
Most of all, Briana is thrilled to be working with the students of the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh after it served as such a vital stepping stone in her own musical journey.
Jonathan MacDonald, Tenor Section Leader, Junior Mendelssohn Choir
Pittsburgh native Jon MacDonald is a versatile performer with experience in opera, choral, jazz and musical theater settings. Currently in his 14th season with The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, Jon serves a core member of the choir and is delighted to return as a faculty member of Junior Mendelssohn. Most recently, Jon was seen as a featured soloist in Deanna Witkowski’s Mary Lou’s Mass, a rarely heard jazz composition by Pittsburgh native Mary Lou Williams, The Times They Are A-Changin’, the world premiere of Steve Hackman’s collection of music by Bob Dylan arranged for choir, and Satan’s Fall, the world premiere, commissioned work by former rock drummer and founder of The Police, Stewart Copeland. Jon has also appeared with Resonance Works Pittsburgh for productions of Verdi’s Macbeth and Donizetti’s Elixir of Love, which won the 2015 American Prize in Opera Performance.
Samuel Sartore, Bass Section Leader, Junior Mendelssohn Choir
Samuel Sartore is a conductor, professional bass-baritone, and music educator from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied music education with a concentration in voice at Duquesne University, where he received his B.S. in K-12 Music Education. Mr. Sartore has several years of experience as a K-12 Music Teacher in various districts across Allegheny, Beaver, and Washington Counties. He currently serves as a full-time member of the management team for Wigle Whiskey.
As a professional chorister, Mr. Sartore performs as member of Pittsburgh Camerata, as well as with other local arts organizations including Resonance Works | Pittsburgh and Voces Solis. He has also sung with many local churches, and is currently a chorister with Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Mr. Sartore has also been a professional core member of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, and this is his fifth season with the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working with this group of dedicated young singers!
Regis V. Vrana, Accompanist, Junior Mendelssohn Choir
Mr. Regis Vrana recently retired as the MS/HS Choral Director in the Avonworth School District in Pittsburgh. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Piano Performance from Carnegie Mellon University and has done graduate work in music education at Duquesne University.
Mr. Vrana taught private piano lessons for 20 years and serves as a freelance accompanist, vocal coach, and musical director. In his twenty-eight years at Avonworth, he taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade music, Middle School Chorus, Senior High Concert Choir, Music Theory, The History of American Popular Music, and The History of American Musical Theatre. He served as the Technical Director for Avonworth High School’s plays and musicals for eight years. Mr. Vrana is a member of the National Association for Music Education and the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association. He has accompanied many PMEA Honors, District and Regional Choral Festivals, the 2022 OAKE National Concert Treble Choir and has played for numerous high school musicals in the Pittsburgh area.