Voice Works Artist Faculty 2023


Johnny Nicholas – Texas

Johnny Nicholas has spent a lifetime soaking up the flavor of such vibrant music scenes as Chicago, Southwest Louisiana, and Texas (which he’s called home now for 45 years). While he is primarily thought of as a blues legend and gifted storyteller, his music is full-spectrum Americana — a rich gumbo of blues, Southwest Louisiana soul and Texas swing and honky tonk. His 2018 release “Too Many Bad Habits” reissue project and double vinyl package received a 2019 Grammy Nomination.


Karin Plato – British Columbia

Karin Plato. Handout photo – 2008 Vancouver International Jazz Festival. [PNG Merlin Archive]

Canadian vocalist and composer Karin Plato came to jazz almost by accident. The music she heard in her formative years was the rock and pop music of the day and the classical music she studied from a young age. She didn’t get the “jazz bug” until she was in her early 30’s and that’s when her music career really began when she made the move from central Canada to the West Coast.

Karin was born on the prairies, in the province of Saskatchewan. She studied classical piano throughout her childhood and eventually she went on to study voice and piano at the University of Saskatchewan where she received a Bachelor of Music Degree. In 1985 she moved to Vancouver to further her studies at Capilano College in a quest to learn more about composition and arranging. In 1996 and 1998 she studied vocal jazz at The Banff Centre for the Arts with renowned vocalists Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton. Over the years she has also been able to study with Nancy King and Kurt Elling.

Karin has performed across Canada and in some areas in the USA and she continues to work in Vancouver as a music educator, pianist, vocalist and arranger and she is the artistic director of the Joy of Jazz Concerts series in Vancouver. She is a Juno nominated artist, West Coast Music Awards nominee and 3 times nominated Canadian Jazz Vocalist of the Year at the National Jazz Awards in Toronto.


Caleb Klauder – Washington

Raised on Orcas Island, WA, then on to college and the 30 years to follow in Oregon, and then back to Washington again, Caleb is a true north-westerner. Yet
his maternal family roots lay in East Tennessee. These deep family roots contribute to his music through old memories, bringing you the strong singing and spirited attitude that gives his music a cutting and sweet edge. Caleb has written many songs, some that are performed by others and some that are becoming standards at jam sessions in the bluegrass scenes across the US, Canada, and in Europe. He is a multi-instrumentalist, a band  leader, and a father. You’ll find him touring internationally with both the Foghorn Stringband and the Caleb Klauder and
Reeb Willms Country Band, and collaborating with Reeb Willms as a duo, or with good friends Joel Savoy, Jesse Lége, Dirk Powell and countless others in roots Americana genres.

Caleb teaches mandolin and singing, and has participated in many camps such as Voice Works, Fiddle Tunes, Augusta Heritage Camp, Ashokan Music Camp, Nimble Fingers, Julian Fiddle Camp, and The Floyd Get Together. Untrained as a singer until recently, Caleb is about as folk as it gets having been a self-taught singer for most of his life. He just likes to share his joys and sorrows through songs and the emotions of the voice. Come join him in this merriment.


Moira Smiley – Vermont

Her clarion voice and joyous, embodied performances have carried Moira and her songs around the planet and inspired millions of harmony singers to sing her songs. She’s immersed herself in early American, Irish and East European vocal traditions and seeks to honor the many powerful, cultural roles of singing beyond stage and microphone. She’s a much sought-after commissioned composer, with recent premieres at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall and on BBC Radio 3. Moira recently appeared with Tune-Yards on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Live on KEXP At Home, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Chris Thile’s 65th St. Session.  Her recent songwriting albums, ‘Unzip The Horizon’ and ‘In Our Voices’ feature richly layered vocals, percussive movement and guest appearances by Seamus Egan, Sam Amidon, Darrell Scott, Rising Appalachia and other musical leading lights. Alongside her performing and writing, Moira has taught at countless musical institutions, continues to develop new experiences for singers and loves to share music-making with singers of all experience levels. She recently moved from Los Angeles back to Vermont, where her banjo, accordion and shape-note songbooks feel very at home.


Pharis Romero, Artistic Director
British Columbia

Pharis has been singing and playing music her whole life. An early student of classical and country, she grew up performing with her family’s band and learning the songs and stories that made her want to dig deeper. These days she performs mostly with her husband Jason, and is equally at home disappearing into an old-time jam as she is singing on stage or teaching the joy of song and sound. She’s the Artistic Director for Voice Works, has won three Juno Awards for her recordings with Jason, and is a three-time Canadian Folk Music Awards Traditional Singer of the Year. After more than ten years of teaching at Centrum, she is honoured to be the Artistic Director of Voice Works.


Reeb Willms – Washington

Reeb Willms has been singing and playing guitar since 2001 and is widely regarded as one of the best rhythm guitar players in old time music. She hails from the windswept Central Washington farmlands of Douglas County, and was heavily influenced as a child by her musical father and uncles, who performed locally as the Willms Brothers. Her warm, tender vocals and driving rhythms are a living testament to this musical tradition, which she brought to the stage in her early 20s. Since 2012, she has been touring professionally and internationally with the Foghorn Stringband, the Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms Country Band, and as a duo with Caleb Klauder. Willms embodies a love for old country that roots her in a classic American musical style evident in every warm note she sings and plays. With her bandmates and her duo, Willms has performed on thousands of stages and recorded on many albums, and has a new one in the hopper, stay tuned. When she’s not touring, recording, or teaching vocal and guitar workshops, she lives on Orcas Island, WA.


Nikki Dee – Hawaii

Nikki Dee is an award-winning vocalist and transformational vocal coach based in Honolulu. Her renowned Deeva Method takes the mystery and confusion out of vocal technique, making vocal power, confidence, and healing accessible to singers and speakers around the world.

As a performer, Nikki specializes in a unique blend of international jazz, blues, and cabaret repertoire in multiple languages. She currently sings and plays ukulele with the Django-inspired band Gypsy 808 as well as her “tropical jazz” and Bossa Nova band, Blue Hawaiian.

As winner of the 2017 SKSCA Vocal Jazz Queen competition at Jazz Alley, Nikki represented the Seattle jazz scene in Kobe, Japan and was an Earshot Jazz Award finalist for NW Vocalist of the Year. She has performed throughout the United States as well as Europe, Asia and Australia, most recently spending the summer performing in Paris and New York City.


Bridge Hill Kennedy – Alabama

Dr. Kennedy (he/him/his), attended his first Sacred Harp singing in June of 2002.  This life changing event came about when he was invited to accompany his sister-in-law to a singing for a commissioned painting (“All Day Singing and Dinner on the Grounds” by Bethanne Hill, 2003, commissioned by Max Berueffy).  Since then, Bridge has been honored to serve as an instructor at both Adult and Youth sessions of Camp Fasola (2013-2018), Camp Fasola, Europe (2014) and several Sacred Harp Convention singing schools—including: Berlin, Germany (2022) Cork, Ireland (2019); Ontario, Canada (2018); and Portland, OR (2015). Bridge has, also, conducted singing schools in collaboration with Gotham Early Music Scene, Inc., the band Ruckus (LaGuardia High School, 2022), and the Ruckus Holy Manna tour (2022). As a social scientist, Bridge enjoys teaching on the sociocultural aspects and benefits of Sacred Harp and the importance of the Memorial Lesson. However, he is most frequently sought after for his Sacred Harp leading workshops. Currently, Bridge serves as an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Online Undergraduate Degree Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where his teaching and research interests focus on: special topics in LGBTQIA+ rights, Psychology of Gender, and Positive Psychology.


Mara Kaye with Tim McNalley – California

Referred to by Jazz Lives as “one of New York’s great gifts to the world,” blues and jazz vocalist Mara Kaye is “like some lost pocket of the blues that had never been explored in the old days, all wrapped up in a ball of 21st-century Brooklyn-bred attitude.” For over a decade she has traveled internationally and throughout the US, sharing legendary stages with champions of the genre, singing beloved songs of the past with a deep passion and respect for its original storytellers. Imagine a new artist with deep roots, one with the emotional power and swing of Billie Holiday, the deep-blue sorrows and joys of Bessie Smith, all the while leavened with Brooklyn spice. Her heart is in her music and there is no pretense, no distance as audiences from Moscow to Lincoln Center have found out.

Mara’s voice has been compared to “Louis Armstrong’s trumpet at a rent party” by blues legend Jimmy Vivino and praised by The Wall Street Journal as proof that things are getting better. Her debut EP, It Had to Be You, recorded straight-to-tape by Bigtone Records, was released in February of 2022 and features incomparable piano legend, Carl Sonny Leyland.

Mara will be accompanied at the gathering by Tim McNalley, is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and songwriter from Southern California. While most commonly seen on the upright and electric bass, he also performs, records and tours on guitar, cello, mandolin and sitar- a breadth that has allowed him the opportunity to collaborate with artists such as Ariana Grande, Lianne La Havas, Changuito, Steve Grand, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Lianne La Havas, lostboycrow, Juanita Stein, Aashish Khan, Earl Thomas, Jim Kweskin, Burt Turetzky, and more.


Grace Love – Washington

Singer songwriter Grace Love is the Olympic Peninsula’s shining jewel of grit, beauty and power – think Etta James and Betty Wright meet Mahalia Jackson. She grew up in Tacoma, just a stone’s throw from Seattle, which infused her R&B melodies with fortitude and grunge. She was raised on soul music, southern food, and stories about the south.

“I breathe music and do my best to give that divinity to others,” says Grace, who between her tireless performance schedule runs a soul food restaurant and community show space, Nadine’s Kitchen.

Outside of her band life and arts organizing, Grace is an accomplished actress and playwright who has produced several one-woman plays and large-scale productions throughout the U.S. She is a 2016 OneBeat Fellow.


Yoseff Tucker – California

Yoseff’s early life exposure to traditional bluegrass and American roots music came courtesy of his grandfather who moved to Central California from the Ozarks in the early 20th century. His first guitar came to him while he was still in diapers and an appreciation for music laid a great foundation in his life. After years of playing rock ‘n roll, Yoseff found his way back to bluegrass music and in a matter of years created a life centered on the proliferation and progress of bluegrass. His prodigious flatpicking skills have been acknowledged by the Northern California Bluegrass Society via the Guitarist of the Year award (’09, ’10, ’11, ’13, ’15). He has also been humbled with the award for Male Vocalist of the Year (’10, ’16). Yoseff lends his guitar work and vocals to the Bow Ties, the Central Valley Boys, as well as San Francisco band Supermule.


Khari Wendell McClelland – British Columbia

Khari Wendell McClelland is a diversely talented and ever-evolving artist. Originally from Detroit, Khari has become a darling on the Canadian music scene with reviewers lauding his performances as a clever mix of soul and gospel. Khari’s songwriting crosses genres and generations, joyfully invoking the spirit of his ancestors who straddled the US-Canadian border in efforts to escape slavery and discrimination.  His music draws from this rich history, integrating the rhythms and folklore of early African-Americans with contemporary sounds and stories of struggle. Recently, Khari received critical acclaim for his Freedom Singer project, recreating the music fugitive slaves carried on their journey north into Canada. Khari also performs with the Roots Gospel group The Sojourners. Whether on stage or in the studio, Khari’s passion for community, equality and justice is palpable, as is his belief in the redemptive power of music.


Eli West – Washington

It’s always illuminating to ask an artist how they understand music, but Eli West’s perspective is nothing short of ground-breaking. A trained designer, he sees music architecturally, visualizing his compositions spatially. It’s a highly unusual way to think about music, tied to his verdant natural world of the Pacific Northwest. On his new album, Tapered Point of Stone, West lays out original songs and tunes like houses built by hand, weaving their melodies into the setting of acoustic roots music that first inspired him. Recorded in 2020, just before everything shut down, the album brings together West’s favored quartet of musicians: Andrew Marlin (Watchhouse) on mandolin and guitar, Christian Sedelmeyer (Jerry Douglas) on fiddle, himself on mandolin, guitar, and banjo, and Clint Mullican (Watchhouse) on bass. This is the third album this quartet has built, including solo albums for Marlin and Sedelmeyer, and at this point they operate on a near-magical wavelength. As both a noted arranger, songwriter, performer, and composer, West has been crafting a Northwest-centric roots music aesthetic through earlier collaborations with Cahalen Morrison and John Reischman, and recordings with Bill Frisell and Dori Freeman. Tapered Point of Stone showcases West’s collaborative nature.