Great Bend Center for Music Staff

Matthew Melendez

Founder, General Director

Matthew’s passion is making music with people who don’t think of themselves as musicians.

Kids who have never sung in groups. Seniors who haven’t sung since high school. Tourists who had no idea they were walking into a Beer Choir.

Really, no one is safe from singing around him.

In addition to undergraduate degrees in the arts of persuasion (Advertising Copywriting and Social Psychology), he has a master’s degree in vocal performance and pedagogy (where his thesis research focused on the power of cultural tourism to revitalize rural communities) and a doctoral degree (ABD) in choral conducting. His current research is centered on the community development applications of music: how it can be used to build educational equity, civic engagement, health and wellness. He’s part of the inaugural cohort of the Teaching Artist Training Institute, and is particularly passionate about the El Sistema approach to empowering children through music.

In 2019 he made his Carnegie Hall debut leading two non-auditioned youth and adult ensembles in a world-premiere choral cantata commissioned for the occasion. The Shelton, Washington performance of that work, “Borders” by John Muehleisen, won second in the community division of the 2019-20 American Prize: Ernst Bacon Award for the Performance of American Music. But even before this, community ensembles he’s either led or managed have shown a strong propensity for getting Lincoln Center and White House invitations.

Laura Johnson

Business Manager & Development Coordinator

Music has been a constant in Laura’s life from a young age. Growing up in Oregon, and also while a college student at Pacific Lutheran University, she was a violinist in the orchestra and sang in several school choirs.

Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, summa cum laude, from PLU and worked on several archaeological projects in Belize, Southern Oregon, and finally, Colombia, the last from which she brought home a puppy, who is now her eldest dog, Luna.

For the past 10 years, she held administrative support, office management, and compliance roles in the financial services industry. Most recently, as an Investment Adviser Compliance Consultant, working remotely from her home in Lilliwaup, where she lives with her two dogs and two cats.

Laura moved to Mason County in early 2020, on a little lake property that belonged to her grandparents and where she had many happy memories from visits growing up. Covid kept her from meeting many people or getting too involved in the community until joining the Great Bend Chorale. She is excited to serve as Great Bend’s Business Manager and Development Coordinator.

Julia Aguilar Jerez

Teaching Artist

Julia Aguilar Jerez holds a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnomusicology with a minor in Visual and Performing Arts Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Master of Arts in Music Education from the University of Washington. She has over a decade of experience in arts education and arts administration in schools across California, Washington, Spain, and China. Her main instrument is the clarinet but she also has several years of experience in world music ensembles playing music from North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Her work reflects the belief that everyone is intrinsically musical. Her goal is to encourage lifelong learning and help students of all ages connect with the joy that music brings. Her passion for teaching stems from interdisciplinary approaches to music education, community engagement, and social justice. She also spends time crafting, learning languages, and visiting museums.

Heidi Nelson

Teaching Artist

Heidi has been singing with Matthew for the last decade and can be heard in many Great Bend staff and Chorale performances.

Heidi has deep roots in Mason County with a family that has been a part of the community for several generations. After graduating from Shelton High School, she went on to get her BA in Applied studies with an emphasis in Education from Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho.

Heidi currently live in Olympia, but pandemic notwithstanding, she gladly drives the distance to sing with the Great Bend chorale. It’s no surprise that she loves to sing, but she also enjoys spending time swing dancing, crafting, and playing video games along the lines of Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed.

Alessandra Abraham

Teaching Aide

Alessandra has been involved in music for as long as she can remember- from playing piano to singing in choirs and playing in bands and orchestras (she’s an oboist). She received a Bachelor of Music Education with a Spanish Emphasis from the University of Northern Colorado. She taught elementary music for two years in Pahrump, Nevada and K-8 music and Spanish for five years in Las Vegas. She is currently the music leader at her church over the elementary aged children.

Alessandra loves traveling and has lived in South America (Peru and Bolivia) for two years. She currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband and daughter. In their free time you can find them playing together, reading, making crafts, and exploring all the city has to offer.

Board of Directors


Mason Health

Erin Martinache

President

Accountant (Retired)

Nancy Bayley

Treasurer

Community Artist

Hadley Danielson

Secretary

Potlatch Brewing Co.

Rachel Artman


OLYMPIC COLLEGE

Jennifer Heisleman


New York Life

Bradley L. Miller

Capital Project Advisory Board


Washington State Senator

Drew MacEwen


Mason County Commissioner

Kevin Shutty


 

Great Bend Center
for Music Staff

Matthew Melendez

Founder, General Director

Matthew’s passion is making music with people who don’t think of themselves as musicians.

Kids who have never sung in groups. Seniors who haven’t sung since high school. Tourists who had no idea they were walking into a Beer Choir.

Really, no one is safe from singing around him.

In addition to undergraduate degrees in the arts of persuasion (Advertising Copywriting and Social Psychology), he has a master’s degree in vocal performance and pedagogy (where his thesis research focused on the power of cultural tourism to revitalize rural communities) and a doctoral degree (ABD) in choral conducting. His current research is centered on the community development applications of community music, and the transformative power of early childhood music for communities and families. He’s part of the inaugural cohort of the Teaching Artist Training Institute, and is particularly passionate about the El Sistema approach to empowering children through music.

In 2019 he made his Carnegie Hall debut leading two non-auditioned youth and adult ensembles in a world-premiere choral cantata commissioned for the occasion. The Shelton, Washington performance of that work, “Borders” by John Muehleisen, won second in the community division of the 2019-20 American Prize: Ernst Bacon Award for the Performance of American Music. But even before this, community ensembles he’s either led or managed have shown a strong propensity for getting Lincoln Center and White House invitations.

Amber Wiltgen

Deputy Director

Technical theatre found Amber Wiltgen as a teenager when she thought all she needed was a throwaway elective to fill her schedule. Little did she know it would develop into more than a decade of passion for the stage that took her from student stage technician to the technical director of the Bremerton Performing Arts Center.

While Amber has expanded her skills with a business and accounting degree, she has always kept her heart in the performing arts and nonprofit world by taking those new skills into operations. This includes work as the operations manager for the Bremerton Symphony and executive assistant work for the Southwest Region EMS and Trauma Care Council.

Laura Horon

Director of Content & Engagement

Laura has spent a lifetime finding new ways to communicate complex information in accessible and beautiful ways. Her toolbox is constantly expanding with new skills, but Laura’s core ideals of staying humble, organized, and curious never wavers. She has taken that skillset to her volunteer work for the Oregon Humane Society where she spent over 2000 volunteer hours with foster animals and in-shelter work.

She recently purchased her first home in Bremerton and unexpectedly inherited the previous owner’s feral cat colony. She is looking forward to winning their hearts over while continuing to let her own egotistical house cat believe he is the only cat in the world.

After a decade of work for a wide range of clients that mostly skewed multinational and corporate, Laura is thrilled to be dedicating her skills to a community organization.

Andy Jarema

Teaching Artist

Andy Jarema is a music educator, composer, and trumpet player in metro-Detroit, Michigan. He holds degrees from Michigan State University (B.A. Music Education/Jazz Studies Minor) and Wayne State University (M.M. Music Composition). He has been active as a public school teacher since 2010, including four years as a middle school band director in Howell, Michigan and four years as a K-6 general music/band teacher in Warren, Michigan. Andy received a Fund For Teachers fellowship in 2016 to explore the musical culture of Route 66 and has also served as an Artist-in-Residence through the National Park Service (Great Smoky Mountains in 2018 and Hawai’i Volcanoes in 2019). As a composer, he has been commissioned by the Detroit Composers Project and has had his concert band works played by young ensembles across the state of Michigan.

When he is not teaching or composing, Andy can be found taking massive road trips to national parks with his partner Danielle, hosting household dance parties with his daughter Etta, or playing with his insanely cute Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Aoife.

Gwyndolyn Jones-Dunton

Teaching Artist

Gwyndolyn Jones-Dunton is a Boston native who has been singing since the age of 3. She has performed in numerous local venues and events in Boston and surrounding areas including Ryle’s Jazz Club, Sculler’s Jazz Club, the Strand Theater, Berklee Performance Center, HubBub Fest, Beantown Jazz Festival, GospelFest and many others, as a lead and background vocalist. She also accompanies herself and others on the acoustic guitar and has served as a praise and worship leader at local churches. Over the years, she has also played electric bass for small ensembles and choirs. Additionally, she performs at private events such as weddings and birthday parties.

Gwyndolyn has a Bachelors of Music in Music Therapy from the Berklee College of Music and a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College. She loves teaching music and movement in early childhood and community settings and has also worked as a music therapist, music teacher and a Pre-Kindergarten teacher. She has experience working with people of all ages and abilities and takes an individualized approach to teaching. Currently, Gwyn lives in Attleboro, Massachusettes with her husband and children.

Jennifer LeCaptain

Teaching Artist

A love for all things musical began early as Jennifer picked up a saxophone for the first time in elementary school. This passion led her to a BA in Music Industry and French from Valparaiso University. Her interest in the power of music and what it does for the mind, body, and soul brought her to the United Kingdom to earn a Master’s in Psychology of Music from The University of Sheffield. Jennifer attributes much of her success to her music education growing up and believes that everyone should have the opportunity for a music education. When not busy with music you’ll find her ballroom dancing, doing DIY projects, or riding motorcycles with her fiancé.

Jennifer lives in Wisconsin, so if you need any cheese recommendations she’s your girl!

Heidi Nelson

Program Assistant

Heidi has been singing with Matthew for the last decade and can be heard in many Great Bend staff and chorale performances.

Heidi has deep roots in Mason County with a family that has been a part of the community for several generations. After graduating from Shelton High School, she went on to get her BA in Applied studies with an emphasis in Education from Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho.

Heidi currently live in Olympia, but pandemic notwithstanding, she gladly drives the distance to sing with the Great Bend chorale. It’s no surprise that she loves to sing, but she also enjoys spending time swing dancing, crafting, and playing video games along the lines of Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed.

Board of Directors


Mason Health

Erin Martinache

President

Accountant (Retired CPA)

Nancy Bayley

Treasurer

Community Artist

Hadley Danielson

Secretary

Potlatch Brewing Co.

Rachel Artman


WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

Miceal Carnahan


Smoking Mo’s

Monica Carvajal-Beben


CEO, Peninsula Credit Union

Jim Morrell

 

Capital Project Advisory Board


Washington State Representative

Drew MacEwen


Mason County Commissioner

Kevin Shutty


Shelton Mason Chamber of Commerce

Heidi McCutcheon


Falcon Financial

Cherry Pentony