The Sound of Charleston    

About Us

William Schlitt
Co-artistic director and host, enjoys a distinguished career as a singer, actor, choral director, producer, and educator, with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Southeast Missouri State and the University of Oklahoma respectively. He has performed nationally in roles including Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man; Faust in the Gounod opera; and featured roles in regional productions of Jesus Christ, Superstar; Cabaret; Carousel; and Big River. A resident of Charleston since 1991, Bill served as Director of Music for the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and the Diocese of Charleston for 9 years. He has performed in, conducted and produced numerous theater and musical events for the Charleston community.
Maida Libkin
Co-Artistic Director, is an accomplished director, pianist, conductor, vocal arranger, music therapist and educator with several international and Broadway credits, including Jerry’s Girls, starring Carol Channing and Leslie Uggams. Maida has traveled extensively, conducting Aladdin in Jordan and Peter Pan in the former Soviet Union. She joined the theatre faculty at the College of Charleston as artist-in-residence in 1994 and, since 2009, has served as Director of Theatre Arts at Ashley Hall School. Along with husband William Schlitt, she serves as co-founder of The Company Company, a non-profit arts group which has produced a number of high quality productions which she has directed, including The Drowsy Chaperone; Into the Woods; Pirates of Penzance; and The Good Time Variety Hour.
Ann Caldwell
is one of Charleston’s foremost interpreters of gospel spirituals and the Gullah dialect. She studied under June Bonner of the Metropolitan Opera and has appeared in Porgy & Bess as well as in Clay Rice’s musical production Lowcountry Legends. Ann is also an accomplished jazz and blues singer, having appeared with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Gospel Choir. She is a master of accents, accurately recreating the tonalities of speech which are important to all genres of music. Ann appears weekly on Tuesday nights here with The Magnolia Singers in “Praise House”, a beautiful blend of spirituals infused with fine acoustic harmonies, percussion instruments, and story-telling.
Micah McLaurin,
pianist, is a native of Charleston, SC. He studied at the Charleston Academy of Music and is currently on a full scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music. Even at his young age, Micah has won or placed in a number of national and international piano competitions and recently performed to a standing ovation with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. He has also appeared with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and the Youth Orchestra of the Lowcountry. Micah is a guest soloist with The Sound of Charleston.
Irwin Jiang
was born Hawaii and currently studies with Mr. Volodymyr Vynnytsky and Dr. Robin Zemp, and at the age of four and won first prize in the Young Artist level of the 2008 Aloha International Piano Festival Competition and performed in the Hawaii Theater on Oahu as well as with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. In 2010, Irwin founded the Chinese Wushu Cultural Arts Center in Honolulu, a non-profit group aimed at bringing the community together through education and sharing of the arts.
D’Jaris Whipper-Lewis,
soprano, is a leading interpreter of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy & Bess, having appeared in numerous productions locally and nationally. She has performed as a soloist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Bowling Green Chamber Orchestra, CSO Chorus,The Choraliers, and numerous other orchestras and ensembles. D’Jaris also serves as Minister of Music at Covenant Missionary Baptist Church where her husband serves as Pastor. She has also starred in Charleston Stage Company’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, and recorded “Summertime” for the 100th Anniversary Documentary of George Gershwin.
Bart Saylor
has been playing traditional American Folk music for over 35 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter, performing on banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, mountain dulcimer and harmonica. He has recorded four solo albums and provided Civil War period music for the PBS movie Brother Future and for the Footlight Players production of Raising Blue. Bart has been the featured musician at Middleton Plantation’s annual Fall Plantation Days program for 30 years and was able to learn from master old- time musicians in their nineties, including Melvin Wine and Ralph Blizzard, who learned.
Ghadi Shayban,
pianist, was born in Lebanon, and subsequently immigrated to Canada where he took up the study of piano. An artist at home in any genre, Ghadi has recently served as the principle keyboardist with the Charleston and Hilton Head orchestras, and has directed live musicals in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Charleston. He plays in any style, planned or improvised, and collaborates with a multitude of instruments and voices. Ghadi is the recipient of the top prize from the Pennsylvania MTNA Young Artists Competition as well as a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence from the North Carolina School of the Arts. He holds degrees in piano and conducting from Carnegie Mellon University.
John Tecklenburg,
pianist, is a native of Charleston. John’s passion is piano and early jazz music, an interest inspired by the life and music of his great uncle, Fud Livingston. He studied piano in high school under George Darden, an amazing classical pianist and musician. After obtaining a chemistry degree from Georgetown University, he studied piano and jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has played with various small jazz bands, including a weekly gig with the Gennaro’s house band for 30 years running and plays often with saxophonist Lonnie Hamilton..
Lonnie Hamilton, III,
saxophone, is considered the Ambassador of musical goodwill in Charleston and is a seasoned artist still making wonderful music. He organized the first band at Bonds Wilson High School and directed the band for twenty years, receiving numerous awards as the best marching band in the state. Lonnie earned a bachelor of science degree from South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, SC and a masters in music education from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago. Mr. Hamilton served as Chairman of the Charleston County Council and the county’s public service building is named in his honor. Lonnie appears regularly throughout the Lowcountry, frequently with pianist John Tecklenburg.
Rev. Carl Bright & Family
Carl was a professor of gospel music at The University of Pennsylvania, where he taught gospel music roots and the history of negro spirituals for eight years. He also served as the musical director for the off Broadway play Look What a Wonder Jesus Has Done. In the Lowcountry, Carl served as Minister of Music at the St. James Presbyterian Church. He is now the minister of Music of the Payne church. Carl & Guinevere are the directors of The Gift Outreach Community Ministry. Guinevere and daughter Genesis are also extremely active in ministry and music.
Jennifer Blanton
debuted in 2007 singing the role of Pamina (Mozart’s The Magic Flute) at Chemnitz Stadhalle, Mittelsächsische Theater at Theater Döbeln and Freiberg, Germany. Mrs. Blanton’s concert credits include Porgy and Bess- Mittelsächsische Philharmonie and The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia, Ceremony of Carols, Mozart’s Regina Coeli, Stravinsky Mass, Poulenc Gloria, Schubert Mass in G, Vivaldi Magnificat, and Mahler’s Symphony no. 4 with Kammermusik Players of Virginia, and Puccini selections with Southcoast Symphony. Mrs. Blanton founded Wando Voice Studio to provide foundational vocal technique lessons to young singers. She teaches, music directs and coaches young singers all over the Southeast. Jennifer appears on stage and in concert in the Charleston area.
Tiffany Rice,
violinist, graduated from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music with a Master of Music in violin performance. She also completed a Bachelor of Music Education with high distinction and a Performer Diploma from Indiana University. Rice has performed throughout the Midwestern and Southeastern United States as well as Spoleto, Italy. She is an active freelance musician and regularly plays with the Long Bay Symphony Orchestra in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Rice currently lives in Charleston, where she is a faculty member at Ashley Hall School and coordinates the school’s Carolina String Academy.
Margaret Kelly Cook,
soprano, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and earned music degrees at the Oberlin Conservatory and the London Royal College of Music. She has performed extensively in Europe and in the U.S. in operatic roles ranging from Monteverdi and Handel to Mozart, Bellini, Donizetti and the contemporary works of Michael Tippet. On the concert stage, Ms. Cook has appeared as a guest soloist with numerous groups and festivals including the City of London Choir, the English Mozart Players, Salzburg Festival, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the South Carolina Philharmonic and Charleston’s own Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Frequently heard in concert and chamber music locally, she also performs frequently with her husband, countertenor Ricard Bordas.
Charles Messersmith,
clarinet, earned degrees at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. After graduation, he became the principal clarinet of the Augusta Symphony and, in 1998, was appointed to the Second Clarinet position with the Charleston Symphony, and in 2005 to the Principal Clarinet position. Charles performs with local, national, and internationally renowned chamber musicians as well as for Piccolo Spoleto programs. He has been featured as soloist with the Charleston Symphony on numerous occasions and serves on the faculty at the College of Charleston and Charleston Southern University. He has a thriving private teaching studio, and travels around the area leading master classes and clarinet sectionals in elementary and high schools.
Jeff Meierer
plays mandolin and provides lead and harmony vocals. Jeff was born in Niagara Falls, NY and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. Jeff spent many years doing solo gigs on guitar and harmonica. After shaking hands with Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, he fell in love with the mandolin and has been playing it ever since. Jeff played in a various bluegrass bands before forming YeeHaw Junction in 1999. There is not much in life that he loves more than playing and listening to bluegrass music.
Hazel Ketchum
is a multi-instrumentalist and singer. Since graduating with her Masters in Music from the University of Southern California she has enjoyed a lively career of singing and playing everything from Bach to Bluegrass. Hazel plays the lute, guitar, banjo and drums and owns and operates Hungry Monk Music with her husband John Holenko.
Anna Booman,
soprano, is a native of an idyllic small town in rural Minnesota. She got her stage legs performing in her hometown playing such roles as Lola in Damn Yankees, Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and The Baroness in Sound of Music. Anna’s career changed dramatically as she ventured to New York City and Manhattan’s School of Music, where she earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance. While studying there, she performed in many musical theatre, opera, and art song productions, the roles of Stepmother in Into the Woods, and featured performer in musical reviews by Bernstein, Gershwin, Kander and Ebb. Anna now teaches school in Beaufort, South Carolina, and is a guest soloist with The Sound of Charleston.
Brandon Allen,
was born and raised in Mount Pleasant, SC and began singing in the Sun Beam Choir at his church. He attended the College of Charleston where he studied with Deanna McBroom, and was a member of the Concert Choir, Gospel Choir, and Opera Theatre Workshop. Brandon played the role of Porgy in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at the Dock Street Theatre, and has performed a leading role in the musical Power Kingdom and Glory written and composed by Pastor Carl Bright for Piccolo Spoleto. Brandon also played the role of Balthazaar in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors at First Scotts Presbyterian Church.
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