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Guest Biographies

Lauren Buckley Schaer, Guest Director

Originally from New Orleans, LA, Lauren has had an extensive and varied career conducting choirs of all ages, sizes, and abilities.  At Princeton University, she was Assistant Conductor of the Glee Club, Director of the Katzenjammers a cappella group, and was the first student to pursue and receive a certificate in conducting. She went on to receive her postgraduate diploma in Choral Direction at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England.

After graduation she returned to New Orleans as Artistic Director of the Jefferson Performing Arts Society’s Children’s Chorus and Music Director and Conductor of the Orleans Chamber Singers. She then moved to Los Angeles where she completed her doctorate in Choral Conducting at USC Thornton School of Music. While at USC, she was Assistant Conductor of the Oriana Women’s Choir and taught conducting to undergraduate and graduate students. In 2010, Lauren was a conducting fellow at the Oregon Bach Festival where she studied with renowned conductor, Helmuth Rilling.

Since receiving her doctorate, Lauren has worked with choral groups throughout the area as Music Director of the Ebell Chorale, Artistic Director of the Hollywood Master Chorale, Director of Music at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, and Associate Conductor of the Pasadena Master Chorale. In addition she has been adjunct faculty at Rio Hondo College, LA City College and Interim Director of Choral Activities at UC Irvine.

Lauren has been guest conductor for the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Choral Society of Southern California, and the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra. Lauren has also appeared as soprano soloist for the DeAngelis Vocal Ensemble, the Horizon Music Group, the Hollywood Master Chorale, the Choral Society of Southern California, the Zimriyah Chorale and the USC Chamber Singers.

Naomi Sumitani, Guest Accompanist

Native of Palos Verdes, California, Dr. Sumitani began her musical studies through the Yamaha Music Education System where she studied performance, composition, and improvisation. She attended the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California where she earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree in Piano Performance, and a Doctorate degree in Keyboard Collaborative Arts. Her teachers include Kevin Fitz-Gerald, Bernadene Blaha, Dr. Konstantin Sirounian, and Dr. Richard Grayson. Dr. Sumitani has performed her original compositions nationally and internationally. Her most recent composition is a piece for voice and piano dedicated to the Japanese-Americans detained in the internment camps during World War II. Hidden Voices uses several haikus written by detainees that attempt to capture some of the hidden emotions.

Throughout the years, she has competed and won many local competitions, as well as participated in international competitions. She made her orchestra solo debut in 1994 with Heiichiro Ohyama and the Asia America Symphony. She was also the featured soloist with the Thornton Symphony in 2004 when she won the USC concerto competition and performed the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto under the direction of Yehuda Gilad.

She has been a studio pianist for world renowned professors including Elizabeth Hynes, Cynthia Munzer, Shigemi Matsumoto, Rod Gilfry, Donald McInnes, Hagai Shaham, Kathleen Winkler, Boyde Hood, Jo-Michael Scheibe, Donald Brinegar and Cristian Grases. Naomi currently teaches piano privately at her studio in Palos Verdes, specializes in accompanying piano concertos, performs actively with musicians throughout Los Angeles, and enjoys teaching music at Peninsula Montessori School. 

John Musker, Master of Ceremonies

This April, John Musker celebrated his 40th anniversary at the Walt Disney Animation Studio in Burbank. He and Ron Clements have written and directed many Disney classics: The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog, and Moana. He has developed songs for his movies with Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Part of Your World, Under the Sea, A Friend Like Me), Tim Rice and Alan Menken (A Whole New World), Alan Menken and David Zippel (Go the Distance), Randy Newman (Almost There, Down in New Orleans), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (How Far I’ll Go.)

The sounds of the South Pacific for Moana were the result of several research trips and the composing triumvirate of Miranda (Hamilton), Mark Mancina (Lion King, etc.), and Opetaia Foa’i (New Zealand band Te Vaka). Fifteen-year-old Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) was discovered at a school music concert in Hawaii.

John has been the recipient of many awards for his film work, including ASIFA’s “Annie” award for best film and best director, as well as several Oscar nominations.

A proud new grandpa, John has three grown children living nearby. His wife, Gale, has been a member of Verdugo Hills Women’s Chorus for eight years.