Heather Russell, Artistic Director
Dr. Russell believes in the power of community choruses to influence their society and culture. As Windsong’s Artistic Director since 2016, (after serving as Interim Artistic Director and Assistant Artistic Director) Dr. Russell strives to give Windsong members the opportunity to sing out about women’s issues and to use their voices to propel the larger community towards the feminist ideals of respect for all people and regard for our planet.
Under Dr. Russell’s leadership, Windsong has grown in artistry, musicality, and numbers. Her encouraging approach helps women with very different musical skill levels find their voices. Leading Windsong, a non-audition women’s chorus, fulfills her passion for giving back to the community that has strengthened her.
In August 2013, Dr. Russell moved from Philadelphia to Cleveland to begin teaching at Cleveland State that fall. She knew from experience the value of joining a women’s chorus to become connected to a new community. In 1996 when she first moved to Philly, she had joined Anna Crusis and SheWho, and enjoyed the friendship and sense of belonging the choruses provided. Even before arriving in Cleveland, Dr. Russell communicated with Windsong, Cleveland’s Feminist Chorus and joined as soon as she was in town. Windsong quickly became her “new family.”
In her professional life, Dr. Russell is an Assistant Professor and serves as the Coordinator of Music Education at Cleveland State University. Dr. Russell’s area of expertise is in Elementary and Middle School General Music and Chorus, and she presents frequently on teaching folk dance and integrating music and movement across the curriculum. She earned her B.S. in Music Education from Hartwick College, her M.Ed. in Multicultural/Elementary Education from Eastern University, and her Ph.D. in Music Education from Temple University.
Prior to CSU, Dr. Russell taught at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Mansfield University. Before her doctorate degree, she taught general, choral, and instrumental music in New York State and Pennsylvania public and private schools for 17 years, primarily at the pre-Kindergarten through middle school levels. She also taught early childhood music at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and at Temple University.
Dr. Russell’s research interests include teacher education, the professional development of preservice and in-service music teachers, reflective practice, movement and music, and issues of equity and social justice in music education.
Machala Comenschek, Choral Music Education Intern
Machala is in her third year at Cleveland State University, pursuing a double major in Music Education and Vocal Performance. She has been deeply involved in the choral world as a vocalist and would like to extend a thank-you to Windsong for giving her the opportunity to step into new responsibilities and experiences with the chorus.
The Karen Weaver Memorial Choral Music Education Internship provides a young woman student of music education the opportunity to participate in an intergenerational women’s community while learning about conducting and teaching in a community chorus setting.
Karin Tooley, Pianist
Karin began playing with Windsong in 2003. While earning her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from The Cleveland Institute of Music, she began accompanying at the former School of Cleveland Ballet. Currently, she plays for ballet and modern dance classes and rehearsals at Mather Dance Center of Case Western Reserve University.
She also serves as pianist and music director at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland in the historic Coventry neighborhood of Cleveland Heights.
Argerie Vasilakes, Narrator
A longtime Windsong member, Argerie originated the Windsong concert narrations. Her original writing has also been heard on a series of children’s audiobooks. Argerie uses the metaphor of voice in business to help people connect to their purpose and to listen for the story in corporate cultures as a guide for organizational change.
Amanda Strand, Financial Manager
Elaine Schleiffer, Chorus Relationship Manager
Elaine is a community organizer, writer, and advocate focused on queer rights, abortion access, and bisexual visibility. She sang with Windsong in 2018 and joined as Chorus Relationship Manager in 2019.
She provides freelance communications and organizational development services to small businesses, franchises, and startup nonprofits, and also runs the Cleveland Bisexual Network, is the administrator for the Cleveland Kings Action Pack, and serves as president of the board at Preterm.
Sara Schreck, Administrative Assistant
Sara joined Windsong in the 2018 concert cycle and began as Administrative Assistant in 2019. She is passionate about intercultural communication, accessibility and adaptation, inclusion, feminism, music, and disability advocacy. She is the contact person for all things related to accessibility.
With previous work experience at the Smithsonian Institute, Greater Cleveland YMCA, and the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, Sara brings a wide variety of experiences and expertise to our team. Sara previously sang with Cole Dolce, a women’s chorus in Yamagata, Japan and is fluent in Japanese.
In memoriam and with gratitude, Windsong honors Karen Weaver, its artistic director 2005 - early 2016.
Karen passed away on April 21, 2016. She will be remembered with love and appreciation.
A detailed herstory of Windsong
WINDSINGERS CARRY IT ON AND SING WITH FULL HEARTS!
Welcome to Windsong’s fortieth anniversary season! We hope you will enjoy the musical offerings we have prepared for you.
Windsong boasts a long and full Herstory of making beautiful music while promoting feminism and social justice, going all the way back to 1979. First known as the Cleveland Women’s Chorus, the group changed names several times—The Moral Chorale, The Haggettes, and Windsong Womyn’s Ensemble—before settling on Windsong, Cleveland’s Feminist Chorus in 1996. Our numbers have fluctuated over the years, with as few as a half-dozen hardy souls keeping the chorus alive, to as many as forty-nine dedicated singers in 2018. Windsong rests solidly on the dedication of our founding mothers and early leaders: June Adams, Betsy Reeves, Lisa Rainsong, Gayle Pilat, Penny Guy, Nan Gerald, Gayle Crawford, Ellen Catlin, Diane Hobus, Michelle Colopy, Sharon Marrell, Julie “Maze” Henderson, Argerie Vasilakes, and Karen Weaver.
Windsong is a proud member of the Sister Singers Network, an organization founded in 1981 to nurture the spirit, energy, and diversity of the women’s choral movement. We have participated in SSN choral festivals in Grand Rapids, San Diego, Chicago, Champaign-Urbana in 2014, and again in Grand Rapids in 2018 at the 12th Sister Singers Network National Women’s Choral Festival.
SSN gathers every four years to share workshops, performances, and fellowship. As many as 400 singers, including members of more than two dozen choruses from across North America, plus individual singers, composers, and directors, attend the festivals to sing together and perform for each other, culminating in a mass chorus event on the last night. Windsong rocked the house at the University of Illinois in 2014 under the direction of Karen Weaver, both in our own set and in one of the mass chorus pieces. We did it again in Grand Rapids in 2018 under Heather Russell’s direction. We co-hosted that festival with Grand Rapids and are looking forward to co-hosting the 2022 festival here in Cleveland with another SSN member chorus.
Windsong has collaborated with Artemis Singers of Chicago and SheWho of Philadelphia. We’ve shared the stage with the Columbus Women’s Chorus, both here in Cleveland and in Columbus. We have enjoyed being guest performers with the North Coast Men’s Chorus (NCMC), and hosted them in our concerts at Lakewood Presbyterian Church and The Church of the Covenant. In August 2014, Windsong participated in “The Big Cleveland Sing” at the State Theatre during the International Gay Games. Performing individual sets along with Good Company, the NCMC, and the 2014 Gay Games Festival Chorus, we joined in a mass chorus finale of over 150 voices from all over the globe.
Our collective voice has been heard in the larger community through participation in the Womyn’s Variety Show, the Holiday CircleFest in University Circle, and the Cleveland Pride festivals. Windsong has performed at the Lakewood Public Library and at Barnes and Noble at Crocker Park, and we sang the National Anthem at the Veterans Administration Employee Appreciation Multicultural Celebration in August 2016.
In the fall of 2013, we released our first commercial CD, Season of Light: Celebrating holiday traditions sacred and secular, a recording of our December 2012 holiday concert at The Church of the Covenant.
The past few years have been transformative for Windsong. Our last performances under the direction of Karen Weaver were in the 2015–2016 season. Heather Russell became our assistant director in 2014 and our Acting Artistic Director for our spring concert in May 2015. We sang with more than a dozen former Windies at Karen Weaver’s memorial service in April 2016 under the direction of Jan C. Snow. Heather Russell became our Artistic Director, and we dedicated our May 22 concert to Karen’s memory.
In 2016, we were so glad to sing at the opening festivities of A Place for Us, an LGBT-friendly housing community on Cleveland’s West Side—and the lifelong dream of Windsong member Linda Krasienko, who worked for years with many other dedicated dreamers to make it a reality.
We presented three concerts in 2016-2017: “Never Turning Back” in November; “Words Noted: Music of Jan C. Snow” in March, featuring the works of our favorite composer and arranger; and “The Heart and Soul of Windsong” in June, a bouquet of songs evoking the fondest memories and deepest connections of our singers. In July 2017, we performed at River’s Edge as part of “Circle the City with Love,” organized by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Our 2017-2018 concert season included “Walk on the Earth” in December and “Telling Our Stories” in the spring; in that concert we performed in both East Side and West Side venues. Anne E. DeChant brought her guitar to the West Side concert and joined us in her “Girls and Airplanes” for a fabulous encore.
Just a few evenings later, we opened for California’s guitar-playing social satirist Roy Zimmerman in his ReZist concert in Cleveland Heights. We were proud to join him in his patriotic “My Vote, My Voice, My Right.”
Now, as always, Windsong continues to grow as a chorus and an organization dedicated to promoting feminism and social change. As opportunities arise, we will continue to share our songs and our message in local events that align with our mission.
We thank every one of you for coming to hear us and supporting Windsong!