Choral Ensembles and Vocal Studies

UA Little Rock Choirs to perform at Carnegie Hall

UA Little Rock enjoys a rich tradition of excellence in the choral arts. With three vibrant ensembles and a recently premiered small ensemble, there is a wealth of wonderful experiences awaiting those who love to sing and who want to be a part of the choral community. Singers who have studied at UA Little Rock have won acclaim in performing throughout the community, region, state, and nation.

Members of the UA Little Rock choral ensembles will travel to New York City to make their Carnegie Hall debut in June of 2022, under the baton of Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Lorissa Mason. Fundraising has begun, and we hope we can count on you for your support.

To donate to UA Little Rock Choirs and support the Carnegie Hall trip, click here.

*Link to Newsletter:



Choral Ensembles at UA Little Rock:

*For audition information email Dr. Mason

MUEN 4113 – University Concert Choir

Conducted by Dr. Lorissa Mason, Director of Choral Activities

For experienced choral singers; open to students of any major.
The concert choir is a large, select soprano, alto, tenor, bass (SATB) choral ensemble that performs with repertoire of selections representative of the Renaissance through the contemporary periods.  (one credit hr.)
Pre-requisites: audition scheduled with instructor.


MUEN 4137 – UA Little Rock Women’s Choir

Conducted by Dr. Lorissa Mason, Director of Choral Activities

For experienced choral singers; open to students of any major.
The women’s choir is a select choral ensemble that performs and celebrates choral repertoire for women’s voices.  (one credit hr.)
Pre-requisites: audition scheduled with instructor.


MUEN 4117 – Chamber Singers

Conducted by Dr. Lorissa Mason, Director of Choral Activities

For advanced choral singers; open to students of any major.
The chamber singers is a small, select choral ensemble comprised of SATB voices.   (one credit hr.)
Pre-requisites: audition scheduled with instructor.  Singers must sing concurrently in Concert Choir to be considered for Chamber Singers.


Vocal Department Faculty & Staff:

Diane Kesling

Mezzo-soprano Diane Kesling’s career has included distinguished engagements with a number of the world’s leading opera houses: Metropolitan Opera, Houston Opera, La Scala, Seattle Opera, l’Opera de Nice, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, as well as solo engagements with the Boston Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Ms. Kesling has performed in the Metropolitan Opera productions of Cosi fan Tutte, Ariadne auf Naxos, La Forza del Destino, Die Meistersinger, Carmen, Madama Butterfly, Hansel and Gretel, Don Carlo, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Manon Lescaut, Lulu, Otello, Andrea Chénier, Salome, Faust, Le Nozze di Figaro, Romeo and Juliet, and Katya Kabanova, as well as in the productions of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Götterdämmerung, conducted by James Levine, and subsequently issued on CD and video by Deutsche Grammophon.

Other engagements include Nicklausse and the Muse in The Tales of Hoffman for Opera Columbus, Boston and Tanglewood performances of Götterdämmerung with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphonywith Pittsburgh Symphony, under the direction of Lorin Mazel, Vaughn-Williams Serenade to Music and Schubert”s Mass in e-flat, both with the Boston Symphony, conducted by Charles Dutoit, Mrs. Peecham in the THREE PENNY OPERA with Philadelphia Opera Theater, Katasha in the Mikado with the Hot Springs Music Festival, and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel for Opera Theater of Rochester, New York world premiere performances of Carson Kieveman’s California Mystery Park, and Susan Botti’s Wonderglass.

She has performed Freia in Das Rheingold, Ortlinda in Die Walküre, and Gutrune in Götterdämmerung in Seattle Opera’s RING, also appearing in their production of Le Nozze di Figaro as Cherubino. Ms. Kesling also was heard in Salome and Elektra with the Boston Symphony under the direction of Seiji Ozawa, the latter released on CD by Philips Records.

Notable highlights of her career include the role of Dinah in Houston Grand Opera’s production of Trouble in Tahiti, her La Scala debut as Dinah in Leonard Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, a role which Ms. Kesling later repeated at the Kennedy Center. Appearances on PBS’ “Live from the Met” telecasts include: Das Rheingold, Die Wälküre, Götterdämmerung, Mercedes in Carmen, the Sandman in Hansel and Gretel, Zulma in L’Italiana in Algeri, Cura in La Forza del Destino, and the Met Centennial.

Ms. Kesling maintains an active recital repertoire and has presented programs throughout the country including: UNC-Wilmington, the Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, University of Cleveland, University of Houston, Converse College (S.C.), Charlotte, N.C., Shreveport (La) Music Festival, John Brown University, Kokomo, Indiana as a part of the Affiliate Artist Program, the Hot Springs Music Festival, and a recital for patrons of the Metropolitan Opera, on the stage of the Met, accompanied by James Levine.

An ardent supporter of contemporary composers, Diane Kesling has performed in the premieres and workshops of a number of important American composers. These include: Leonard Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, Philip Glass’ The Panther, Carlisle Floyd’s Willie Stark, Tim Lloyd’s Dark of the Moon, Carson Kieveman’s California Mystery Park, Susan Botti’s Wonderglass, and David Ashley White’s Homages, which was dedicated to the mezzo-soprano.

Notable stage director’s with whom she has worked include Otto Schenk, Jean-Pierre Ponnell, Jonathan Miller, Francesca Zambello, David Pountney, Hal Prince, Frank Corsaro, Jack O’Brien, Francois Rochaix, Renata Scotto, Michael Kahn, and Stephen Wadsworth. Other notable conductors include John DeMain, John Pritchard, Raymond Leppard, John Mauceri, Manuel Rosenthal, Armin Jordan, John Mauceri, Gerard Schwartz, Robert Shaw, Herman Michael, and Placido Domingo.

Upon graduating from The Ohio State University, Ms. Kesling joined the Houston Opera Studio, where she studied voice with Elena Nikolaidi. After winning the Metropolitan Opera National Audition in 1981, she was invited to become a member of the Met’s Young Artist Development Program, and later a member of the company.

Ms. Kesling has added the new element of stage direction to her accomplishments. She directed and produced Amahl and the Night Visitors in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Subsequently, she was asked to direct the same opera for Opera Memphis. The following season, Diane returned to direct Don Giovanni at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, for Opera Memphis. During the 2008 fall season Diane directed the world premiere of THE SCARLET LETTER by Lori Laitman at the University of Central Arkansas. Ms. Kesling is currently on the voice faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she teaches private voice.


John Garst

John Garst is enjoying his second year of teaching at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  In addition to this, he teaches at Hendrix College, and Central Baptist University. His Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance is from the University of North Texas, which included special studies in Vocal Pedagogy. His Masters and Bachelor degrees are from the University of Arkansas.

A wealth of international performance experience includes numerous major operatic roles, including Radames, Don Jose, Cavaradossi,Duke of Mantua, Canio, Tamino, Calaf, Alfredo, Belmonte, Max, Froh, and Camille de Rosillion. He has performed at the Florida Grand Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Sarasota Opera, Natchez Opera Festival, Utah Festival Opera, Hungarian State Opera, Darmstadt State Opera, Kaiserslautern Opera, Gelsenkirchen Musik Theater, Eisenach Opera, Anaberg-Bucholz Theater, Bad Hersfelder Festspiel, and Theater Nordhausen, among many others. Mr. Garst sang the World Premier of Lori Laitman’s opera, The Scarlet Letter, where he tackled the challenging role of Reverend Dimmsdale, to rousing critical success in 2008.

While in Germany, Dr. Garst performed for the re-opening of the German Chancellor’s Office in Berlin which aired on major German television channels, and included internationally known artists. Successful concert performances include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Ramirez’ Misa Criolla, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and Martin’s In Terra Pax.

As recitalist his recent performances of Schubert’s immortal song cycle, Die schöne Műllerin were received with great enthusiasm.  He continues to see success with his current performance engagements in the Little Rock and Conway area, which include singing the Evangelist in The St. John Passion by Chilcott this Easter, and musical excerpts in Central Baptist College’s Spring Musical.


Leann Hatley

Leann Hatley has been a collaborative pianist at the University of Arkansas Little Rock since 2007.  She studied piano and organ under Harriet O’Neal at Arkansas State University where she earned a BA in Music with an emphasis in piano accompanying as well as a BS in Printing Management. While attending ASU Ms. Hatley was the recipient of the Donald R. Minx Memorial Scholarship as well as scholarships for piano, band and printing.

At UA Little Rock Ms. Hatley collaborates with numerous voice and instrumental students, the Concert and Chamber choirs, opera workshops and Vocal Arts Festivals.  During her tenure she has served as the rehearsal pianist as well as performed in the orchestra for The Magic Flute, Four Saints in Three Acts, Into the Woods, Hansel and Gretl, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Telephone, Il Matrimonio Segreto and The Fantasticks. 

Ms. Hatley enjoys accompanying both professional and local theater productions.  She had the privilege of playing second keys for the national  touring companies of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Wicked when they performed at Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock in 2019 and 2020 respectively.  At the Arkansas Repertory Theater she played in the pit band for Sister Act in 2017 and Mamma Mia! in 2018.  In 2017 she performed in the stage band for Smokey Joe’s Cafe at Murry’s Dinner Theater in Little Rock, and at Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts was the rehearsal accompanist and pit pianist for Annie, Into the Woods, Seussical, and The Wizard of Oz.  In 2018 she performed as second pianist in the 2 piano adaptation performance of My Fair Lady for Arkansas Shakespeare Theater in Conway, AR, where she also served as Assistant Music Director for Guys and Dolls in 2019. In local community theater she played keyboard for The Weekend Theater’s production of Bare: A Pop Opera as well as A Chorus Line, Ragtime and Pippin at Argenta Community Theater.

Ms. Hatley serves as organist at Christ Little Rock and Park Hill Christian Churches in addition to keyboardist at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in North Little Rock.  She accompanies numerous high school and middle school choir concerts in the central Arkansas region throughout the school year.  Leann maintains a private piano studio and also teaches at Little Rock School of the Arts and Wildwood Academy of Music and the Arts.

In her free time Ms. Hatley enjoys performing as a soprano singer and soloist. She studied voice with Julia Lansford, David, Niederbrach and Ferris Allen.  She has sung with choirs at Arkansas State University and UA Little Rock and performed with the Topeka Festival Singers, The Arkansas Symphony Chorus, Yuletide Singers, The Arkansas Symphony Chorale and The Arkansas Chamber Singers.


Lorissa Mason

Dr. Lorissa Mason is the Director of Choral Activities and Voice Area Chair at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she directs the Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and Women’s Choir and teaches undergraduate conducting, advanced conducting, and music education courses. Prior to her appointment at UALR, Dr. Mason directed the undergraduate chamber choir and the University Singers and taught undergraduate conducting and music education courses at the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory as a graduate teaching assistant. Dr. Mason’s research covers a variety of topics, with a focus on the pedagogy of conducting.

Dr. Mason is a valued member of the UA Little Rock community and frequently collaborates with campus departments. Under Dr. Mason’s leadership, the university’s choral department, in partnership with the UA Little Rock Department of Dance, recorded Eric Whitacre’s A Boy and Girl. The final collaborative project will be submitted for consideration at an international dance film festival competition. Recently, she and the UA Little Rock Women’s Choir developed and performed a program in collaboration with the university’s Diversity Council, Department of History and Department of Theatre entitled “We Sing! A Celebration of Women’s Heritage.”

In March of 2020, Dr. Mason and the UA Little Rock Choirs welcomed Dr. Sandra Snow and the professional women’s ensemble, mirabai, to share the stage in concert. During her time in Kansas City, Dr. Mason conducted a portion of the UMKC Conservatory’s performance at the ACDA National Convention. She lectured and conducted a performance of Marianna von Martines’s Dixit Dominus, and during the following year, she was invited to conduct for Kansas City’s annual Bachathon celebration, hosted by the Kansas City American Guild of Organists. Currently, projects underway include participation in a group commission project through Consortio with composer Ellen Voth. The UA Little Rock Women’s Choir will perform the Arkansas premiere of Voth’s The Harbor and the Sea in March of 2022.

During her conducting career, Dr. Mason has conducted in workshops and performances throughout the United States and abroad. Recently, she joined Dr. James Meaders and the Hurst Green Singers in England as part of a panel of notable conductors to speak on the topic of structure and history of Ein Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms. She has also performed as a conducting fellow in symposiums and concerts in Italy. For a number of years, Dr. Mason served as founding artistic director for Canticum Novum, a chamber vocal ensemble for professional singers in and around the Lubbock area.  Plans are currently underway for Dr. Mason to conduct the London premier of Joanna Gill’s Choral Symphony in summer of 2023.

Dr. Mason often receives invitations to speak to young conductors and future music educators and has been a guest lecturer on campuses across the country. She served on the National ACDA committee, screening undergraduate conducting videos for the conducting masterclass, and served as a clinician for the College Immersion Day at the Southwest ACDA Conference. Dr. Mason is an active member of ACDA, NAfME, Chorus America, and the International Conductor’s Guild and continues to present at state, regional, national, and international conferences.

Dr. Mason enjoyed a thirteen-year career teaching high school choir in Texas. She holds degrees from Texas Tech University, with studies in Music Education and Conducting under the tutelage of Dr. John Dickson. In 2019, she completed a DMA in Conducting at the University of Missouri Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, where she studied conducting and choral literature with Dr. Robert Bode. Dr. Mason will make her Carnegie Hall conducting debut on June 25, 2022, conducting Poulenc’s Gloria, with UA Little Rock Choirs and additional singers from across the United States.