Choral Ensembles and Vocal Studies

Covid-19 Protocol

At UA Little Rock, we understand that we are all experiencing a very fluid, or changing, situation when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the university has addressed the evolving needs of its students and campus community by establishing emergency protocols or updating policies and procedures, as necessary.

Our faculty in the Music Department is staying involved in the most up-to-date scientific studies and recommendations from the various professional organizations. Although choir will look different this Fall, our goal is to offer everyone a safe and inspiring musical experience. As you may have noted, choir is listed as a hybrid model course for the fall.  Here is what that means:

  • We are planning to offer in-person choral experiences in a modified format. It is likely that our choral ensembles will function in a smaller setting with varying kinds of rehearsal rotation throughout the semester in order to maintain social distancing.
  • Masks/shields/plexiglass barriers, HEPA air purifiers, among other safety measures will play a consistent role to protect the Music Department community.
  • In addition to these safety precautions, all face-to-face rehearsals will:
    a) include various rehearsal spaces (Large Gallery, Stella Boyle Recital Hall, and outdoor spaces)
    b) be shorter in length
    c) be divided into sectionals at varying times
  • Singers will wear masks at all times in rehearsals and will be carefully distanced throughout the various rehearsal spaces for the safety of the singers, pianist, and conductor.  Our spacing will follow the current scientific data for singers/musicians in rehearsals. Our spaces will be sanitized before and after rehearsals. We will also allow for longer breaks in between rehearsals for adequate air exchange.
  • Students will be given their own copy of music. When applicable, PDF files of all purchased music scores will be available on Blackboard and students will be responsible for printing their own materials. Students will not be allowed to share scores, pencils, IPADs, etc.
  • Singers will have assigned places in rehearsal and they will limit themselves to their assigned spaces. No physical contact will be allowed during rehearsal. No singing in circles either. All singers will face forward.
  • Please do not bring food and drink (other than your own water bottle) to rehearsals.
  • Because our face-to-face rehearsals will be fewer and shorter, we may schedule zoom meetings during the semester to allow for meaningful exchanges between all members of the ensemble.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: attendance policy for all UA Little Rock choral ensembles will be flexible this semester. If a student is not feeling well, he/she MUST stay home. Students will be able to submit online assignments if they miss a rehearsal.

We understand that things could change at any moment, but in the meantime, we are working creatively to prepare for different scenarios. Choral music will live at UA Little Rock and it will be AWESOME. Come and join us!


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.


Upcoming Events:

Events listed here are subject to change.  Check back regularly for event listings…

Women’s Concert program

Vocal Department Faculty & Staff:

Diane Kesling

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 first 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.

Ms. Hatley enjoys playing for professional as well as local theater productions.  At the Arkansas Repertory Theater she has had the privilege of playing in the pit band for Sister Act in 2017 as well as Mamma Mia! in 2018.  She performed in the stage band for Smokey Joe’s Cafe at Murry’s Dinner Theater in Little Rock in 2017.  At Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts she has been 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 at Argenta Community Theater.

At UA Little Rock Ms. Hatley has accompanied numerous voice and instrumental students as well as the Concert and Chamber choirs.  She was the rehearsal pianist and 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.

Another of Leann’s favorite accompanying opportunities is also at UA Little Rock.  She began accompanying ballet classes for the first time in 2017 and has loved learning new repertoire as well as dance terms.  It is a unique opportunity to be able to work with student dancers as well as dancers from UA Little Rock’s collaboration with Ballet Arkansas.

On the weekends Ms. Hatley serves as organist at Christ Little Rock and Park Hill Christian Churches as well as 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 serves as accompanist for The Arkansas Repertory Theater Education musical theater classes and plays for kids during the summer at Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts WAMA summer camps.

Ms. Hatley also 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 has performed with the Topeka Festival Singers, The Arkansas Symphony Chorus, Yuletide Singers, The Arkansas Symphony Chorale and The Arkansas Chamber Singers.


Lorissa Mason

Lorissa Mason is the current Director of Choral Activities and Vocal Department Chair at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Dr. Mason studied music and conducting under Dr. Robert Bode at the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, where she held a graduate teaching position in the choral department. In 2017, she was the recipient of the Ann B. Kander Award and the American Multi-Cinema Inc. Award through the UMKC Women’s Council. That same summer, she was chosen as a full Conducting Fellow in the Chorus America Conducting Academy in Fullerton, California.

Prior to doctoral studies at UMKC, Dr. Mason completed her Master of Music in Choral Conducting at Texas Tech University as a student of Dr. John Dickson. While at Texas Tech, she held graduate teaching assistant positions in the Choral and Opera Music Theater departments, performed frequently with the University Choir, and held a graduate scholarship with the Lubbock Chorale.

Dr. Mason enjoyed a thirteen-year career teaching high school choir in Texas. She served on the TMEA committee for the Small School All State Mixed Choir. This committee was begun in 2013 and evolved, culminating in the choir’s inaugural concert at the TMEA convention in 2015. In addition to this committee, Dr. Mason also served as TMEA Region Vocal Chair for TMEA Region 16 and is invited regularly to judge choral festivals and competitions around the state.

In December of 2009, Lorissa became the founding artistic director for Canticum Novum, an ensemble for singers in and around the Lubbock area performing various concerts and participating in community events. During her conducting career, she has conducted in workshops and performances throughout the United States and in Italy. Conducting mentors and instructors include Robert Bode, John Dickson, Pamela Elrod-Huffman, Brian O’Connell, Simon Carrington, Jerry Blackstone, Paul Rardin, Jason Paulk, and Robert Istad.

Dr. Mason currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband Brady and her son Silas. She loves to travel and spend time with family.