Dena Byers, Artistic Director
Dena Byers has been with the organization since its founding in 2004. She currently teaches at Hillandale Elementary School and serves as the lead elementary music teacher for Durham Public Schools. She has taught in Durham for 22 years and is National Board Certified. She has been honored by being a top four finalist for District Teacher of the Year and receiving the NC Symphony’s Jackson Pankhurst Award for Special Achievement in music education. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association and the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Mrs. Byers has been a guest conductor for the All-State Honors Choir (MS) as well as District All-County Choirs in NC, GA, FL and AL. She has presented workshops for Orff Schulwerk chapters throughout the US and at National AOSA Professional Development Conferences. She received BA degrees in Music Education and Vocal Performance from the University of Connecticut, a Master of Music from the University of Minnesota and holds Level III and Master Level Orff Schulwerk Certifications from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the University of Memphis, respectively.
Jeff Whicker, Bel Canto Accompanist
Jeff Whicker has lived in the Triangle since 1986 when he attended Law School at UNC. He worked as an attorney for ten years before returning to his first love, music. He served as choral director at Riverside High School for seven years, but since 2004 he has worked primarily as a church musician. He also has accompanied the All-County Chorus and served as pianist for many schools in the Durham area.
Ronda Wagner, Cantare Director
Ronda has been teaching music for over thirty years. In addition to directing Cantare, she is the K–5 Music teacher at Excelsior Classical Academy. Her passion is to see children discover their unique singing voice: to sing in tune, develop musicality and succeed as part of a choral ensemble. A graduate of Kent State University (B.Mus. with a major in Music Education), Ronda has taught Pre–K – 12th grade music in public and private schools in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and North Carolina. In her home studio, she has experience teaching private piano, flute and voice students of all ages. In addition, Ronda has served as Director
of Music at churches in Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina. Prior to moving to Durham in 2013, she spent nine years directing a community–based children’s choir and general music program in Princeton, New Jersey. Outside the music classroom Ronda’s interests include reading, cooking and travel, especially in Europe, where her family has lived on numerous occasions.
Vangie Poe, Cantare Accompanist
Vangie is originally from Charlotte, NC, where she studied piano and organ, and began giving private piano lessons in 1963. In 1969 she graduated from Duke University with an A.B. degree in piano performance. Following graduation, she took a position at Temple Baptist Church as church secretary and organist, and resumed teaching piano. It was then that she began singing with the Choral Society of Durham, something she still enjoys. Vangie resigned as church secretary in 1989, then taught preschoolers at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church for 23 years and continues there as the school’s music teacher. In 2004 Vangie became accompanist for the Durham Children’s Choir, then began accompanying Cantare in 2018. After 50 years of service at Temple Baptist Church, she retired as Minister of Instrumental Music in July 2019, but continues serving there in an emeritus role.