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Merrill Community Arts Center Miss Lori's Studio

Meet Our Creative Team

Lori Sager – Founder, Director – “Miss Lori” Lori Sager – Founder, Director – “Miss Lori”

Lori Sager is the founder and director of Aspire Music Academy. Known to her performers as “Miss Lori,” Ms. Sager has been involved in music and vocal performance since the age of three.

Lori is an accomplished singer, pianist, choral and orchestral director, and vocal performance coach. Since 2003, Lori has been offering private vocal and piano instruction through Miss Lori’s Studio, serving hundreds of students of every age and talent level. The motto of Miss Lori’s Studio — “Inspiring people through music” — has been the story of Ms. Sager’s professional life.


As a musical theater director, Lori conceived, arranged, and directed the Stars on Broadway series for Woodbury Community Theater (WCT), a Broadway musical revue series started in 2012. The three installments of Stars on Broadway featured a total of over 400 cast members and attracted total audiences of over 10,000 patrons. Lori also serves WCT as a vocal director and coach accompanist — most notably for the record-breaking 2015 production of Les Misérables, the 2016 production of Mary Poppins, the 2017 production of Legally Blonde and as director of the Merrill Community Arts Center Summer Stock middle and high school camp programs.
Lori Sager
In the academic world, Lori established the musical theater program at Woodbury Middle School (a part of the South Washington County School District — Independent School District 833), directed Grease in 2014, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. in 2015, and Disney’s Lion King Jr. in 2016, and Shrek, Jr. in 2017. Each production featured over 80 students and a live orchestra. Lori has been a classroom music instructor in South Washington County schools. Lori has also taught music in Orlando, Florida, and New York.


Jeremiah Lewis-Walker

Jeremiah Lewis-Walker - Choreographer

Jeremiah Lewis-Walker has been coaching, performing and choreographing for nearly 20 years. He is also the owner and creative director of JLW Productions, a new local company focusing on choreography and performance. Jeremiah has performed in and choreographed many top award winning show choirs, dance troupes, cheer teams, theater productions, international and national music acts.  He has also choreographed talent productions for national pageant contestants as well as providing entertainment for numerous national hair and fashion events.

 

Since he has had experience in this field for many years, Jeremiah strongly believes the importance of passing the torch to young performers and getting them to understand and appreciate how they can positively impact people’s lives on and off stage.


Colleen Wenzel – Choreographer / Staging Coach

Colleen Wenzel – Choreographer / Staging Coach

Colleen Wenzel has been a performer from a very early age, including time as a recording artist and performer with The Young Americans and being a part of touring theater and performance companies that barnstormed across America. While living in California, she also began a lifetime vocation of service to church choirs and liturgical programs. Closer to her home in the Twin Cities, Colleen has been involved for decades in music and theater endeavors. Colleen headed the children’s choir ministries at New Life Church of Woodbury, growing the program to well over 100 participants. Colleen was also at the forefront of bringing summer stock theater programs for children into both Roseville and Woodbury, Minnesota. In community theater, Colleen has collaborated with Lori Sager to create the Stars on Broadway series, as well as the Woodbury Middle School productions of Grease in 2014, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. in 2015, Disney’s Lion King Jr. in 2016, and Shrek, Jr. in 2017. These shows each involved over 80 cast members, a full orchestra, choreography, lighting, and staging.


Tom Prestin – Creative Sound Designer and Arranger


Tom Prestin – Creative Sound Designer and Arranger

Tom Prestin is the owner of Born Into Royalty, a leading provider of creative sound design, creative and technical production, audio restoration, sound mixing and mastering. Tom provides the sound recording and editing for any Aspire Music Academy students wishing to create professional recordings of their vocal performance.

Tom has led the sound design and engineering for many productions, including shows for The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. In the Twin Cities area, Tom has led the sound design and engineering for shows at Ashland Productions and Woodbury Community Theater, including collaborating with Lori Sager on the WCT production of Stars on Broadway 3 as well as other WCT shows.




Anna Reimann - Choreographer


Anna Reimann – Choreographer

Anna Reimann has been involved in the arts for as long as she can remember!  She received her dance training from the Classical Ballet Academy for ten years and performed in a minimum of two full-length ballets each year.  She has also been a stage performer with Woodbury Community Theatre (including the Stars on Broadway series with Miss Lori) and with other theatre companies.  Anna performed at East Ridge High School in their theatre program, serving as an actress, dance captain and choreographer.  As a singer, Anna performed in Carolers, various Honor Choirs and Show Choir (which she also helped choreograph) during her high school career.  She has also served as a lead counselor for the Merrill Community Arts Center Summer Stock theatre program.

In 2015, Anna was named a Scholar of Distinction in Theatre Arts and was also selected as a top ten Triple Threat (singing, dancing and acting) Finalist by the Hennepin Theatre Trust Spotlight program.

Anna is excited to share her love for performing and dancing with students of all ages!




Alora Sager – Choreographer / Dance Coach Alora Sager – Choreographer / Dance Coach

Alora Sager is a graduate of Florida State University with her Masters in Education of Students with Exceptionalities, and also from the University of Virginia baccalaureate pre-med program.  She is currently pursuing her dream of being a dancing doctor! Alora is a choreographer and dance instructor for Aspire Music Academy student performance groups and brings her 18+ years of competitive dance experience and a lifelong of performing to help enhance the vocal performances of the students she works with. With dance experiences ranging from tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary and musical theater, Alora has come to love teaching technique and performance through modern and fun choreography.



Alora has had past experiences through the Merrill Community Arts Center and Woodbury Community Theatre as a Summer Stock choreographer and counselor and as guest choreographer for WCT’s Stars on Broadway 3 and the Woodbury Middle School production of Lion King Jr.



Monica Hamer – Orchestral Arranger

Monica Hamer – Orchestral Arranger

Monica Hamer has been playing her flute publicly since she joined her high school church choir in 7th grade. She has always loved playing in ensembles with voices, including pit orchestras in high school and an opera orchestra (The Magic Flute) in college. In the years since college, her performing has included playing with the Woodbury Chorus and Orchestra and Woodbury Community Theater. She also teamed with a pianist, playing dinner music at restaurants, fundraisers, and special occasions. Throughout the years she continued to play at Masses, church services, funerals and weddings and is currently Associate Director of Music and Liturgy at St. Ambrose of Woodbury. She has taught private flute lessons since 2008. Monica has worked with Miss Lori, arranging and performing in all three Stars on Broadway shows and most of the Woodbury Middle School shows.



Michelle Witte – MCAC Executive Director


Michelle Witte – Production Consultant

Michelle Witte serves as the production consultant for Aspire Music Academy, arranging performances, communication and just generally making all of us look awesome! Michelle was instrumental in the creation of Aspire Music Academy when she served as the Executive Director for Merrill Community Arts Center (MCAC).  She is also a Director on the Board of Education for South Washington County Schools.  Michelle is passionate about youth and promoting new possibilities to expand access to the arts for all. Michelle is also a vocal performer, and remembers fondly her "Swing Choir" days in high school (complete with a homemade plaid jumper) and performing in wonderful venues like Orchestra Hall as a member of the University of Minnesota Symphonic Chorus and Lyric Opera ensemble. 





Mary Reimann – Vocal Instructor

Mary Reimann – Vocal Instructor

Mary Reimann began her musical career at the age of 3, when she first joined her church choir.  It appears she found her vocation early in life, having directed church music in Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan and Minnesota for the last 29 years.  Mary serves as Director of Music Ministries at St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic Church, directing a comprehensive music ministry involving over 200 singers and instrumentalists in age-specific choirs for children, teens and adults of all ages, an intergenerational choir, and a liturgical dance ministry. Her first love is singing with others of all ages and abilities.  Mary believes that making music together has the power to change our world by bringing people together to create beauty, joy, and community.  

A Woodbury, Minnesota native, Mary grew up singing in choirs at Woodbury Lutheran Church, Woodbury High School, and the Minnesota Music Education Association (MMEA) All State Choir, performing in musical theater productions and studying classical ballet.  At Luther College, she sang in the Nordic Choir under the direction of Weston Noble, studied classical voice with David Judisch, and pursued Dance and Theater studies, performing in many dance, theater and opera productions. She has sung with the Mystic River Chorale and the Maryland Choral Society, and performed leading and featured roles in many musical theater productions, primarily with Woodbury Community Theatre.  These productions included several Gilbert and Sullivan revues and all three Stars on Broadway productions, for which she also served as an assistant director.  

Mary has a BA from Luther College and an MA from the University of Connecticut.  She is a member of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA).



Daryl Timmer – Vocal Instructor

Daryl Timmer – Vocal Instructor

Daryl Timmer is currently the Director of Choirs at Woodbury High School (WHS), a position he has held for the last 15 years.  His responsibilities include directing three curricular choirs: Concert Choir, Choralaires and Varsity Choir, two extra-curricular ensembles:  Chamber Singers and Viva Voce as well as teaching individual and group voice lessons.  Daryl is also responsible for the annual Cabaret production put on by the choral music department.  Previous to his current position, Daryl was an elementary music specialist in South Washington County Schools (SWCS) where he developed and implemented the district’s kindergarten music curriculum.  Prior to coming to SWCS he was an elementary music specialist in the Eden Prairie Schools.

Daryl is also the assistant director and music director for the WHS fall musical, music department chair and a site team member. 

 

Daryl is also actively involved in music outside the academic setting. He has been a member of the Valley Chamber Chorale (based in Stillwater) for more than 20 years, and was just appointed interim Artistic Director of the organization after holding the position of Assistant Director for 11 years.  He also serves as a substitute organist/pianist for this church as well as guest organist, pianist and/or tenor soloist throughout the metropolitan area.

 

Daryl holds a Bachelor of Science degree in K-12 Vocal and Classroom Music Education from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul and a Master of Music degree in Music Education with a choral conducting emphasis.  Daryl is an active member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Minnesota Music Education Association (MMEA), Chorus America, and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA).



Lisa Cressy – Vocal Instructor


Lisa Cressy – Vocal Instructor

Lisa has been singing practically since she was born – or at least as long as she can remember! She really fell in love with singing while participating in Phil Holtz's a capella girls group at Oltman Junior High. Lisa went on to sing in Pop Choir, Concert Choir and the Minnesota Music Education Associate (MMEA) All State Choir, while also pursuing another new love:  musicals and theatre productions. In college, Lisa continued her theatrical pursuits and sang with the Iowa State Singers, highlighted by a tour of the former Soviet Union and Poland right before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.


Lisa has continued to sing by offering her talents at churches and with leading liturgical composers, with over 15 recording credits from the recordings of Catholic composers David Haas, Lori True, and Paul Tate.  She returned to musical theater to perform with her daughters, beginning with The King and I for Woodbury Community Theatre in 2006.  Since then, Lisa has performed in many shows with Stillwater Community Theatre and WCT, including the Stars on Broadway series with Lori Sager.


Lisa currently serves the community of St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic Church as the Director of Liturgy, where she coordinates all of the liturgical ministries, assists in planning weddings and funerals, directs a children's choir and an adult choir, and actively serves as a cantor. Lisa has a passion for working with the youngest of singers and performers, helping them to develop their confidence and enthusiasm for spreading joy through sharing their talents with others.



Aaron VanDanacker – Vocal and Piano Instructor

Aaron VanDanacker – Vocal and Piano Instructor

Aaron attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul to study vocal music education, piano performance, and global music. In 2017, Aaron will be teaching vocal music and choir in the public school system. From 2011-2015, he was the Director of Music at St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, MN. Aside from that, he works as a freelance music educator, composer, conductor, vocalist, and collaborative pianist.

 

As well as a background in music, Aaron also has an extensive background in dance and theater. He was a competitive dancer for 15 years, traveling internationally with his company to compete with a broad range of dance styles. He was also cast in the Broadway musical Billy Elliott in 2006.

 

Aaron is an active teacher, performer, and advocate of the arts. His passion for choirs, show choirs, dance ensembles, and all other fine arts is driven by his desire to collaborate with others to produce a beautiful and noteworthy product. His philosophy about music is to present a diverse, inclusive, and celebratory range of experiences to his students to form well-rounded and effective musicians.



Theresa (“Tree”) Pelton-Jutz – Costume Designer

Theresa ("Tree") Pelton-Jutz – Costume Designer

Theresa Pelton-Jutz developed a love for clothing design and sewing when she was in middle school.  Her first exposure to costuming came when she began sewing simple Halloween costumes for her young children.  These simple costumes seemed to get more and more complicated every year.  After a 20+ year career at the St. Paul Companies/Travelers with her Management Information Systems Degree from UW-Eau Claire, Theresa decided to make a career change.  She was now able to devote more time to volunteering at her children’s schools.

 

Theresa started her journey into theatre by sewing and assisting in the Hill-Murray costume shop.  She helped costume several productions including A Christmas Carol, Children of Eden, and Beauty and the Beast.  This is where she really learned the difference between “sewing” and “costuming”.  This out of the box thinking allowed her to create costumes without the use of patterns, typical sewing techniques or really any rules.  As her youngest daughter entered Woodbury Middle School, Theresa began volunteering with costuming there.  She took on the lead costumer role in Lori Sager’s productions of Grease, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Jr. and Shrek Jr.  Each of these middle school productions typically had 65-75 cast members and an average of 200 costume pieces.  Theresa continued to collaborate with Lori Sager on the Woodbury Community Theatre production of Stars on Broadway 3, which involved 140 performers requiring approximately 600 separate costume pieces.  Theresa enjoys creating costumes to enhance the performers ability to get “in character”.