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Choral Tales - Participating Artists

The Choral Tales Project has been fortunate to attract an expanding circle of outstanding
poets, musicians, choreographers and dancers. They stand ready, once funding is complete,
to bring to the project their talents and enthusiasm.




Composer-Producer.  Greater Los Angeles


Ludwig Tuman is an international award winning composer. He is also an experienced choral director, and is active as a performing pianist, producer, educator and writer.

Having conceived and developed the Choral Tales project, he is donating his efforts as the project's artistic director, composer and producer.

Ludwig’s creative work is broad in its cultural sources, connected with community, and revolves around a core of enduring classical concepts and values.  His versatility as a composer allows him to write in a wide variety of musical styles and genres.

In his published writings, Ludwig has advocated an artistic vision that views the earth as a single whole, and the diverse arts and cultures of the world as organically related to one another. Like other artists who share this emerging vision, his attraction to musical cultures of various continents and historical periods has led him to selectively blend, in his compositions, musical elements from a range of origins.  This involves drawing upon and honoring the varied musical sources of his creative work, in a way that brings into view both the oneness of the human family and our cultural diversity.  The Choral Tales Project is a prime example of this creative approach.

At times he composes in the more complex styles used in some of contemporary music. But in other cases, such as the Variations for Piano, he is willing to draw on musical languages from an earlier period, or from the various regions of the world with whose music he feels deeply identified. With a world-embracing approach to composition, his source of inspiration from one work to another may be from the present or past, from the Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa, or the Pacific. 

His studies in music composition and related areas were at Harvard (B.A. cum laude), UC Berkeley (graduate level), and San Francisco State University (M.A.).

 A sample of his music can be heard at

The music for the Choral Tales is to be lighter, joyous in spirit, and culturally varied.




California State University, Long Beach


Dr. Jonathan Talberg, Director of Choral, Vocal, and Opera Studies and Associate Director of the Conservatory, is conductor of the nationally renowned Chamber Choir of California State University, Long Beach.  He oversees the largest undergraduate voice programs in the state of California.

Ensembles under his baton have toured the United States and the world. He has twice conducted at the Music Educator's National Conference regional honor choir, at the 2009 conference of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, at the 2008 and 2012 American Choral Director’s Association Western Conventions, at numerous All-State choir concerts, and in various venues throughout Europe and Asia, including the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s and St. Mark's Basilicas in Italy, the Karlskirche in Vienna, the Matyas Templom in Budapest, and at the Great Wall of China.

In constant demand as a guest conductor, he has prepared choirs throughout the United States and Europe for performances with major musical institutions, including the Cincinnati Symphony, the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Pacific Symphony and the Pasadena Pops.

In addition to his work at California State University, Long Beach, Dr. Talberg is the Director of Music at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles where he is responsible for all vocal music for services, and Artistic Direction for the Los Angeles Bach Festival—which recently celebrated its 80th anniversary.

Prior to his appointment at CSULB in 2000, Dr. Talberg served as Conducting Assistant to the Cincinnati Symphony and the Cincinnati Pops and as principal choral conductor at Arrowbear Music Camp.

An eleven-year member of the California board of the American Choral Directors Association, he is currently serving as Past-President. An avid proponent of new music, he serves is an editor at Pavane Music, where a choral series is published under his name. He holds a BM in conducting from Chapman College and the MM and DMA from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. His principal teachers include Roger Wagner, William Hall, Earl Rivers, John Leman, and Elmer Thomas. 




Southern California


Sahba Motallebi resides in Southern California, where she performs and teaches the Tar and Setar (traditional Persian instruments).  She graduated from California Institute of the Arts in World Music performance and dance. Sahba was born in Tehran, Iran, and started playing traditional Persian music very early on.  She graduated from Tehran Conservatory where she mastered playing the Tar and Setar under the direction of master Fariborz Azizi.

She further enhanced her performance capabilities studying with the renowned master of traditional Persian music, Hossein Alizadeh, and the respected music theoretician, Dr. Mehran Rouhani.  She continued her formal music studies in composition at St. Petersburgh Conservatory, Russia.  Additionally, she attended the R.G.S University, Turkey, for a comparative study of Persian and Turkish music.

Sahba was awarded and recognized as the most outstanding Tar player by the Iranian Music Festival for four consecutive years, from 1995 to 1998.

In 2000 she joined the Iranian National Orchestra and since then has been traveling around the world to present Persian music.  Sahba has recorded several CDs and composed numerous theatrical peaces.




California State University, Long Beach


The Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir from California State Univerity, Long Beach is the University’s premier choral ensemble. Comprised of the top singers at the University, the Chamber Choir tours yearly and has concertized throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and China. The Chamber Choir performed at the National Collegiate Choral Organization Conferences at Yale in 2009, at the College of Charleston in 2013, at the American Choral Directors Association Western Conventions in 2008 and 2012 and at the World Symposium of Choral Music in the Netherlands in 1999.

Recently, the ensemble has performed with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Pops Orchestra and the Long Beach Symphony.   Since its inception in 1949, the ensemble has been conducted by a long line of nationally recognized conductors, including Frank Pooler, Ed Thompson, Leland Vail, Lynn Bielefelt, and—for the last 13 seasons—Jonathan Talberg.




South Asian Dance Forms, Modern.  Massachusetts / Nantes, France

Seen nationwide in the U.S. on PBS Television’s “Great Performances”


Born in Madras, India, brought up in Paris, Shantala is the child of east and west. She grew up in a world filled with dance and music, initiated at a tender age by her mother, dancer Savitry Nair.

Deeply moved and inspired by Master Vempati Chinna Satyam's pure and graceful style, Shantala dedicated herself to Kuchipudi, and received an intense and rigorous training from her master. Driven by a deep desire to bring Kuchipudi to the western audience, she has performed in important festivals and theatres, earning praise and admiration from all.

Since the age of 13, she also had the privilege of working with some of the greatest artists of our times: Maurice Béjart (“1789…et nous”), Peter Brook (for whom she played Miranda in “The Tempest” and Ophelia in “Hamlet”), Bartabas (“Chimère”), Pina Bausch (“O Dido”, “Néfès”, “Bamboo Blues”, “Sacre du Printemps”), and Ushio Amagatsu (“Ibuki”).

Such diverse experiences make her artistic journey a truly unique one. 

Over the past years, Shantala presented her Kuchipudi solos at some of the most important American dance festivals: the « Fall for Dance » festival at New York City Center, the Spoleto festival, and the legendary Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, earning wide acclaim and appreciation from American audiences.

Shantala shares her time between touring, expanding her choreographic work in the Kuchipudi style, and collaborating with various artists in the exploration of contemporary dance, music and theatre. 

Some of these collaborations are:  «Play», a duet with the Belgian/Moroccan contemporary dancer and choreographer, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; «Nineteen Mantras», a modern opera inspired by Hindu mythology, directed by Giorgio Barberio Corsetti and for which Shantala created the choreography; «Peer Gynt» directed by Irina Brook for the Salzburg Festival, in which Shantala played multiple characters; «Am I» a dance-theatre production by the Sydney-based «Shaun Parker & Company».






Native American Dance. South Dakota


The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes Kevin Locke as a Master Traditional Artist who has contributed to the shaping of our artistic traditions and to preserving the cultural diversity of the United States.

When Kevin Locke performs the Hoop Dance, audiences around the world light up with hope, appreciation, curiosity and joy.  Driven by the power of the traditional frame drum and soaring voices of pow wow singers, Kevin’s Hoop Dance is a physical metaphor for the process of regeneration which we are presently undergoing as one species within a planetary field of life.

A member of the Lakota nation, Kevin received the 2009 NAACP Humanitarian Service Award for his lifetime work promoting mutual understanding, social justice, and world peace.

Kevin has served as cultural ambassador for the Untied States Information Service since 1980.  He was a delegate to the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, and was a featured performer and speaker at the 1996 United Nations Habitat II Conference in Turkey.






African Dance, Modern Dance

California State University, Long Beach


Nzingha Camara is an internationally known educator, artist, choreographer, and producer.  Ms. Camara’s career spans over thirty years of performance and professional choreographic experience that includes theater, movies, music videos, television, and community events.  Upon completing her college education, Ms. Camara traveled to Africa and conducted years of research and study in different West African countries and received extensive training in the dance and drum culture under the guidance of Guinean and Senegalese masters from the world renowned Les Ballets Africains in The Republic of Guinea.  Her expertise and work has taken her to China, Europe, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean.   

While teaching at UCLA, Ms. Camara was twice nominated for the Lester Horton Outstanding Teacher Award and produced and co-directed major productions, received a research Fellowship to study in Haiti, and where she received numerous other awards and accolades from students.  In addition to teaching at California State University, Long Beach, Ms. Camara teaches at the prestigious Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles where she has co-directed the annual Pan-African Dance and Drum conferences and where she is in residence with her own company, Kouman Kele Dance and Drum Ensemble.




Near Eastern & Central Asian Dance, Ballet.  San Francisco


Sherene Melania is Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer of Presidio Dance Theatre & Academy, San Francisco. She holds an M.A. from Harvard University in Education; a B.A. in Performing Arts and Social Justice; the University of San Francisco's Dean Medal for Excellence in the Arts; a Certificate for Ballet Direction Specialty and Choreography from the prestigious Saint Petersburg State Conservatory, Russia; and was selected by Mayor Gavin Newsom to serve on the San Francisco Arts Commission, representing the field of dance since 2007.

Trained in classical dance by the San Francisco Ballet and Kirov Academy of Ballet, Washington, DC, Sherene Melania performed principal youth roles with both San Francisco Ballet and Kirov Ballet on its US national tour.

 Sherene is a member of the SF Community Arts, Education, and Cultural Equity Committee, SF Arts Providers Alliance, California Arts Advocates, and International Dance Council UNESCO. She designed and directs DANCE OUT! Presidio Performing Arts Foundation's free citywide education program offered in the public schools, funded by the California Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts, which was nominated by the Presidio Trust to receive the President's Commission for Arts & Humanities, Coming Up Taller Award.


As a Choreographer, she has set pieces for dance companies at home and abroad, and presented for the United Nations, International Red Cross, and PBS. She annually presents Winter and Spring Seasons for Presidio Dance Theatre. 2008 live audiences exceeded 40,000 at major venues and festivals including the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, Marin Center, Palace of Fine Arts, Herbst Theater, Davies Symphony Hall, SF City Hall; Saint Petersburg's famed White Nights Festival at the Catherine Palace; and the 300th Anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo Interna-tional Festival. Her work has been recognized by the press nationally in Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher, and internationally broadcast. In 2008, Sherene received a national award from Nickelodeon Television for "Best Artsy Program" in the SF Bay Area.




Latin American Dance, Modern, Ballet.  San Francisco


Norberto Martinez is Presidio Dance Theatre's Resident Choreographer of Mexican, Mayan and Argentinian Dances, Master Teacher, and popular performing Artist. He is DANCE OUT!'s lead teacher in PPAF's afterschool outreach program for underserved children in their schools. Norberto is the Founder, Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer of Folklórico Atlatonin, a co-production company under the umbrella of Presidio Performing Arts Foundation. Folklórico Atlatonin has performed for various community and academic organizations, and its first international tour included representing the dances of Mexico in China during the Beijing International Cultural and Tourism Festival in September 2007.

Mr. Norberto graduated from Instituto Mexicano de Artes and Instituto de las Bellas Artes of Mérida, Yucatán in Mexico, trained in classical ballet, folk, and modern dance. He developed a deep desire to promote the “magic” of the Mexican culture through dance, as an artist of Jorge Faz Dance Company and Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad de Yucatán for more than 15 years. He has had more than twenty years of experience performing, as well as choreographing for respected dance organizations throughout Mexico, South America, Europe and the United States of America. This summer, Mr. Norberto will share his passion for folk dance as an instructor at the Mission Cultural Center's dance program under the direction of José Léon and at Danzantes Unidos workshops under the direction of Maria Luisa Colmenarez.




African Dance, Modern Dance, Ballet.  Washington


Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Rena Robinson-Steiner led a distinguished professional dance career. She was a company member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem (USA) and the Hamburg Ballet (Germany). She served as artistic director of the Diversity Dance Workshop Performing Arts Company in Seattle (USA) and for the Maxwell International School’s Performing Arts Company (Canada). She has also danced with and directed the Zimbabwe-based, and internationally acclaimed, Tumbuka Dance Company. In 2000 and 2002 she served as a judge at the Monaco Dance Forum, an international event sponsored by the Principality of Monaco.

As a professional dance artist, choreographer, and teacher Rena is committed to participating in, producing and organizing purposeful art which is distinguished by its integrity and impact.  She possesses the requisite discipline, skill, creativity and talent to create and organize projects of the highest standard. 





Caribbean & Latin American Dance, Ballet.  Bahamas

Roderick Johnson.JPG

Roderick Johnson received his early training with the New Breed Dance Company under the direction of the late Alex Zybine.   He earned a B.F.A in Dance teaching and an M.F.A. in dance history and criticism from York University.  

Throughout his career, Roderick has trained, performed and conducted dance workshops, lectures and seminars throughout the United States and across Canada, Europe, South America and the Caribbean. His performing experience includes dancing with the Ballet Folk of Moscow, Idaho, Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal, Theatre Ballet, and Opera Atelier Baroque dance companies of Canada.  

He has received choreographic awards from the Canadian Arts Council, Toronto Dancers Transition and Resource Center, York University and the E. Clement Bethel Performing Arts and the Danza Award for Best choreography. Presently, Roderick is a full time dance teacher at C.I. Gibson and L.W. Young High School and lectures part-time at the College of The Bahamas.






Hluboká nad Vltavou, Czech Republic


A poet and writer of fantasy fiction, Shirin Sabri is the Project’s primary poetic collaborator.  She has a BA in Literature and History (Macquarie University, Sydney) and a Bachelor of Teaching (University of Southern Queensland). She teaches Literature and History to senior students at Townshend International School in the Czech Republic.  Her poems have been published in the literary magazines Poetry Australia and Imago.  Her essay, The Purpose of Poetry, was given an award for Excellence in Bahá’í Studies in 1983 and published in The Journal of Bahá’í Studies, volume 1, number 1.

She wrote lyrics for two of the songs in Wallukaga and the Kabaka, a musical theatre production based on an African folk tale that toured Australia, Mauritius, Turkey and Europe in 1993-94. A CD of the songs from Wallukaga was produced in 1994. Her fantasy novel for children, The Pinckelhoffer Mice, was published in 1992 by Oneworld, and her non-fiction book for children, The Incomparable Friend,  was published in 2006 by Ilxir Publishing.  She has recently completed a fantasy novel, The Hidden People, and is currently working on a follow up to The Incomparable Friend, titled Companions of the Crimson Ark.  She has lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Cyprus, Israel, and the Czech Republic, and has conducted creative writing workshops in Australia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.




Montreal, Canada


Robert is a poet, philosopher, song-writer and teacher living in Montreal. His passions are writing lyrical-profound and quixotic poetry, exploring the interface between Complexity Theory and spiritual teachings. 

His poetry has been described by the dancer Mardi Edelstein as bursting with sun-catching, soul-stirring phrases.”

He has published poetry in Orison, read at McGill University and at several conferences of the Association for Bahá’í Studies, and has three books published in China.







Evanston, Illinois

Helen Butler.jpg

Helen Butler, MFA, actress, writer, arts/social justice devotee, is an accomplished theatre performance artist who has spent much of her life working at the crossroads of the arts and social movement.  Creative ventures have included merging theatrical practice to social movement goals; developing, producing and touring original cultural and women-focused works while engaged in community-based theatre; and rendering expertise to professional film and television enterprises.   Currently she is finding new channels for expressing “the oneness of humanity” by conducting lectures on the value of cultural competency and by creating demonstration works through fiber, film and the written word.    Her services have been utilized by Emmy award-winning television and Audelco award-winning stage producers; universities such as MIT, Boston University, Spelman College, Medical University of Virginia, and Hampton University; Virginia public schools; state-level child abuse,  domestic violence, sexual assault  and housing  non-profits; and state-level social service and other government agencies.




Ventura, California


Sam Harley holds degrees in Psychology, Sociology and Religious Education.  He teaches a variety of subjects in his adopted state, California, and has been writing poetry since he was a teenager.  He has given many poetry readings, up to 90 minutes long, and has recorded a CD of poetry. 

He was a member of the National Slam Poetry team of Ventura, California, and has won many local poetry slams.  He has been a minister and teacher, among other jobs.

When asked how he sees the role of poetry,  he replies, “The job of the poet is to tear away the veil of temporary reality to reveal how this moment touches eternity.”  





Videographer and Audio Mix Engineer



Video Production Specialist.  Los Angeles

Starting at MTV in the early 90's, Joshua has worn all hats in production and post-production.  He is currently working with Red Grammer on a project. He got into advertising working on projects within renowned ad agencies like Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo, and directing commercials for brands like eBay, Samsung and Nestle in the US, Asia and Latin America. With the advent of web content, he added the creative concepting feather to his hat.     




Audio Mix Engineer and Producer.  Los Angeles


The clientele of Jon Rezin reads like a who’s who in the music industry.  Having cut his teeth with jazz legends in NYC such as Ron Carter, Charlie Persip, Victor Goines, and many others he has amassed a discography that encapsulates his eclectic taste in music. During the ten years he spent in the NYC recording scene developing his craft he was instrumental in the making of many records of merit. Feeling the time was ripe for pushing his career to the next level he left NYC and moved to Los Angeles.

Since moving to LA just over seven years ago he has become a first call vocal producer, recording engineer and mixer. His mixing work has graced records of some of the biggest artists in music. (Santana, One Direction, American Idol)

As a vocal producer, Jon has worked with numerous artists, labels and production companies, including the highest grossing television show of all times American Idol and Disney movies and network TV shows. He has also recorded some of the top bands in the land including Joh Legend, Avril Lavigne, Maroon 5, & Ne-Yo.  His work has sold millions of units worldwide.