Dr. David Thomas – Artistic Director
David M. Thomas enjoys a strong reputation throughout the Pacific Northwest as a conductor who fuses technique and artistry to provide a compelling and transformative musical experience.
Dr. Thomas excels as a choral musician through his unwavering commitment to healthy vocal production in the choir. Influenced early on by the beautiful soprano voice of his mother, Beverly Thomas, and her work building a thriving children’s and youth choral academy, Dr. Thomas spent much of his childhood years engrossed in the art of singing. As a teen, he took quickly to conducting, found early success leading his peers in rehearsal and, soon thereafter, conducting in performance, laying a strong foundation for his future education and career path. Earning an undergraduate degree in vocal performance (Brigham Young University) provided the confidence and skill necessary to elicit healthy, energetic singing from choristers.
Dr. Thomas attributes much of his success as a conductor and pedagogue to his years of study and performance with Dr. Ronald Staheli. Valery Uspensky, Stanislav Legkov and Mack Wilberg also played key roles in his development as a musician. Dr. Thomas (baritone) has performed as a soloist in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s well-known weekly television broadcast, and on the Mariinsky Theatre stage, and has prepared choirs or collaborated as a guest conductor with many prestigious ensembles including the Oregon Repertory Singers and the Newport Symphony Orchestra.
After earning additional degrees in Russian language (BA) and choral conducting (MM) at Brigham Young University, Dr. Thomas received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire in St. Petersburg Russia. He has continually integrated Russian music in his performance and research, providing performance coaching for ensembles and soloists, and presenting scholarly work at national and regional level professional conferences. Artistic Director of the Portland Choir & Orchestra since 2007, Dr. Thomas pursues his greatest passion (teaching) via a robust private studio and is highly sought after as a clinician and adjudicator.
Dr. Edward Higgins – Orchestra Director
One of the most highly sought after conductors of the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Edward Higgins has spent his musical career imparting the joys of music as a performer, educator, and conductor.
Dr. Higgins began his versatile performance career with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in Spoleto, Italy, where he served as Principal Trumpet on such works as the Grammy-winning recording of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra. After two seasons Dr. Higgins went on to hold the Principal Trumpet position of the Sacramento Symphony. He achieved comparable accolades in the Midwest as a professional tubist, holding principal positions in the La Crosse Symphony and St. Joseph Symphony Orchestras.
His educational career has seen similar successes with brass pedagogy and conducting positions at: University of California Davis, California State University Sacramento, Winona State University in Minnesota, and Washburn University in Kansas. Dr. Higgins also spent time teaching younger students in the public schools of Sacramento and Stockton, California.
As an active conductor, he founded the Oregon Conductor’s Symposium and was a featured guest with the Portland Festival Orchestra. Most recently, Dr. Higgins has taken his baton worldwide — appearing in such diverse locales as New York’s La Guardia School of the Performing Arts (featured in “Fame”) and the Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou, China.
On the concert stage, Higgins has collaborated with notable artists such as, Glenn Dicterow (Concertmaster, New York Philharmonic), Charles Schlueter (Principal Trumpet Emeritus, Boston Symphony), Ronald Baron (Principal Trombone Emeritus, Boston Symphony), Fred Korman (Principal Oboe, Emeritus, Oregon Symphony) and world-renowned trumpet soloist Carl “Doc” Severinsen.
Dr. Higgins holds a Doctorate in Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in trumpet performance from the Juilliard School. He is currently the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Portland Wind Symphony, Associate Professor of Conducting and Director of Wind Ensembles at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, and most recently, the Conductor of the Portland Orchestra.
Artistic Staff Assistants
Jennie Peterson – Assistant Choir Director
Jennie Peterson received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education with a secondary education choral emphasis from Brigham Young University in 2007. She has had a passion for choral music from a very young age and has enjoyed participating in and directing various choirs throughout her life. Jennie is currently a stay-at-home mother of three—soon to be four!—children: James (age 5), Sarah (age 3), and Samuel (age 1). In her spare time, she loves to bake and read. Jennie has been part of the Portland Choir and Orchestra since 2010. She enjoyed acting as the soprano Section Leader at that time, and she is currently thrilled to be the Assistant Choir Director.
Chris Fotinakis – Concert Master
Chris Fotinakis began his musical career at age nine when a competitive streak arose within him after seeing his older sister playing the violin. He continued on to study violin and voice at university and settled down in Portland as a freelance musician. He has performed around the Northwest in the Vancouver, Newport, and Oregon East Symphonies, and as a singer has appeared with the Portland Vocal Consort, Portland Symphonic Choir, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra and Chorus. He has served as concertmaster of the Starlight Symphony and as tenor section leader at First Presbyterian Church of Portland and St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Chris also enjoys jumping on stage to fiddle, and has appeared with Americana band The Beautiful Trainwrecks. Chris currently serves as a violin instructor at Valley Catholic Schools and the Community Music Center and also teaches music theory and choir at Trinity Academy in North Portland. In his spare time he plays copious amounts of soccer, writes music, and spends time with his amazing 3-year-old daughter, Sabrina.
Board of Directors
Keith Biggs – President and Acting Chairman of the Board
Keith Biggs received his BA in Political Science from Portland State University and his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. At age 8, Keith started taking piano lessons from concert pianist Brent Johnston. In middle and high school he added to his musical background by taking up the trombone and singing. He shared his passion for the piano by teaching piano for several years. In college, he learned how to play the organ and now plays the organ and piano for several musical events in the Portland, Oregon region. One of Keith’s biggest musical highlights was being able to play the famous Mormon Tabernacle Organ in August of 2013.
Keith has been involved with the Portland Choir and Orchestra from its beginning concepts in 2005. He has voluntarily served as public relations director for the choir and orchestra and now serves as the president and acting chairman of the board of directors. In his spare time, he loves to travel, study American history, and act. You may have seen him briefly in a few episodes of Leverage and GRIMM as well as a few local commercials.
Don Jensen – Treasurer
Don Jensen graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor of science degree in accounting. After obtaining his CPA certificate and working in public accounting for 10 years, he moved to industry where he is now president of Crookco Holdings Inc., a manufacturer of collision repair tools for the auto industry. Don began playing the trombone in grade school and studied with Professor John Trudeau at Portland State University during his high school years. He continued playing while in college, with a particular interest in big band, jazz and fusion, participating in Synthesis, the jazz ensemble at BYU. Since college, his involvement in music has shifted to choral music, where he has sung in and directed church choirs, as well as several specialty choirs and small ensembles (The Group and The Jenroyds). He presently, with his wife Kathy, volunteers at the Coffee Creek women’s correctional facility, leading a choir of inmates which performs three times a year for the other inmates at the facility.
Don is an avid sports fan and enjoys cycling, having participated in Cycle Oregon this past year. He is father to four and grandfather to 8 (with #9 on the way).
Paula Flynn – Secretary
Paula Flynn is the Secretary for the PECO Board, and the Cello Section Leader. She has an Associate of Arts in Music from Ricks College and a Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance from the University of Oregon. Paula has played in PECO off and on since its inception.
Paula is a stay-at-home mom, and she and her husband, Kelly, are the parents of 8 kids. Her hobbies include baking more cookies than her family, neighbors, and friends will eat; hiking in the Columbia River Gorge; tinkering with her fantasy football lineup; and watching home improvement shows, especially The Property Brothers.
Marlo Dean – Board Member
Dr. Marlo Dean earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Utah State University then moved to Oregon where he received his doctorate degree. He grew up in a musical family. His father was a high school choir teacher where Marlo was active in choir all of his high school years. He participated in All State Choirs, Chamber and Acapella Choirs, state solo competitions, and Promised Valley Productions. Marlo comes to the choir not only with musical background, but also with a strong financial business background as an executive board member of other non-profit organizations which services his position as a board member of the choir.
Kyle Grant – Board Member
Kyle is a native of Portland, Oregon and started studying piano and cello from a young age. He attended Clackamas High School and participated as a cellist in the Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, as well as numerous community orchestras and musical theater productions. Kyle received a bachelor’s degree in cello performance from BYU-Idaho and went on to attend law school at BYU. For one summer in 2008 he had the privilege of attending the Aspen Music Festival. After graduating law school, Kyle and his wife, Kellie, moved to Portland. Although his career is now in the practice of real estate law with Vial Fotheringham, his true passion is for music and its ability to uplift and inspire individuals in the community. He has been involved with the Portland Choir and Orchestra since 2012 as a cellist in the orchestra and as a member of the Board of Directors.
Brant Russell – Board Member
Brant Russell joined the Portland Choir and Orchestra six years ago and recently completed a three year assignment as the organization’s Technical and Stage Director, and now serves on its Board of Directors. Brant received a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Oregon. His mother’s love for beautiful music—a superb soprano herself—flooded his childhood home with great performances of opera and orchestral masterpieces, instilling his love of music and performance. After hearing Leonard Bernstein’s historic introduction to classical music to children at age ten, and attending his first opera at age 12 (and being awestruck at the grandeur of the orchestra, stage production, and glorious singing—all together!), he remains an avid enthusiast to this day of beautiful music and its capacity to lift the human spirit. In addition to music, Brant loves travel (next trip: China!), old movies, and WWII history.
Erin Hatch – Orchestra VP
Erin Hatch has a great love for her family, church, and community. While working on her BA in music at Brigham Young University (BYU), she was a violinist with the Orchestra at Temple Square for four years. After taking a break from school to serve a mission for her church in Germany and Austria, she completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration at BYU. She currently serves as PECO’s Orchestra Vice President.
Erin considers her greatest accomplishment to be marrying her best friend, Steve Hatch. Erin spends her days mothering their three children. When she finds some spare time, she’s most often found with a good book in hand.
Daya Tracy – Concert and Event Ticketing
Daya Tracy has been a member of the Portland Choir and Orchestra since its beginning in 2005. Music has always been a big part of her life. She participated in choirs and musicals all through middle and high school and continues to sing with her mom and sisters as part of the group “Mama C and Her Chickadees”. Daya worked as a dental assistant for 11 years before retiring and beginning her real career as a full-time mom to her four children. In her spare time she enjoys decorating wedding and party cakes.
Katherine Dougall – Membership Chair
Katherine Dougall is a transplant to the beautiful Northwest due to marrying a Portland native. In 2010 she and her family left the sunshine and warmth of Las Vegas and returned to Portland where she has fallen in love all over again with the lush green landscapes, the unique Portland culture, and the wonderful people! Katherine joined the Portland Choir almost immediately upon moving to the Portland area and she has been thrilled to be able to reignite her love for music through her participation with such an uplifting and talented choir.
Katherine graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing but took a maternity leave from the medical field 13 years ago to focus her time and energy on raising her four young children. She enjoys reading, running, cooking, and any travel she can get, but her favorite place to be is always at home with her family.
Kathy Jensen – Executive Secretary
Kathy Jensen attended Brigham Young University as a Piano Performance major. She received additional training at Portland State University, where her focus was the study of choral conducting. She works as a pianist and coach in the Portland area, contributing to performances, rehearsals, and the recording of many different genres of music. Engagements have included the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, NATSAA, OMEA District and State Solo & Ensemble competitions, and as collaborative pianist at Concordia University in Portland for the last fifteen years. She has accompanied numerous Oregon All-State and All-Northwest Choir events, working with conductors from all over the country. An active piano teacher, she teaches from her private piano studio in Tualatin. In 2008 she was selected as the National Piano Cultural Arts winner for American Mothers Inc. She has been a member of Portland Choir since 2011, where she sings alto. She volunteers at the Oregon State Women’s Correctional Facility, leading a choir of inmates. She and her husband are the proud parents of four talented children, and grandparents of eight.
Brad Goodwin – Producer
After attending a performance of the Portland Choir and Orchestra in 2009 that he described as “Carnegie Hall in Portland,” Brad became a volunteer. He has been involved in every concert since. He currently produces Portland Choir and Orchestra concerts and supervises a crew of dedicated volunteers who handle production design, sound, lighting, stage management, transportation, decorations, house management, box office, ushering, post-production recordings, and video. Brad spent four years as the drum major of the Brigham Young University marching band. Professionally he is a software architect at Oracle, a global software company.