Click on their names to read their bios
Leah Kolar holds her Masters Degree in Opera from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Leah received her Bachelor Degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Eastman furthering her performance studies at the Royal Northern College of Music In Manchester, England.
Leah served the University of West Florida as Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre and head of the Musical Theatre BFA Program prior to moving back home to Nebraska where she has taught voice for Nebraska Wesleyan University as well as serving as a Guest Artist for Creighton University.
Leah has a thriving voice studio in Lincoln where she is also the founder and Artistic Director for Theatre Arts For Kids, a flourishing non-profit musical theatre company for youth. This fall, Leah joins the voice faculty at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
Leah's singing, teaching, directing and choreography credits encompass all forms of lyric theatre including musical theatre, operetta, opera, and children's theatre internationally. Leah moonlights as a playwright with special interest in creating theatre for young artists.
Leah moonlights as a Professor of Voice at University of Nebraska Omaha and is married to Ben Kolar and they have two kids, Mij (11) & Avi (4).
Lauren Hackenmiller is a versatile artist and is professionally active as a pianist, vocalist, and music director. Lauren holds her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Simpson College, and most recently attained her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lauren has been actively involved in music and theatre from a very young age, and is a strong advocate for the importance of performing arts for youth.
Lauren enjoys working with youth, and has taken part in numerous programs promoting fine arts. She serves as the music director for Theatre Arts for Kids and is the executive director of Basement Opera . Lauren has experience teaching piano and voice lessons to students of all ages. Her extensive vocal background includes both choral and solo singing. She is an active chorister with Opera Omaha, and has performed in top vocal ensembles in locations around the world, including Italy and the UK. As a pianist, Lauren has played numerous recitals and concerts of a wide variety of music, including classical art song, full operas and musicals, and jazz cabarets. Due to her knowledge and passion for vocal music, she is in demand as collaborative pianist, and has accompanied numerous recitals in the region. She has experience accompanying choral ensembles, including the award-winning Big Red Singers.
Susan Twiehaus is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) studying Vocal Performance with a minor in Theatre under the direction of Alisa Belflower. She was active in UNL's Opera, Musical Theatre, and Choral programs. Susan has studied at the Open Jar Institute and the Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York City and participated in the Interharmony International Music Festival in Italy.
Recently, she was a prize winner at Regional National Associate of Teacher's Singing, NATS, in Classical (2019) and Musical Theatre (2017) and a finalist in the International Hal Leonard Musical Theatre Competition (2018). Norris High School, her alma mater, began presenting the Susan Twiehaus Leadership Award in her honor, this annual award is given to a student who displays excellent character, leadership, and dedication within the choral program. She also has been a counselor for the Lied Center's Triple Threat Broadway Intensive since the program's inception.
Her recent roles include: Hannah (Modern: ASCAP staged reading) Amahl (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Claire (Ordinary Days, Young Vi (Violet), and Polly Nichols (Dust & Shadow: Equity Staged Reading).
Susan has been a devoted member of and performer at the Theatre Arts for Kids (TAFK) since 2013. She began studying privately with Leah in 2012 and continued under Leah’s direction throughout her high school career. Susan and Leah Kolar created the Sara Crewe Scholarship, named after one of Susan’s favorite roles in one of TAFK's most heartwarming performances, A Little Princess. This scholarship is awarded to a TAFK graduating senior who has shown exemplary leadership and character within the program.
Alexis is pursuing her degrees in vocal Performance and Music Education at Oklahoma City University. She is a 2000 graduation of Lincoln East High School. Alex graduated from high school with over NINE years in the Theatre Arts For Kids program. She has served as an Assistant, Assistant Director, Music Director and more ever since.
TAFK is excited to welcome our Guest Director for Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Addams Family. James Kenon Mitchell was born in Rochester, NY and holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Theory from the Eastman School of Music and a Master of Music in Collaborative Piano and Opera Coaching from Westminster Choir College.
Mr. Mitchell has accompanied masterclasses for Susan Ashbaker, Deborah Birnbaum, Dalton Baldwin, Joan Dornemann, William Hobbs, Chuck Hudson, Martin Katz, Kathleen Kelly, Kathryn LaBouff, Ken Noda, Matthew Polenzani, Pierre Vallet, Roger Vignoles and Darren K. Woods.
Before pursuing his Masters in Music, Mr. Mitchell was an Adjunct Professor of Musical Theater at the University of West Florida. He has spent three summers at the CoOPERAtive Program first participating as a Pianist Fellow (2012/13) and then on faculty as Pianist Intern and Young Artist Dramatic Coach (2014). He served as Assistant Conductor for the CoOPERAtive Program's 2013 production of Don Giovanni and as Assistant Stage Director for the 2014 production of La Fille du Regiment. Mr. Mitchell was Assisant to the Music Staff at Sarasota Opera for the winter season of 2015.
Mr. Mitchell has directed Faust for Opera Modo (2013) Madama Butterfly for Opera Forza (2014) and La Voix Humaine and Iolanta at Tri-Cities Opera in Bingamton, NY (2015). The premiere of his first opera libretto, Private Exhibition, with music by John Frederick Hudson will take place in October, 2016 at King's College in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Mr. Mitchell is currently on faculty at West Virginia University as Visiting Assistant Professor and Interim Director of Opera Theatre where he has conducted Porter's Kiss Me Kate, Weill's Seven Deadly Sins, Hindemith's There and Back, and Menotti's The Medium.
Our Board of Directors