mdswanson@comcast.net

St. Joseph High School Variety Show Reunion - August 19-20, 2016

Encore is a collaboration between the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation, the St. Joseph High School, and its alumni featuring actual acts as they were presented on the stage from the 1950s through the 1990s.

Our Crew

ENCORE enjoys having the talent and wisdom of several individuals, all former students/faculty from St. Joseph High School who have agreed to steer the concept of an alumni variety show into a production in 2014 called ENCORE.  Each member of the committee brings an expertise that guarantees the success of the production.


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Dennis Bowen was the Director of Choral Activities for the St. Joseph Public Schools beginning in 1960, receiving his Bachelor and Master of Music Education degrees from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. The day after school opened, Jim Heathcote, math teacher and advisor to the Student Council (the group that sponsored the Variety Show) approached Dennis and invited him to get involved with the show. That relationship with the show continued until Dennis retired from teaching in 1987. He produced/directed the show for 20 years. Since his retirement he worked as Director of Volunteers at Lakeland Medical Center for 12 years and for the last 10 years has been the Coordinator and instructor for the SeniorNet Computer Learning Center with the Area Agency on Aging as a volunteer and serves as secretary of the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors. He is delighted to once again be working in a production at St. Joseph High School.


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Steven L. Reed retired in 2010 from the St. Joseph Public School system after teaching instrumental music for 35 years. He continues to direct the Lake Michigan Youth Orchestra, a position he has held for 27 years. Steve holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree, cum laude, from Western Michigan University. He was elected Michigan Orchestra Teacher of the Year and received the Michigan American String Teacher Association (MASTA) Teacher of the Year Award in 2004.

He also led the St. Joseph High School Jazz Ensemble for 20 years and began many new traditions with the band. In addition, the Jazz Ensemble functioned as the 'Show Band' for the Showtime Variety Shows held each February.

Mr. Reed remains active as a professional musician with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Brass Quintet, as conductor of the Lake Effect Jazz Big Band, and leader of a jazz quintet known as Jazzmin II.


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Connie Alti Cassidy appeared in the SJHS talent show the first time as a solo dancer in 1954 and the following year teamed with Connie Hinga in a tap duet. In the last three years of high school she organized a group of girls into a chorus line and they performed to The Bell Bottom Blues, Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, (no shimmying was permitted)  and her senior year Rocket To The Moon.  She also helped the senior boys learn and perform the hula number from South Pacific.

 For a few years after graduation she helped with the choreography  behind the scenes through some of her dance students. She eventually became the "Official" Choreographer for the Variety show  first with James Heathcote, Director and then with Dennis Bowen. Connie did the choreography for an opening kick line and a second act opener which  began to include male dancers in  the 60's. When  Dennis Bowen and Betty Theisen announced their retirement in 1987, she  handed  the choreography responsibilities to her daughter, Cammie Cassidy Hernandez, who continues in that position.


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Donna Nelli Metz graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1970. She appeared in Showtime 1970, her senior year, in As the School Turns. She worked alongside Miss T. writing that year’s script. Donna was involved with a number of other stage productions during her high school career both off and on stage, and loved every minute of it! Donna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from the College of Arts and Letters of Michigan State University. She is the retired Executive Director of the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph. Previously she was the Assistant Director/Director of Education at the Krasl and worked in a number of different capacities at the Art Center since 1989.

Donna is a member of many community non-profit organizations and makes her home in big, bustlin’ Baroda, MI. She is Mom to John and Brian; Mom-in-law to Heather and Desiree; Grandma to the most beautiful twins in the world: Xander and Jack.


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Debra Brueker Balbo and Tony Balbo are serving together as the chairs of the Ticket and House Committees for Encore.  

Tony teaches Special Ed at SJHS and is an assistant Varsity football coach at Bridgman High School. He graduated from SJHS in 1986 but was never involved in a show. This is true of several of the volunteers working behind the scenes for our show. Their loyalty to the Variety Show and SJHS continues.

Deb graduated in 1987 and was involved behind the scenes (usher, tickets, makeup, etc.) for nearly every production while she was in high school. All this plus appearing onstage in the orchestra,  Spotlighters and Thespians. She teaches 1st grade at Arts & Communications Academy in Benton Harbor and in her spare time, makes jewelry to sell at craft shows. They have a 4th grade son and 5th grade daughter - both at Brown School in St. Joseph and live in Benton Harbor.


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Nancy Norwood Bowes graduated from SJHS as an honor grad in 1973. She was the junior class secretary, co-copy Editor of the Mazenblue her senior year and appeared in Showtime as a part of the senior girls Friends act. She graduated from Michigan Technological University and the Air Force Institute of Technology. She and her husband Bob have three children, two of whom graduated from SJHS, and two granddaughters.

She left the USAF service as a Captain and currently is a partner in The Bowes Group. She is the current St. Joseph Public Library Board Vice President, an active supporter of many local not-for-profits, including the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation and a supporter of dog rescue in the State of California.


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Joen Rauth Brambilla graduated from SJHS in 1959 and attended Michigan State University. After she married, they moved to Long Island New York where they raised two children, a son and daughter who both reside in New York. She remarried and has two stepchildren, one in California and one in Florida. Between her husband Bill and her they have 5 grandchildren, ranging in age from four to seventeen.

Joen’s career in New York was Vice President of a Special Events company. The events included the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty and the reopening of Ellis Island.

She and Bill returned to St. Joseph in 1994 to care for her parents. She worked at Cornerstone Alliance for 5 years in fundraising and Chamber Services before returning to New York. Their wonderful experience of living in Michigan brought them back to Michigan in three years. 

She worked as Executive Director of St. Joseph Today for three years before joining Harbor Shores as Marketing and Sales Director. She retired from Harbor Shores in 2012.


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Bob Ehrenberg is a member of the Class of 1971. He participated in the Variety Show all three of his high school years, first with a Spotlighters skit and in the next two years with Choraliers, the second act opener and acts with his good friend, Janet Balyeat. Bob is a trial lawyer in St. Joe, handling personal injury litigation for the past 35 years. His wife, Cindy, is the Director of Development for the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor. They have two daughters, Elizabeth and Emily.


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Juli Schrag Gast was born in St. Joseph and from the time she was very young, she was involved in the performing arts. She continued to perform even through college, where she minored in dance at Western Michigan University. She taught dance in Kalamazoo and continues to appreciate this art form from the spectator’s perspective.

Currently, Juli (an interior designer) and her husband (KC) own Shoreline Lifestyle an interior design firm. She has volunteered throughout the community, serves on the Lory’s Place Advisory Board and is an active member of her church, Peace Lutheran. She has two grown children.

While at St. Joseph High School, Juli performed in three variety shows in the late 1970’s. There are so many great memories associated with these productions, as you would imagine. She is thrilled to be involved with ENCORE, and looks forward to this opportunity to support the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation and the performing arts at St. Joseph for generations to come.


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Brenda Nieb is a member of the class of 1979. She still remembers the day she saw her name on the list of those chosen to be Showtime Dancers; a privilege she repeated throughout her high school years. She also parodied a cheerleader in As The School Turns, danced with the senior girls, and was one fourth of the Serious Musicians which was quite possibly the only time a kazoo act was featured in the Variety Show. After spending several years studying and working in Chicago, Brenda returned to the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area, where she and her husband Jon Dube enjoy sailing, kayaking, biking and cross country skiing.


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Kristin Johnson Posey is a member of the Class of 1976. She did a dance duet in three shows, was a Showtime dancer and participated in many other fun acts. She states, “dancing in Showtime was a highlight of my SJHS years.” She went on to join The Young Americans, toured with West Side Story, Chevrolet, and ended up on staff doing choreography for The Young Americans’ summer program. Kristin has two children and has lived in many interesting places (Alaska being the very best!). Now she’s back in St. Joseph and her dancing days are over. She claims, “Working on this show has been a trip down memory lane and a privilege.”


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Jan Lancelot taught English at the high school in the 80’s and 90’s after an earlier stint at Upton, retiring in 2000. While at the high school, she participated in several variety shows as part of the teachers’ acts and enjoyed being parodied in As the School Turns. Her children, Sue, Bob, and Greg, were all involved with Showtime. Being chairman of the Teacher Presence committee is a welcome stroll down memory lane. Book clubs, a golf league, church activities, and travel keep her out of mischief in retirement. Six adult grandchildren are “the best and most entertaining.”