mdswanson@comcast.net

St. Joseph High School Variety Show Reunion - August 17-18, 2018

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. Dennis also wrote the SJHS Alma Mater in 1961. Since his retirement he worked as Director of Volunteers at Lakeland Medical Center for 12 years and for the last 17 years has been the Coordinator and instructor for the 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.   Mr. Reed holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree, cum laude, from Western Michigan University with graduate work at the University of Michigan.  Mr. Reed was elected “Michigan Orchestra Teacher of the Year” in 1997 by the membership of the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA), and received the Michigan American String Teacher Association (MASTA) “Teacher of the Year” Award in 2004.  Mr. Reed was also awarded the 2009 American String Teachers Association (ASTA) “Elizabeth Green” Award, an award given to one public school string teacher per year on the national level. 

Mr. Reed led the St. Joseph High School Jazz Ensemble for 20 years and began many new traditions with the band, including the annual Jazz Concert known as the “Superbowl of Jazz” featuring some of the biggest names in jazz.  In addition, the Jazz Ensemble functioned as the 'Show Band' for the Showtime Variety Shows each year.  Eventually Mr. Reed involved the full Symphony Orchestra in “Showtime” and came up with some creative presentations of movie scores and Broadway show tunes.

Under Mr. Reed's direction, the St. Joseph High School Jazz Ensemble won several local and statewide “Outstanding Band” awards and performed for dozens of local events each year. The St. Joseph Orchestras performed five times at the Michigan Music Conference and traveled on five major performance tours, including two Canadian tours, two European tours, and an East Coast tour culminating in a full length concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Mr. Reed remains active as a professional musician with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Brass Quintet, director 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. In her 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,  in which the senior boys alsodanced for the first time.

She became the "Official" Choreographer for the Variety show first with James Heathcote as director and with Dennis Bowenwhen he joined the SJHS staff.  She 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, she handed the choreography responsibilities to her daughter, Cammie Cassidy Hernandez, who continues in that position.  As a mother/daughter team, they were co-choreographers for all three of the Encore shows.


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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, and beautiful granddaughter Penelope.


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Ren Baldwin retired in 2011, following a 42-year career with St. Joseph Public Schools.  Ren received his Bachelor of Music degree from Anderson University and Master of Music Education/Choral Conducting from Ball State University.  When Upton Junior High opened in 1969, Ren began his teaching career and was responsible for Bands, Choirs, and Music Appreciation classes.  Upton’s first choir, Uptones in 1969, had 12 students.  Ren guided the growth of the choral program and, when the 9th grade was moved to the high school in 1976, the Freshman Choir was 130 voices strong.  He was privileged, for 18 years, to work closely with Dennis Bowen, feeding junior high and middle school choral students into the high school choral program.  The highlight of those years was always the combined Upton/High School Christmas Choral Program.

In the early 1980’s while continuing his teaching career, Ren and his wife Phyllis opened a computer business which fueled his interest in technology.  Ren began sharing his music teaching time with introducing computer use into the classroom.  After 28 years in music rehearsal rooms and computer labs, Ren moved into technology administration and spent the final 14 years in St. Joe as Director of Technology.  In 2004 he was named Michigan Technology Director of the Year.

Ren and Phyllis have one daughter, a St. Joe grad who lives with her family, three girls and a boy, in Concord, OH.

In retirement, Ren continues to educate, as he teaches, again alongside Dennis Bowen, in the senior computer learning program at the Area Agency on Aging.  He also serves on the St. Joseph Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library Board of Trustees and is a member of St. Joseph Lions.  Ren remains deeply committed to St. Joseph Public Schools, and serves on the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors.


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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. With her husband Bill, they have 5 grandchildren, ranging in age from eight to twenty-one.

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, Class of 1971, served as the program host for ENCORE and ENCORE 2016 and is associate producer for ENCORE 2018.  He is a member of the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors and the chairman of its Distinguished Alumni Committee.  He also serves on the Performing Arts Hall of Fame Committee.  Bob was active in performing arts while at St. Joe, including Showtime, and was honored as Best Thespian his senior year.  Bob is a trial lawyer with Conybeare Law Office, handling personal injury litigation.  Bob and his wife, Cindy, are the parents of St. Joseph High School graduates, Elizabeth and Emily and very proud grandparents of Charlie, Emily’s son.


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Kim Jorgensen Gane graduated from SJHS in 1984. Barely. She often jokes that she still owes Mrs. Lancelot a final draft of her 7th grade Greek mythology report. Active in choir and musical theater, Kim played Amarylis in St. Joe’s 1981 production of The Music Man, was part of the chorus in South Pacific, and participated in Showtime all four years of high school. What remains her crowning musical and dramatic achievement is playing Anna Leonowens opposite Jeff Hoover’s King of Siam in the 1984 production of The King and I, and crying real tears in the final scene!

After many Erica Cane-worthy iterations since (including raising two generations of kids, the first of which graduated from SJHS, as did her parents; the second—and LAST—generation are both current SJHS freshmen), thanks to an always excellent English department, Kim is an author, a realtor, and has been a cast member and a local producer/co-director of the national live storytelling show, Listen to Your Mother, which she proudly brought to the SJHS stage. Having participated in the first two ENCORE productions, Kim looks so forward to joining her fellow Choraliers once again, and she is deeply honored to be a part of the steering committee, lending her marketing and social media expertise to #ENCORE2018.


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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, serving on the Lory’s Place Advisory Board, Caring Circle Board and as a member of First Church of God.  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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KC Gast graduated in 1976 and went on to get his BBA and MBA from Western Michigan University. He and his wife Juli (class of '77) own their own business and have 2 grown children.  Besides supporting the Saint Joseph Public School Foundation through ENCORE, KC is also a board member of the Lakeland Health Foundation, the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen, and Centered On Wellness.


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Nancy (Gerbel) Kodis is a 1979 graduate of SJHS.  She was a member of Senior Babes that same year in the Variety Show and she played on the tennis team.  Nancy and her husband Jim moved back to St. Joe in 1998 and their three children are all graduates of SJHS.

 

Nancy is honored to be serving on the Board of Directors of the St. Joseph Schools Foundation.  She also volunteers in a local therapy dog organization and at her church.  Nancy loves spending her days teaching Pre-Kindergarten.

What a joy to return to St. Joe High and work alongside former classmates and teachers to bring another incredible Encore Show to the stage for the entertainment of our community and to benefit the St. Joseph Schools.


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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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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.”


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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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Kurt Schnese - After graduating from SJHS in 1975, Kurt was accepted and headed west to the California Institute of Art, the prestigious private school founded by Walt Disney and his brother, Roy.  While at CalArts, Kurt worked at Universal Studios in the wardrobe department for the TV show division working on such shows as Six Million Dollar Man, The Rockford Files and the Captain and Tennille Show.  Although his studies were in the area of graphic design and advertising, his career put him in the field of interior design working alongside Angelo Donghia, Architectural Digest’s “most influential designer of the 20th century.”  While with Angelo Donghia, Kurt worked with celebrities in Fashion, TV and Entertainment and the Music Industry.  Kurt then entered the field of Executive Office Furnishings working with some of the finest companies in the U.S .This field took him from Chicago, Dallas, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Albuquerque. 

While in Dallas, Kurt’s volunteering with the AIDS crisis found him starting BENEFIT DALLAS, the fund raising arm of the Dallas AIDS Resource Center.  The main goal was to provide housing, nutrition and medical care for people dealing with AIDS.  Kurt ended his career with the forming of his own interior design firm working with an international corporate headquarters and 57 offices around the country and large multi-million dollar residential projects.  Kurt returned home to St. Joe in 2012 to care for his father, Frank Schnese, and has remained since his father’s passing in 2013.  This will be Kurt’s third ENCORE show.