Since 1949, Guild Opera Company has been introducing children to the magical world of opera. With the generous support of individual music lovers, as well as funding from corporations, foundations and government sources, over four million students have experienced live professional performance of this important art form that encompasses music, theater, dance and visual arts.
Erick Block – President
Gabriel Reoyo Pazos- Artistic Director
Emma Berggren – Secretary
Claudia Sargisian Sobol – Treasurer
Board of Directors
Fran Benedict – Chair
In 2005, Fran Benedict was inducted into the California Music Educator’s Hall of Fame honoring Lifetime Achievement in Music Education. She had been honored by the CMEA Southern Section in 1993 as Outstanding Music Educator. Her career with LAUSD includes music supervisor, TV consultant, Project Director for Gifted/Talented and Master Teacher (USC). Mrs. Benedict was adjunct professor at Mt. St. Mary’s College, and Cal State and Northridge Universities for many years. Her academic preparation includes Oberlin College (BME), Univ. of Michigan, (MM) Occidental College (El Teaching Credential), CSUN (Admin. & Supervision Credential) and LACC & UCLA (opera workshops).
As part of Fran’s TV music instruction programs, each year she prepared thousands of students for their annual visit to the Guild Opera’s full-scale productions. As a result, she was invited to be on the Board of Opera Guild of Southern California. During this time, these outstanding experiences were threatened to become extinct. Mrs. Benedict was determined that Guild Opera survive. She has worked tirelessly over 35 years to insure that young children have exposure to this grand art form.
Dr. Robert Chauls – Director
Dr. Robert Chauls is well-known in Los Angeles as a pianist, accompanist, coach and conductor, and throughout the United States as a composer and author of Piano for Adults, An Aural Approach. His first opera, Alice in Wonderland (G. Schirmer) was the second most performed contemporary opera in America in 1981-82, and continues to be among the most performed children’s operas in the United States, as well as in Germany and Poland. His other operas include The Magic Rhyme, The Thirteen Clocks (with Rhoda Levine), The Trial of Goldilocks, and Meanwhile, Back at Mario’s (a spoof of Tosca). His latest work for the stage is the musical, The Phantom of the Opera. He has also written numerous other works for voice, piano, chamber ensemble and orchestra. He has concertized in several countries, and has travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, Latin America and throughout North America and is a winner of the Northern Bavarian Critics Award. Born in Port Chester, New York, he holds degrees from Antioch College (B.A.), the University of Michigan (M.Mus.), the Royal College of Music – London (A.R.C.M.), and the University of Southern California (D.M.A.).
A former Vice President and board member of the National Opera Association, he established, and is currently directing the N.O.A.’s Chamber Opera Competition. He has been on the musical staffs of City of the Angels Opera, Portland Opera, The American Institute of Musical Studies, Lake George Opera, and the Des Moines Metro Opera. He also served several times as a judge for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. He founded Valley Opera in 1977 and directed it until 1984. From 1992 until 2009 he was artistic director and conductor of the Valley Symphony Orchestra and has been Professor of Music at Los Angeles Valley College since 1973. He lives in Westlake Village with his beautiful bride Deanna, his two cats, King Arthur and Steinway, and his dog Wilson.
Carol Tavis – Director
Carol Tavis’ talents and generosity in sharing her passion for music reflect a life-long dedication to children and music. A graduate of University of Southern California with degrees in Piano Performance and Music Education, she taught Choral/General Music at Stevenson Jr. High for four years before her amazing 29-year tenure as “the” music teacher at Frances Blend Elementary School for Visually Impaired. She received the “Music Educator Award” from Hispanic Musicians Association and the “Bravo” Award from the Music Center. She served as Special Learners Representative for the California Music Educators Association and Arts Commissioner for the City of Covina. Since her retirement in 1998, Carol has served on the Board of Guild Opera Company and has been the principal accompanist for Guild Opera performances. Several other local opera companies and her church have benefitted from Carol’s accompanying and Children’s Choir Coach. (She just can’t say “no.”) She also is the Instructional Designer for our Professional Development packages. Guild Opera Company shouts “Brava” for your many accomplishments and “Thank You” for your munificence in sharing with us and the children!
Randy Melson – Director
Board member and philanthropist Randy Melson is a lifelong opera fan – enthusiastic in her desire to bring music into the life of children and joy into their hearts. Long retired as a film technician and business woman, her contributions are designing and executing some of the many costumes for the operas and helping to present fundraisers and events. Famous for her annual holiday opera party; one might consider himself very fortunate just to get on the waiting list for this glorious and highly exclusive event.
This generous soul’s endless commitment, and love for Opera has helped us touch the lives of many. Randy loves to help put smiles on children’s faces as she remembers her own adult children’s first exposure to opera was in grammar school and was presented by Guild Opera Company.
Gabriel Reoyo Pazos – Director
Gabriel R. Pazos is the recipient of the 2007 El Angel Award from the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts. He has sung leading operatic roles, as well as roles in zarzuela, oratorio and musicals with various companies, including Anchorage Opera, Spanish Lyric Theater in Tampa, Florida, West Bay Opera, Spokane Opera, Santa Barbara Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, LA Music Center, The European Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, and The Angeles Chorale, among others. Directing credits include Enrique Gonzalez-Medina’s opera Serafina y Arcangela at the Theater Center in Tijuana, Mexico, The Marriage of Figaro, Fidelio, Tosca, Faust,and The Ventura College Opera Workshop.
Gabriel, our Artistic Director has served Guild Opera Company for over a decade, and has dedicated countless hours, ensuring we maintain the highest level of quality in every one of our performances for which he directs; Alice in Wonderland, Little Red Riding Hood, including three (3) shows he authored, Wade in the Water, The Treasure of California and Estrella, a children’s bilingual show based on zarzuela music, all of which are being performed in Los Angeles area schools. A kind and humble soul, Gabriel has been instrumental in virtually every aspect of Guild Opera Company’s operations and has contributed significant value to our organization.
Kathy Belwish – Director
Kathy was introduced to theatre and developed a love of music when she attended Guild Opera Company performances in grammar school. She has worked in theatre, designing and constructing costumes. She is a retired administrator in the construction industry. For the past several years she has served as Secretary of the board and costume seamstress for Guild Opera Company. Kathy’s attributes her involvement in Guild Opera Company as her way to say thanks to Guild Opera Company for introducing her to the exciting world of opera.
Erick Block – Director
Erick once upon a time was a student of our Chair, Fran Benedict, when she taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Back then she was Mrs. Benedict to him. Since then Erick has created an exciting career in finance for himself. It wasn’t until one fateful day when their paths crossed again, did he decide to get involved and use the business skill set he developed over the years to give back.
Erick has worked in the financial services industry for over 13 years and today is an accredited Senior Financial Advisor at D.A. Davidson & Co. Erick has served his community through various philanthropic and community initiatives, including The Benevolent and Protected Order of Elks, US Department of Veteran Affairs’ Homeless Veterans Program, Masons of California, Rotary International, San Marino Motor Classic, and Kids Reading to Succeed (KRS), a literacy program that uses reading as an educational platform to empower at-risk youth. Erick is also a member of the Glendale Estate Planning Counsel and The Society for Financial Awareness, a non-profit speaker’s bureau that enlightens the public through financial education to eliminate financial illiteracy in the community.
Jenniffer Andrew – Director
Jenniffer Andrew is no stranger to the arts. Once a professional dancer herself, she vigorously studied Ballet and dedicated herself to learn other traditional dance forms such as Flamenco and eventually Modern dance. Over the years she has been an active supporter in many philanthropic organizations for the benefit of children, including the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and CATCH Charter High School. Jenniffer joined Guild Opera Company in 2012 and was appointed Treasurer shortly thereafter. Jenniffer is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara where she earned a degree in Economics. She began her career in Finance in 2001 with Smith Barney and has also worked at Crowell Weedon, Bel Air Investment Advisors, and Merrill Lynch.
Claudia Sargisian Sobol – Director
Claudia Sargisian Sobol has loved opera for as long as she can remember. For her it encompasses all the great performing art forms; music, dance, and theater, in a rich and moving way to tell a story. When she was first asked to sing in Guild Opera productions, she was very honored. When she was later asked to join the board, she was happy to bring her 26 years of accounting experience to the position of treasurer.
Claudia earned her B.A. in Music from UC Irvine, and her M.A. in Vocal Performance from CSULA. Her Opera credits include Mama in ‘Estrella’, La Badessa in ‘Suor Angelica’, Second Lady in ‘The Magic Flute’, Mother/Grandmother in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, Annina in ‘La Traviata’, Dritte Knabe in ‘Die Zauberflöte’, Cherubino in ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’, Suzuki in ‘Madam Butterfly’, The Second Spirit in ‘The Magic Flute’, Rosine in ‘Signor Deluso’, and Hansel in ‘Hansel and Gretel’.
Claudia served as Cantorial Soloist for High Holy Days at Temple Judea in Trazana, and as Alto Soloist/Section and Leader Cantor at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Brentwood. She has sung professionally with Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Opera Chorus, Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale, and Lark Master Singers. She has appeared as soloist with Los Robles Master Chorale. Ms Sobol is currently Alto Soloist and Section Leader at First United Methodist Church in Glendale, and Alto Soloist at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
Emma Berggren – Director
A native of Sweden, Ms. Berggren is interested in helping children dream and to explore who they are through the beauty of the unamplified voice. Emma wants to introduce children to the happiness and joy that she gets from opera.
Emma Berggren is a graduate of The Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and before coming to Los Angeles, Emma attended Lilla Akademien’s Classical Music School in Stockholm Sweden and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. Ms. Berggren has been honored with the Outstanding Student Project Award at The Musicians Institute, the Student of the Year Diploma and the Music Diploma at Lundberg’s school.
Ms. Berggren has been a soprano soloist in Los Angeles, and has performed roles such as a Lay sister in Suor Angelica with Riverside Lyric Opera, the Celestial Voice in Don Carlo with The Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera, Papagena and the Second Spirit in the Magic Flute with Ridgecrest Opera Guild and Guild Opera Company, and has been an understudy for Mimi in La Boheme, Johanna in Sweeney Todd with the Golden State Pops Orchestra and mezzo cover for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with California Philharmonic. Chorus engagements include working with companies such as Dream Orchestra & Opera Chorus of Los Angeles, Golden State Pops Orchestra in collaboration with Varèse Sarabande, and California Philharmonic Chorale.