AIGC Artistic Staff
Musical Director: Valetta Molofsky
Valetta Molofsky, AIGC musical director starting in the fall of 2019, has previously been an AIGC member and soloist. She also directed the AIGC Youth Choir for four years. Valetta performs and records gospel and R&B music; she is a member of the Faith Center worship team; she leads gospel singing workshops; and she directs Women in Spirit, an a cappella gospel healing group.
Valetta's love of gospel music started at the age of three under the leadership of her mother, who was a children's choir director. She began directing her church children’s choir at age 12 and started leading the adult choir and serving as the worship leader at age 16. Her artistic inspiration also comes from her father, who is a minister, songwriter, and singer; her grandfather, who was a mass choir director; and her grandmother, who was an Elder in the church.
She says, "Whenever I sing, I pray people will feel the power and the glory of God's grace and love. This beautiful music is in my bones. It is a healing inspiration for my soul and my heritage from my family. Every time I sing, I feel my ancestors with me, in the timbre of my voice and the way I roll the words off my tongue. The songs I sing bring memories of why people of color bled and died so that others might have faith, freedom, and peace."
Accompanist: Bob Ebenstein
Bob is interested in all kinds of music and likes accompanying singers, jamming with others at open mic, working with community groups, and especially, watching young people develop their musical skills and passion for music. He says that one of his biggest thrills is accompanying a first time soloist -- bringing out that person's ability to make a song their own. Bob's motto is, "I never met a singer I didn't like."
Bob was raised in Princeton, New Jersey where he began playing violin at the age of ten. He played in a youth theatre orchestra and credits his classical violin teacher, Helen Thompson, for instilling in him a love for music. Bob's family moved to Santa Barbara where he began playing guitar at 14 and piano at 16. Bob played piano for musical theater productions, performed on violin and viola in the local orchestra and accompanied dance classes at UC Santa Barbara.
In 1981, Bob moved to Humboldt County where he continued his classical music performances with the Humboldt and Eureka Symphony Orchestras. He has been the beloved accompanist for AIGC since 1994, has played piano in more than 40 musical theater productions over eight years for Instantaneous Theatre, and is choir director and accompanist for the First Baptist Church in Eureka.
Youth Choir Director: Lorenza Simmons-Phillips
Lorenza is the director of the AIGC Youth Choir, the former assistant director for AIGC and a much-loved and valued soloist and choir member. Lorenza has been a musical performer since early childhood. She comes from a family of gospel singers and her father, Madi Simmons, is a singer and performer in roots and reggae music.
Lorenza performs and is a teacher of both singing and piano. She has sung with many local bands including AkaBella, Womama, Vidagua and the Sweet Inspiration Band. She enjoys many styles of music, including jazz, gospel, R&B and world music. Lorenza has been a children's music teacher since 2002. She teaches choir and keyboard at Alder Grove Charter School and teaches voice and piano in her studio. Lorenza sang on the First 5 California Children’s CD "Growing Up in Humboldt", a compilation of local musicians singing children's songs. Lorenza loves to experience the journey of the children in the Youth Choir as they explore music.
The AIGC Band plays with the choir for the major performances of the choir season. AIGC band members are Bob Ebenstein, piano, Tim Claasen, bass guitar, Justin Hoopes, drums, David Childers, guitar, Issa Stemler, keyboard, and Mike Kimmel, percussion.
The band performs for the AIGC's North Country Fair, Harvest Concert, Holiday Concert, Bowl of Beans Martin Luther King Celebration and Spring Concert performances, plus other selected events during the year.
Former AIGC Artistic Staff
Former Choir Directors
Musical Director: Kristin Kirby
Kristin joined the choir in 2004 and was a guest director from 2012-2015, becoming the musical director for AIGC for the 2018-2019 season. She has played in various musical groups and has taught guitar and piano.
Kristin has a degree in theater arts and has also been involved in a variety of musical theater productions as a writer, actor, singer and director. She thoroughly enjoyed her tenure as director of AIGC!
Louis grew up singing along with the great music of the 1960s and 1970s. When he discovered gospel music he felt he had come home. Louis joined AIGC in 1996, was a tenor section leader, Assistant Director from 2009-2015 and director from 2015-2018. Singing in AIGC helped Louis find his voice and inspired him to develop his talents as a soloist. Among other accomplishments, Louis designed the AIGC website and promoted outreach into the Humboldt and HSU community.
Jim Hubbard began singing with the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir in 1994 and was its musical director from 2011-15 and assistant director 2018-19. Working with former director, Karen Dumont, he assisted in direction when she was unavailable. He recalls his first directing experience, filling in at a gospel workshop in Oakland, as a fabulous but terrifying experience. He founded an ensemble of 12 members called Vocal Point which was active in the mid 1990’s. Jim took time off from the choir to form the band Homefront and produced two CD’s with the band.
Jim’s musical background began when he was 10 years old in Scotland where he learned to play guitar and sing. Since then Jim has crafted his own music and spent many hours in the studio as a writer, performer and engineer. He characterizes himself as a “jack-of-all-trades” when it comes to music production.
Originally from Ottawa, Canada, Jaese Lecuyer began singing and soloing with the AIGC in 1995. Jaese directed the AIGC in the 2008-09 season and directed the AIGC Teen Choir for the 1997-98 season. Jaese now lives in North Dakota and performs as a singer-songwriter.
Barbara began singing with AIGC in 1994. She has been an alto and tenor section leader and music transcriber and music arranger for many of those years. Barbara became Assistant Director in 2001 and she was Director from 2004 to 2008. Barbara was raised in a family of a cappella, hymn singing, four-part-harmonists who broke out the songbooks at every gathering. For Barbara, music is a life-long avocation.
Karen Dumont was a founding member and soloist for the AIGC and was the AIGC director for eleven years, from 1993-2004. She founded the AIGC Youth Choir in 1995 and directed it for three years. Karen grew up singing gospel music in church. She performed and recorded music solo and with numerous bands. Karen lived in Oregon and performed gospel, jazz and blues until her passing in 2018.
Lourin Plant became the founding AIGC director in 1992 while he was a Professor of Music at Humboldt State University. He left Arcata for New Jersey in 1993 and is now Assistant Professor of Voice at Rowan State University. Dr. Plant is a member of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Marian Anderson Guild, the American Choral Directors Association, and New Jersey Music Educators Association.
Former Youth and Teen Choir Directors
Choir member and soloist Lorien Sanchez joined AIGC in 2000 and directed the AIGC Youth Choir for six seasons, from fall 2011 through spring 2017.
She was moved to step into this role to allow young singers to experience singing words and making magical sounds that convey positive messages and joyful hope. “I wanted them to feel a connection to something indescribable and holy,” she says.
Kimberley Harris was a choir member and soloist and directed the AIGC Teen Choir during the 2007-2008 season. She has participated in many different gospel groups with Todd Williams, Darlene McKnight and Karen Dumont.
Bristol Martin was a choir member and soloist with AIGC. She directed the Youth choir for two years and the Teen Choir for 8 years, 1999 to 2007. Bristol teaches singing and has directed choirs in churches, schools and for musical theater productions.
Natasha (Tosh) Martin (on the left) started singing in the AIGC Youth Choir in 1993 when she was six years old and then sang in the AIGC Teen Choir. She directed the Youth Choir for 4 years, 2005 to 2009. Tosh sang in school choirs, musical theater productions and performed in numerous drama productions.
Seanna was an AIGC member and soloist beginning in 1994. She was the Assistant Director for four years. She taught songs and transcribed and arranged music for the choir. Seanna founded the AIGC Teen Choir in 1996 and directed it for two years.
Jeff began singing, soloing and playing tambourine with the AIGC in 1992. He started as AIGC tenor section leader in 1994 and became Assistant Director in 1995. Jeff directed the AIGC Youth Choir for three years, 1998-2001. Jeff now lives and teaches middle school science in the Bay Area.
Former AIGC Accompanists
Eliot Claasen served the AIGC Teen Choir as a piano accompanist from 2006 to 2008. Eliot is a member of the AIGC musical family -- he is the nephew of longtime AIGC bassist, Tim Claasen, cousin or AIGC drummer, Justin Hoopes, and son of Jonathon Claasen former AIGC drummer. Eliot remains active musically, playing piano, trumpet and guitar with multiple groups in the Arcata area.
Joel was a member of the AIGC Children’s Choir from 1994 to 1996. He was the accompanist and a soloist for the AIGC Teen Choir from 1998 to 2004. Joel now lives in San Francisco with his wife Christy. He has played keyboards in bands in the Santa Barbara area and accompanies his sister Rose Armin-Hoiland and others in the Bay Area and in Humboldt County. Joel is a member of the AIGC musical family — he is son of former Choir Director Louis Hoiland and long-time AIGC member Andrea Armin, and brother of Rose, former Youth Choir and AIGC choir member and soloist.
Wally was the AIGC accompanist during the 1993-1994 season. Wally grew up in the Bay Area where he began studying piano at the age of six and received training in jazz, pop and classical music in high school. In 1974 Wally studied music at HSU and has continued expanding his musical knowledge and skills ever since. Wally plays piano for musical theater performances, plays at Humboldt County venues and gives piano lessons in the Arcata area.
Former Youth Choir Accompanist: Susan Stein
Susan Stein was the piano accompanist for the AIGC Youth Choir. She grew up playing classical piano and has accompanied musical theater productions for many years. She also dabbles in violin and fiddle in minimal hopes of keeping up with her son Béla.
Susan works full-time as a teacher at Alder Grove Charter School, supporting families through their journey of personalized learning. She has also taught Spanish classes for young people since 2007.