Sonoran Desert Chorale


On January 15, 1994, a group of diverse community members were brought together by Jeff Harris with the hope of realizing his dream of forming a premier community choir in the Phoenix-Metropolitan area. The energy and excitement of this group led to the founding of the Sonoran Desert Chorale, with its inaugural concerts on October 29, 1994. This now highly regarded and artistically sophisticated choral organization performs music spanning time from the ancient folk music of Mongolia to the premier of modern compositions such as "Prelude to Glory" by Russell Wilson. The Chorale performs a repertoire meant to demonstrate that music is a language that transcends our differences and accentuates our commonality.
  • Regularly performs four concert series each season in Mesa and Scottsdale
  • Concerts have included collaborative performances with native dancers, storytellers, poets, graphic artists, jewelers and quilters.
  • Guest performances by the Phoenix Children’s Chorus, Southwest Brass, and The Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band to name just a few.
  • Invited to perform with composer and performer Kurt Bestor as well as Michael Buble
  • Invited to perform with Michael Crawford at the inaugural concert of the Mesa Arts Center
  • Performed by invitation at the Western Division Conference of the American Choral Directors Association
  • Appeared at the National Convention of the Music Educators National Conference
  • International tours including
    • St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy
    • Salzburg Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria
    • St. Vitas Cathedral in Prague, Czech Republic
    • St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
The mission of the Sonoran Desert Chorale is to celebrate the art of choral music by providing meaningful experiences for musicians and audience members.
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The Director

Jeff Harris, the founding director of the Sonoran Desert Chorale, holds a Bachelor of Music degree (1977) and a Master of Music degree (1978) from Arizona State University where he studied under Dr. Douglas R. McEwen, Donald Bailey, and David Stocker. Mr. Harris has recently retired as the Director of Choral Activities and Chairman of the Performing Arts at Westwood High School in Mesa after 31 years. He was honored to be selected as the Arizona Music Educator of the Year in 2008 and was recently named Citizen of the Year by the Mesa Rotary Club. In 2015, he received the AMEA's Lifetime Achievement Award.

He has served as choral clinician and adjudicator for state music contests and area festivals. He is a past president of the Arizona Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, and the Choral Section of the Arizona Music Educators Association. Mr. Harris's performance credits include solos on two recordings of the Veritas Chorale. He also served as the Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Mesa for many years. Under his musical direction, the Sonoran Desert Chorale has grown in size, in repertoire, and in musical ability.

The Members

Performing members of the Chorale come from communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. Many are music educators but we also have engineers, mathematicians, physicians, business professionals and stay-at-home moms and dads. All share the love of music and the joy of performance. For audition information, refer to the Audition section of our web site.

  • Amelia Alston
  • Erik Arriola
  • Amanda Bailey
  • Blake Bainum
  • Tim Barthelmes
  • Liesl Bloom
  • Valerie Borgstrom
  • Denise Brown
  • Kevin Brown
  • Curt Canaday
  • Bill Canning
  • Mary Ann Cook
  • Sarah Daykin
  • Tonya DeBusk
  • Tim Frandsen
  • Meg Gardner
  • Liliana Glubisz-Leaf
  • Phil Goldblatt
  • Eric Goodenberger
  • Bill Goodenberger
  • Jean Harris
  • Christopher Hughes
  • Ann Kelley
  • Doug Kelley
  • Monica Kiilehua
  • Jenny Kilgard-Eyrich
  • Liz Kutschke
  • Ben Leaf
  • Ed Loney
  • Scott McEwen
  • Josie Nelson
  • Jim Nelson
  • Rebekah Osborne
  • Todd Peterson
  • Linda Pfohl
  • Louisa Porter
  • Margie Rice
  • Lisa Rittenhouse
  • Janice Robillard
  • Bill Snow
  • Roger Stout
  • Allison Sywassink
  • Rebecca Utech
  • Donie Webster
  • Director
    Jeff Harris
  • Accompanist
    Mutsumi Mori
  • Organist
    Bonnie Loney
  • Associate Director
    Jim DeBusk
  • House Manager
    Katherine Kough

The Board

Overseeing the administrative side of the Sonoran Desert Chorale is our Board of Directors – comprised of individuals with skills in finance, marketing, development, and strategic planning. The board members are committed to working in partnership with all other facets of the organization to ensure the SDC’s continued success as one of Arizona’s premier vocal ensembles.

John Page, President

Dad, Husband, Baritone, Engineer, born and raised in Arizona, NAU Grad, and former Royal Renaissance Singer. Joined the chorale in 2016 and loving it!

Kevin Gardner, Treasurer

Kevin has been singing baritone with the Sonoran Desert Chorale since 1996 and joined the board after sending both of his sons off to college. Kevin has served a number of various volunteer roles for the Chorale, including arranging the KBAQ/KJZZ advertising, and producing the “City Called Heaven” CD. For his day job, Kevin is a Chief Engineer for Honeywell Aerospace, where he has been challenged and learning since 1983. Hobbies include snow skiing and hiking the many beautiful areas of Arizona.

Russ McBride, Secretary

Russ has been a high school science teacher for over 30 years in Mesa Public Schools. He has been in attendance for Sonoran Desert Chorale’s performances since their inception and traveled with the Chorale on their concert tours to Europe. Russ is also the organist for his church in Tempe. His hobbies include playing and listening to classical and liturgical music, S.C.U.B.A. diving and traveling.

Lynn Kough

Lynn’s primary responsibility on the Board is to generate print materials for the Chorale, including flyers, postcards, and concert programs. Lynn is a retired high school English/Drama teacher currently living in Chandler, has written two books on quiltmaking, and has recently served as President of the Board of Directors for the National Quilting Association, Inc.

Bill Goodenberger

Bill has been singing with the Chorale since 2000. He sings baritone now after having spent 13 years in the Tenor section. Bill studied Choral Education and has directed church choirs for 30 years. He is into volunteerism and has filled several roles for the Chorale. He recently retired from the Arizona Department of Economic Security and is looking forward to spending more time at many hobbies including woodworking, camping and reading.

John Porter

John has enjoyed Jeff Harris’ music for many years (four of his five children sang in Jeff’s high school choirs). His daughter was the Chorale’s accompanist and a daughter-in-law sings in the Choir. Prior to retiring in 2012, John was the Associate Provost of the State University of New York System. Before moving to New York, he directed Arizona State University’s Institutional Research Program. John enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with his twenty-four grandchildren.

Jean Harris

Jean was a founding member of the board of directors and has served as Treasurer since 1994. She sings alto in the Chorale and has been involved in choral music since high school in Iowa. She has recently retired from Mesa Public Schools after serving as a teacher-librarian for 21 years. Never content to rest, her hobbies include reading, traveling and spending time with friends and family.

Erik Arriola

Erik first sang under the direction of Jeff Harris at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona. After graduating from Westwood, he attended MCC and then ASU, where he studied Music Performance and Business. Erik keeps the performance bug under control by singing tenor for the Sonoran Desert Chorale. Erik’s primary responsibility on the Board is CD Sales and Social Media Advertisement and Marketing. During the day Erik is the General Manager for Friendly Auto Centers in Mesa, where he takes great pride in his auto repair shop and employees.

Jon Sywassink

Jon joined the Chorale the year of the Italy choir tour in 2007. He serves as the bass section leader and has music degrees from the U of A and ASU. He retired as an elementary music teacher after teaching for 32 years in Arizona and was also a church music director for many years. Currently Jon is a church organist in Tempe. Square dancing, yoga, and travelling are his go to pastimes.