Lisa M. Knight
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR / Lisa@girlschoralacademy.org
Lisa has been a business owner and an active member of the arts community for over 30 years, creating programming, building sustainable partnerships and providing leadership skills. She founded a nonprofit focused on youth mentorship using theater and cultural arts with community organizations and after school programs. Since 2016 she has been the COO of Public Thread, a Michigan based company working with and designing around upcycled materials to create artfully crafted products. Lisa serves on the Board of Circle Theatre and is part of their 2022 season creative team. She holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, and a master's degree in organization leadership from Cornerstone University.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR /CONCERT CHOIR & SENIOR ACADEMY CHOIR DIRECTOR / Avalon@girlschoralacademy.org
A Grand Rapids, MI native who comes from two musical families. Under their influence her love for music was birthed. Fueled by that passion she’s had the opportunity to travel the world as a background vocalist for both local and world-renowned artist such as Marvin Sapp, Maurice Griffin, Bill Moss, Robert Hawkins, and Debra Perry and Majestic Praise.
Avalon is known for her vocal versatility performing different genres such as R&B, gospel, neo-soul, and classical. In 2018, her voice could be heard in the role of Rosa Parks in Douglas Tappins’ “I Dream” with both Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina. She returned in this role in the 2021 production as well. Avalon has had the privilege of touring through Spain and Portugal on the “Oh Happy Day Tour” with the Alabama Gospel Choir as a featured soloist in 2017 and 2019. Receiving her Bachelor’s degree as a vocal performance major at Grand Valley State University, Avalon has had the opportunity to be the special music for the 2019 commencement ceremony at Van Andel Arena as well as the Inauguration of GVSU’s first female President Philomena V. Mantella. She is a regular ‘young artist’ feature with Opera Grand Rapids and had her first role playing Elizabeth in the Matthew Aucoin opera Second Nature. Most recently Avalon was part of the cast of Stinney: An American Execution, Pirates of Penzance, and Aida.
Avalon Cutts-Jones Music can be found performing throughout the Midwest. Performances, news, and upcoming dates can be found on her website www.avcjmusic.com and all social media outlets. ‘A choir girl with quartet roots who loves jazz harmonies while performing classical with a neo-soul vibe, meet Avalon’.
JUNIOR ACADEMY I & II CHOIR DIRECTOR / Erica@girlschoralacademy.org
Erica Soto has lived and served in the city of Grand Rapids for over 15 years. They are a Secondary Music Educator of Advanced Choir, Choir, Ukulele, Musical Theater, and General Music within the Grand Rapids Public Schools District.
Erica is a Lead Vocalist & Musician with the Bluewater Kings Band. Her passion for music and performance has been widely demonstrated throughout several productions & concert series within the Grand Rapids musical theater community, including recently opening for Grammy Award Winning Artist, NE-YO and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton) with the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Erica obtained their Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Phoenix in 2017. Their leadership experiences include advocacy for under-served communities including the disability community, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC young professionals, as well as youth development and programming, bilingual education, and community service.
GRANDVILLE NEIGHBORHOOD GIRLS CHOIR DIRECTOR / Maya@girlschoralacademy.org
Born and raised here in Grand Rapids, Maya is a former member of GCA, participating from 6th to 12th grade. Receiving a leadership award her senior year (2016) both from GCA and her high school choir at Catholic Central, she is excited to take her leadership skills to the next level and inspire the Grandville Neighborhood Girls Choirs to find the true happiness that comes out of coming together in song.
Maya has been directing GCA choirs since 2018 at Buchanan Elementary, Cesar E. Chavez Elementary, and Southwest Academy-Bilingual.
DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST / Cat@girlschoralacademy.org
Cat Finney comes to the Girls Choral Academy from a long history of performing arts production and administration. She earned her BA in Theater and Drama from the University of Michigan before embarking on a career in theater, dance, and opera that took her from New York to Los Angeles, Toronto, Disney and beyond. Here in West Michigan she has worked for Opera Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Ballet, and Mason Street Warehouse among other organizations. In her spare time she sings with the Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus, grows flowers for the local deer to consume, and enjoys travelling with her husband, Jim.
PROGRAM & ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT/ Chris@girlschoralacademy.org
Born and raised in Muskegon, and having lived in Grand Rapids for the last 30 years, Chris is a life-long resident of West Michigan. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hope College in 1989 and a Master of Arts degree from Grand Valley State University in 2001. Chris is a recently retired elementary school teacher, having served mainly in Wyoming Public Schools in her 30 years of teaching. In her spare time, she enjoys singing in the Park Church Chancel Choir, playing handbells at Park Church, playing oboe occasionally around the West Michigan area, walking her two chihuahuas, and reading.