Music Conservatory of Illinois

Meet our Voice Faculty!

Helaine Liebman

Piano and Voice Faculty

Helaine Liebman is a soprano based in Chicago. Her awards and scholarships include second place in the 2022 Central Region NATS Student Auditions, 2021 winner of the Lynne Harvey Foundation Award in honor of Virginia Cooper Maier from the Musicians Club of Women, first place in the 2021 NATS National Student auditions, 2020 Wisconsin District winner of The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the Joyce Reed Cope and Eckstein Scholarships from Northwestern University. In 2021-2022 season, Helaine made her debut of Exsultate, jubilate by Mozart, Violetta in La Traviata, Mimi in La bohème, and covered Diana in If I Were You by Heggie. Most recently, Helaine covered the role of Donna Elvira at the Aspen Music Festival where she was also a teaching artist. Additionally, she graduated with distinction from the Royal College of Music in London and recently graduated from Northwestern University. Helaine continues her studies as a doctoral student at Northwestern University this fall. 

Uma Singh

Voice Faculty

Uma Singh is a young soprano originally from Cleveland, Ohio. Currently, you can find her at Northwestern University, where she is working towards receiving a Masters of Music in Voice and Opera Performance under the tutelage of Karen Brunssen. Uma is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she received her B.M. in Voice Performance under Scott Piper, as well as a minor in German. During her time at U-M, she performed in the choruses of Candide and Die Fledermaus, and as Euridice in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. She has attended the Collaborative Piano Institute Vocal Academy, Brancaleoni International Music Festival, and Middlebury College’s German for Singers Program, where she appeared as Countess/Pamina in a Mozart pasticcio. This fall, she is looking forward to covering the role of Leona Raines in Christopher Cerrone's In a Grove with Northwestern Opera Theatre. 


Evan Nelson 

Piano and Voice Faculty

Evan William Nelson is a young lyric baritone from Sinking Spring Pennsylvania. He is a text driven singer who found an affinity for song early in his career. Completing his first performance of Franz Schubert’s monumental song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin in April of 2021.  In addition to song, Evan has performed standard operatic roles such as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte (Peabody Opera Theater), Papageno in Die Zauberflöte (LHSOW), and Top in The Tender Land (West Chester University Opera). Recently he was an Operafest Fellow at the Sewanee Summer music festival. He is currently performing First Experimenter in Chicago Fringe Opera’s workshop of La Jetée. Evan received a B.M. in Vocal Performance with a minor in Historical performance from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied under the tutelage of baritone Randall Scarlata. He is thrilled to be on faculty at the Music Conservatory of Illinois teaching such talented students alongside stellar Colleagues.  


Ola Rafalo 
Voice Faculty        

Ola RafaƂo, dramatic mezzosoprano, has been called a "Vocal Powerhouse" , and "the next Cossotto". She has earned critical acclaim in a variety of roles and venues. In the Verdi repertory: Azucena in Il Trovatore, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Fenena in Nabucco, and scenes as Amneris in Aida, and Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera. Her most celebrated role thus far is Carmen, which she has sung with Syracuse Opera, the Lyric Orchestra, Gulfshore Opera, New Jersey Verismo Opera, and highlights with the Pacific Symphony. Other roles performed include Charlotte in Werther, The Mother- Amahl and the Night Visitors, Fricka in Die Walkure, Brangane in Tristan und Isolde, and Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. She has been featured at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Opera Tampa, Springfield Symphony, Orlando Opera, Baltimore Lyric, Opera Carolina, Teatro Curci di Barletta, Paderewski Symphony, Eugene Symphony, Evanston Symphony, Opera Festival of Chicago, and Chicago Opera Theater. Ola received an award from UNESCO for her performance as Alkmene in the Olympic Torch, by P. Karousos. She has also been a featured recitalist for the Wagner Society of America. Ola is the Maria Callas prize winner of the Giulio Fregosi competition 2020. Please see Ola’s website for more information including prizes and awards, critiques, upcoming engagements, and young artist programs: . She is very passionate about teaching the technique of the old school bel canto lineage, passed down from Garcia, Reid, and Melocchi. This technical school is the basis of great singing in all genres, not only opera. Ola has successful students who sing pop, rock, jazz, and musical theatre. Ola is also very passionate about teaching music to children, and opening their ears and their minds to great art. 

Nora Harstford  

Piano and Voice Faculty

Nora is a vocalist and music teacher with roots in jazz, folk, and contemporary music genres. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Nora spent her formative years attending rock music camps, participating in musicals, and performing vocal jazz competitively. After moving to Chicago, Nora attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts to earn a Bachelor's of Music. Recently she has performed around Chicago including venues like the Jazz Showcase, Fulton Street Collective, Jazz Union League Club, and much more. Her teaching mission is to create a welcoming and expressive environment for her students to grow and learn. 


Tiffany Melvin 

Piano and Voice Faculty

Born in Kalamazoo, MI, Tiffany Melvin holds a Bachelor's of Music focused in vocal performance and music education from Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. As a performer, she is trained in the classical vocal technique, but her roots lie in music theater and jazz. She has been singing and performing since the age of 4! Tiffany's theatrical resume contains more than 30 roles ranging from Belle in Beauty and the Beast, to Lucy from The Beggars Opera. She has participated in masterclasses with notable composers and coaches such as Jake Heggie and Martin Katz. She has placed in multiple competitions such as NATS and Classical Singer. Tiffany has a strong passion for performance but also for her students. As an educator, Tiffany encourages exploration in the world of music. Her educational motto is "To build musicians that are literate, expressive performers and conscious consumers of ALL kinds of music." 

Riley Brown 

Piano, Guitar, and Voice Faculty

Riley is from Green Bay, Wisconsin and has been playing piano and singing for over 15 years. From a young age, Riley participated in many musical productions where he served as the leading role, as well as classically sang in churches and choirs across northeast Wisconsin. He was involved with the Wisconsin School Music Association State Honors Music Project for five years, and the National Association of Music Education All-National Honors Choir for three years. Additionally, Riley has had the distinct honor of performing with Choirs of America at Carnegie Hall. He now studies at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University double majoring in Music Education and Voice Performance as a student of Mark Crayton. 


JP Dizon

 Voice, Piano, Guitar, and Ukulele Faculty

JP Dizon is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer/arranger, and educator, born and raised in Skokie, IL. He first started learning piano in kindergarten. He has added more instruments along the way of his music career, like voice, tuba, trombone, guitar, and jazz piano. He is a recent graduate from Western Michigan University, with a Bachelor's of Music in Choral/General Music Education. In his time at WMU, he studied jazz voice with Professor Greg Jasperse, and jazz piano with Professor Matthew Fries. In his time in Michigan, he has taught music at K-12 level, sung in and accompanied local church choirs, as well as being a bass voice section leader for the Kalamazoo Bach Festival. 

Justin de la Cruz

Piano, Guitar, Voice and Ukulele Faculty

Justin de la Cruz has been playing piano since the age of nine and has developed into a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist over the course of his musical career. During his high school years is when he began to grow his passion for music and hone in on his skills. As a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, he played cello in orchestra, bass in jazz band, and sang in choir and vocal jazz ensemble. His work as an ensemble singer has led him to the ILMEA honors choir and to Mexico's and several other state's jazz festivals as part of one of the top high school vocal jazz ensembles in the country. You can find him gigging in the Chicagoland area as an R&B and jazz solo artist. Bridging his passion for jazz and contemporary music with his desire to teach, he is currently studying vocal jazz and working towards a Bachelor of Music in music education at DePaul University. 

Joy Yelenosky                      

Director of Education - Piano and Voice Faculty 

Joy Yelenosky has been involved in various prestigious international music programs from an early age.
Joy received a full scholarship during her certification in Piano Performance from the “Conservatorio Julian Aguirre” in Argentina, where she took part of summer intensive training and annual examinations. She has been an active participant at the Florence Opera Seminar (Italy), the Torgau International Artist Workshop (Germany), and the Stonybrook International Piano festival of New York (NY) and worked at several professional organizations as a choir soloist/singer, sectional leader, language repetitor and accompanist at the piano. She was selected as a Young Steinway Talent to perform a full piano solo recital at the age of 16. Joy also has a passion for languages and has studied and worked at intensive language schools based in Germany and Paris (France),
Joy is not, however, only tied to one style of music; in high school, Joy was a member of one of the country’s top Vocal Jazz ensembles that traveled to Mexico and many states and participated as a soloist at multiple festivals. Music has connected Joy to people all over the world and she’s looking forward to inspiring her students to reach for their dreams and musical goals as well. Joy obtained her Classical Voice Performance degree at the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA at Roosevelt University) and is currently working on her Marter's degree in Vocal Performance at Notre Dame University.