Ben is from Wisconsin but is very happy calling Colorado and its beautiful landscape (and better weather!) home now. Ben completed his undergraduate degree from Ripon College and his Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University. Ben’s wife Caitlin is a lead collaborator at the Fred Tjardes School of Innovation in Greeley. Together they enjoy traveling, coffee shops, board games and spending time with their dog Zaley.
Along with Minister of Music Kim is also the organist and accompanist. Kim has been with us since 2003. Her work spans over 45 years, accompanying music students at the University of Northern Colorado and teaching organ students at the church. A native of Henderson, Nebraska, Kim grew up in a church with a rich tradition of sacred music and a majestic pipe organ. Her music degree in piano and organ performance is from Bethel College in Kansas. She continued to study piano at Wichita State University, while earning her nursing degree, and worked on a masters degree in piano performance at the University of Colorado. She is a member of the American Guild of Organists and has performed in AGO competitions, master classes and recitals.
Derek is Associate Professor of Voice and Director of the Ursa Consort at the University of Northern Colorado. He is a featured soloist at the Staunton Music Festival and the Colorado Bach Festival. Though his career is concentrated primarily in concert work, Dr. Chester is also passionate about opera and opera history. Before receiving his DMA in Voice Performance and Opera Studies at the University of North Texas, he studied at the University of Georgia and the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music.
Shona holds Bachelor's degrees in music education and piano performance from the University of Northern Colorado. Shona has been teaching in Northeastern Colorado since 1997. She taught K-12 music, choir and band in Merino, Colorado, for three years after her graduation from college. Shona has been teaching general music and keyboard classes at Union Colony Children's Music Academy for 18 years and maintains a large private piano studio in Greeley, working with students of all ages. Shona also currently serves as the accompanist for the 8:00 a.m. chapel service at First Congregational Church. After a hard day's work, she heads home to spend time with her husband, their two sons and their dog.
Laura is a Greeley native who has called our church home since high school. She is an only child with a brother, a sister, and a full-of-love family story. Laura has a special love for the work we do with the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. In her free time, she enjoys singing a capella with Sweet Adelines. Laura lives life by the motto of a dear friend, also named Laura Gurney, who says "Give to the world the best you have and the world will give back to you."
Alex moved to Greeley in 2017 with her husband, Daniel, and son, Anthony, from Waukegan, Illinois where she was the contemporary music director at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Along with many years of experience working at her church, she also has 15 years of executive administrative experience. For the last 8 years, Alex has been working with non-profit groups to help establish their online presence, IT support, & training, as well as serving as president of WAGS, an animal rescue auxiliary group.
Robbie studied religion and philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado and Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy. Robbie has served several UCC congregations in the areas of ministry for children and youth. In addition to his work in the local, regional and national settings of the church is more than a decade of outdoor ministry leadership at camp La Foret. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, pursuing ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ. In his free time, Robbie enjoys getting outside to camp, hike, and backpack.
Wanda Vasquez de Garcia
Director of the Genesis Youth Choir and Jubilation Children's Choir
Wanda was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1981. Wanda holds a piano performance degree from the National Conservatory of Music of Santo Domingo, a Licenciatura (Bachelor) in Music Education from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, and a Master in Music Education with emphasis in Choral Conducting from the University of Northern Colorado. She has been an active member of renowned choirs in her country, including a position as soprano section instructor for the 150-voice Coro de la Catedral Primada de America (Choir of the First Cathedral of the Americas). At UNC, she was a member of Concert Choir and Prima Voce . She was a conducting student of Dr. Jill Burgett, whom she also assisted with the Women's Glee Choir, and Dr. Galen Darrough.
I grew up in Michigan. My times living in Spain and the Netherlands were some of the best of my life. My family came to Colorado 6 years ago. I enjoy the mild winters but miss large bodies of water! My husband and I have been married for 16 years and we have two boys, ages 8 and 4, along with a furry kid: Buster the Golden Retriever. I hold degrees fro Aquinas College and Franklin University and my last concert (long ago) was Bon Jovi in Pittsburgh. I am excited to be part of the First Congregational community and look forward to meeting many of you — when the time is right.