Classical V Guest Artists
Naomi Ruiz, soprano. Praised for having a “rich soprano that holds stunning power and tender softness,” Naomi Ruiz engages audiences with her compelling and sincere stage presence. In demand as an interpreter of Puccini, she has encompassed the roles of Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly with Tacoma Opera, Musetta in La bohème with Minnesota Opera, Mimì in La bohème with the Janiec Opera Company, Liù in Turandot with Toledo Opera, and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi with Des Moines Metro Opera. Naomi’s diverse repertoire includes such roles as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Antonia in Bolcom’s A Wedding, Leïla in The Pearl Fishers, Barbara in Casanova’s Homecoming, and Marguerite in Faust. Recently, Ms. Ruiz sang the soprano solo in Schubert’s Magnificat with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, and she was the featured soprano soloist in Goodall’s Eternal Light – A Requiem with the Yakima Symphony Chorus. A testament to her versatility and flexibility, Naomi performs the soprano solo in Fischer’s Missa Latina with Mid-Columbia Mastersingers this upcoming spring. Other noteworthy engagements include appearances with Michigan Opera Theatre, Toledo Opera, Mobile Opera, the Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan and Opera Santa Barbara. Ms. Ruiz received her B.M. in Choral Music Education from Central Washington University and earned a Performer Diploma and Master of Music in Voice Performance from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Originally from Port Orchard, Washington, Naomi Ruiz lives in Yakima with her husband, Jason Wickson, and their two beautiful daughters.
 Melissa Schiel, mezzo-soprano. Canadian mezzo-soprano Melissa Schiel has established herself as a concert soloist, stage performer and recitalist. Past chamber and orchestral highlights include Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’éte, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Falla’s El Amor Brujo, Berio’s Folk Songs, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, and Verdi’s Requiem. Performances this past season include Elgar’s Sea Pictures with Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra and Handel’s Messiah with Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra. She has enjoyed collaborating and performing in the Northwest with the Rainier Symphony Orchestra, Yakima Symphony Orchestra, Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra Seattle. Outside the Pacific Northwest, on the operatic stage, she has sung popular mezzo roles such as Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro), Dritte Dame (Die Zauberflöte), Olga (Eugene Onegin), The Fox (The Cunning Little Vixen), Maddelena (Rigoletto), Zita (Gianni Schicchi), Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti), The Old Lady (Candide) and Mrs. Herring (Albert Herring). In 2007, she premiered the role of Estelle Oglethorpe in Later the Same Evening, an opera by American composer John Musto. This opera, inspired by artwork of American painter Edward Hopper, was presented in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada, Schiel is currently assistant professor of voice at Central Washington University and resides in Ellensburg, Washington with her husband and son.

Jason Wickson, tenor. Possessing a voice that is being recognized for its vast power and beauty, youthful dramatic tenor Jason Wickson is emerging as one of the next leading tenors in the U.S. Seamlessly transitioning from Puccini to Verdi to Wagner, Mr. Wickson garnered critical acclaim in recent role débuts: Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West with Mobile Opera, which he also covered at the Castleton Festival; Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth with Opera Delaware; Calàf inTurandot with Shreveport Opera; Pollione in Norma with Baltimore Concert Opera; Erik in Der fliegende Holländer with the Princeton Festival; and Canio in Pagliacci with Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île en Mer in France. In addition, he performed Don José in Carmen with Piedmont Opera, as tenor soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and returned to the Michigan Opera Theatre as the Florestan in Fidelio. Other notable roles include Cavaradossi in Tosca,  Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, the title role in Peter Grimes, Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, and Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera. On the concert stage, Wickson has performed as the tenor soloist in Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart’s Requiem, and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria. In addition, he was a soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Winter Opera Saint Louis and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.
Steven Slusher, baritone. Steven Slusher has conducted throughout the United States from the Crystal Cathedral in California to Riverside Church in New York City. He has performed in many musicals, opera productions and orchestral works including Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Mozart’s The Impressario, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Faure’s Requiem with the Yakima Symphony Chorus. Mr. Slusher is the past assistant director and soloist of the Bach Society of St. Louis and a principal singer and soloist for the St. Louis Symphony. He was on the music faculty at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri for seven years teaching choir, choral arranging, private voice, opera workshop, vocal pedagogy and vocal literature. He also assisted with the marching band and concert band. Mr. Slusher served as the director of music at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis and, most recently, director of choirs at Toppenish High School. Mr. Slusher is the assistant chorusmaster of the Yakima Symphony Chorus, the director of choral/vocal activities at Yakima Valley College and an active adjudicator.