Judge Bios

Dance Judges

Ariel Gilliam

Ariel Gilliam began dancing over 15 years ago and has trained at the school of  Ballet Ariel , Classic Dance Academy, the school of Ballet Nouveau Colorado (now Colorado Conservatory of Dance), and Kim Robards Dance. She currently dances professionally with  Ballet Ariel  and Ballet 5280. Ariel has enjoyed performing featured classical and contemporary roles including Pas de Trois in Paquita, the Winter Fairy in Cinderella, and the title role in the original ballet Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

Marlana Qualls

Marlana Qualls began her professional career at age seventeen. Sought after nationally by established companies such as Nevada Dance Theater, Louisville Ballet (KY) and Atlanta Ballet, Mrs. Qualls has appeared at numerous prestigious events from coast to coast. She was selected to perform for the highly revered Lester Horton Awards in Los Angeles and also hand picked for several Charles Maple’s original and award winning works. Marlana studied on merit scholarship at Joffrey Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, ABT and Sacramento Ballet. She is currently the head ballet mistress for Tara Cluck Dance Center and has three beautiful children with her husband Cody Qualls. Her students have gone on to study at Juliard, SUNY Purchase and University of Kansas City, Missouri and furthermore landed professional contracts with Hubbard Street Dance Theater, Alonzo King Lines Ballet and Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet.

Sharon Wehner

Sharon Wehner is originally from San Jose, California, and had her fundamental ballet training with San Jose Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre Seven, and San Francisco Ballet.  A former Principal Dancer with the Colorado Ballet, Sharon has also danced with Amy Seiwart’s Imagery, the Oakland Ballet, the Washington Ballet, and Zikr Dance Ensemble. She has performed as a guest artist in the Tokyo Aoyama Ballet Festival, the National Ballet of Japan’s Golden Ballet Co-Star, and the Vail International Dance Festival’s “International Evening of Dance.”  After recently retiring from her 22-year career with the Colorado Ballet, Sharon is spreading her wings as a freelance artist, exploring new territory in classical and contemporary choreography that speaks to her and to audiences in a fresh and stimulating way. In addition to her career as a dancer, Sharon is a Certified Yoga Instructor and GYROKINESIS(R) trainer, Ballet Teacher, Reiki Master, and Instructor for Dance for Parkinson’s Disease.  She is honored to be participating as a judge for the 2019 TASHCO Dance Competition.

String Judges

Ashley Brandin

Ashley Brandin is a teacher in Boulder Valley School District. A Colorado native, she has played the violin for 25 years and instructed in private studios and public schools at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate level. Ashley graduated Summa cum Laude with their Bachelors of Music Education from the University of Northern Colorado, Masters of Music Education with an emphasis in musicology from the University of Colorado Boulder, and Education Specialist degree in Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Colorado Denver. As a performer, Ashley won the 2009 University of Northern Colorado Concerto Competition, and participated in choral and orchestral tours to Spain, and Colombia. For two years, she served as principal second violin for the Boulder Symphony. As an educator, Ashley has presented at twelve international conferences on the use of video games in the educational setting.  She believes in making education accessible, interesting, and equitable for all students.

Barbara Hamilton-Primus

Barbara is currently Artistic Director and Violist with the Colorado Chamber Players, a position she has held for 23 years. Dr. Hamilton is a Teaching Artist at Denver School of the Arts.  She served as principal violist with the Eastern Music Festival from 1990-2005. Barbara has played as principal violist and soloist with the Colorado Symphony, the Orquesta Ciudad de Barcelona, and the Orquesta de Valencia (Spain). She was a member of the New York Philharmonic for one season. Dr. Hamilton received the DMA from Yale School of Music in 1992, where she completed a dissertation on the Alexander Technique and Musicians. She was a prize winner in the Fischoff, Aspen Festival and Woolsey Hall Competitions, as well as the Young Artists of YM-YWHA (New Jersey).

For the past four years, Barbara has explored the study and performance of the Baroque, including studies at the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute.  She is fascinated by the timbres of period instruments.  Barbara has studied Baroque Violin and Viola and performance practice with Stefano Marcocchi, Marilyn McDonald, Peter Harvey, Jeanne Lamon, Ivars Taurins, Robert Mealy and Cynthia Roberts.

Grace Johnston

Ms. Johnston currently studies with Dr. Jubal Fulks at the University of Northern Colorado and has been strongly influenced by Helen Kim, and members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra She has appeared in concert under the batons of Robert Spano, Keith Lockhart, Joann Falletta, Jere Flint, Dr. Michael Alexander, and Dr. Russell Guyver.
Grace teaches in her private studio in Greeley and Fort Collins, Colorado, and has worked with a wide range of abilities for most of the last decade.  Her teaching philosophy seeks to initiate and maintain a lifelong love and habit for music in her students.
Ms. Johnston is currently the concertmaster for UNC’s Symphony Orchestra and in between teaching and graduate studies, subs for both the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra and the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra.
Grace has performed as an ensemble musician in Symphony Hall in Atlanta, Georgia, the Gwinnett Arena, the Cobb Energy Center, the Savannah Civic Center, and the Georgia International Convention Center.
Ms. Johnston received her Bachelor of Music from Kennesaw State University and will receive her Master of Music degree from the University of Northern Colorado this year.

Piano Judges

Paul Falk

Equally at home in Jazz, Music Theatre, Pop and Classical Music, Paul has been playing piano since the 1stGrade.  He completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Piano/Vocal and General Music at the University of Northern Colorado and Master’s Degree in Jazz Piano/Voice at Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

As a pianist and accompanist, he has been active in Recital Performances, All State Choir/All State Jazz Choir Performances, Jazz Ensembles, Reading Sessions, Symphony Performances, Recording projects and Music theatre pits from Colorado to Illinois and New York.  Some Musical Theatre highlights include RENT, Motones vs. Jerseys, Ragtime, A Christmas Story, Fun Home, Next to Normal, Making it on Broadway Workshops and Broadway Intensive Workshops.

Over the past 12 years Paul has been a vocal music director at Rocky Mountain High School (Grammy Signature School), Windsor High School            and currently teaches at Ponderosa High School. Paul has served as Tenor Section Leader in the Larimer Chorale, freelance accompanist/adjudicator and Music Director/Pianist at Midtown Arts Center.

Paul has had the opportunity to work with artists such as: Patricia Barber, Laurence Hobgood, Anton Armstrong, Judy Kaye, Judy Niemack, The New York Voices and Ben Folds.  He can be heard most recently on EP recordings by vocalist Mandy Harvey. As a graduate of Northglenn High School  in the Adams 5 Star School District, Paul is glad to be back home to serve asa judge for the TASHCO Young Artists’ Festival again this year.

Peter Friesen

Peter Friesen is on the faculty of Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he teaches both class piano and private piano lessons.  A native of Southern California, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, where he studied piano with Victor Labenske.  He was highly involved in the local music community as a piano teacher, accompanist, and frequent master class performer, and was awarded several prizes and honors as an entrant in local and state festivals and competitions.  Mr. Friesen moved to Colorado in 2005, and received his Master of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2007.  While studying piano with David Korevaar and Robert Spillman, he studied as a teaching assistant under Alejandro Cremaschi, teaching class piano and studying group teaching techniques.  A passionate performer, Mr. Friesen is drawn to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries, and enjoys collaborating with composers to bring their new music to life.

As a teacher, Mr. Friesen is an enthusiastic instructor who shares his excitement for the piano with his students.  He strives to enable his students to explore their own individual approaches to the piano, while equipping them with sound musical and technical advice.  He has taught beginning to advanced piano students ranging from ages 4-75 in both private and group settings.  In addition to his group and private teaching at MSU Denver, Mr. Friesen also teaches from his studio in Broomfield and is a former member of the faculty at the Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette.

Emily Alley

Emily Alley, 30, born in Worcester, MA, received her B.M. in Music Education, M.M. in Collaborative Piano, and DMA in Collaborative Piano from Susquehanna University, Bowling Green State University, and University of Colorado-Boulder respectively. Her teachers include Jennifer Hayghe, Thomas Rosenkranz, Margaret McDonald, and Alexandra Nguyen.  She is an alumna of the Music Academy of the West (’15, ’18) and has performed in many masterclasses for top artists in the classical music industry.  She has performed chamber music in Japan as well as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall.  Dr. Alley is currently the choir teacher at Thornton High School and maintains an active gig schedule and private studio.

Drama and Vocal Judges

Ben Dicke

Ben Dicke holds a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Education from Sterling College. He is the chair of the Theatre Department.

He has worked as a professional actor for twenty years in regional markets throughout the country including the Arvada Center, Aurora Fox Theatre, Court Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare, American Theatre Co., among many others. His directorial work is very diverse, ranging from large-scale musicals to Fringe Theatre productions. Some of his favorite directing projects include Xanadu, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Bald Soprano, Hamlet, Once On This Island, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oedipus, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Ben’s Awards and Honors include True West Award Winner: “Colorado Theatre Person of the Year” (2012), Henry Award nomination: “Outstanding Supporting Actor,” Sancho, Man of La Mancha (2013), Denver Post Ovation Nomination: “Outstanding Lead Actor,” Robbie Hart, The Wedding Singer, Aurora Fox (2011), Jeff Award Winner: “Best Ensemble,” Man of La Mancha, Court Theatre (2007), Denver Post Ovation Nomination: “Outstanding Supporting Actor,” Henry, The Skin of Our Teeth, Aurora Fox (2009), Jeff Award Nomination: “Outstanding Ensemble,” Assassins, Porchlight Theatre (2008), After Dark Award Winner: “Outstanding Ensemble,” Kabuki Lady Macbeth, Chicago Shakespeare (2005), Klon Mathews Endowed Scholarship in Education Winner (2000), and four-time Evans “Actor of the Year” Award Winner (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001).

Ben also has an extensive teaching resume, which includes Theatre Instructor at the Ricks Center for Gifted Children in Denver, Colorado, Artist/Educator Residencies at Colorado College, Sterling College, and Court Theatre Chicago, Co-founder of the Wagon Wheel Jr’s Theatre Education Programs, as well as teaching and directing for myriad camps and workshops throughout the country. Ben is a two-time finisher of the Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run and a member in good standing with Actor’s Equity Association: the Union for Professional Actors and Stage Managers.

Timothy Kennedy

Timothy Kennedy is a Stage Director, Music Director, Performer, Playwright and Teaching Artist. He has served as the Resident Director for Loveland Opera for eight years and has also directed for Pensacola Opera, Louisiana State University, University of West Florida, Evergreen Chorale, Evergreen Players, Southern Colorado Repertory Theater, and Candlelight Dinner Playhouse . Kennedy’s varied international performance career includes musical theater, operatic, and concert performances. He has performed with Pensacola Opera, Loveland Opera, New Opera Festival di Roma, Natchez Opera, Southern Colorado Repertory Theater, Spotlight Theater, Equinox Theater, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.  In concert, Kennedy has performed with the Colorado Symphony, Shreveport Summer Music Festival, and High Point University and has sung the Brahms’ Requiem with the Arvada Chorale as well as the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, and the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah for First Baptist Church in New York City.  He also performed as the baritone soloist in Haydn’s Paukenmesse in Austria on the Graz Music Festival and the Linz Choral Festival and sang Mozart’s C Minor Mass and Copland’s Old American Songs with the Amarillo Symphony. He has Shreveport Summer Music Festival and at High Point University.  As a playwright, Timothy has written the libretto for seven new children’s musicals including Stone Soup, The Empty Pot, The Brementown Musicians and The King’s Reflection. Kennedy also serves as the Director of Music and Worship Arts for Arvada United Methodist Church and the Artistic Director for R.E.A.L. Performing Arts.

Before moving to Colorado, Timothy lived in Pensacola, Florida. While living in Pensacola, he served as the Adjunct Professor of Musical Theater at the University of West Florida and the Director of Education and Community Outreach for the Pensacola Opera Co., which became the fastest growing opera company 3 years in a row during his time in this position. While there, he developed the Two Worlds project which served as an artistic outlet of expression for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing of Northwest Florida for four years.  He also developed the From Words to Music Project which has helped over 4,000 students create and perform their own operas in the classroom setting.  While on faculty at the University of West Florida, Timothy served as the music director for numerous productions including She Loves Me, Guys and Dolls, As You Like It, Christmas Carol, and Into the Woods. He was nominated for a Music Direction award by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for his work on Into the Woods. Kennedy also served on the Opera America Education Committee and was a panelist and presenter at a number of their conventions.

Janice Vlachos

Janice Vlachos is currently in her twenty fifth year as a choral director. Thirteen years ago she returned “home” to Fairview High School, where her love of music began when she was a student, and later a student teacher, with Ron Revier. She received her B.M. at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Before returning to Fairview, Ms. Vlachos taught at Wheat Ridge High School and Chatfield High School. Ms. Vlachos is a member of CMEA and ACDA and has served as the COACDA R & S Chairs for High School and Women’s Literature and she served as the Southwest Regional ACDA R & S High School Chair for Women’s Literature for 6 years. She is currently serving as the SWACDA R & S chair for Contemporary Commercial music. At Fairview, Janice directs five choirs, teaches Zumba, is Fine Arts department head, and is the director/producer of the fall musical and the Pops Show. Under Ms. Vlachos’s direction, 15 choral groups have been selected to perform at CMEA. Age of Guinevere, a women’s jazz ensemble she started nine years ago, won the Downbeat Award for Best Large Vocal Jazz Ensemble and was selected to sing at the National Choral Directors Conference in Dallas, TX. Ms. Vlachos resides in Boulder with her husband, Dean, and their two children, Eleni, 19, and Nikolos, 18 years old.