PANEL OF JUDGES
FEBRUARY 8, 2019 LIVE PERFORMANCES
Our February 11, 2017 live performances of our Top 12 Semi-Finalists will be judged by a live panel of local professionals, well-known in their respective fields, to determine the Grand Prize Winner, Runner-up and Honorable Mention.
Maria grew up in a small country town north of Boston in
a loving Italian American family, beginning her classical
piano training at age 5 while surrounded by her parents’ love of classic jazz and her own passion for world music & dance. She’s studied abroad widely and earned her Masters of Music degree in Dalcroze Eurhythmics, after which she began developing youth music programs and world music ensembles.
Maria’s legacy is her talent for musical / artistic creativity and organizational leadership, and is the Founding Director of the Bija Choir-- her dream job of inspiring and educating young people and community audiences through vibrant cultural performances. In addition to her choir work, she’s a performing and recording artist of Brazilian World music, a member of Kindred Voices women’s ensemble, a dancer, a lover of Rumi
poetry, a hiker, a home chef, and an avid sports-mom. Endeared by her family as “a mother who can and an artist who does”, Maria leads the Bija Choir with loving, capable hands, and is committed to developing a vibrant choral program that grows harmony for the community and the world beyond.
After graduating with a BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, seasoned performer Ellen Toscano spent 10 years wearing many hats in the world's longest running musical revue, "Beach Blanket Babylon" in San Francisco. Other professional, New York, and favorite credits include Transcendence Theatre Company's "Broadway Under the Stars" series, singing at San Francisco Giants games (including the 2014 World Series - Go Giants!), Davies Symphony Hall with the SFGMC, Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet (Desdemona), Gypsy (Louise), Fiddler on the Roof (Hodel), Trojan Women (Helen of Troy), A Moon for the Misbegotten (Josie), San Francisco Opera's The Dreamers (Adelaide), working with world-renowned comedian John Cleese, and most recently starring in "Evita" as Eva Perón in her hometown of Sonoma. She can also be seen on the cover of the January/February issue of Valley of the Moon Magazine.
Propelled by the purpose of bringing live Salsa music to Sonoma County, visionary entrepreneur Irene Silva founded Santa Rosa Salsa in 2001. Following the rhythm of her heart, Silva began her vigorous pursuit of Salsa dance in 2000. At the same time, she began conceptualizing a live Salsa music and dance event/fundraiser that would help support a deserving cause. In only five weeks’ time, Silva secured a venue, hired a band, assembled volunteers, and hosted what became her first success story as a promoter; a cause which raised funds to help feed numerous deserving children from the Kids Kingdom Orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico. After her first major event, good fortune reappeared in 2001 — this time in the form of opportunity when the historic Flamingo Hotel presented Santa Rosa Salsa with an opening to host Sunday nights at the Flamingo Hotel Lounge. Destined for success, the Flamingo Hotel Lounge would then become Santa Rosa Salsa’s domain each Sunday night from that moment forward.