Alumni Spotlights

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Alumni Spotlights

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Alumni Spotlight: Jamie Johns '89
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Jamie-Johns-HeadshotJamie Johns, Class of 1989, is an accomplished conductor/director and pianist. He finished a six-year tour (2013-2019) with The Phantom of the Opera (North American Tour) earlier this spring. As the Musical Director for the last three of those six years, the tour company travelled to over 70 cities including San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto, where the tour concluded in February.

Jamie attended Baldwin Wallace University from 1989-1993. While earning a Bachelor of Music Performance there, he worked at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown Cleveland, playing cocktail piano. While still completing his undergraduate degree, he also got his first taste of opera and music theater at Lyric Opera Cleveland (LOC), where he met Richard Carsey. Carsey worked as a conductor at LOC in the summers, but his real gig was as Artistic Director at The Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee.

After graduating from Baldwin Wallace, Jamie went to the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati to pursue a Master’s degree in accompanying.  While attending the Conservatory, Jamie worked as the vocal accompanist and assisted with the Conservatory’s Department of Opera, which boasted one of the country’s premier programs and training sites for opera singers. Leaving the Midwest, his first gig out of college took him to Florida with The Orlando Opera. He worked there for three years, first as the staff Resident Artist Music Director, and later as the Director of Education. 

Jamie-JohnsIn 1998, Richard Carsey convinced Jamie to move to Milwaukee to be the Resident Music Director at The Skylight. Hoping to develop his craft further, Jamie accepted the position and returned north. When asked to explain the function of a music director, Jamie says, "A music director’s job is to help every member of the production team and the cast be able to do their jobs while making sure that the composer’s intentions, as best they can be understood, are honored. You are there to serve the director, the choreographer, the cast, and, of course, the producer.”  Jamie kicked off his first season with The World Goes 'Round, one of his favorite shows, featuring the music and lyrics of Kander and Ebb, the Broadway duo behind such hits as Chicago and Cabaret. Jamie honed his skills with shows such as Smokey Joe's Café, Sweet Charity, and The Sound of Music. His reputation grew, making him an in-demand director in the region. Jamie’s entire career history can be viewed here.

During his time in Milwaukee, Jamie stepped in for a prematurely retiring professor at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. As the Opera and Musical Theatre Director, Jamie assured that the University’s program would not lose its funding. Unfortunately, this position focused heavily in administration and took him away from teaching. Working in the capacity of Professor of Graduate Piano Studies suited him better, teaching and coaching for another two years. It was around this time that his good friend Richard Carsey was seeking to hire an Associate Musical Director for the North American Tour of The Phantom of the Opera. Having the luxury to choose whomever he wished as the conductor, Carsey chose Jamie because of his extensive experience in both opera and musical theater. Although the majority of Jamie’s work as the Associate Musical Director was managerial, he thrived in the tour’s demanding, ever-changing atmosphere. The tour regularly travelled with 20 trucks, 40 cast members, and over 150 people to run the show. Each stop on the tour held its own challenges, but in every city Jamie and his colleagues would have just 48 hours in which to become accustomed with a new crew and rehearse with a completely different orchestra. Although the pit required fourteen musicians, only four regulars travelled with the tour - meaning that ten local musicians were picked up each time they travelled to the next city. At times, the combined orchestra would have only six hours to rehearse and perfect the score before show time. Jamie demonstrated such an ease in corroborating the efforts of crew, actors, and musicians that he became an essential part of the tour’s success. His hustle secured his promotion and for the remaining three years of the tour, Jamie was the Music Director. 

‘Gratitude’ describes his feeling for Cleveland and his foundation in performing and theatre. Jamie’s mother had a career in nursing at Fairview General Hospital and introduced Jamie to doctors who were also musicians. During his teens, he performed as a saxophonist with the doctors in the Fairview Gang of Harmony – their genre being Big Band. He fondly remembers Ron Blackley, Music Director at Lutheran West in the 1980s, for his inspiration, respect for his students’ talents, and the inevitable fun that incurred. Marty Muth, Drama Director at LHSW after his graduation, invited Jamie to be part of her faculty shows and the school’s production of Guys & Dolls. Jamie describes himself more of a craftsman than an artist. Throughout his life, his passions within music have been arragement and composition. His twelve piano pieces, named Calendar, can be heard on iTunes. He loves to serve the ‘world’ he is in, assisting in the audience’s perspective on life’s journey and transforming their experience. A few of Jamie’s videos can also be viewed here.
Photos, top to bottom: 1) Jamie's headshot; 2) Conducting at the Waterbury Palace Theater; Master Class at Ten Chimneys with Joel Grey; 4) The Saroyan Theater at the Fresno Convention Center.
Alumni Spotlight: Joseph Tolonen, Class of '15
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director 
Tolonen-ImagesAlumni have always been a vital part of Lutheran High School West (LHSW), especially when it comes to their representation in the  faculty and staff. Currently, there are 14 faculty members and 4 staff members that are alumni. Today, we are featuring the youngest alumnus hired at LHSW, first as the Choir Accompanist in 2018 and then as the Assistant Music Director in 2019: Joseph Tolonen '15. 
Joseph is a 2015 graduate of Lutheran West. Entering high school as a ninth-grader, Joseph already had one year as a member of the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony, an organization in which he continued participating into the ninth grade. As a sophomore, Joseph auditioned for a spot in the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO) as an oboist. He remained in COYO until graduation. During that time, he traveled with the orchestra on a four-city tour to China. An obvious highlight was walking on the Great Wall of China as an 18-year-old. In his senior year, he split his school days between LHSW and The Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) in the Young Artist’s Program (YAP). Tolonen compares YAP as being like AP classes for music students in a pre-conservatory program rich with music theory.

Upon graduation from LHSW, he enrolled full time at CIM and completed 2 1/2 years of his education, which proved to be brimming with vibrant experiences. In the summer of 2017, Joseph attended The International Music Festival of the Adriatic (IMFA) which is a “summer chamber music festival for strings, piano, voice, and composition,” co-sponsored by the United World College of the Adriatic and Luther College. “IMFA participants experience four weeks of collaborative music making in the inspirational setting of Duino, Italy, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. IMFA's renowned faculty members mentor participants in private lessons, workshops, and coaching sessions. Through master classes with esteemed guest artists and numerous performances, IMFA students deepen their musicianship and technical skills and grow into the artists they aspire to be.” As well as performing in Duino, participants performed a concert in Slovenia. It was during this time that Joseph honed his compositional skills and writing style in acoustic compositions. Tolonen describes the difference between acoustic and electronic compositions by saying, “Acoustic-based compositions are a lot like what we now know as an “acoustic performance” of a pop song. Think live instruments. In the case of classical music, composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms all wrote for “real,” live instruments (like an orchestra). Electronic-based compositions are a lot more like what one would hear at a club where a DJ is performing, just in a classical sense. Classical electronic music is quite broad as a genre, but at its most basic level, it centers on the electronic production and/or electronic manipulation of sounds. There’s a lot of contemporary classical music that uses both simultaneously as well.”

After the festival ended, Joseph took advantage of being in Italy and stayed on for a few more days to tour Venice. Following the death of his mother, June Gracyk (LW Class of 1976) that fall, Joseph decided to take a semester off to process this first tragic event. As a result of that respite time, Joseph felt a calling to the full-time vocational ministry, specifically ministerial leadership.  His vision is to be a Worship or Teaching Pastor, combining two of his passions - music and teaching. He enrolled at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, which offered just such a program for online students. The completion of his degree will be in 2021.
Greg Banasak, Music Director at Lutheran West, first hired Joseph for an accompanist position at Lutheran West. One year later, that position was expanded to Assistant Music Director.  Joseph is working four days per week with both the choir and the band. Together, Greg and Joseph are introducing a curriculum to enhance the music culture at LHSW. As responsibility and accountability are promoted by the department, each student will grow as a person and performer. Inevitably, LHSW’s music program will continue to be polished, optimizing the talents of its music students.

As Joseph engages students to improve and stretch themselves, he models these characteristics by example. Working under Georgetown University Professor Eric Koester (founder & CEO of Creator Institute) as part of the “Open Source Book Writing Class,” Joseph is writing the first draft of his book, initially titled Follow. Joseph explains, “I write about creating rhythms and practices, such as setting boundaries and carving out time for community and worship, that help us thrive and create in life as we were designed to by God." The impetus for his writing is his students. Joseph will complete the final copy by December of 2020 and will be published by New Degree Press Publishers.

Follow these links to enjoy Joseph’s compositions and/or performances. You can also follow Joseph on Instagram @joseph_tolonen.

Alumni Spotlight: Jason Kocab '96
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director 
Jason-Debi-BowlJason Kocab, Class of 1996, left a career in the financial industry in 2011 to pursue a passion: Jason and his brother Steve Kocab, Class of 1989, opened an Asian fusion restaurant: Mashiso Asian Grille in North Olmsted. Jason runs the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, with Steve, who is also a contractor and owns a number of other businesses, serving as a co-founder.

Before his restaurant days, Jason received his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Bowling Green State University. He began his career at the National City Bank Corporation, then progressed to McDonald Partners Financial Advisors and later KeyBank. In order to remain in the Cleveland area, Jason decided to transition into a new career path.

Jason knew with hard work and the right location, he could be successful in the restaurant business. Located conveniently in The North Olmsted Towne Center, the restaurant is visible from Brookpark Road in front of the La-Z-Boy Furniture Company (one can enter the Towne Center using the Target driveway). His inspiration for Asian fusion cuisine came from his Korean-born mother, Hui Kocab. Much of the menu at Mashiso Asian Grille is an interpretation of the home-cooked meals his mother prepared for the family: Jason, his father John, and his 3 siblings: Steve (’89), Lisa Ballard (’90) and Alex (’09). Jason honors his mother’s culture by naming the restaurant Mashiso which is the phonetic spelling of the Korean word ‘delicious.’ Jason proudly maintains the highest standards by integrating “the freshest ingredients, and homemade marinades and sauces from family recipes that have been used for Catering_Menu_GiftCardgenerations.”

The best way to describe the restaurant’s cuisine comes right from its menu: “First, choose a wheat or white wrap, rice bowl, noodle bowl, or salad. Select your meat, sauce, and vegetable sides then top it off with your choice of fresh jalapenos, cilantro, cucumber, carrot, cheese, and any combination of our 6 cold finishing sauces.” Delicious is the perfect way to describe Mashiso’s meals! Check out menu items on Mashiso’s Facebook page. Jason says a portion of his business comes from catering for business meetings, medical practices, and parties. After years of considering expanding the business to a second location, Jason signed a lease in January 2020 in Lakewood. The plan is to open in June near West 115th Street and Clifton Avenue.  Jason resides in Westlake with Erin, his wife of sixteen years, and their two teenage boys, Cole and Kellan.
You can support a local, LHSW alumni-owned business today! Visit Mashiso Asian Grille, write your name and phone number on your receipt, and place it in Mashiso’s Lutheran West Alumni Appreciation Rewards jar for an opportunity from Jason and the Mashiso staff to win a $50 GIFT CARD to Mashiso Asian Grille! All receipts must be submitted before Friday, May 22nd at midnight. 
Mashiso Asian Grille
24954 Brookpark Rd.
North Olmsted, Oh 44070
Hours of Operation:
Monday- Saturday 11:00 am-9:00 pm
Sunday 11:00 am-8:00 pm

Alumni Spotlight: Michelle (Fisher) Baumann '83
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Michelle-MinnieMichelle (Fisher) Baumann is celebrating her 30th year of employment with the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Presently, Michelle is a Public Relations Manager and part of a team that designs and executes public relation campaigns to establish brand awareness, which subsequently drives resort attendance.

Graduating in 1983 from Lutheran West, Michelle reminisces about running track for Mr. Joe King. She remembers the work ethic that he instilled through vigorous workouts and the importance of teambuilding. Mr. Jim Fenske’s chapels provided touching moments in Michelle’s faith journey. Her love of writing, and ultimately her decision to pursue a career in journalism, can be credited to her Lutheran West English teacher: ”My inspiration for pursuing journalism came from Mrs. Gesch.”
Moving forward from Lutheran West, Michelle graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism, and a minor in Business.

Michelle interviewed for a position at Walt Disney World Resort because of a prior association with the park during her time as an Associate Editor at Hotel and Motel Management Magazine (HMMM) in Middleburg Heights. As an Associate Editor at HMMM, she produced stories for the international lodging industry publication ranging from finance, food & beverage, and hotel design. The Disney interviewing panel realized she had a unique perspective to offer them in her understanding of magazine editors and readers. So in 1990, she began her journey with the Walt Disney World Resort as a publicist. She pitched stories to trade publications in the travel/meeting industries, which paved the road for her later working to promote The Walt Disney World Resort through domestic mediums such as The New York Times, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, and more. 
Michelle-DisneylandThe culture of creativity is so prevalent at Disney that Michelle has been engaged and growing for decades. Each day offers an environment in which to develop, especially while working with Disney’s Imagineers at the resort. Throughout her career, she has been challenged with a variety of responsibilities and privileges. In 1992, Michelle was humbled to be chosen as a member of the Opening Team for Disneyland Paris, which afforded her the opportunity to live in Paris for 3 ½ weeks. Michelle is grateful to this team that taught her much about the Disney Resort and what it means to be affiliated with extremely talented colleagues. When ‘Pandora – The World of Avatar’ opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during the park's largestMichelle-StarWars expansion ever, she led the public relations for this history-making expansion. In the last year, Michelle was again honored to be instrumental in facilitating two iconic brands when Walt Disney World Resort and Star Wars joined forces. 'Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge' opened in both Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Florida) in December 2019 and in Disneyland Park (California) in January 2020.

Through the years Michelle has also enjoyed her role as an author for the Disney Parks blog (, which provides bi-monthly articles. While Michelle’s children were young, it was perfect timing for her to begin authoring articles advising best practices for experiencing Disney with preschoolers -- simultaneously coining the phrase ‘#DisneyKids’. Years later, she enthusiastically continues writing pointers for this company blog. She recommends that families traveling with preschoolers stay at one of Disney's monorail hotels on the park’s property. This option allows families the convenience of going to their rooms during the day, taking breaks for naps and easily returning to the park in the evening. Her knowledge of the parks help parents navigate planning that is age-appropriate for young families. For instance, one of Disney’s wine tasting festivals also engages children with scavenger hunts and playgrounds at the same time, allowing parents and children to enjoy the same event. She views pacing yourself as a plus, saying “Allowing room for the spontaneous to happen is what makes the best memories.” Birnbaum's Walt Disney World: The Official Vacation Guide (hard copy book) and ( are other sources Michelle recommends in planning your trip. There’s something for everyone at Disney World --  Cirque du Soleil, celebrity chefs, and more! Amongst all of the previously mentioned projects, Michelle has also collaborated for many years with Disney's Fairytale Weddings marketing team. “It’s a privilege to work for the most beloved company in the world. We bring magic to life for families: we are their storytellers,” Michelle remarks. 
It doesn’t take long to grasp that Michelle is a family-oriented person. She stems from a long line of women who value faith and family. Disney worked out a way for Michelle to reduce her work week while raising her two daughters with her husband, Charlie.Baumann-family Much like their own parents who valued faith-based education, Michelle’s and Charlie’s daughters attended parochial schools as well. Much satisfaction came from volunteering in the girls’ classrooms and chaperoning field trips. Despite the Baumanns’ busy lives, they volunteer together. ‘Do what you can’ is a Baumann family motto taught by Michelle’s mother and grandmother. Together, the Baumanns regularly serve two organizations: At Second Harvest Food Bank, the Baumanns organize cans of food and pack boxes of food for families. Give Kids the World is a non-profit that provides vacations at no cost to children with critical illnesses and their families. The Baumanns have scooped ice cream, served meals, and worked at the pool through these organizations and opportunities. Their eldest daughter is graduating from Yale University this spring and their second daughter will attend Tulane University in the fall. Lutheran West is considered her family too. Routinely keeping in touch and travelling together, Michelle cherishes her high school classmates as lifelong friends.  

“Truly blessed” is how Michelle describes her life!
Alumni Spotlight: Alyssa Scolaro '19
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
alyssa-scolaroA member of the Class of 2019, Alyssa Scolaro is a recent graduate of Lutheran West and she is making an impact at Kemper House Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care in Strongsville. She spent her freshman year of college at Capital University in Columbus. Although Alyssa considered a number of different colleges in Ohio, she chose Capital University for its Direct Admit Nursing Program. She is pursuing a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree) in Patient Care with a minor in Psychology. Surgical nursing is high on her list as a potential focus area. Because of Lutheran West’s programs such as The Senney Honors Academy and CCP (College Credit Plus), Alyssa was prepared for Capital’s online classes and now the necessary element of remote learning education. Even though her campus experience as a freshman was cut short due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis immediately following her spring break, she’s continuing to prepare herself for her career in nursing. 
Alyssa grew up in North Royalton and is a member of Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church. Because of a desire to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic and interest in elder care, Alyssa received an invitation to interview with nearby Kemper House, Strongsville campus. Alyssa was offered a position as an RCA (Resident Care Assistant). The part she looks forward to most is the patient interaction and adult conversations. Her skills as a nurse are being honed four days a week by mentors at Kemper House. Alyssa is hopeful that this will continue as a summer-time job.

Although Alyssa admits to having an adjustment period during her first semester at Capital, she hit the ground running during her second semester. In January, she applied for and won an SI Leader (Supplemental Instructor) position. As a Chemistry SI, she conducts two tutoring sessions per week. In order to prepare for tutoring, she participates in three chemistry lectures each week. In addition, it is necessary to spend two to three hours of additional preparation per week and she has scheduled office hours. Not to mention that she herself is a full-time student!

Alyssa shares that one of the reasons she has grown to feel more comfortable at Capital is because of the Young Life program on campus. Through weekly Bible studies, service projects and social events Alyssa connected with fellow Christian students and has forged strong friendships. This year, she made the most of her spring break by participating in Young Life’s group retreat - travelling to Tennessee for a week of team building. Amongst all of her other commitments, she has applied to be a Capernaum Leader with Young Life, mentoring and ministering to students with special needs. Alyssa’s mother, Penny Keller Scolaro, Class of 1988, has been an inspiration to Alyssa. Penny has spent her career working with those who have developmental disabilities and special needs.  

Alyssa shares, “During this very unique time of global pandemic, I’ve been filled with so much pride for my future career as a nurse. I have nothing but excitement for what I feel is part of my purpose in life. Throughout this time I’ve grown to be thankful amidst all of the heavy stuff going on, and hope that so many people come out of this either closer to the Lord or having met Him for the first time.”
Alumni Spotlight: Todd Phillips '90
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Todd-and-Lauren-PhillipsTodd Phillips (Class of 1990) has re-opened his Olmsted Falls coffee house, Roasted Coffee Shop, after an earlier shut down in March due to the COVID-19 crisis. As of April 20th, Roasted Coffee Shop is offering ‘to-go’ coffee, light breakfast and lunch options, and coffee bean purchases by the pound. Todd and his wife Lauren have been diligent in sanitizing their coffee shop from top to bottom including resealing the concrete coffee bar countertops. The familiar ‘X’s’ seen in many stores to promote six feet of social distancing have been added to ensure the safety of their customers. Daily hours of operation are currently from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM and the location is listed below.

Todd is proud to offer a veteran-owned and operated business for his community. Following graduation, Todd enlisted in the United States Army, serving from 1992-1995 with the Second Infantry Division headquartered in Hong Kong and subsequently in the Third Infantry Division Scout Platoon in Fort Stewart, Georgia. The coffee served at Roasted Coffee Shop is purchased from Salt Lake City’s Alpha Coffee, another veteran-owned and operated business. Alpha Coffee ships within days of roasting the coffee beans, ensuring a superb cup of coffee. Todd has poured his heart into his business, doing many of the building renovations on his own. A warm atmosphere invites customers in with an antique door feature and a shiplap wall clad with reclaimed wood from a century-old barn.
This year Todd is celebrating his twenty-second year as a Cleveland firefighter with Firehouse Station 4, which is located near the West Side Market. His wife, Lauren, is the first female firefighter hired by Cleveland in the past 30 years! The couple continues to give back to their community in a number of ways. Discounts are offered to military veterans, first responders, and the Olmsted Falls Public School District faculty and staff each day. Through the Helping Hands Program in Olmsted Falls public schools, they sponsor the Coffee Cart Program. Special needs students cultivate needed skills as they operate the coffee cart service for faculty and students.  
Debi-at-RoastedSupport a local LHSW alumni-owned business today! Visit Roasted Coffee Shop, take a picture with your purchase, and send to [email protected] to be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card to Roasted Coffee Shop! All entries must be submitted before Sunday, April 26th at midnight.
Roasted Coffee Shop
27093 Bagley Rd
Olmsted Falls, Ohio 44138
(440) 793-6158
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM Daily
Photo: Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director, visiting Roasted Coffee Shop
Alumni Spotlight: Katherine (Katie) Calvey '87
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Katherine (Katie) Calvey is a 1987 graduate of Lutheran High School West and a professional flutist. The city of Cleveland has provided a rich culture for Katie to nurture her lifelong passion, as she enjoyed serious study time with the principal flutist of The Cleveland Orchestra: Katie played in the inaugural season of the Cleveland Orchestra, Youth Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Jahja Ling. Throughout high school, she was successful in flute competitions. She was the winner of The First Annual Littman Music Competition in New York at the age of sixteen and won the Cleveland Rotary Club Music Competition at seventeen.  

Katie began her collegiate education at Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. While in college, she won The Mid-Atlantic Flute Competition in Washington, D.C., The Agnes Fowler Wind Competition, and The Tuesday Music Club Competition. She received a Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance from The Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore, MD. Receiving a full scholarship as a student of Leone Buyse (former principal flutist of The Boston Symphony) at The University of Michigan, Katie received her Master of Music degree in Flute Performance. Katie's formal education provided her the privilege of studying under principal flutists of major orchestras of cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, London, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Her orchestral career includes performances in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall with The National Youth Guild Orchestra and in Europe with The American Wind Symphony.  

Before leaving for Europe, Katie visited Lutheran West to tell her former band director, Ron Blackley, about winning the position for the European tour. She mentioned that the job would require a piccolo, so immediately she called an instrument shop in New York to purchase one. Katie laughed when the New York ‘salesman’ claimed to be one of the most famous flutists in the USA, Julius Baker. However, it turned out to be true — the famed Julius Baker was also the instrument shop owner! Seeing the opportunity, Ron offered her a seat on the bus the very next day to New York for the Lutheran West choir tour. Katie secured a lesson with the very same famed flutist, performed at Concordia College, Bronxville (where she had won The Littmann Music Competition years earlier), and had a funny story to share.

Prior to relocating internationally to advance her career, Katie’s resume includes being a member of The Battle Creek Symphony, The Cleveland Choral Arts Society Orchestra,The Comic Opera Guild of Ann Arbor, The Mansfield Symphony, The Ohio Light Opera, The Rochester Symphony Orchestra, The Traverse City Symphony, and The Warren Symphony. She has performed solo concerts that took her as far away as  Colombia, Curacao, Ecuador, El Salvador, Italy, Mexico, and Peru.      

Columbia-KatieIt has always been a goal of Katie’s to have a full-time orchestral career. Katie reminices, “That is why when my teacher Leone Buyse informed me of a job opportunity as principal flutist of the Barranquilla Symphony in Colombia, I knew it was a matter of how fast I could pack my bags, grab a Spanish dictionary, and hop on a plane to an unknown land.”  (1) There was an unspoken understanding that living in Latin America to perform in an orchestra also afforded her the opportunity to visit amazing places. While living in Cali, Colombia, she traveled to the equator via Quito, Ecuador as a guest artist to perform a solo recital at an international flute festival. Next on the list was a solo performance in Lima, Peru, where she took a fun side trip to Machu Picchu. She called an Acapulco beach house home for a while serving as principal flutist in the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra. One of her holidays took her to Panama to visit the San Blas Islands, located off the coast of The Darien Gap Jungle. An adventurer at heart, she swam from one island to the other amongst the San Blas Islands, thankful to the Lord that there were no shark encounters!

Eventually, desiring to be a little closer to her home in the USA, she accepted a position as the principal flutist in the orchestra in Chihuahua, Mexico which is approximately 140 miles south of El Paso, TX. It was while living there that she hiked Copper Canyon.Canyon-Katie Katie’s flute playing with natural sounds of thunder and rain in the Namurachi Canyon (within Copper Canyon) is captured on her CD Canyon Echo. Currently, Katie holds the position of Principal Flutist of The Camerata de Coahuila en Torreón, Mexico, where she has had the honor of performing with renowned artists such as Jose Carreras and Rene Fleming. 

Musicians gather inspiration from numerous elements, places, and people. Katie desires to worship the Lord, playing from her heart, and people are moved by her music. She is pleased to continue in her craft and to make a career of something she loves so deeply. Over the years she has been encouraged to keep playing with heartwarming stories that her audience has shared with her. An 80-year-old woman SAmapexpressed her gratitude to Katie, saying she had waited her whole life just to hear an orchestra ‘live.’ While many other  experiences such as this have been unforgettable, they can not erase her underlying hope to return to and reside in the United States. Katies says, “...I believe my experiences have helped me acquire much to share via performing as well as teaching in my homeland of the USA.”

You can hear Katie on a number of different mediums. She has recorded three CDs: Flute Fantasia, Silent Night, and Canyon Echo. Her performances are regularly posted on her Facebook page here. In recent times, Katie has been taking hymn requests for Facebook and has participated in a ‘virtual orchestra’ to encourage and inspire others. Katie shares, “I am thankful for the sustaining hand of the Lord that has kept me safe during my wonderful journey. When I left Michigan as a young flutist, someone told me my road would be winding but would be paved with gold, and that it certainly has been.”
(1) - This quote comes from the article "Have Flute...Will Travel!" by Katherine Calvey, originally posted on at
Alumni Spotlight: Elliot Spaudie, Class of 2008
Elliot-Rachel-Spaudieby Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Elliot Spaudie, Lutheran West Class of 2008, is an FAA certified remote pilot. After seeing the new and exciting opportunities for drone businesses, he began his company, Birds That Fly, LLC as the Chief Pilot in October 2018.

Elliot developed his passion for ice hockey while the Spaudie family lived in Appleton, Wisconsin until he was six years old. Upon the family’s move to the greater Cleveland area, Elliot attended St. Paul Westlake and then Lutheran High School West, graduating in 2008. Having played hockey since he was six years old, he realized a dream by winning two Ohio High School State Championships with his travel hockey team and later going on to play Division III collegiate hockey at Concordia University, Wisconsin. His initial pursuit was a degree in pre-pharmacy, although he eventually switched majors to engineering and transferred to Valparaiso University. As his relationship with his now wife, Rachel Coulter ?08, developed, his transfer allowed the couple to be closer geographically. 

Valparaiso offered an abundance of hands-on learning opportunities in the electrical engineering field. One of Elliot’s favorite projects was his senior design project — a voice-activated food service robot. He used an industrial 6-axis robotic arm and utilized a 3-D printer (called “rapid prototyper” at the time) to create a serving mechanism. In one of the labs he enjoyed most, called Embedded Microsystems, Elliot learned to program microcontrollers to talk to one another, perform tasks, and compute algorithms. Much of what he learned during this time is knowledge he leaned on to build the drones and quadcopters he now flies. Elliot had a very successful college career, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2013.

Following graduation, Elliot worked for Rolls Royce in Mount Vernon, OH (near Columbus) for approximately two years before spending the next four years employed with Siemens Energy in Columbus. During his time with Siemens Energy, Elliot was first a Controls Engineer and then a Sales Estimator. In both capacities, he worked with the Project Lead Engineer in electrical, mechanical, and safety systems. Elliot focused his efforts on reducing his student loans and paid off $100,000, between him and his wife Rachel, within five years! Without student loan debt hanging over his head, Elliot could pursue a dream of his — becoming a pilot. It was in Columbus that he earned his UAS License as a remote pilot.  Elliot explains that he “kind of stumbled into video right away through friends and contacts in Columbus. My uncle would take pictures of deep space and comets using Photo and gave me a picture of Hale Bopp taken with a telescope.” This intensified his love of video and photography, and Elliot conceived a business plan in which he could combine his remote pilot skills with photography and videography. 

Elliot then began Birds that Fly, LLC, his drone photography and videography business. Some of Elliot’s clients include real estate agents, roofing companies, breweries, and many others. Elliot is able to provide an highly-aesthetic, impactful component for advertising and marketing, including aerial photos and videos for real estate agents, inspection videos for roofing businesses and fly-through promotional videos for restaurants and breweries. Jamie Spacek (father of LW alumnus Jesse Spacek '07), President of local company West Side Roofing, understands what a great resource Birds That Fly’s video product offers for his website. Jamie says, “For the larger projects, offering clients a birds-eye view — that’s a great selling tool. With 320 roofing contractor competitors out there, we need to ask how we can differentiate ourselves from others. Birds That Fly helps us showcase the type of work we do. The video allows us to walk through the details of a job. Elliot is very professional...there’s no one else out there like him. It’s nice to have him as part of the team.” 

Engineering companies have also used services provided by Birds That Fly to photograph remote locations for future bridge and roadway projects. “The aerial footage provided by Birds That Fly gave our firm’s presentation the extra touch to make it stand out above our competition. Our clients could envision exactly what we were proposing to design when looking at the roadway corridor from a birds eye view. Elliott’s customer-first attitude was refreshing and guarantees him repeat business with LJB,” states Dennis Albrecht, Lutheran West Class of 1984 and PE (Regional Manager) for LJB Inc., a civil engineering firm. Elliot believes the drone business opportunities are as numerous as one can creatively imagine. You can view samples of his videos here.

Elliot suggests that anyone interested in learning more about flying drones should visit for rules and regulations. In order to become a drone pilot, you must be at least 13 years old; however, all ages with the correct adult supervision can enjoy the technology that drones provide. A drone that includes a radio can be purchased for between $80-$100. In order to make money or register a business with a drone, one needs to be at least 16 years of age and pass the test for a Part 107 Commercial License. Elliot suggests being part of The Drone University ( if planning a business. A membership with this organization is advantageous for the support and community it offers, assistance in submitting the necessary license renewal documents, and document templates for everything from rules to copyright releases. Best practice forNoah drone flying is to buy a hobby radio (Spaudie’s radio is a JumperT16 or Jumper T12. There are many other brands out there but Elliot says that these are cheapest and most flexible and have a lot of support in the drone community) and download Velocidrone or DRL Sim from Steam, which is a computer gaming platform. This program allows aspiring drone pilots to undergo flight simulations, and as Elliot says, “crashing a virtual drone is cheaper than crashing the real thing.” Elliot had plans to teach drone seminars and an after-school program at St. Paul Westlake this spring before schools shut down due to the COVID-19 mandates. 

Elliot, and his wife Rachel married in 2013. The Spaudies welcomed their first child, a son named Noah, this past February. 

Elliot can be reached at [email protected] or check out his company website:
Alumni Spotlight: Allison Younger, Class of 2017
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Allison-Younger_1Allison Younger, a 2017 graduate from Lutheran High School West, continued her education at Cleveland State University (CSU). In July 2019, Governor Mike DeWine appointed Alli as the newest student trustee on Cleveland State’s Board of Trustees. The rigorous interview process with DeWine's Columbus office included multiple interviews with as many as four of his staff at a time. Some would have been intimidated, but Alli took it all in stride and won the appointment. Alli was introduced to Governor DeWine at the Ohio Board of Trustees Conference at Columbus State University in October 2019. What she accomplished in 2019, certainly a busy year for Alli, can be described as simply amazing. She set out to solve a shortfall in the government assisted program Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as that of Women Infant and Children (WIC). “I was looking at state benefits one day for one of my courses, and I was just shocked at the clear gap of care being offered.” When she found out  that SNAP and WIC do not provide assistance for diapers, baby wipes, laundry detergent, cleaning products, paper products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, and shampoo (just to name a few), she began to devise a solution. Alli’s ministry, "Sharing GRACE" (Groceries Reaching Across Community Everyday), began to officially operate in November of 2019. 
Some may ask how a twenty-year-old could implement such a ministry. A synopsis of Alli’s CSU experience may help you understand. From the beginning, Alli decided to be involved in campus life at CSU. The list of leadership positions she has held is impressive: Phi Mu Rho Lambda (CSU Chapter) - Vice President of Committees 2020, Philanthropy Chair ’17-’18, Parent and Alumnae Chair ’18, and Sisterhood Chair ’19. 

Allison_DeWineAlli explains, “I joined Phi Mu Rho Lambda Fraternity during the fall of my freshman year. Fun fact: Phi Mu was founded before there even was a “sorority” so that’s where the name comes from, but it is a sorority! Right away I knew I wanted a leadership position, so I ran for our executive board that winter. I then served as Philanthropy Chair for a year. Collectively with my sisters over $500 was raised for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I have also served as the Parent and Alumnae and Sisterhood Chairs, planning various events with sisters and parents. Currently, I serve as our Vice President of Committees, meaning I oversee all of our committee/chair positions and help them in whatever capacity they need to succeed! Phi Mu has given so much to me and made my college experience what it is.”

Aside from Phi Mu, Alli’s campus positions also include the university’s Pride and Traditions Chair, The 1964 Society ’18-’19, and Presidential Student Ambassador for The 1964 Society.
She demonstrates her excitement by sharing, “I joined the 1964 Society in the fall of my freshman year. We are the Student Alumni Association at CSU. I have served in a variety of roles in the organization. I became a Presidential Student Ambassador my freshman year. I had the opportunity to work directly under CSU’s President at prestigious events doing various tasks, from ushering distinguished guests, to helping hand out awards, to greeting visitors at the University House. I have held the PSA title since my freshman year, consecutively. I have also served as CSU’s Pride & Traditions Chair, where I planned various campus-wide events to promote pride and spirit for CSU. One of the coolest things about that was that I was able to serve as the Homecoming Parade Chair in 2018 and planned the parade for all of CSU/Cleveland. I’ll never forget that! I presently serve as our organization’s President, which includes overseeing our executive board as well as membership for weekly tasks, running meetings, and recruiting. The 1964 Society is arguably one of the coolest organizations on campus that I am so proud to be a part of, as a current student, cultivating the importance of staying connected as alumni!” 
As if her coursework and campus involvement weren’t enough, Alli has also been an intern at the Stuart Dean Company since 2017. Alli says, “Stuart Dean is a national provider of renowned interior and exterior architectural restoration services. Based out of New York City, we specialize in beautifying, restoring and protecting metal, stone, wood, facades, chandeliers, glass surfaces, and providing innovative grout and flooring solutions. I work in the Corporate Safety Department, handling logistics, shipping, the apparel program, as well as helping oversee the respirator program.”

Alli took on a leadership position at her church, Bethany Lutheran (Parma). Currently, this is the homebase for Sharing GRACE and also where Alli is a lifelong member. She was baptized and confirmed there, and attended BLS for Pre-K 3’s through 8th grade. The supporters of Sharing GRACE have provided financial backing as well as the items mentioned above that are crucial but do not qualify for food stamps or assistance. In the first months of operation, Sharing GRACE provided for a variety of families with various needs, from care kits during COVID-19, to boxes of needed supplies for those facing hard times. Sharing GRACE also supports Bethany’s shut-in population through essentials that can be dropped off to them. 

When asked what motivated Alli to take on this ministry, she responded, “Honestly, I have just always wanted to help people from a young age. My parents instilled service in me from the beginning. Cuyahoga County’s poverty rate is 18.3% with many people living paycheck to paycheck.” Alli is driven by the fact she doesn’t want people to have to choose between paying rent one month or getting diapers; she believes that needs to change. The items not covered by SNAP and WIC are things we use everyday without a second thought, but we would think about them if we were not receiving assistance for these items when they are really needed. Alli says that she just wanted to lighten that burden for families. Filling the gap between the government services and local outreach, Alli’s ministry provides a much-needed bridge.

If you would like to join the efforts of Sharing GRACE, the most needed items are diapers, toilet paper, laundry detergent, antibacterial wipes/spray, and personal care items. Those who prefer to make a cash or check gift can direct their contribution to Bethany Lutheran Church for the Sharing GRACE Pantry. Despite the COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate currently in place at the time of this article’s publishing, they are still collecting donations at Bethany Lutheran Church & School (6041 Ridge Road Parma, OH 44129). Donations can be dropped off in the back parking lot on the back porch of Bethany’s Youth Center on Monday-Thursday from 9am-12pm. Please email Alli ([email protected]) if you are planning on dropping off items. Learn more at
How can someone receive the services of Sharing GRACE? Bethany Church/School families can submit a simple application to establish need. It can be one-time assistance or on an ongoing basis. The pantry is focused on helping people when they have an essential need and reminding them that Bethany has their back in whatever situation they may be experiencing. They will receive care!
Alumni Spotlight: Ellen (Pieper) McFadden, Class of 1977
Radiant-Bride-StorefrontThree years ago, Ellen (Pieper) McFadden, Class of 1977, made a leap of faith. After raising four daughters and subsequently planning weddings, Ellen became skilled at finding ‘the dress.' Her daughters bought their wedding gowns from Leonardo’s Bridal Shop in Rocky River. One of the girls mentioned to an employee that her mom’s dream would be to open a wedding dress boutique. Lo and behold, Leonardo’s was for sale and the owner contacted Ellen. After renovations and the addition of Ellen’s special touches, the boutique was reopened under the name Radiant Bride, and Ellen has been living her dream as the shop's proprietor at 19620 Detroit Road in Rocky River ever since.

Radiant Bride has enjoyed much success, most recently being nominated as Cleveland’s Best Wedding Boutique! The boutique has also received a Best of Weddings 2019 nod from well-known wedding publication and website The Knot and it has been distinguished as an ‘Elite Partner’ with dress designers.

When visiting Radiant Bride, it's easy to see why the boutique has had such success. As soon as you open the door, you have the feeling you are in for something special. Maybe it’s because the boutique is in a historic home, or because the dressing and viewing rooms have luxurious decor. It would be a treat for any bride-to-be to browse through the rows of wedding gowns by designers such as Essence of Australia, Allure Bridals, or Enzoani. In the shop, most of the gowns have a price point between $1,500-$2,000; however, the Enzoani line begins in the $3,000 range. For price-conscious buyers, there is also a sample dress sales room. Ellen is able to offer these in-stock dresses at a reduced rate because a minimum quantity of dresses are required to be purchased from new collections. Often, there are dresses remaining in stock when Radiant Bride must make room for new dresses. With such a variety of price points, designers, and styles, there is truly something for everyone at Radiant Bride! Here’s the link to schedule an appointment.  

As business has increased, so has the need for more employees. Although Ellen began the business with two other employees, working alongside her now are her three daughters, Jessi (’06), Chelsea (’08), and Hope (’12). Ellen's daughter Carly ('16) is enrolled in college.  From the start, Ellen wanted part of her business model to be giving back, and she did so by sponsoring two girls through Compassion International, a Christian charity organization which sponsors children living in poverty. Each year, a few more girls have been sponsored as her business has increased. Radiant Bride now sponsors 14 girls through Compassion International!

Ellen credits her success to following the Lord’s plan and waiting on His timing. After graduating from Lutheran West in 1977, Ellen enrolled at The Ohio State University to earn a B.A. in Textiles & Clothing. She arrived back in Cleveland, working for the May Company downtown as the Display & Merchandising manager. Traveling to numerous shop locations supplied Ellen with a rich experience during her six years with The May Company. She then took time off to be a full time mom to her four daughters. As the girls grew older and more independent, Ellen returned to the workforce on a part-time basis. Her most recent employment prior to opening Radiant Bride was working for Timan Custom Window Treatments in Rocky River. Here she honed her computer skills learning an online customer management system that would be invaluable as she started her own business a few short years later. Asked how Lutheran West prepared her, Ellen states that her character and faith were developed during her time at West. The faith-filled community that supported each other gave her a sense of belonging and encouraged her faith. She married a fellow alumnus, Scott McFadden (Class of 1978). Together, Ellen and Scott continued their financial support of Lutheran West by contributing to the Jochum Performing Arts Room (1989) and spearheading alumni outreach to 1970s graduates for the school's Vision Alive! Campaign (2002). Their children, as well as one son-in-law, are also Lutheran West alumni! West football games and cheerleading hold special memories for Ellen.

Ellen has held many different titles in her life so far, including student, wife, mother, and businesswoman. The title of ‘entrepreneur’ became a reality after seeking the Lord’s guidance, hearing confirming answers to her prayers and being patient for His timing. Her advice to future entrepreneurs is to “entrust it all to God.”

Please stop in to Radiant Bride to say hello to Ellen, or visit their website.
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