Staff & Volunteers


Carol Nelson, Founder & Artistic Director; Children’s Choir 2, Festival Choir, Chamber Choir

Carol is the Founder and Artistic Director of Heart of the Valley Children’s Choir. She holds both a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Music Education from the University of Oregon. Carol has directed choral festivals at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon and at the University of Oregon. She is on the staff of Music EdVentures, a music education research group, and also holds a certificate from the VoiceCare Network. Carol was a music specialist in the Corvallis Public School District from 1971-2007. Carol was a Finalist for the Oregon Symphony Patty Verneer Music Educator of the Year (2004) and was selected for the 2004 Honored Public Servant Award given by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She was also given the Meritorious Service Award for 2004 by the Benton County Foundation. She was invited by the Chinese National Choral Director’s Convention to give workshops in choral rehearsal techniques at Tianjin University, Tianjin, China in the summers of 2005 and 2007 and has recently given workshops for Oregon Music Educator’s Association and Music EdVentures with the help of the Festival Choir.

Julie Buchert, Gracenotes, Preparatory Choir, Children’s Choir 1

Julie has been teaching band and choir for for over 25 years, the last eleven in Albany. She received her Bachelor of Music Education at Oregon State University and her Master of Music Education in vocal music at Western Oregon University. She is currently on the worship team at Grace Point Church in Albany and plays in the Good Shepherd Bell Choir. Julie’s family includes twins, Carrie and Conner and her husband, Jeff, who works at Hewlett-Packard. Julie joined the Heart of the Valley Children’s Choir family in 2005 as the accompanist for the Preparatory Choir and Gracenotes. In 2013 Julie became the co-director of the Preparatory Choir, Children’s Choir 1 and Gracenotes, with Leann Wind.

Damian Kulp, Graduate Assistant Director to Carol Nelson

An HVCC alum, student at Oregon State University, & singer-for-hire, Damian has been singing for his entire life. He also enjoys playing piano, French horn, & trumpet; composing; & other non-choir activities. Damian began as a graduate assistant in 2013. On the tour to Greece, in summer 2014, he conducted the popular Pera Stous Pera Kampous, a traditional Greek folksong. Damian also helps by leading sectionals,
singing in the large chorus, & directing individual pieces. HVCC means a lot to Damian & he’s very excited to be working with the students in HVCC to make beautiful music!


Sherri considers music her second language, and has enjoyed communicating in this way with people from all over the world (especially while traveling with HVCC!). Sherri also enjoys playing keyboards and singing with the Hilltop Big Band, but her favorite musical moments are those shared with her children (who all have fond memories of HVCC) and her five grandchildren. Sherri joined the Heart of the Valley Children’s Choir family in 1997.

Sherri Bird, Chamber Choir

Lucy Watts, Children’s Choir 2, Festival Choir

Lucy graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a Bachelor’s in piano performance and has a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Oregon State University. She is also accompanist for Jubilate, a local women’s choir. Lucy dedicates most of her time to a full studio of private piano students. She also serves as the district and state secretary of the Oregon Music Teachers Association. Lucy joined the Heart of the Valley Children’s Choir family in 1991.

Sandi Burress, Gracenotes, Preparatory Choir, Children’s Choir

Sandi has always been a music lover, probably beginning in kindergarten when her parents started her out with piano lessons. She began accompanying choirs when she was in middle school, & piano playing/accompanying just took off for her from that point. She has been fortunate to have had many opportunities to play/accompany over the years including choirs, bands, special events, churches, festivals, weddings, funerals, etc. Sandi has especially enjoyed playing the piano at her own church for many years as part of the worship team. She is thankful for this opportunity to be involved with the Heart of the Valley Children’s Choir!

Operations Staff

Jean Scott, Operations Manager

Candice O’Bannan, Director’s Assistant

Elizabeth Behrens, Marketing Coordinator

Damian Kulp, Website Coordinator


Our organization wouldn’t be able to thrive without the hard work and perseverance that our parent volunteers give to HVCC. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, click HERE.

Dan & Lela Fitzner, Parent Board Presidents

Audrey Southwick, Chamber Choir Coordinator

Mandee Estes-Varner, Festival Choir Coordinator

Karen Cunningham, Children’s Choir 2 Coordinators

Jil Callaghan, Concert Coordinator

Adrienne Ewanchyna, Senior Event Coordinator

Lela Fitzner, Poinsettia Sales Coordinator

Lela Fitzner, Ad Sales Coordinator

Lara Gamelin, Usher Coordinator

Shelly Hayden, Uniform Coordinator

Kristy Hager, Office Coordinator


Preparatory Choir and Children’s Choir 1 Coordinator

Scrip Fundraising