Meet Our Performers
Grammy Award-Winning Artist
“So many are affected by cancer, whether personally or by way of a loved one. My father passed away from prostate cancer when I was 20, and I remember him living with it for over ten years. It was an active part of my childhood and family life.
It is incredibly important for me to support HairToStay because every step of the illness needs support and care. I’m happy to lend my voice to their already loving work.”
Highly acclaimed for her “passionate intensity and remarkable vocal beauty,” the multiple Grammy Award-winning Isabel Leonard continues to thrill audiences both in the opera house and on the concert stage. In repertoire that spans from Vivaldi to Mozart to Nico Muhly, she has graced the stages of the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera, Salzburg Festival, Bavarian State Opera, Carnegie Hall, Glyndebourne Festival, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Angelina in La Cenerentola, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, Charlotte in Werther, Blanche de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites, Costanza in Griselda, the title roles in La Périchole and Der Rosenkavalier, as well as Sesto in both Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and Handel’s Giulio Cesare.
She has appeared with some of the foremost conductors of her time: James Levine, Valery Gergiev, Charles Dutoit, Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Yannick Nézét-Seguin, Franz Welser-Möst, Plácido Domingo, Edward Gardner, Edo de Waart, James Conlon, Michele Mariotti, Harry Bicket, Andris Nelsons, and Michael Tilson Thomas, with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Vienna Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, among others.
Ms. Leonard is in constant demand as a recitalist and is on the Board of Trustees at Carnegie Hall. She is a multiple Grammy Award winner, most recently for Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges with Seiji Ozawa on Decca and The Tempest from the Metropolitan Opera on Deutsche Grammophon, both Best Opera Recording. Ms. Leonard is the recipient of the Richard Tucker Award and joined the supporters of the Prostate Cancer Foundation to lend her voice in honor of her father who died from the disease when she was in college. www.isabelleonard.com
“One of my favorite parts about creating Vanessa Bousay is selecting which one of my fabulous, larger-than-life wigs to wear. But having to wear a wig all the time because one is really sick isn’t any fun at all. This is why I am so proud to support an organization like Hair To Stay, which allows people to keep their own hair — and along with it, their sense of true self. Let’s keep all the wigs for us stage divas, darlings!”
Vanessa Bousay is a singer specializing in Broadway show tunes and classic American standards. Hailed by the Bay Area Reporter as “The Chanteuse of The Barbary Coast,” Vanessa Bousay is created by proud San Franciscan and classically trained baritone, Erik Chalfant. Mr. Chalfant was a private student of the esteemed American operatic soprano, Phyllis Curtin. His characterization of the glamorous Vanessa Bousay is a loving tribute to his teacher, mentor, and friend.
Mr. Chalfant holds the Master of Music degree in Voice Performance from Boston University College of Fine Arts and the Bachelor of Arts degree in Voice Performance and French Literature from Olivet Nazarene University. He is an alumnus of the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, MA, The Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies in Aldeburgh, England, and the Gregynog Music Festival, in Tregynon, Wales.
In July 2014, Vanessa Bousay made local history by becoming the first drag artist to appear at San Francisco Opera’s “Opera Night At The Ballpark,” singing the national anthem live before an audience of 30,000 opera fans at AT&T Park. Subsequently, Ms. Bousay has appeared at The Sydney Goldstein (Nourse) Theater with the San Francisco Civic Symphony Orchestra, Feinstein’s At The Nikko, Yoshi’s, Oasis, with Society Cabaret at Hotel Rex and monthly at Martuni’s Piano Lounge.
Ms. Bousay’s other beloved charity is The Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners, where she appears each Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Sharing songs of joy and hope with the needy citizens of the Tenderloin neighborhood, Vanessa is proud to continue the over forty-year tradition of this worthy humanitarian cause.
Mr. David has been a prolific costumer and couturier for over four decades. Born and raised in New York City, he infiltrated the exclusive, avant-garde nightlife of the 1980s East Village and became a cornerstone to the fashion intelligentsia, both local and international. Throughout his time in New York City, Mr. David created garments and complete looks for famous personalities. He once rode the fast track to fashion fame, designing the iconic harlequin jumpsuit worn by Deee-Lite’s Lady Miss Kier in the 1990 dance video “Groove is in the Heart.” Mr. David left the fashion world and headed to San Francisco. In 1992, he discovered his greatest muse, Juanita More!. Over the past two-plus decades, Juanita has become synonymous with style and fashion. A definite San Francisco icon, More! has created a new world where fashion, fun, and altruism are key components, presented in the grandest of couture ensembles. In 2018, Mr. David was the featured designer for HairToStay On The Runway, the hugely successful first gala for HairToStay, presenting over 60 incredible pieces of couture from their personal and family collections.
Dr. Laura Esserman
“Hair loss can be a devastating and demoralizing side effect of chemotherapy treatment, and for some, it robs them of their dignity and privacy about their treatment and can even keep them from a treatment that could be life-saving. It matters a great deal to many patients, and if it matters to them, it should matter to every physician who treats them. We need to keep working to find treatments that are more targeted and more effective and don’t cause hair loss. But until then, we are grateful to have tools that allow people to keep their hair; and an organization like HairToStay that is helping the patients who could otherwise not afford it!”
The HairToStay story began in February of 2010, when Dr. Laura Esserman, M.D., M.B.A., wrote down the words “scalp cooling” on the back of a napkin at a restaurant in San Francisco and handed it to Bethany Hornthal. Laura’s interest was spurred by a patient at the Breast Care Center, who was about to undergo chemotherapy. The patient had heard about a scalp cooling device in Europe that women were using to save their hair during chemotherapy. If scalp cooling devices were going to be supported by a medical facility like UCSF, it would have to be cleared by the FDA. Laura assured Bethany that if she could find funding for a clinical trial, that she and her colleagues at UCSF would become the inaugural site for the research that could lead to FDA Clearance.
Dr. Esserman is a surgeon and breast cancer oncology specialist practicing at the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center, where she has also held the position of Director since 1996. She co-leads the Breast Oncology Program, the largest of the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary programs. She is a professor of Surgery & Radiology at UCSF and holds the Alfred A. deLorimier Chair in General Surgery. Her research spans translational science, policy, systems integration, and clinical informatics and care delivery.
She is internationally recognized and has received many awards for her innovative work, including the SPORE investigator of the year award,, the Precision Medicine World Conference Luminary Award, The 2016 Ernest C.Arbuckle Award from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and has been a visiting professor in dozens of universities around the world.
Dr. Esserman is the driving force behind and leader of several innovative, groundbreaking trials, including the I-SPY TRIAL program, a multi-site neoadjuvant clinical trial that has evolved into a model for translational research and innovation in clinical trial design. The goal is to drive drug development to the early-stage high-risk setting where women’s lives can be saved and to rapidly learn how to get the right drug to the right person at the right time.
Dr. Esserman has recently launched a University of California-wide breast cancer initiative called the Athena Breast Health Network, and from this, launched the WISDOM Study (Women Informed to Screen Depending On Measures of Risk). This study is changing the paradigm for screening and is now being rolled out nationwide with a goal of recruiting 100,000 women. WISDOM is testing a new personalized approach to screening and prevention against the one size fits all annual mammography. By starting with risk assessment, we can personalize a plan for prevention and screening, and learn how to do more for those that need it, and less and less harm for those that do not. She encourages every woman (without a history of breast cancer) between the ages of 40-74 to go to wisdomstudy.org and join the study. Be one of the 100,000 sharing your WISDOM – let’s make the future better for everyone. As Maya Angelou says, “The only way to do better is to know better.” Tell everyone you know!
Dr. Esserman is nationally and internationally known as a leader in the field of breast cancer and innovative trial design. She has published over 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals covering all aspects of breast health, including information systems, immunology, decision making, health policy, and the use of imaging. She speaks extensively at public and private forums within the U.S. and internationally. Overall, Dr. Esserman’s research and writing tend to focus on the goal of giving patients better access to accurate information so that they can become partners in their health care.
Dr. Esserman received her Bachelor’s degree in History of Science from Harvard University and completed her M.D. at Stanford University. She completed her surgery residency and oncology fellowship at Stanford University Medical Center. After her training, she joined the faculty at Stanford and received a Hartford fellowship to attend Stanford Business School where she received her M.B.A. in 1993. She then joined the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco.
In addition to her esteemed career in medicine, Laura has collaborated with her voice coach, Erik Chalfant, and fearless crew of resisters, the Ohh!Dacity Players, in creating and recording a new musical named Audacity, which premiered in the Bay Area in various theaters in 2017. Laura graces the stage for HairToStay The Diva Way as one of our “Singing Surgeons” and “Doctor Divas.”
In 2016, Time magazine recognized Laura as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.
“My mother is a cancer survivor, so attentive and cutting-edge cancer care is very important to me. I hope that through HairToStay, many more patients will receive this amazing technology and that our benefit performance will help us to achieve our fund-raising goals, and be a beautiful, life-affirming musical event for all who attend!”
“Marvelous,” “elegant,” “beautiful”—so has the New York Times described mezzo-soprano Silvie Jensen. Critics have also called her voice “exquisite, floating and expressive, a joy to hear.” A vocalist of great versatility, Silvie Jensen enjoys a wide-ranging career that includes early and contemporary music, opera and musical theater, and improvised and experimental music.
In recent seasons, Ms. Jensen has appeared at San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; with the San Francisco Symphony in Boris Godunov and St. John Passion; with American Bach Soloists at SF Conservatory of Music as Juno in Handel’s Semele; with American Chamber Opera in Chicago as Carmen; with Island City Opera as Kashcheyevna in Kashchey the Immortal, and as Maddalena in Rigoletto; with One World Symphony as Olga in Eugene Onegin, and has premiered new operas with Riverside Opera, Stonington Opera House, at the Ostrava Days Festival the in Czech Republic, and at the Carolina Chamber Music Festival. She has created and performed new works at London’s Barbican Centre with Ornette Coleman, Teatro Comunale di Ferrara with Meredith Monk, and Carnegie Hall with Philip Glass.
Ms. Jensen is a highly sought-after oratorio soloist; she made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall, singing Handel’s Messiah with Kent Tritle and Musica Sacra. She sang as Alto Soloist with the San Francisco Symphony in Bach’s Magnificat in 2018, and also made her debuts with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players singing Berio, and with the Mendocino Music Festival, in Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto. She has appeared with Symphony Parnassus at Herbst Theater, singing Mahler’s Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen and Symphony No. 4. She has sung St Matthew Passion with Ivan Fischer conducting the Orchestra of St Luke’s at Carnegie Hall.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Silvie started her music training in the San Francisco Girls Chorus at age 10 and later studied voice at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music while attending University High School. Silvie is currently a voice teacher for the San Francisco Girls Chorus at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center. Her solo album “Who is Silvie?” is available on iTunes.
“I am excited about the opportunity to help low-income cancer patients through my music. I hope the depth and range of the cello will resonate in the patients’ and donors’ hearts alike.”
Cellist Evan Kahn has been praised as “a cellist deserved of serious listening” for bringing his “electrifying … nuanced and colorful” style to all of his collaborations, from concerti to chamber music to contemporary performances. Intensely passionate about new music and music of non-Western cultures, he has commissioned and premiered over 50 works by composers from around the world, including his father’s Cello Concerto.
Evan holds principal positions in four orchestras — principal cello in Symphony Silicon Valley, principal cello in Opera San Jose, and assistant principal cello in San Jose Chamber Orchestra and West Bay Opera. As cellist in the Lazuli String Quartet/Sutro Strings, Evan plays in many local chamber music concert series, and is a sought-after quartet and piano trio cellist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Evan is also a resident cellist for several Bay Area music collectives and ensembles, such as After Everything, Mythica Foundation, and hip-hop band Ensemble Mik Nawooj.
As a soloist, he has performed with North State Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, the Veridian Symphony Orchestra, Segah Festival Orchestra, Diablo Symphony Orchestra, Bay Area Rainbow Symphony, Palo Alto Philharmonic, and Livermore-Amador Symphony, as well as the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic and San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra, after winning both institutions’ concerto competitions. In April/May 2018, he served as Artist-in-Residence with Performance Today at NPR, sharing some of his favorite works for cello and his philosophies on music and life. In February 2019, he was named Musical America’s New Artist of the Month.
Evan received a Master’s in Chamber Music at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, studying with Jennifer Culp. He plays on a cello by Italian luthier Carlo Carletti, c. 1900.
“My aunt passed away from pancreatic cancer six years ago and I have known several colleagues who have been diagnosed in recent years, so this is a personal subject. Having an opportunity to contribute in a beautiful way towards the distribution of this innovative treatment feels both cathartic and consequential.”
As an in-demand recitalist and coach, pianist Kevin Korth has collaborated with such legendary artists as Frederica von Stade, Jake Heggie, Suzanne Mentzer, Nadine Sierra, Lise Lindstrom, Robert Mann, Joel Krosnick, Marnie Breckenridge, Nicholas Phan, Deborah Voigt, and Brian Asawa.
Praised by Gramophone for playing that is “superb”, and “full of color and character,” his debut album, Out of the Shadows, a recording of American art song with soprano Lisa Delan and cellist Matt Haimovitz on the Pentatone Classics label was very warmly received.
An interpreter of contemporary work, the album features premieres by Jack Perla, Gordon Getty, and David Garner, in addition to previously unrecorded works by Norman Dello Joio and John Kander. Recent projects include an album of Robinson Jeffers settings by composer Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli with mezzo-soprano Buffy Baggott for the Delos label.
Since graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s renowned Chamber Music program, he has held a position at the Conservatory as both collaborative pianist and vocal coach.
After Party DJ
Juanita MORE! is a denizen of the limelight. For almost three decades, the tireless hostess has blitzed San Francisco with high glamour, drag irreverence, danceable beats, culinary delectables, political activism and a philanthropic heart that has illuminated the entire city. Juanita remains a creation of fashion and glamour, generosity and nerve, inspiring those around her to make a positive difference in their lives and in their communities, doing it all with a timeless elegance and an innovative spirit.”
Dr. Sanziana Roman
“I am singing for HairToStay because I believe in working to improve the quality of life for patients who undergo cancer treatments in any possible way; because every moment counts.”
Sanziana A. Roman, M.D., FACS is Professor of Surgery with a clinical interest in endocrine and minimally invasive surgery, with a focus in thyroid and adrenal diseases, including pediatric and adult endocrine tumors. She is one of few high-volume adrenal surgeons around the country performing posterior retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy. She is the author of more than 180 peer-reviewed publications in outcomes analysis, cost-effectiveness/decision analysis, meta-analysis, and survey-based methodologies, as well as stem cell research.
Dr. Roman currently serves as the Director of Learning and Teaching in the Procedural Specialties and the Dean’s Diversity Leader for Leadership Equity and Inclusion in the School of Medicine at UCSF. She has a national and international reputation in endocrine surgery and education, having served as the Co-Director of the Fellowship Programs of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, and is an active member of leadership committees of several national academic societies, including the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, the Association for Academic Surgery and the American Thyroid Association.
Prior to her arrival at UCSF, she was a tenured Professor of Surgery at Duke University, where she served as the Director of the Endocrine Surgery Fellowship Program and the Associate Chief of the Division of Advanced Oncologic and Gastrointestinal Surgery.
Dr. Roman organized a symposium about women in surgery, reported on in the World Journal of Surgery in June 2018. The result was powerful testimonials from women surgeons, from Europe to the United States, from Africa to Australia and Asia, reflecting the culture of the place where their career took place. Despite their cultural differences, they all had in common the struggle to establish themselves in the surgical profession, traditionally a male-dominated field.
From the Opera to the Operating Room
“She may have left behind an opera career to pursue medicine, but endocrine surgeon Sanziana A. Roman, M.D., HS ’99, retains definite ideas about music. For a long, complicated case, she puts on a CD of Mozart, Brahms or the Romanian composer Enescu. For something quick like an appendectomy, disco works. And when everyone’s exhausted, it’s hip-hop.
“Studies have shown that surgeons operate better with music,” says Roman.
While different musical themes suit different cases, one mood runs through all of surgery for Roman: the awe she feels toward the surgeon-patient relationship.
“There is no other specialty that allows you to become so intimate with somebody in such a short time. They entrust their body to you. I think that’s incredible—that you allow somebody to completely anesthetize you and cut you open.”
Roman, emigrated with her parents from Romania to Rockland County, N.Y., in 1984, for political reasons. She was 15. Roman already knew she wanted to be a doctor—or maybe an opera singer. She eventually decided that medicine offered a clearer path to stability and success but has managed to combine both interests.
She majored in music performance at Cornell, and while working toward her medical degree at Columbia, she also studied music at Mannes College of Music in Manhattan. During summers she trained at the Aspen Music Festival and once sang the role of Susanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Graz Music Festival in Austria. It helps that she speaks five languages fluently.
Roman still retains a little of the diva’s flair. She has been known to wear heels in the operating room and she does not own a white coat. Even on a dress-down day when she’s wearing pants and a tracksuit jacket, she sports eye-popping bright floral clogs. “ Excerpt from Yale Medicine Magazine.
Roman, graces the stage of HairToStay The Diva Way as one of our “Singing Surgeons” and “Doctor Divas.” She has collaborated with Laura Esserman in her musical theater troop including roles in the musical Audacity.
Joan Crawford once said, to make it in Show Biz, “all you need is a bit of talent and a good hairdresser.” Sure it’s a bit glib, but it’s true, one needs to feel good about themselves to face the world and thrive. Cancer, can’t take one’s talent, but it can destroy one’s self-esteem. It can make you feel like you need need to hide. HairToStay helps to restore a bit of that outer confidence reminding us that even as one goes through the battle of a lifetime, they can still hold their head up high. Now, whether you want to wear that hair up in victory rolls is up to you, but at least you have a choice.
The Countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy (J. Conrad Frank) has enthralled Bay Area audiences for over 14 years with her unique blend of opera, pop, and booze. With a career spanning a very … very long time … Katyaclaims to have invented Popera, romanced William Shatner, and lived across the hall from John Lennon at the Dakota during her infamous 1970’s stint in NYC. Once Eastern Europe’s most sought after Mezzo-Soprano – understudy, the countess now spends her evenings crooning and drinking her way through the finer theaters, bars, and bathhouses of America.
Named “Best Drag Act 2008” By the San Francisco Bay Guardian and winner of the 2019 Bestie for Cabaret Performer, Katya has appeared in various theatrical runs and nightclubs. She has sold-out runs at the Razz Room, Feinstein’s, The New Conservatory Theater, Oasis, Don’t Tell Mama NYC, and fourteen years of monthly shows at Martuni’s. Katya played Blanch Hudson in Billy Cliff’s film Baby Jane and Mildred in Hush Up Sweet Charlotte. @katyasmirnoff on Twitter, @katyasmirnoffskyy on Instagram. Katya is the creation of J.Conrad Frank, who resides in San Fransisco.
“I have several friends and acquaintances who have battled cancer. The ravages of this disease affect not only the body but the spirit as well and make many feel that their dignity has also been stripped away. Attempting to remove the worry of hair loss, yet another concern for those who have already gone through so much is a noble mission. I am honored to be a part of HairToStay’s efforts on behalf of these brave souls.”
Shawnette Sulker has been described as a singer “…displaying a bright, superbly controlled soprano with perfectly placed coloratura.” On the operatic stage, Ms. Sulker has been a featured artist in three San Francisco Opera productions: Porgy and Bess, The Mother of Us All, and Louise. She was also a part of the joint production of Dido and Aeneas between San Francisco Opera and the Crucible, singing the roles of Second Woman and Second Witch. Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle, described her lead role in Bernstein’s Candide performed by the Oakland East Bay Symphony, “Soprano Shawnette Sulker was an excellent Cunegonde, singing with polished clarity and practically bringing down the house in the sparkling coloratura of “Glitter and be Gay.””
A native of Guyana living in San Francisco, the soprano has sung leading roles with other companies of note, including Hawaii Opera Theatre, Internationale Opera Producties, Opera Naples, Union Avenue Opera, Natchez Opera Festival, Pacific Opera Project, West Edge Opera, Festival Opera, Music in the Mountains, Mendocino Music Festival, and West Bay Opera, to name a few. Roles in Ms. Sulker’s repertoire include Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Die Königin der Nacht (Die Zauberflöte), Cunegonde (Candide), Olympia/Giulietta/Antonia (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Oscar (Un ballo in maschera), Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Musetta (La Bohème), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Zerlina and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Constanze (Abduction from the Seraglio), Frasquita and Micaëla (Carmen), Despina (Così fan tutte), Clara and Serena (Porgy and Bess), Belinda (Dido and Aeneas), Amore (Orfeo ed Euridice), Treemonisha (Treemonisha), Madame Silberklang (Der Schauspieldirektor), and Rosabella (The Most Happy Fella).
Ms. Sulker created the role of Corina in the world-premiere of David Conte’s opera Firebird Motel. The original cast recording can be found on the Arsis label. She has also sung in the American premieres of the following operas: Adam Gorb’s Anya17 in the role of Mila, Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness in the role of River Woman, Fabrizio Carlone’s Bonjour M. Gauguin as La Voix Intérieure, and Zenobia Powell Perry’s Tawawa House as Fanny. Her film credits include a soundtrack performance for the movie Mimic and an on-camera operatic appearance in the feature film Jackson, directed by J.F. Lawton.
In concert, Ms. Sulker has performed with American Bach Soloists, Eugene Symphony, Mark Morris Dance Group, Bear Valley Music Festival, Peninsula Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Pacific Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Choral Society, Santa Clara Chorale, UC Davis Symphony Chorus & Orchestra, Masterworks Chorale, Avedis Chamber Music Series, and Redwood Symphony, to name a few.