Karen Ziemba

Whether conducting children's choirs or inspiring children in the classroom to give praise and thanksgiving to the Trinity through music, Karen Ziemba, Youth Choirs Director at St. Cletus Parish, has been actively involved in music ministry for almost 40 years.   While still in 8th grade it was noted that she already knew she wanted to become a "music supervisor" which to her meant working with children and encouraging them to simply enjoy singing while always telling a story!  Throughout her musical career, Karen has served in numerous musical capacities at no less than nine churches--most recently St. John of the Cross (Western Springs) and Notre Dame (Clarendon Hills).  She readily acknowledges and gives thanks to the Holy Spirit for giving her the energy and creativity needed when working with children and for placing her in positions that have utilized her talents and love of liturgical music.

Laura Langseth Brasky 

Laura Langseth Brasky, Soprano, holds a Bachelor of Music from DePaul University and a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, both in Vocal Performance. She has performed roles with several regional opera companies including Chamber Opera Chicago, Elgin Opera, Milwaukee Opera Theater and Opera Quad Cities. Recently, Laura appeared as the soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the Niles Metropolitan Chorus. She has also sung with several choral ensembles in the Chicago area including The Lira Ensemble, Music of the Baroque, and The William Ferris Chorale. Laura currently is a member of the Lakeside Singers and looks forward to their upcoming spring concert series in April.

Cheryl Szucsits

After several years of fulltime regional musical theatre playing a wide variety of roles from “Glinda the Good Witch” to “Mayzie LaBird” to “Mazeppa the Stripper” and everything in between, Cheryl settled in Chicago and right into a three year stint with Tony and Tina’s Wedding at Piper’s Alley. During her time with the show she played four rotating roles and sang back-up for Frankie Avalon.  She has also done Tony and Tina’s with the New York touring cast, giving her the opportunity to work with the original creators/writers of the show.  Since leaving Tony and Tina’s, Cheryl has been performing primarily as a cabaret artist and serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors of Chicago Cabaret Professionals.  In addition to performing at the annual CCP Galas at the Park West, she has directed and/or appeared in numerous CCP March Series and Holiday cabarets and has also appeared at venues such as Drury Lane Water Tower, Davenports Piano Bar & Cabaret, Skokie Theatre and The Cab Room at Stage 773 on Belmont.  Always happy to be able to combine her love of cabaret/musical theater with her love of comedy/improv, Cheryl also appeared in the cabaret murder mystery, “Murder at the Mette” at the Wilmette Theatre and the original sketch musical “The Mighty Ted” at Donny’s Skybox at Chicago’s Second City.  She has done three original solo shows in Chicago, “Borrowed Time:  The Music of Nancy LaMott”, “All About Eydie” tribute to Eydie Gorme and “As Long As I Can Sing”.  Cheryl has also previously had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Laura Freeman and Beckie Menzie at The Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan  in “It’s My Party - Girl Groups of the 60’s” and “American Bandstand:  The Music of Our Lives”.   In addition to singing, she performs with Jest Murder Mystery Company out of St. Louis.

John Payonk

Critically acclaimed baritone and actor John Payonk has appeared in over 100 roles in opera, operetta and musical theater and theater throughout the U.S & abroad during his nearly three decades on the stage.. John has sung such varied roles as Germont in La Traviata, Scarpia in Tosca, Tonio & Canio in I Pagliacci, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, Frank in Die Fledermaus, Tony in The Most Happy Fella, Old Deuteronomy in Cats, Captain E.J. Smith in Titanic, Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde The Musical, Kris Kringle in Miracle On 34th Street and the title roles in Rigoletto, Don Pasquale, Gianni Schicci and Falstaff. John’s performances have been enjoyed from the stages of The Goodspeed Opera House, The Hall of Composers in St. Petersburg, Russia with the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Light Opera Works, Chicago Opera Theater, Pamiro Opera, Fargo-Morehead Civic Opera, L’Opera Piccola, Chamber Opera Chicago, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Great Lakes Theater Festival, Virginia Musical Theater, Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park, Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Theater at The Center, Derby Dinner Playhouse, Carousel Dinner Theater and many others. His performance of Tevye in Light Opera Works’ production of Fiddler on the Roof earned John the prestigious After Dark Award for outstanding performance in a lead role. Of his performance, Chris Jones of The Chicago Tribune remarked “Payonk’s Tevye is superbly sung, richly textured and highly satisfying”.

Beckie Menzie

Beckie Menzie is an award winning concert artist and has appeared at some of the nation’s top venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Birdland in NYC; and Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre and Park West.  Hailed as “indispensable to Chicago Cabaret” (Chicago Tribune), Beckie’s Carnegie Hall debut was featured in Michael Feinstein’s Now & Then Series. With performing partner Tom Michael, she received After Dark’s Outstanding Cabaret Artist Award. Their award-winning CD Better Two-gether showcases what has made them “one of the most compelling duos in cabaret." (Chicago Tribune) A noted coach for musical performers, Beckie has taught at Northwestern, Columbia, Porchlight Music Theatre, and Rhode Island College. Beckie is also an award winning songwriter. Beckiemenzie.com.

Laura Freeman

Laura Freeman is thrilled to be singing at this event for Ken! A regular performer at such sights as The Metropolis, the Park West, Freedom Hall, Davenports Piano Bar and the Chicago Cultural Center, Miss Freeman…”becomes the character reflected in the song. It shines in her face, in her voice, and above all, in her heart.” (Carla Gordon, Cabaret Scenes)   Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Laura began her career as a musical theatre performer. She toured the United States, Canada and Europe in such productions as Joseph, Hair, Christmas Carol and Into the Woods. Recently she has performed on the stages of Ravinia, Chicago Dramatists and Theatre at the Center. Laura will be releasing her first CD, Something Cool in the fall of 2014. For more information, go to www.laurafreemansings.com.

An Afternoon with Ken Baker & Friends

Guest Performers

Musical Theatre* Cabaret

* Singer* Actor* Director

Ken Baker