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SAVANNAH, GA – January 6, 2022 The Milnes VOICE Programs incorporating the Savannah VOICE Festival (SVF) and VOICExperience Foundation (VE) has announced an expansion of leadership within the organization: Sherrill Milnes, Co-Founder and Artistic Director and Maria Zouves, Co-Founder and Executive Director, will now become Presidents and Co-Founders as they turn over their current roles to new leadership.  Executive responsibilities will be handed over to former Education and Outreach Coordinator Chad Sonka, who has also sung and directed in the program for many years, and conductor and board member, Jorge Parodi, will carry the baton as Artistic Director. Additionally, Lani Winskye remains Managing Director for a short tenure before she takes the new position of Director of Education. Both Milnes and Zouves will remain significantly involved in the work of the non-profit organizations, guiding, and supporting the vision and initiatives of new leadership.

This change in leadership coincides with SVF’s 10th anniversary year, which will be held in August. Maria Zouves, who co-founded the festival with her husband, world-renowned operatic baritone Sherrill Milnes, is looking forward to her new role and the evolution of the Milnes VOICE programs under Sonka and Parodi. 

“Creating and fostering VOICExperience and the Savannah VOICE Festival has been such a joy and honor, and I thank everyone who has supported us throughout the years. Sherrill and I will always remain at the heart of the organization and couldn’t be happier about the appointments of the very talented Jorge Parodi and Chad Sonka, as well as our invaluable Lani Winskye’s new role in education.” Zouves said. “This team is known and respected by artists and supporters, and I know that our community partners and patrons will once again be swept off their feet in SVF’s 10th anniversary year.” 

Internationally acclaimed conductor and now SVF Artistic Director, Jorge Parodi, has worked extensively in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia with varying, highly acclaimed opera companies and orchestras. Maestro Parodi is the General and Artistic Director of Opera Hispánica, and the Music Director of Opera in Williamsburg (Virginia) and of the Senior Opera Theatre at the Manhattan School of Music, where he has led its productions to critical acclaim. Mr. Parodi has been a faculty member at The Juilliard School for over a decade. He has been recently appointed Music Director of the International Summer Opera Festival of Morelia (Mexico), and he is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Tokyo International Vocal Arts Academy Summer Workshop. He has worked regularly as a conductor and coach at VOICExperience and the Savannah VOICE Festival over the years.

Mr. Parodi expresses his enthusiasm for his new role, “I would like to thank the board of the Sherrill Milnes VOICE programs for trusting me to fill the biggest shoes ever and continuing the legacy of the great Sherrill Milnes as Artistic Director of VOICExperience and the Savannah VOICE Festival. It is with humble excitement that I accept this position, and I thank you for the opportunity to share this new chapter with the support of Sherrill and Maria, alongside my dear friend and new Executive Director, Chad Sonka.”

Chad Sonka is establishing himself as a versatile American baritone, teacher, and director. Most recently, he directed and sang the role of Alidoro at the world premiere of A Royal Feast by Michael Ching, a sequel to Rossini’s La Cenerentola, with the Savannah VOICE Festival. He has performed as the baritone soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem at Carnegie Hall with Iowa State University and Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with Oneota Valley Community Orchestra. He was the first-place winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions – Iowa District in 2017. Chad is an active voice teacher and director and currently serves on the voice faculty at Iowa State University. Directing credits include multiple scenes programs, Cendrillon (Viardot), Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck), and The Little Prince (Portman). He previously served as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs.

Sonka is eager to take on his new role and is honored to have been appointed, “I have worked beside Maria and Sherrill for the past few years, and it has been one of the great privileges of my career. I couldn’t be more excited to take on this significant role and carry on their legacies during this very special 10th anniversary season. I’m looking forward to a season of community, talent, cultivation, and fun.”

For more information about the Milnes VOICE Programs, please visit  and  

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For media inquiries, please contact Kristyn Fielding at 229-393-6457 or, Allie Robinson at 912-547-3100 or, or Lesley Francis at 912-429-3950 or

Savannah VOICE Festival is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt nonprofit arts organization in the state of Georgia. The Festival brings classical vocal excellence to the Savannah area through a two-week celebration of concerts, events, and educational presentations during the month of August and throughout the year. Focusing on arts awareness and audience development in the performing arts, it offers music from opera, musical theatre, and popular song. The Savannah VOICE Festival is supported in part by the Georgia Council for the Arts through the appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly. GCA is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Donations are tax-deductible.

The VOICExperience Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to pass on the traditions of great singing and develop new audiences for opera. Under the umbrella of The Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs, VOICExperience continues its dedication to the quality, integrity and perpetuation of the vocal arts through life-changing intensives, performances, and community-enriching outreach events in New York, Georgia (with its sister organization, the Savannah VOICE Festival), Florida and Illinois.