As a graduate student in Illinois, Thomas Machen cast an inexperienced soprano sophomore in an operatic lead rather than the chorus role she hoped to get, and cast the direction of their future. The soprano was Kallen Esperian. They were married soon after Machen accepted a position to direct opera at the University of Memphis. Machen did not start out in choral music, either as a singer or director. His first musical instrument was trombone. Early credits include the Phoenix Youth Symphony (in his hometown), Arizona All-State Orchestra, and World Youth Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen National Music Camp, where he was encouraged to study singing. He earned degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Illinois, then attended the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, as a Rotary International Graduate Fellow. A member of the original Metropolitan Opera Studio, his professional performance credits include Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, National Public Radio, and a number of world premieres. Thomas Machen is the founder of the Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble. In addition to his conducting, Machen also is also active as a voice teacher. His students have performed with regional and national opera companies, and several of his students have been district winners in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. In addition to serving as musical director for this recording, he provided the orchestrations for two of the selections. In mid-summer of 1991, some of the best singers in Memphis, Tennessee realized their dream for a performance organization for the purpose of promoting the development of the highest artistic quality in vocal music. The Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble, under the direction of Thomas Machen provides a performing forum for soloists and for both small and large chamber ensembles. The ensemble sings treasured vocal masterpieces and challenging but neglected literature, spanning the Middle Ages to the contemporary. The ensemble includes several former Metropolitan Opera Auditions winners, outstanding voice teachers, choral directors, instrumentalists and vocalists.