Directors and Staff

The Heritage Youth Choirs at American Heritage School is led by a staff of highly qualified professionals who work to provide a challenging but uplifting environment where choir members can refine their musical talents and grow spiritually. All our directors hold degrees in Music Education and have additional music-related endorsements for teaching.

Rob Swenson, Youth Chorus Director/Program Director

Rob Swenson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Brigham Young University and Level III OAKE-endorsed Kodály certification. He is currently pursuing a DMA in Choral Conducting He has taught choir at American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork, Utah; at Timpanogos Academy in Lindon, Utah; and at Liahona High School in Liahona, Tonga, where he also served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2008, he joined the faculty at American Heritage School, where he currently directs the curricular high school choirs. From 2004-2007, he served as an assistant director with the Utah Valley Children’s Choir, leaving in 2007 to found the American Heritage Youth Chorus. Under his direction, this faith-centered choral program for children and youth has grown to include over 300 members who perform free, inspirational programs for audiences throughout the United States. Rob received the 2016 Indianapolis Symphonic Choir Christmas Carol Commission for his “Christmas Hosanna.” In Fall 2016, his original composition, “Go Forth From This House,” was recognized as a second-place winner and was performed at the state conference of the Utah ACDA. Rob resides in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with his wife, Kristy, and their four children.

Matt Thornton, Youth Chorus Assistant Director/Treble Choir Assistant Director

Matt Thornton graduated from Utah State University with a bachelors degree in music education. He also holds a masters degree in music education from BYU. As an undergraduate, Matt served as the Music Vice President of the Logan Latter-day Saint Institute as well as the Dance President. He was also president of the New Horizons Institute Choir. While in Cache Valley, he worked with the Cache Children’s Choir and taught in their summer music camp. He has also worked as a music and dance specialist for Opera by Children. Matt has been trained in Orff, is Kodály certified and is currently an instructor at the BYU InterMuse Academy. He is the fine arts department head at American Fork Jr. High where he has taught choir for eight years.

Deborah Otteson, Children’s Choir Director

Deborah was born in Oakridge, Tenn. She is the eldest of nine living children. She graduated from Ricks and BYU (Provo) with a degree in Secondary Music Education. After serving a mission in the Oregon Portland Mission, she started teaching music in her hometown of Shelley, Idaho and spent her summers in Hartford, Conn. earning a degree in the Kodály Method at the KMTI. During her time in Idaho, she was also involved in many musicals, operas and singing groups. She is excited to be at American Heritage School and to be teaching music to young children.

September Howard, Junior Choir Director

September was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in music education (k-12 choral emphasis). September has been working at American Heritage school since 2021 as the middle school choir director; she also serves as the fine arts department chair. September is the mom to two children, Grayson, and Dawson. Going on walks, spending time with her family, watching movies, and being at the beach are all things she enjoys doing.

Jessica Lee Gilbert, Treble Choir Director

Jessica graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance and a Masters degree in Choral Conducting. She has directed many choirs including the women’s choir and chamber choir at Snow College; the vocal ensemble at the Salt Lake School for Performing Arts; and the Westminster Institute Choir. She created two community children’s choirs: the Young Choral Artists (Salt Lake) and Glee Girls (Salt Lake/Davis County). Jessica loves to accompany and has played for countless choirs and soloists, and accompanied Jenny Oaks Baker for 4 years on Time Out for Women programs across the country. Jessica loves musical theatre and has enjoyed performing in theatre productions throughout the valley (Ado Annie in Oklahoma was one of her favorite roles) as well as music directing for summer shows at a private school in Maryland. She was a member of the Tabernacle Choir for two years and conducted a choir for General Conference in April 2017. Jessica and her husband moved to Pleasant Grove in July 2023 to bring their three boys to American Heritage and they are so excited to join the AHS family!

Neil Harmon, Accompanist

Dr. Neil Harmon lives in Provo, Utah, where he enjoys a career as a teacher, performer, composer, consultant, and accompanist. He teaches organ performance and organ-related classes at Brigham Young University, Utah State University, and Utah Valley University. Dr. Harmon is the accompanist for the Heritage Youth Chorus. He performs regularly on Temple Square in Salt Lake City as Guest Organist, a service he has rendered since 1991.

Dr. Harmon completed a Bachelor of Music degree at BYU, and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Eastman School of Music.

He served a two-year volunteer mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in São Paulo, Brazil.  He and his wife, Anese, are the parents of five children.

LauraLyn Eberting, Treble Choir Accompanist

LauraLyn Eberting loves music and is delighted to be a part of American Heritage School’s Children’s Choir. She grew up singing and making music with her family and then went to law school and became an attorney. While in college she taught piano lessons, played the violin with a BYU orchestra, sang with the Mormon Youth Chorus, and performed as an entertainer in Lagoon’s Music USA.

Emily Halverson, Children’s Choir Accompanist

Emily Halverson is so excited to be at American Heritage! She has spent the last sixteen years as a music curriculum specialist where she also taught music and choir at another private school. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music from BYU and is Kodaly Level III certified. In 2003, she auditioned for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square where she served for five years. She is the youngest of six very musical siblings and enjoys singing with them. She also enjoys singing duets with her husband with whom she has a combined family of eight awesome children. She absolutely loves teaching music to children and accompanying choirs, and is definitely looking forward to an incredible future at American Heritage!

Laurie Patterson, Choir Apparel Coordinator

Laurie has taught in many different capacities for over 30 years, including owning a preschool, working for Alpine school district, and substitute teacher for AHS. She is now teaching students around the globe with “Outschool”, emotional health classes, young reading classes, and cooking classes (her favorite). She has been a singer since she was little and has dabbled in theatre directing.  Her and her husband Jaye are originally from Seattle, Washington.  They have 5 married children and 13 grandchildren all in Utah!  Laurie has been with AHS youth chorus since the beginning.  She just can’t seem to retire!

Becca Thornton, Treble Choir Secretary

Becca Thornton was born in London England and grew up in Cache Valley, Utah. She graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, specializing in music and history. She has worked for Utah Festival Opera’s acclaimed “Opera by Children” program, assists in running an annual children’s art competition, and published a book in 2020 highlighting the lives of the fathers of the latter-day prophets. She and her husband, Matt, have 5 children and enjoy working as a family with the Heritage Youth Choirs.