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SMTD alumnus Damon Gupton to deliver School’s 2015 commencement address


Damon Gupton, an orchestral conductor who is also an acclaimed theatre, film, and television actor, will be the guest speaker at the commencement ceremony for the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance on Friday, May 1 at 2 p.m. The event takes place at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.

Gupton, a Detroit native, graduated from SMTD in 1994 with a BA in trombone and music education. He went on to forge a unique dual career as both an actor and a conductor, with roles in many high profile television shows and films, and appearances with orchestras throughout the United States and around the world. 

Gupton held the post of assistant conductor of the Kansas City Symphony from 2006-2008. He studied conducting with David Zinman and Murry Sidlin at the Aspen Music Festival and with Leonard Slatkin at the National Conducting Institute in Washington, D.C. He served as American Conducting Fellow of the Houston Symphony for the 2004-2005 season, and has made conducting appearances with the Cleveland Orchestra (as part of a Blossom program with David Zinman), the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Princeton Symphony, the Toledo Symphony, the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, the NHK Orchestra of Tokyo, the Florida Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony, and the Brass Band of Battle Creek among others. He also enjoyed a close relationship with the Sphinx Organization, founded by SMTD dean-designate Aaron Dworkin, conducting the Sphinx Symphony as part of the 12th Annual Sphinx Competition and leading the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra on a national tour, culminating in performances at Carnegie Hall and a well-reviewed recording.

A graduate of the Drama Division of the Juilliard School, Gupton made his Broadway debut in Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park, winner of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He appeared in the 2015 Academy Award-winner Whiplash and had roles in such films as Unfaithful, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and This is Forty. His many TV credits include the new top-rated hit Empire as well as Suits, Newsroom, Law & Order, and Prime Suspect, and in 2014 he played the lead in The Divide, the first drama produced by the WEtv network. He is currently filming a pilot for NBC with Wesley Snipes titled House of Crime.

The Fall 2014 Michigan Muse includes an article exploring Damon Gupton’s career.

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower