main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

main menu


Emerging Artist Award

The Emerging Artist Awards recognize SMTD graduates from within the past 15 years who have made a significant contribution to their artistic field. Winners from each of three categories (music, theatre, and dance) are awarded annually.

2017 Emerging Artist Award Recipients

Shannon McGinnis (DMA '04, piano)

Shannon McGinnis







Pianist Shannon McGinnis has been recognized for skilled performances and solid support in partnerships with some of the brightest stars in the classical vocal music world. Recent highlights include recitals with tenor David Portillo, soprano Laquita Mitchell, tenor Nicholas Phan, and soprano Keira Duffy; multiple live broadcasts on WFMT; and an appearance with mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera for a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.

Dr. McGinnis serves as Lecturer in Vocal Coaching at the Chicago College of Performing Artsat Roosevelt University and as French vocal coach for Up North Vocal Institute.

A passionate advocate for art song, Dr. McGinnis is a founder of Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, where, as Director of Education, she oversees a series of master classes and workshops for singers and pianists, as well as the organization’s Vocal Chamber Music Fellowship. Also at home in the world of opera, she has held internships and appointments with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, DePaul University Opera Theater, DuPage Opera, Kentucky Opera, and the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.


Darren Criss (BFA '09, theatre)

Darren Criss







Actor, musician and Emmy-nominated composer, Darren Criss, stars in the upcoming Indie comedy, Smitten!, directed by Academy award winner Barry Morrow and most recently appeared on Emmy award winning FX series, American Horror Story. In 2015, he starred on Broadway in the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and in the 2014 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival and as J. Pierrepont Finch in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. He is best known for his breakout role as Blaine Anderson on Fox's Emmy and Golden Globe Award‐winning series Glee. The San Francisco-native is a co-founder of StarKid Productions, a Chicago-based theatre company whose works have spurred viral hits, multiple Billboard charting cast albums, and sold-out national tours. He is the founder of the New York City’s first showtunes music festival, Elsie Fest. Mr. Criss’ additional film, TV, and stage credits include Girl Most Likely opposite Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening, The Wind Rises, Web Therapy, ABC’s Backstage with Disney on Broadway, Michael Feinstein's New Year's Eve Special on PBS as well as hosting duties for the NewNowNext Awards and Teen Choice Awards.


Thayer Jonutz (MFA '10, dance) and Ali Woerner (MFA '08, dance)

Take Root








Take Root, co-founded and co-directed by Thayer Jonutz and Ali Woerner in 2013, has performed nationally and internationally at the New Dance for Asia International Festival in Seoul, South Korea; the Incheon Yeonsu International Dance Festival in Incheon, South Korea; the National Theater of Costa Rica; the Uferstudios in Berlin, Germany; the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Red Bull House of Art; TEDx; the Detroit Dance City Festival; RADfest; The Music Hall Center for Performing Arts; Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival; and at the Hamlin Field House Theater in Chicago. The company has presented lectures and workshops for the National Dance Education Organization, The University of Costa Rica, the American College Dance Festival, and the 21st Century Arts and Arts Education Conference. Take Root is company-in-residence at Oakland University in Rochester, MI where both Mr. Jonutz and Ms. Woerner are professors of dance.

The company’s mission is to connect through movement with as many individuals in as many diverse circles as possible. Take Root, hosts a free Dance for Parkinson’s Disease class at Oakland University.Ms. Woerner was recently awarded Oakland County Executive’s 2016 Elite 40 Under 40 top honor for her creation of the Dance for Parkinson’s Disease program at OU.

Past Recipients

Juliana Athayde
Nadine Balbeisi
Nicholas Blaemire
Julie Blume
Jesse Blumberg
Zachary Booth
Rodney A. Brown
Xan Burley
Esther Chae
Sam Davis

Matthew Ernst
Michael Fabiano
Hunter Foster
Xiang Gao
Damon Gupton
Kelly Hirina
Rachel Hoffman
Christopher Jamros
Celia Keenan-Bolger
Jeremy Kittell
Ben Klein
Rachel Laritz

Ricki Mason
Dominique Morisseau
Sean Panikkar
Michael Spencer Phillips
Matthew Rose
Daniel Bernard Roumain
Miriam Shor

Stephen Sposito
Alex Springer
Leyya Tawil
Julie Tice
James Wolk

main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower