Student News

Eva CaoPatricia CornettTyler DeanPatrick HarlinGlen Thomas RideoutGreg SimonKate RosenBriana Stuart


From top: Eva Cao, Patricia Cornett, Tyler Dean, Patrick Harlin, Glen Thomas Rideout, Greg Simon, Kate Rosen, Briana Stuart


Ann Arbor’s Fool Moon parade, the Friday night launch of the annual Festifools celebration on the first weekend of April, is all about luminary sculptures—the magical handmade lanterns that attendees are encouraged to bring, setting the early spring night aglow. In a town like Ann Arbor, which thrives on creative energy, it’s no wonder that an interdisciplinary group of artists and engineers took the luminary concept and ran with it.


Led by first year performing arts technology grad student Conor Barry, the group, which calls itself Electronic Lunch, developed a large-scale public art project for the Fool Moon event. Electronic Lunch, which meets weekly on North Campus, created 100 LED lanterns that communicated with each other via color, light patterns, and brightness. The idea began with the vague premise of trying to improve the simple on/off lanterns that are a hallmark of the parade. Hundreds of concepts were considered before coalescing into “intelligent luminaries,” which have the ability to communicate with each other using wireless technology. The result was “a magical yet tangible light show.”


The Electronic “Luncheonauts,” as Barry calls them, are an interdisciplinary lunch/think-tank comprising students with an interest in the intersection of art, fun, and electronics. “One of the wonderful things about Electronic Lunch is that, given the wide variety of expertise and fields, everyone can contribute to projects in their own way,” said Barry. “It is the perfect environment for someone like me, where my pipe dreams of new interactive installations or instruments can actually become reality.” 




Glen Thomas Rideout, a second-year DMA student in choral conducting, took first place at the National Student Conducting Awards Competition held in March at the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) in Dallas. This is the second year that SMTD won first place; Ken Sieloff took home that honor in 2011. It was an impressive year overall for SMTD students in the ACDA competition, as three made it into the semifinals from a pool of 180 applicants: Brandon Pemberton, currently student teaching and completing his senior year, was among the eight semifinalists in the Undergraduate Division, and George Case, also a second year doctoral student, was among the eight Graduate Division semifinalists.




The Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop (MPOW) held its fourth event in two years this March. The organization brings students from Detroit Public Schools to campus, where they explore music, theatre, and dance through workshops run by U-M students. The goal is to use the performing arts to empower and inspire students from schools whose arts budgets have been eliminated. The event was bittersweet for MPOW co-founder and graduating musical theatre senior Ashley Park, a winner of SMTD’s 2013 Willis Patterson Diversity Award, who celebrated by relinquishing her role as supervisor of the event and participating as a dancer, puppeteer, and workshop leader. Theatre arts junior and MPOW vice president Mary Naoum says that while it’s intimidating to think about leading the organization next year without Park, MPOW events “have become a staple of the SMTD experience for many students” and it’s a responsibility she and other students are “more than willing to take on because we’re so passionate about it.” Naom adds that she is hopeful student involvement in MPOW may become part of the SMTD curriculum in future years, an option currently being explored with faculty. MPOW will continue in 2013–14 under the leadership of Naom and musical theatre junior Erika Henningsen




Two SMTD music students have created a mentoring program for the Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra that is proving to be a win-win for both mentors and mentees. Christina Rowan, a junior violin and organizational studies major with a minor in performing arts management, and Annick Odom, a triple major in clarinet, bass, and psychology, were inspired to create the program after writing honors papers in freshman year: Odom’s on El Sistema, Venzuela’s groundbreaking youth orchestra program, and Rowan’s on the interaction of orchestras in Ann Arbor. Their goals are to increase the number of students involved in the youth orchestra program, and to enhance the quality of the young artists’ experience. They hope to instill a lifelong love for music in each participant in addition to valuable life skills, such as confidence and persistence. In addition, they strive to provide a valuable opportunity for U-M music students to gain teaching experience. “We seek to develop the mentorsʼ teaching skills as well as their leadership abilities, while promoting involvement and engagement with the surrounding community,” said Rowan.




Under the musical direction of conducting professor Eugene Rogers, the U-M Men’s Glee Club (UMMGC) will embark on a six-city East Coast tour this spring, which will feature a unique collaboration of students, faculty, and alumni. The oldest student organization at U-M, as well as the oldest continuously run glee club in the nation, UMMGC will perform works by American composers including SMTD professor Kristin Kuster. Concert venues will include Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center where the premiere of Kuster’s newest work will feature tenor and SMTD professor emeritus George Shirley. In addition, alumnus Bryan Zaros, now director of choral activities at the Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut, will bring his men's group The Riddlers to perform with the UMMCG at Lincoln Center. The tour will conclude with a joint concert at Harvard University featuring the Harvard and Yale glee clubs, the latter reuniting alumnus Jeffrey Douma with UMMGC.




Following two days of intense competition at Hill Auditorium in January, four musicians were named victors of SMTD’s annual Concerto Competition, winning the opportunity to perform their competition piece as a featured soloist in a SMTD concert at Hill with one of the School’s orchestras. The winners of the graduate division were Zachary Stern, saxophone (Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra by Paul Creston), and Katherine Calcamuggio, mezzo-soprano (Mr. Tambourine Man by John Corigliano). The undergrad winners were Yihua Eva Cao, piano (Piano Concerto no. 2 in G Minor, op. 22 by Camille Saint-Saëns) and Nathaniel Pierce, cello (Cello Concerto in A Minor, op. 129 by Robert Schumann).




Seniors Aimee Garcia (theatre & drama) and Ashley Park (musical theatre) have been clowning around—in the best possible way. Utilizing the skills they learned in their physical theatre/ clowning class, they launched a new independent study project in which they visit Mott Children’s Hospital to entertain and help make the hospital experience less scary for young patients and their families. Among the sketches they’ve created is one that aims to alleviate anxiety over the uncomfortable experience of being poked with needles. The skit was later recorded at the Duderstadt Center, with the Mott Family and Child Center staff, and posted on the hospital’s "Get Well Network" website, making it available to patients unable to leave their rooms. The two women have been clowning at the hospital once or twice a week—as often as their schedules allow. For Park, the project is especially meaningful; she was a patient at Mott for eight months in high school. “It's almost like I'm an alum returning back, in a weird way,” she said. “It was a little overwhelming for me at first, but this is personally a very rewarding, challenging, and awesome outreach project.”



Soprano Olivia Betzen (specialists' 2013) won third place in the Junior Division (age limit 25) of the International Dvořák Voice Competition in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic in November. Judges included internationally acclaimed conductor Libor Pešek and opera stars Gabriela Beňačková and Peter Dvorský. For the final round, Betzen sang Mařenka's second aria from The Bartered Bride in Czech, with orchestra under the direction of Pešek.


David Biedenbender, DMA ’13, recently collaborated with the U.S. Navy Band and soloist Jonathan Yanik (MM ’09), on the premiere of his alto saxophone concerto, Dusk. The piece was commissioned by a consortium of saxophonists and premiered at the Band’s International Saxophone Symposium. He was also commissioned by Randy Hawes, Detroit Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist, and SMTD piano professor Kathryn Goodson, to write Liquid Architecture, which they have since performed at various venues, including Northwestern University, Oberlin College, and U-M. In addition, he was commissioned by the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble to arrange a song from the new Beck Hansen Song Reader album for their Project Beck concert and recording. Biedenbender also won SMTD’s Earl V. Moore Award for outstanding achievement in music.


Carisa Bledsoe, a junior interarts major, has won a Shirley Verrett Undergraduate Award, named for the late Shirley Verrett, SMTD voice professor and acclaimed opera star, who established an award to celebrate leadership in the arts by women of color in the faculty and student body.


Voice major Antonina Chekhovskaya won the Friends of Opera Competition, held in Britton Recital Hall in February.  She was awarded the first place prize of $4,500 and will present a recital in Kerrytown Concert House later this year.


John Churchville, a second-year masters student in music education, just released his second album entitled Chalo, with Indian music group Sumkali. Churchville engineered and produced the album, which features alumni from U-M, Michigan State, Wayne State, and the New England Conservatory of Music, including current DMA percussion major Dan Piccolo. Sumkali’s music will be featured in an upcoming documentary about women's land rights in Afghanistan produced by the U.S. Agency for International Development, (USAID). Churchville also presented a research poster titled "Multiculturalism in Music Education" at the 2013 Michigan Music Conference Research Symposium.


Trish Cornett, a graduating doctoral student in wind conducting, presented a session at the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) biennial national conference in Greensboro, North Carolina in March. Her topic was 18th-century composer Vincente Martín y Soler and the wind music from the opera Una Cosa Rara. She was also recently invited to participate in the 2013 Frederick Fennell Memorial Conducting Masterclass held at the Eastman School of Music in February.


Kipp Cortez (MM ’12, organ and sacred music), a first-year DMA student, has been appointed director of the Pipe Organ Encounter-Advanced, a weeklong workshop for young organists to be hosted by the Ann Arbor Chapter of the American Guild of Organists in the summer of 2014. He studies organ with Marilyn Mason, harpsichord with Edward Parmentier, and carillon with Steven Ball. As a carilloneur, he has performed weekly recitals on both U-M carillons. As a conductor, he prepared and led the adult choir of Holy Trinity Anglican Parish in Hillsdale, MI in their first-ever Choral Evensong service in February. And, as an organist, he performed in three organ recital series in Ann Arbor in March. 


Tyler Dean, a theatre & drama junior performance major, is the recipient of the inaugural National Undergraduate Playwriting Award, from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), for his play From Such Great Heights. The award comes with a cash prize, and an expense-paid two-week fellowship at the KCACTF in Washington DC in July where he will write, participate in master classes, observe plays by noted playwrights in development, and have professional development seminars with Conference artistic staff. He will also be in residence at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT, as official observer, and will become a member of the Dramatists’ Guild.


Lena Drake, a sophomore acting major, starred in an independent film titled Shady Grove directed by U-M screen arts major Kastor Podgorski. She appeared in an independent horror film titled Within The Walls, also created by U-M screen arts majors, and had a supporting role in the film Needlestick. In January she danced for Kia's grand opening at the Detroit International Auto Show. Last year, she worked as body double, hand double, and stand-in for Rachel Weisz in the recently released Walt Disney Pictures’ Oz: The Great and Powerful, and starred in The Frayed Ends, a short indie film written and directed by U-M alumna Sara Liza Baumann.


Andrew Earhart, a sophomore organ major, will travel to the Czech Republic in May as the only American accepted to compete in the International Organ Competition of the Prague Spring Festival. The trip was made possible thanks to the Organ Competition Support Fund, conceived by Dr. Edward Maki-Schramm (DMA, ’99) and created by a group of organ department alumni. The fund assists organ students with expenses relating to participation in major national and international competitions. Other organ students participating in national competitions this term include undergraduates Paul Giessner, Colin Knapp, and Mary Zelinski, and graduate students Pablo Gorin and Jenna Moon.


Danni Feng, a sophomore piano performance major, recently won second place in the Crescendo International Piano Competition, which brought an invitation to perform in Carnegie Hall in January. “While I was anxiously applying to the University of Michigan during my senior year of high school, I never would have imagined that I would be able to fulfill my childhood dream of performing in Carnegie Hall,” said Feng. He credits his scholarship, which made it possible for him to attend SMTD, with making his dream come true.


Tehillah Frederick, a graduating dance major, was the winner of the Albert A. Stanley Medal, the highest honor awarded by SMTD. It commemorates the distinguished service of Albert A. Stanley, director of the School of Music from 1888 to 1921. The award is presented annually to the graduating senior who, during the last two years, has been most outstanding in his or her curriculum, with special consideration given to scholarship and public performance.


The St. Louis Symphony has announced their 2013–14 concert series, programming Rapture for orchestra by SMTD doctoral student Patrick Harlin. Harlin was also named a 2013 Academy of Arts and Letters Charles Ives Scholarship recipient and will spend the summer at the Aspen Summer Music Festival. In 2012, La Orchestra Metropolitana de Cordoba, Argentina commissioned a string orchestra work that premiered in August; Harlin was able to attend the premiere, also giving master classes at the local universities. He was a resident composer at the 2012 Mizzou International Composers Festival, where Alarm Will Sound premiered his work Shadow Dancer. The U-M Symphony Orchestra premiered the full orchestral version under the baton of graduate student conductor Elim Chan in February. 


Andrew Mitchell, a first-year doctoral student in trombone, recently won the principal trombone position with the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra.


Last fall, C. Michael Palmer, PhD candidate in music education, accepted a teaching position in instrumental music at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI. In October, his article “Intellectual Development of Preservice and Novice Music Educators: A Review of Two Models and Their Use in the Literature” was published by the Journal of Music Teacher Education. He also presented a workshop on “Group Improvisation for Large Ensembles” at the 2013 Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids.


In the last year, Juan Hector Pereira, (MM ’09, voice), who just completed his DMA, covered the role of Papageno with Opera Theatre Pittsburgh; performed the title role in the world premiere of Daren Hagen's The George Washington Suite, an operatic skit; and successfully performed the title role in SMTD’s main-stage opera production of Don Giovanni.  In February, Pereira performed selected scenes from Don Giovanni at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC as part of their Conservatory Project. He currently holds a faculty position at Adrian College.


Amy Pikler, a sophomore viola performance major, was awarded a summer

2013 fellowship to the Aspen Music Festival. In November 2013, she

will appear as soloist with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony in a

performance of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante with her father, Charles

Pikler, principal violist of the Chicago Symphony.


Voice major Kate Rosen, a graduate student, was the first-place winner of the Ann Arbor Society for Musical Arts (SMA) Collegiate Young Artist Competition in February. She will be featured on the SMA Concert Series (Wednesday mornings at the Ann Arbor City Club) next fall. Rosen sang works by Mozart, Smetana, and Heggie, accompanied by Michael Sherman. The second- and third-place winners were Olivia Betzen and Francesca Chiejina. The annual competition, sponsored by the alumni of Mu Phi Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Iota, alternates between four categories: piano, strings, winds and brass, and voice. Next year the competition will feature pianists.


Gregory Simon, a DMA  student in composition, is the winner of SMTD’s 2013 Brehm Prize in Choral Composition. The award, now in its third year, is open to SMTD students only and comes with a cash prize. It is for a work composed for a 40-voice choir and was established by William (BS ’50, MS ’52) and Dolores Brehm to encourage the composition of choral works. According to Jerry Blackstone, director of choral activities and professor and chair of the conducting department, Simon’s winning work, "Two Lorca Songs," is “colorful, inventive, energetic, and exciting.” It will be premiered by the U-M Chamber Choir during the 2013–14 season.


Over winter break, dance major Briana Stuart attended the American Dance Festival Winter Intensive in New York City where she took classes at the Alvin Ailey Studios, watched performances, and engaged in student and faculty panels. She met dancers and dance teachers from across the U.S. and professionals from the New York cultural community. “The intensive offered me a better understanding of my future in performing and transitioning into the arts world after I graduate in May,” said Stuart.