SMTD Welcomes New Faculty for the 2016-17 Academic Year

The 2016-17 academic year brings a celebrated group of artists and pedagogues to the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance as the School’s newest faculty members. SMTD is delighted to welcome Matthew Albert (chamber music), Matthew Bengston (piano literature, fortepiano), Vincent Cardinal (musical theatre), José Casas (playwriting), Caroline Coade (viola), Charles Garrett (musicology), Tzveta Kassabova (theatre & drama), Christianne Myers (costume design), Matthew Thompson (voice), Adam Unsworth (horn), and Aleksandra Vojcic (music theory). Short biographies and links to their SMTD web pages are below. We wish them all great success in their U-M careers!

Matthew Albert , described as “preposterously talented” by Time Out Chicago, is the first chair of the new Department of Chamber Music and assistant professor of music. Formerly artist-in-residence and director of chamber music and of SYZYGY at Meadows School of the Arts, Albert was a founding member of the groundbreaking chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird, with whom he received numerous awards, including first prizes at the Naumburg, Concert Artists Guild, Coleman, and Fischoff competitions, as well as three GRAMMY awards for recordings on Cedille Records. During the summer, Albert serves as the artistic director of the Music in the Mountains Conservatory in Durango, Colorado. He has collaborated with artists as diverse as Meredith Monk, Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues, and Wilco, and his orchestral playing has included work with the Shreveport Symphony (as concertmaster), the Baltimore Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, the Firebird Chamber Orchestra, and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. His principal teachers include Kenneth Sarch, Gregory Fulkerson, Kurt Sassmannshaus, and Almita Vamos. Albert holds degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Northwestern University School of Music.

Matthew Bengtson joins the Department of Piano as an assistant professor. Bengtson has been presented in concerts as a La Gesse Fellow in France, Germany, Italy, and Hungary; in Washington, DC; at Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello; and in solo recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. He has also performed with numerous orchestras in the American Northeast, and with violinist Joshua Bell on NPR’s Performance Today and XM Satellite Radio’s Classical Confidential. His recordings can be heard on the Roméo, Arabesque, Griffin Renaissance, Albany, and Navona labels. Bengtson is among the leading interpreters of the music of Alexander Scriabin. His principal teachers include Patricia Zander and Ann Schein, and he has also worked significantly with Stephen Drury (contemporary music), Robert Levin (chamber music and performance practice), Claude Helffer (contemporary and French music), Webb Wiggins (harpsichord), and Malcolm Bilson (fortepiano and performance practice). He studied at the Internationale Sommerakademie “Mozarteum” in Salzburg, the Centre Acanthes in Avignon, and the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. He has served as a staff pianist at the Curtis Institute of Music, and taught at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music, Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges, and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Vincent Cardinal joins SMTD as the Arthur and Martha Hearron Endowed Professor of Musical Theatre, chair of the Department of Musical Theatre, and professor of music. He comes to Michigan from the University of Connecticut where he served as chair the Department of Dramatic Arts and was artistic director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre. Previous positions include chair of theatre at the University of Miami; associate dean of performing arts at Adelphi University; artistic director of the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, where his musical theatre productions garnered international attention; and director of the School of Theater and head of the MFA Playwriting Program at Ohio University. Cardinal was also an associate artist with the Circle Repertory Company off-Broadway and director of its School of Theatre. He graduated in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama where he was honored with the ASCAP-Cole Porter Award for Best-Collected Work. He has directed 80 productions from coast-to-coast, including,  most recently, the musicals Xanadu, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and the plays Peter and the Star Catcher and The Laramie Project. He is currently developing The Curious Case of Phineas Cage with the Split Knuckle Theatre Company for an international tour.

José Casas joins the Department of Theatre & Drama as an assistant professor of playwriting. A playwright and spoken word poet, Casas also sometimes acts and directs. He earned a BA from the University of California (Santa Barbara) in dramatic arts, a MA in theatre arts from California State University (Los Angeles), and a MFA in playwriting from Arizona State University. He has taught at California State University (Los Angeles), the University of Redlands, and the College of Charleston. Casas is the former literary manager of CASA0101 and is currently a board member and multicultural and diversity director for the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE). He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and Playwright-in-Residence at Rising Youth Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. His plays have been produced across the country and include la ofrenda and somebody’s children, which have been awarded the Bonderman National Playwriting for Youth Award and AATE Distinguished Play Award. His play, jj’s arcade, was selected for the Kennedy Center’s 2016 New Visions New Voices Festival. He is editor of the upcoming anthology, Palabras del Cielo: An Exploration of Latina/o Theatre for Youth (Dramatic Publishing).

Previously serving as a lecturer of music, Caroline Coade is now a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Strings. Coade joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in September 1996, and has been serving as the acting assistant principal violist since 2013. She has also performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. She has held positions with Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra (Philadelphia) and the opera companies of Philadelphia and Santa Fe. In great demand as an educator, Coade has given master classes at Oberlin Conservatory, Boston University, Longy School of Music, Baylor University, and Colburn Conservatory, and her students have won coveted spots in the country’s top music programs. Coade has performed at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Laurel Festival of the Arts, and the Marlboro Music Festival, and, with the Woodland Trio, throughout the U.S., Canada, and at the Printemps Musicale des Alizes of Morocco. She graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy and received her BM from Oberlin, an artist diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, and a MM from The Juilliard School. Her principal teachers include Karen Tuttle, Joyce Robbins, Jeffrey Irvine, David Takeno, David Holland, and Eugene Becker.

Charles Garrett, previously associate professor in the Department of Musicology, is now a full  professor. He joined the U-M faculty after obtaining his PhD from UCLA. His graduate work was supported by an AMS Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship as well as an AMS-50 Fellowship, and his dissertation received the Wiley Housewright Award from the Society for American Music (SAM). His book Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century, published by University of California Press in 2008, was awarded the Irving Lowens Memorial Book Award by SAM and Honorable Mention for the Woody Guthrie Award by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (U.S. Branch). He coedited the collection Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries (2012) with David Ake and Daniel Goldmark. He served as editor-in-chief for The Grove Dictionary of American Music, second edition (2013), which won the Prose Award for “Best Multivolume Reference Work” in Humanities and Social Sciences. He currently serves as president of SAM. Garrett’s research and teaching interests focus primarily on 20th-century music, American music, jazz, popular music, music, and racial/ethnic representation, and cultural theory. His articles and reviews have appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Echo, Notes, and American Music. He serves as one of the departmental advisors for the LSA Music major/minor and as co-director of the American Music Institute.

Tzveta Kassabova is a Bulgarian-born choreographer, costume designer, and installation artist, named one of the “25 to watch” in 2012 by Dance Magazine. At different times she has been a gymnast, physicist, and meteorologist. As a dancer, Kassabova has been part of Ed Tyler, Sara Pearson/Patrik Widrig and David Dorfman Dance companies, and has performed in works of Mark Haim, Nancy Bannon, Maurice Fraga, Zoltan Nagy, Joshua Bisset, Netta Yerushalmy, Bill Young, and Colleen Thomas, among others. Her work as a choreographer has been presented at St. Mark’s Church (NYC), CSPAC (MD), Dance Place (DC), Kennedy Center (DC), Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (UT), Test!0 (Croatia), NBU(Bulgaria), Judson Church (NYC), Mahaney Center for the Arts (VT), Reston Art Center (VI), Bennington College (VT), Dixon Place (NYC), Mulberry Street Theater (NYC), and Artomatic (DC) among others. Kassabova received a Metro DC Dance Award (2008), the Prince George’s Arts Council grant (2009 & 2012), and Maryland State Arts Council Award (2010 and 2011). She holds three masters degrees and has been on the faculty at Middlebury College, University of Florida, George Washington University, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Fascinated by the concept of space, Kassabova is constantly trying to address it, both in her choreography and design.

Formerly an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre & Drama, Christianne Myers is now an associate professor. Myers spent 14 years living and working in New York City and her costume design work spans theatre, opera, industrial work, and film. New York highlights include the Obie Award-winning productions of Music Theatre Group’s Running Man and Blue Light’s production of Dare Clubb’s Oedipus starring Frances McDormand and Billy Crudup. In addition to more than 15 productions at the Juilliard School, her other design credits include productions for the Vermont Stage Company, the Lincoln Center Institute, the Clarence Brown Theatre, the Syracuse Stage, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Theatreworks/USA, the Caldwell Theatre, and the Irondale Ensemble. Myers has designed more than 30 shows for SMTD and has also designed two independent feature films as well as a short film, The Office Party, directed by Chiara Edmunds and starring Ralph Macchio, Carol Kane, and Jon Stewart. Since moving to Michigan, Myers has found an artistic home at Jeff Daniel’s Purple Rose Theatre Company (PRTC) in Chelsea, where she continues to design each season.

Matthew Thompson, previously a lecturer of voice and music education, is now a clinical assistant professor of voice. In addition to his classroom activities, he serves as a vocal coach for graduate voice students. As a pianist, Thompson has performed with operatic celebrities such as Thomas Hampson, rising international artists such as Vince Yi, and musical theatre stars such as Gavin Creel. He has also performed the Flint Symphony and the Michigan Philharmonic, and is currently pianist and associate conductor of the Carolyn Mawby Chorale in Flint. In recent years, Thompson has been a faculty coach/pianist at the Torggler Summer Vocal Institute and was a faculty member of U-M’s inaugural Living Arts Summer Residential Lab. He has won numerous grants to support his teaching, continuing education, and research, including a Lecturer’s Professional Development Fund, a CRLT Course Development Fund, and an Arts at Michigan Course Connection grant. His numerous research interests include American popular song accompaniment and female-composed chamber music. Thompson maintains a blog which has attracted both scholarly and industry attention at and has forthcoming writing to be published in the American Journal of Play.

Adam Unsworth, previously an associate professor in the Department of Winds, is now a professor of horn. Before joining SMTD, Unsworth served as fourth horn of The Philadelphia Orchestra from 1998 to 2007. Previously, he spent three years as second horn of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He also served as a guest principal horn with the St. Louis Symphony as well as principal horn of the Colorado Music Festival. A former faculty member at Temple University, he has appeared at many universities throughout the United States as a recitalist and clinician and has made several solo and chamber appearances at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. Unsworth received his formal training at Northwestern University where he studied with former Chicago Symphony Orchestra members Gail Williams and Norman Schweikert. He continued with graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Douglas Hill. He later recorded Jazz Set for Solo Horn, released in 2001 as part of Thoughtful Wanderings, a compilation of Hill’s works for horn. In 2000, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music named him their Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. In 2006, Unsworth released his first jazz CD entitled Excerpt This!, which features five of his original compositions for jazz sextet and three unaccompanied works.

Aleksandra Vojcic, previously an assistant professor in the Department of Music Theory, is now an associate professor. She earned a BM and a MM in piano from The Juilliard School, and PhD in music theory from the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled, Rhythm as Form: Rhythmic Hierarchy in Later Twentieth-Century Piano Repertoire. She is a former faculty member at Juilliard and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Vojcic has been a piano soloist with the Belgrade Philharmonic, the National Repertory Orchestra, New Juilliard Ensemble, Colby Symphony Orchestra, Juilliard Chamber Orchestra, and the Josip Slavenski String Orchestra. She has presented lectures and papers in the UK, Lithuania, Austria, and the United States and chaired a session at the Music Theory Society of New York State in 2005. Her recordings include Heavenly Lullabies with the trio D’Divaz. Vojcic was featured in an award-winning Swiss documentary Yugodivas and has appeared in broadcasts on WNYC, KAJX, PGP RTB.