Michigan Muse Magazine

Spring 2018

Message from the Dean

In the course of a few days at the end of April, we learned the following:

• Two of our voice alumni, who happen to be a married couple (tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli and mezzo-soprano Ashely Dixon) won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera Auditions.

• Ethnomusicology PhD candidate James McNally was one of only 67 students, out of more than 1,000 applicants, to be named a prestigious 2018 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow.

• Six musical theatre alumni received nominations for major theatre awards, including Tony Award actor and actress nominations for Alexander Gemignani, Taylor Lauderman, and Ashley Park (see p. 44 for complete list).

• Theatre alumna and playwright Dominique Morisseau was nominated for the Outer Critic’s Circle’s John Gassner Award for an American play, while theatre alumnus Jack O’Brien was nominated for a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Director of a Musical.

We weren’t exactly surprised by this string of great news stories across multiple disciplines. The accolades and successes that our students and alumni amass seem to be never ending. That doesn’t mean we ever tire of hearing about them—we celebrate every triumph, each of which reaffirms our conviction that we are, indeed, graduating performing arts leaders in both research and performance.

As I sat, once again, on stage at our commencement ceremony this year—this time as interim dean—I couldn’t help but think of these recent alumni achievements, and all the graduates from years past who have gone on to impact our world, all in the spirit of inclusiveness.

And as I watched each of our current graduates accept their diplomas, I knew I was watching the future of the performing arts unfold. What heights of accomplishment will they achieve? What innovations will they bring to our art form? How will they use their skills to impact communities? How will they demonstrate the power of the performing arts to change our world for the better? That they will do all of these things is without question; we have only to look to our alumni to know that it is inevitable.

It has been my great honor to serve as interim dean over the past year, and to play some small part in helping this latest group of graduates achieve their goals at SMTD, and to set them on the path of their professional careers. I have also been honored to lead our incredible faculty and staff in the work they do, day in and day out, to make SMTD such an extraordinary institution of learning. Through their efforts, our school continues to evolve in critical ways and to adapt to the demands of a 21st century performing arts education.

I am excited about the future of our graduates, but just as excited about the future of SMTD. There will be challenges—my years as both faculty and administration have taught me that there are always challenges—but from challenge there comes great promise and new beginnings. A new chapter will soon begin, with a new dean in 2018-19, and I can’t wait to see what new heights will be achieved.


Melody L. Racine, Interim Dean
School of Music, Theatre & Dance

In this issue

  1. U-M joins with Glenn Close, Logic, and Brandon Marshal to Destigmatize Mental Illness

    In March of 2018, the University of Michigan partnered with Grammy nominee Logic, Tony Award-winner Glenn Close, NFL All-Star Brandon Marshal and his wife Michi, and the Steven Schwartzberg Foundation to host the largest mental health awareness event to ever take place on a college campus. It launched a national campaign designed to initiate conversations, build…

  2. Performing Well

      SMTD’s new Wellness Initiative is addressing the unique physical and psychological challenges faced by performing arts students. With the exception of intercollegiate athletics, there is no program at the University of Michigan that is more physically taxing than the study of the performing arts. Instrumentalists, singers, dancers, and actors constantly use their bodies in service…

  3. Moving Forward, Looking Back

      Professors Peter Sparling and Jerry Blackstone reflect on three decades at SMTD as they prepare for retirement. “I think that in the 30 years I’ve been here, Peter and I have maybe interacted no more than a few minutes,” said Professor Jerry Blackstone, director of choral activities and chair of conducting, as he settled…

  4. Empowering Women Filmmakers

    Over a weekend in January, SMTD alumnae gathered to hone their filmmaking skills. Last fall, two SMTD theatre alumnae met for coffee in Los Angeles, where both live, to discuss the ins and outs of filmmaking. The get together hadn’t been planned for the purpose of developing a workshop for women filmmakers, but that’s what…

  5. Meet the (not remotely) Mean Girls

    When Erika Henningsen arrived at Michigan as a musical theatre freshman in 2010, she viewed her classmates Taylor Louderman and Ashley Park—both seasoned sophomores—as the ultimate in cool. Seeing them on stage, she thought: “I just want them to like me, I just want to be friends with them.” Her wish came true: over the…

  6. Dancing For Change

      A student-choreographed dance about racism at U-M opens eyes and sparks conversation. It is protocol at SMTD’s Collage Concerts for the audience to hold their applause until the end of the performance. This practice ensures that one act morphs seamlessly into the next while maintaining the concert’s trademark element of surprise: early music followed…