Emerging Artist Awards

2021 Recipients

Lizzie Leopold (BFA ’05, dance)

Lizzie Leopold wearing a jacket with shaggy pale orange into bright red fringe.Dr. Lizzie Leopold is an independent scholar of dance and performance studies and a dance maker, living in Chicago, Illinois. She is the Executive Director of the Dance Studies Association (DSA) and a Lecturer in Theater & Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. DSA is an 800+ member international organization of dance scholars, artists, and pedagogues. Having been a dancer/choreographer before turning to academia, Lizzie holds an Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University. Her published works include “Staging Stars and Stripes: (Re)choreographing the American Flag” (University Press of Florida, 2018), “The Merchant of Venice’s Missing Masque: Absence, Touch, and Religious Residues” (Oxford University Press, 2019), and “The Choreographic Commodity: Assigning Value and Policing Class for Nite Moves and William Forsythe” (University of Wisconsin Press, 2020). She is currently co-editing a two-volume anthology on Chicago dance histories, Dancing on the Third Coast, and will contribute essays to the volume on mid-century modern dancer Sybil Shearer and twentieth century Chicago jazz dance luminaries including Gus Giordano, Joel Hall, and Lou Conte (co-authored). More broadly, Lizzie is interested in the intersections of dance and the political economy of its production and circulation – asking questions about cultural and financial value. Lizzie is a choreographer and director of Chicago-based modern dance company the Leopold Group.

Ana Maria Otamendi (DMA ’11, collaborative piano)

Maria Otamendi looking directly at the camera wearing a teal blouse with fabric flower detail at the collar.Since her orchestral debut at age 12, Venezuelan pianist Ana María Otamendi has performed as soloist, collaborative pianist, and conductor in Austria, Panama, Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, Spain, Italy, and Greece with renowned artists such as Donald Sinta, Michelle DeYoung, Paul Groves, Ana María Martinez, Alexis Cárdenas, members of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, Pittsburgh Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, and many more.

She is currently the Director of the Collaborative Piano Program at Louisiana State University, Artistic Director of the Collaborative Piano Summer Institute, as well as pianist and founding member of the Reverón Piano Trio. Her recitals, masterclasses, and speaking engagements have taken her to Cambridge University, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Mahidol University (Thailand), Universities of Minnesota, Michigan, Texas at Austin, South Carolina, and more. Ana María is fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Italian, and also a Geophysical Engineer. Her thesis was published in the prestigious journal Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. She was a member of the prestigious Houston Grand Opera Studio, the Merola Opera Program, and she graduated from the University of Michigan with a Doctorate in Collaborative Piano under the tutelage of renowned pianist Martin Katz.

Adam Wachter (BTA ’05, theatre)

Adam Wachter wearing a black t-shirt and smiling at the camera.Adam Wachter’s varied body of work includes experience as a composer, lyricist, bookwriter, music director, pianist, and educator, and the Hollywood Reporter called him a “breakout star” for his music direction (and quips) on the Disney+ series Encore!. Adam was the recipient of the 2018 Stiles & Drewe Prize for songwriting, and his original musical Tarrytown won the 2017 San Diego Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Musical and was a top-ten finalist for the 2019 Richard Rodgers Award. Adam’s original song “3 People” was performed by Stephen Colbert, Mandy Patinkin, Anika Noni Rose, and others as a get-out-the-vote anthem in 2020. He composed the ballet On Lincoln Square, which premiered at the Vail Dance Festival as the choreographic debut of Tiler Peck, and wrote both the score and screenplay for the award-winning short film Sign, directed by Andrew Keenan-Bolger. Adam has created music for the series Wacky Races, Cheat Sheet for the Voting Booth, The Battery’s Down, and Submissions Only, and his music-directing credits include the New York productions of Old Jews Telling Jokes, Carrie, Unlock’d, and Yank!, as well as shows at regional theaters throughout the US, including the Old Globe, Signature Theatre, Barrington Stage, Shakespeare Theatre, Bay Street, Pittsburgh CLO, The Wallis Annenberg, Weston Playhouse, and more. His Broadway keyboard credits include War Paint, Allegiance, Finding Neverland, and The Addams Family, and he has accompanied numerous top performers in concerts all over the world. Adam received a BTA from the University of Michigan and an MA from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is currently on the faculty of Point Park University’s musical theatre department in Pittsburgh. Visit to learn more.


Emily Berman
Amy Petrongelli
Tara Sheena


Leah Ives
Austin Wulliman
Angela Lewis


Lucy Dhegrae
Stephen Siercks
Dee Tomasetta


Darren Criss
Shannon McGinnis
Ali Woerner & Thayer Jonutz


Matthew Ernst
Ricki Mason
Stephen Sposito


Xan Burley & Alex Springer
Celia Keenan-Bolger
Dominique Morisseau


Rodney A. Brown
Rachel Hoffman
James Wolk


Nadine Balbeisi
Zachary Booth
Kelly Hirina


Juliana Athayde
Nicholas Blaemire
Sean Panikkar


Julie Blume
Xiang Gao
Rachel Laritz


Esther Chae
Jeremy Kittell
Michael Spencer Phillips


Sam Davis
Ben Klein
Matthew Rose


Michael Fabiano
Christopher Jamros
Leyya Tawil


Jesse Blumberg
Miriam Shor
Julie Tice


Hunter Foster
Daniel Bernard Roumain


Damon Gupton