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Class of 2020 Celebration

Congratulations, graduates! While we cannot gather in-person on May 1, SMTD has created this site to recognize your achievements and celebrate this special day with you online.

SMTD is proud to celebrate the Class of 2020 with personal messages from faculty and alumni, performances from our 2020 commencement award winners, a commemorative digital program book, and photos submitted by our graduates that encapsulate their Michigan experience.

Enjoy these items below, and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on May 1 as we mark this special occasion. You can join the celebration on social media using #SMTDCelebrates and #MGoGrad.

And, the festivities continue on May 2 with the University of Michigan Spring Celebration. Learn more and join the celebration at commencement.umich.edu.

 

A Celebration of Graduates Program Book


Class of 2020 Reflections

Gian Perez (BFA - Acting)
This photo is from a gig at the Diag with my trio, Su$hi, with Eliza Salem and Mohan Ritsema. Making music with these cats was definitely one of the highlights of my time at SMTD. (Photo by Javier Soriano)
Johanna Kepler (BFA - Dance/ Latino Studies minor)
This photo is from the annual dance department Power Center show this year called Latin Xpressions. For the first time, three students including myself got to create pieces for the power center show. I choreographed a piece about the current immigration crisis at the U.S./Mexico border looking at the journey of asylum seekers coming from Central America.
Michele Ripka (BM - Violin Performance/ Performing Arts Management & Entrepreneurship minor)
This photo is special to me because it was taken following my senior violin recital this February. Pictured with me are two of my amazing mentors who I have been so lucky to form lasting relationships with, Professor David Halen, and Ken Fischer.
Alison Jaruzelski (BFA - Design & Production)
I'm a stage manager from New Jersey! What I love about Michigan are the diverse opportunities we are able to experience here, both in and outside of theatre. In addition to theatre, I have a second major in English through which I was able to participate in one of the most rewarding experiences for me while at Michigan, the New England Literature Program. My favorite show I ever worked on was Bare with MUSKET this past fall, but One Hit Wonder is a close second.
Alaina Galasso (BFA - Design & Production/ Creative Writing minor)
I am a stage manager from Austin, Texas. I love everything about the University of Michigan, but especially how it has always made me feel like I'm home. During my four years here, I've loved working in the Paint and Electric shops, minoring in Creative Writing, and of course working on productions with my fellow D&P peers. Some of my favorite shows included being the Stage Manager for the 2018 Theatre & Drama production of "Night and Day" and the 2019 Musical Theatre production of "The Pirates of Penzance". I'm hoping to become a freelance AEA Stage Manager with maybe some scenic painting or lighting work on the side!”
Aaron Robinson (BFA - Musical Theatre) Earl V. Moore Award Winner
Best Michigan Memory: Our Senior Entrance was a truly special moment in my college career. Participating in something so full of UMich tradition and history — alongside my classmates who I’ve become so close to over four years — was otherworldly! And having been on crutches at the time, I was uniquely positioned to both participate AND cheer my classmates on!
Zachary Siegel (BM - Trumpet Performance)
This picture is special to me because the photo was taken just two days before the university switched to online courses. To be a part of this family has been of my greatest joys as a student at Michigan, and I will carry its values and friendships with me through my future endeavors because I will forever Go Blue.
Aviva Klein (BM - Bassoon Performance)
This photo comes from Collage, this past January. I'd been a part of the performance two years previously, but only with the Symphony Band. This year, I opened the show with my klezmer band, an incredibly adrenaline-inducing experience, and one of a lot of joy.
Bailey McMillian (BFA - Design & Production)
My favorite part of being here at Michigan was getting to immerse myself fully in the city of Ann Arbor. I spent every summer here and have such attachment and love for this city. I hold a little extra love for the Living Arts community that from the first day on campus shaped my relationships and experiences in an immensely positive way. I'm also so grateful to the Design and Production program for giving me the freedom to truly explore my passions and loves within this field and I can't wait to carry those experiences with me into the future.
Caroline Michele-Uy (BFA - Design & Production)
Caroline-Michele Uy, from Northridge, CA, is a senior stage management concentration with a double degree in Cognitive Science and a minor in German. Some of their past productions include La bohéme, Candide, and Alcina, produced by University Productions and The University Opera Theatre. Most recently, they were the Production Stage Manager on Die Fledermaus, what would have been their final show at UMich. Though Die Fledermaus sadly never made it to opening night, Caroline is grateful for the hard work and love put into the show by all.
Eric D. Reyes (MM - Choral Conducting)
This photo is from my first semester at Michigan! The choral conducting studio gave me a spontaneous birthday group hug to conclude our rehearsal with Orpheus Singers!
Amanda Lenora Green-Turner (DMA - Voice Performance)
Sharing the stage with my Umich Porgy Divas at Hill Auditorium testing of The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess score, concert performance. From left to right: Goitsemang Lehoybe, Lenora Green-Turner, Rehanna Thelwell
Emma Ashford (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Performing in the Power Center show SWEENEY TODD as Johanna with my SMTD classmates was a total dream! Being in a show that large made me realize how much of a team effort putting on our productions really are - from the fantastic D&P's, to stage managers, to faculty who make the magic happen!
Bernard Tan (DMA - Collaborative Piano)
"It was after my first recital and I was over the moon about how much I have achieved having this man as my mentor. Thank you, professor Katz!"
Annelise Senkowski (BFA - Dance/ BS Microbiology)
This picture was taken on the day that I finally worked up the courage to declare my dual-degree in Dance and Microbiology. Clearly, I was taken by my excitement and nervousness all at once.
Emily Goodrich (BTA - Performing Arts Management)
A Basement Arts rehearsal in the Walgreen Drama Center for the show I got a lead in my senior year! It was my first leading role in a play in college, and it was so special because of how small the team was. It was three actors in SMTD, and three production team members. I loved working in such a small creative space because we learned to really trust one another and shine in our work! Go blue xx.
Amanda Kuo (BFA - Acting)
This was one of the best nights of my life. I have never felt so proud of my class. Knowing how scary and challenging clown can be, it was incredible to see my classmates light up everyone's faces in the Arthur Miller Theatre. After that show, our class had our annual Secret Snowflake gift exchange, and I truly felt connected to each person. Love my class so much! And I am grateful for each person.
Brianna Stoute (BFA - Musical Theatre)
An experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life was performing in Passing Strange my junior year. This show allowed me for the first time to work with a director of color who was also female. Being in Passing Strange was also gratifying because for the first time I had the opportunity to perform in a show about people of color, like myself. This show has given me more confidence in trusting my work, and knowing that I am good enough. I am beyond blessed that Michigan offered me this life changing experience.
Commodore Primous (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Best Michigan Memory: Performing in Senior Entrance with my class, MT '20. The growth that we've gone through collectively and individually is tremendous. It was a beautiful moment to come together and acknowledge that we've been family through thick and thin for the last four years and will be for many more to come.
Devon McCleskey (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Favorite Michigan Memory: Watching my friends fly! Regardless of whether it’s an aha moment in class or a riveting performance onstage, I’ve seen my friends make some incredible theatre magic and that always makes my heart soar!
Dina Schulman (BFA - Design & Production)
I love Michigan for the many unique opportunities it has offered me, including theatre but beyond that as well. My favorite show that I have designed here was Water by the Spoonful in November 2019. Next year I'll be completing a Masters in Management through Michigan's business school, and then hopefully off to the real world! Go Blue!
Garrett Forrestal (BFA - Musical Theatre)
The Best Part of Your Michigan Musical Theatre Education: The faculty’s continuous brilliance! Whether it be my irrational fears of sweating too much underneath the arms, or deep confusion on the paradigms within “Cloud 9”, no one breaks it down better than the UMich MT faculty.
Griffin Silva (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Best Michigan Memory: Getting to perform Senior Entrance with my class. Being together and presenting the work that came from within our class made for a very special moment.
Chardra Jameson (BFA - Acting)
This photo was taken at the beginning of my senior year after the Theatre and Drama Fall Kickoff and it is important to me because it’s the last picture that my T&D best friends took together. It always brings a warm smile to my face as it is representative of our true relationship.
Zan Berube (BFA - Musical Theatre)
The Best Part of Your Michigan Musical Theatre Education: Michigan never fails to amaze me. The department fosters an atmosphere of support and positivity and in turn creates a safe community where it is okay to fail. Michigan constantly reminds me how your growth as a human is just as important to your growth as an artist. I am beyond grateful to be a part of this wolverine family and community.
Ted Gibson (BFA - Acting)
I had been looking forward to our class's Clown Show since Freshman Year, and this photo was taken in the few moments before the audience arrived where we all tried to shake off our nerves and have fun with it. I'm grateful that we were able to have such a memorable night before the world went on pause. (This photo is featuring: Kyle Prue, Jon Hull, Austin Friedberg, Lauren Kenner, and Christie Moyle)
Wilson Plonk (BFA - Musical Theatre)
The Best Part of Your Michigan Musical Theatre Education: The sheer amount of creative energy running through every student on campus! I've gotten to create so many projects with my friends here.
Samantha Weiser (BFA - Design & Production - Lighting Design)
This photo was taken while I was designing the lights for "Passing Strange" in the Arthur Miller. This was my first U-M mainstage design and probably my favorite design.
Noah Wolfe (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Best Michigan Memory: Our MT20 Holiday parties. I’m so Jewish, but the Secret Santa almost brings me to tears every year. Our class is so kind and cares for each other so much. You could put any 5 of us in a room and we’d have a good time.
Hayley Tibbenham (BM - Voice Performance/ Creative Writing minor)
Looking back on my time at Michigan, being a part of the choir has been such a joy. Even on the toughest days, there was nothing better than walking into rehearsal and knowing that, for the next 90 minutes, I get to make music with my friends. The photo above was taken in February by Mark Gjukich during the Chamber Choir's UMMA performance of David Lang's "Little Match Girl Passion". Before the performance, I remember our conductor Dr. Rogers telling the choir to be present, to remember what it felt like to share this thing we had all worked so hard on together. I'm grateful for that reminder, and will continue to hold those memories close for years to come.
Sally Butin (BFA - Dance)
This image is from a performance of Johnny Mathews' "a state of flowering" performed in the Betty Pease Studio Theater. This is just one of the many collaborative performance opportunities I've had the opportunity to be a part of within SMTD.
Saawan Tiwari (BFA - Design & Production - Costume Design)
Roger Teng (BFA - Design & Production - Costume Design)
I am a costume designer from Taipei, Taiwan. I love Michigan for the shows and the events, but most importantly, my D&P family. My favorite show I have designed was The Pirates of Penzance last October. I’m currently applying to apprenticeships across the nation, and hopefully I’ll be designing professionally after. Go Blue!
Rebecca Ratze (BA - Music)
My best memory of SMTD will always be the time I spent in the practice rooms learning new music on piano during my free time.
Natalie Kastner (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Best Michigan Memory: Anyone’s very first Michigan football Game Day is hard to replicate. I’d never been part of such a massive community before.
Cathrine Gu (BM - Clarinet Performance and Music Education)
This was my last Symphony Band concert at the University of Michigan. Everyone had just congratulated me and said goodbye in their own unique ways and one of the people in this picture screamed something rather explicit in Hill Auditorium, which elicited this response and candid picture. I think this picture very accurately represents the clarinet section of 2020.
Maya Imani (BFA - Musical Theatre) Willis Patterson Diversity Award
Best Michigan Memory: Choreographing LEGALLY BLONDE for MUSKET! It was the first full musical that I had ever choreographed, and I had a blast working with my friends on the creative team and in the cast. It was even more thrilling because we had a black/latina Elle!
Maya Ballester (BA - Voice Performance)
This is a photo of myself and the other producers of the Anything But Classical concert series (ABC). I am so passionate about creating spaces for classical musicians to express their love for different genres, so this photo is the perfect representation of what I love about my SMTD experience.
Nina White (BFA - Musical Theatre)
The students of the MT department are so wonderfully intelligent and curious—if I hadn’t been surrounded by them every day for the past four years, my education would have been very different (and not nearly as exciting!). Learning from them has filled my time at school with so many discoveries I could never have made on my own. I’m so grateful for their camaraderie, creativity, and the LAUGHTER they have provided me day in and day out—even when we are miles apart in quarantine. I have Brent Wagner and Vince Cardinal to thank for them!
Hugh Entrekin (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Best Michigan Memory: The memory that sticks out most to me was the first week that I arrived in Michigan my freshman year. A friend of mine and I both flew planes, so we decided to rent an aircraft and had a sky tour of Ann Arbor! It was a thrill to be able to soar over the ‘Big House’ and North Campus.
Jacob Ryan Smith (BFA - Musical Theatre) Stanley Medal
The Best Part of Your Michigan Musical Theatre Education: The MT20 Senior Entrance-- it was so amazing getting to write and create something so exciting with all of your best friends.
Jaye Alexander (BFA - Musical Theatre)
The Best Part of Your Michigan Musical Theatre Education: The best part of my Michigan education is that my professors always allow me to be fearless and 100% myself. I was often pushed to try challenging material and roles outside of my comfort zone, yet I was always encouraged to reimagine material in a unique way. I will forever be grateful for this. I have grown as an overall artist and I am never afraid to take risk and add my own artistic interpretation.
Joe Serafini (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Best Michigan Memory: When the MT Class of '98 came back for their 20 year reunion and talked to us about the many different paths they have taken - I was reminded of the legacy we are a part of and how important it is to relish in these years of development and growth surrounded by this supportive group of extraordinary individuals.
Kathleen Schnerer (MM - Music Education)
While attending University of Michigan the last few summers, I've gained valuable friendships and lifelong connections that I value both personally and professionally. The Summer Music Education Masters program has allowed me to create positive, meaningful musical experiences for my junior high orchestra students while being professionally developed. Go Blue!
Katie Arnett (BFA - Design & Production - Scenic Design)
Lauryn Hobbs (BFA - Musical Theatre)
The Best Part of Your Michigan Musical Theatre Education: My favorite classes in terms of fun would be a tie between Pop rock class with Cynthia Westphal and Styles every week with Ron Dejesus. The best part overall however is the well thought out curriculum and diverse opportunities we are allowed here. The progression of courses (sophomore to senior performance) as well as the flexibility in my academics has allowed me to fully realize my potential as an artist.
Mahour Arbabian (MM - Collaborative Piano)
This picture was taken after my first master’s recital as a collaborative piano student here at the University of Michigan. I feel SO lucky to have been in Martin Katz’s studio, and have had so many amazing colleagues, collaborators, and exceptional opportunities here at SMTD. I’m happy that I’ll be coming back in the Fall for a Specialist degree and I am ever so grateful to Professor Katz for making all of this possible.
Mason Reeves (BFA - Musical Theatre)
Best Michigan Memories: Watching all of my hard-working, passionate classmates and friends see the results of all of their hours of training. There is truly no greater joy than watching someone that you’ve spent the past three years with do something in class that they couldn’t do when they first arrived and the absolute ecstasy that crosses their face when they realize how far they’ve come. School at the University of Michigan is a difficult journey, but the times that we’ve all gotten to be there for one another and celebrate each other’s victories whether it be as performers or as people are worth every second of that hardship.
Nicole Lawnicki (BM - Music Education - Instrumental)
This is most of my music ed family. These people have inspired, encouraged, pushed, and cared for me throughout my four years at Michigan.
Julia Foran (BM - Viola Performance)
Kirsten Mossberg (BFA - Acting)
This is my favorite SMTD photo because the Wall to Wall Theatre Festival has been an integral part of my Walgreen experience. It was the first piece of theatre I ever saw at UofM when I was a prospective student, and I have been involved with producing the festival every year since.

Congratulations from our faculty

Professor Martin Katz
Associate Dean Anita Gonzalez
Department of Musical Theatre Faculty
More Faculty Videos

Congratulations from SMTD Alumni

Gavin Creel BFA '98
Howard Watkins DMA '98 MM '89
Dee Tomasetta BFA '14
More Alumni Videos

The Yellow & Blue

The Victors (Musical Theatre Class of 2020)