Student News

Kipp CortezJennifer EllisJason PegramMichael SchechterRheme SloanKaidi Wu From top:Kipp Cortez, Jennifer Ellis, Jules Pegram, Michael Schechter, Rheme Sloan, Kaidi Wu

Students Sing in Portugal

Fourteen SMTD students, including majors in voice, choral music education, and conducting, performed at the second annual Portuguese Summer Choral Festival™ in June as members of two international ensembles: the Summer Festival Choir and the Summer Festival Chamber Choir. Both were conducted by Professor Eugene Rogers, and included singers from the World Youth Choir alumni and the Lisbon Superior School of Music. They sang at the opening and closing concerts of the festival and appeared with the Orquestra Filarmonia das Beiras and Orquestra de Cordas e Sopros da Universidade de Aveiro to perform Orff’s Carmina Burana. In addition, a commissioned work by Professor Kristin Kuster (composition) and Michigan poet Megan Levad was also featured. The festival is designed as a platform for choirs to partake in high-level competitions and provide valuable and exciting performance opportunities. All choirs sing at city landmarks in the historical district of Belém, to knowledgeable and enthusiastic audiences.


Wolverines Triumph at Toronto Fringe

The Wolverine Theatre Company, comprising current Department of Theatre & Drama students and recent graduates, presented an abridged version of Almost, Maine by John Cariani at the Toronto Fringe Festival in July. One of the largest theatre fringe festivals in North America, Toronto Fringe turned 25 this year and featured 148 shows in 35 venues. The company included eight actors, one tech and design student, a stage manager, and an assistant director. All were responsible for producing the show and organizing the festival publicity. Seven performances were presented over two weeks. Toronto Fringe reviewer Lauren Stein said: “[W]ith a talented bunch of fresh-faced actors, the cast of Almost Maine really had me (and the rest of the audience) eating out of the palm of their hands.” The Wolverine Company also took a side trip to attend a production of Blythe Spirit by Noel Coward at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Professor Annette Masson, producer and vocal coach, oversaw the Fringe residency and Professors Jerald Schweibert (director) and Christianne Meyer (costume designer) also attended. The Wolverine members included Neal Kelley, Quinn Scillian, Avery DiUbaldo, Lena Drake, Madeline Sharton, Jon Manganello, Emily Shimskey, Lucas Kane, Olivia Lloyd, Elizabeth Williams, and Samantha Vettrus.


Go Blue in Aspen!

SMTD once again had great representation at the Aspen Music Festival and School this past summer. Conducting Professor Christopher Lees, last year’s winner of the Aspen Conducting Prize, took up his position as assistant conductor to Robert Spano, while graduate student in musicology Austin Stewart worked on the artistic staff as program book editor and annotator. In addition, SMTD students held fellowship positions in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen; were members in each of the major orchestras and the Aspen Opera Theater Center; and were represented in the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, one of the most prestigious think tanks for young composers and interpreters of contemporary music. 


Free Downloads of PAT Student Music

Showcasing the remarkable skill and imagination of its students, the Department of Performing Arts Technology (PAT) has released a compilation of self-produced student work that is available through free downloads. The PAT Mixtape 2013 is a collection of music from freshmen to grad students, with 10 tracks representing a wide range of styles and innovations. While the PAT department is known for the exceptional creativity of its students—in music technology as well as in film, animation, and sonic art—many are unaware that the majority of the PAT students are also composers in their spare time. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for these very talented ‘bedroom producers’ to expose their music to their peers outside of the classroom,” said PAT grad student Conor Barry, curator for the project. “While some are established names in the Ann Arbor electronic music scene, others may not have had the opportunity to have their music heard by a wider audience. Hopefully this can become an annual tribute to the immense creativity of our students that continues well beyond schoolwork.” 


“Acting Out” Shakespeare for DPS Students

A joint collaboration between U-M student organizations Basement Arts and the Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop (MPOW) launched a new theatre outreach troupe, Acting Out! A Shakespeare-inspired puppet show that tours elementary Detroit Public Schools, the 25-minute performance mixes Shakespearean history with short scenes and monologues from notable plays such as Romeo and JulietA Midsummer Night's Dream, and As You Like It. The presentation centers around four puppets that are initially hesitant to perform something as ancient as Shakespeare (or as they like to call him, "that old dead guy"). But over the course of the performance, the furry friends discover that the lives they lead aren't so different from those of Shakespeare's characters. After each performance, the troupe leads students in improvisational acting exercises where the children are encouraged to be creative, bold, and fearless. Acting Out! was founded by SMTD theatre & drama seniors Shannon Eagen, Elly Jarvis, and Jon Manganello, and juniors Alex Madda and Mary Naoum. For the 2013–14 school year, students will be able to receive two SMTD credits for successful participation in the troupe. 


Opera Students Sing World Premiere

Last spring, students in the opera studio of Professor Robert Swedberg presented two performances of a brand new opera in Stamps Auditorium. Entitled The Red Silk Thread, it was written for them by Stella Sung, a distinguished composer who attended U-M as an undergrad before launching her career as a composer and educator. With a libretto by Ernest Hilbert, the opera was based on Marco Polo and his adventures in China, Persia, and Italy. It was presented as a "green" opera, with projected scenery and recycled and/or natural fiber costumes, scenery, score printing, and promotional materials. In collaboration with U-M’s Confucius Institute, the department also presented pre-opera lectures, one with guest lecturer Dr. Peter Marsh, an expert in Mongolian music, and the second, with Sung and Hilbert, on the collaborative process of writing and producing a new opera.


Cruising in a Caddy for the DSO

Last May, grad students David Cook (clarinet performance) and Emily Wespiser (flute performance), both Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Youth Ensemble mentors, hit the road in a brand new Cadillac ATS and followed the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to Carnegie Hall for its “Ives Immersion” performances, part of the weeklong Spring For Music Festival. The student duo spread the word about Detroit, the DSO, and Cadillac ATS drivability by performing pop-up concerts and documenting their trip via Twitter. Stops along the way to Manhattan included a performance at Central Cadillac on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland and a visit to Lola Bistro, a Cleveland diner owned by Michael Symon of Detroit’s Roast restaurant. General Motors Foundation provided a $350,000 grant to the DSO for music education initiatives, including its involvement in the prestigious Spring for Music festival.


Jazz Ensemble Performs at Detroit Jazz Fest

The University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Ellen Rowe (chair of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation), performed at the Detroit Jazz Festival with legendary saxophonist Lee Konitz in September on the Chase Main Stage. The band performed three pieces with Konitz, including two of his original compositions, "Sub-Conscious-Lee"and "Thingin'" and an arrangement of "Darn That Dream." The band also performed Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie," Charles Mingus' "Moanin'," "Dijeridu" by Fred Sturm, featuring vocalist Brendan Asante, and an arrangement of Herbie Hancock's "King Cobra" by SMTD jazz student Andrew Hintzen.  



Sinta Quartet Wins Again

The Donald Sinta Quartet—comprising two current saxophone grad students, Zach Stern and Danny Hawthorne-Foss, and two recent grads, Dan Graser and Joseph Girard (both MM ’12)—won the Grand Prize at the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in California. In the 67-year history of the competition, the Quartet is only the second saxophone group to achieve this honor. They were also the first place winner of the Concert Artists Guild's Victor Elmaleh Competition. Among the most prestigious awards a chamber group can receive internationally, it comes with a $5,000 prize, a management contract with Concert Artists Guild and a Carnegie Hall debut recital.




Dylan Arthur Baker was in residence at two music festivals last summer: He presented a new piece, Motions Flowing, at the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium in Eugene, OR, and his work for string quartet was performed at the highSCORE Music Festival in Pavia, Italy.


Meredith (Meri) Bobber, a dance sophomore, attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s summer training intensive on scholarship last June. She worked with the Conservatory's world-renowned faculty, including Summer Lee Rhatigan, Christian Burns, and Alex Ketley. As the faculty’s areas of expertise range from classical ballet to Ohad Narian’s “Gaga” technique, Bobber was exposed to an extensive and well-rounded curriculum. For the program's final performance in San Francisco's Z Space Theatre, she was chosen to perform a solo choreographed by Ketley, who owns and runs The Foundry, a professional dance company.


Allison Brown, who graduated with a BFA (theatre & drama) in May, had two of her plays, Tyler Family Portrait and Betty, produced at last summer’s Renegade Theatre Festival in Lansing’s Old Town. Brown also won U-M’s Dennis McIntyre Prize for Distinction in Undergraduate Playwriting.  


Emily Camras, a freshman cello performance major, participated in the 2013 Texas Music Festival, an all-fellowship, four-week orchestral festival for college and graduate students at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. Subsequently, she participated in the inaugural 2013 National Youth Orchestra of the United States, playing concerts under Maestro Valery Gergiev and with violinist Joshua Bell in Washington, DC; in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia; and at the London BBC Proms.


Kipp Cortez (MM ’12), a DMA pre-candidate in organ and sacred music, began serving as minister of music at St. James Episcopal Church in Grosse Ile, MI in August. On his first day, Kipp also made his professional carillon debut at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, MI, as part of their summer carillon series. At U-M, he will lead the carillon studies program, teaching carillon lessons and studio classes, and regularly performing on both U-M carillons. He is receiving advanced carillon lessons from Dennis Curry to prepare to take the carillonneur certification exam through the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America. 


Second-year DMA student Jennifer R. Ellis, previously the first harpist to perform with the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (2011, 2012) in Massachusetts, became the first harpist to perform with the Fresh Inc. Festival (2013) at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. While there, she played in premieres by composers Nik Baskin and Jabez Co as well as a premiere of her own work, “Seek,” for solo harp. She spent the rest of the summer in Ann Arbor as a recipient of a 2013 Rackham Centennial Fellowship and a guest harp instructor for the U-M MPulse Harp Institute.  


Michael-Thomas Foumai, a DMA composition student, was the 2013 winner of The American Prize in Orchestral Composition/student division. Foumai was selected from applications reviewed last spring from across the U.S. The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit, competitions, unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles, and composers in the U.S.


Composer Patrick Harlin (DMA '14) was selected as the winner of the inaugural Aspen-Hermitage Residency Prize from the Aspen Summer Music Festival. The prize  comes with a stipend and six weeks to write at the artist retreat in Florida. Last spring he was selected as the winner of U-M's Theodore Presser Award. Earlier this year, Harlin was awarded a Charles Ives scholarship. He was also selected as one of 10 DOW Doctoral Sustainability Fellows, with substantial funding going toward his research in soundscape ecology both in the Book Cliffs mountains in Utah and in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. His composition dissertation will integrate field recordings from these sites. 


Erika Henningsen, a senior musical theatre major, wrote, produced, and directed a benefit concert entitled Room to Read, Space to Sing, held at Kerrytown Concert House in July. The concert raised awareness and funds for the award-winning non-profit Room to Read, which seeks to raise childhood literacy levels around the world, particularly in impoverished parts of Asia and Africa. In keeping with the theme of the organization, the cabaret presented an evening of songs taken from musicals with a literary origin, such as Ragtime, The Secret Garden, and Seussical. Featuring several other U-M musical theatre majors, the benefit raised more than $1,600 for the organization.


Second-year MM saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and second-year DMA harpist Jennifer R. Ellis made their concert debut in a series of four performances at the Fresh Inc. Festival at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, including the premiere of their own work, "Grit." The duo embraces innovative programing that highlights their unusual instrumentation and is planning an additional concert series, recording, and tours in the 2013–2014 season.


Colin Knapp, BM ’14 (organ performance, music theory), spent his summer in Chicago as a senior intern at Rush Hour Concerts working closely with senior staff in cultivating and processing donations, creating development collateral, and producing Rush Hour’s free weekly chamber-music concerts at St. James Cathedral. In August he performed a solo concert at United Church of Hyde Park, Chicago. In the fall he served as administrative intern for the 53rd Conference on Organ Music at U-M; as communications chair for the Ann Arbor Chapter of the American Guild of Organists; and as director of the Ypsilanti Pipe Organ Festival. 


In July, Zac Lavender, BM ’13 (composition) attended the Wintergreen Composition Academy at the Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Over the course of four weeks, he and five other composers from schools around the country took lessons with faculty from Juilliard and the Hart School. They were given opportunities to write for chamber music students, with the compositions  featured in a pavilion concert; and had pieces for viola and oboe duo read by graduate students at the Yale School of Music.


Isaac Levine, a sophomore performing arts technology major, created and curated a personal exhibition in the Duderstadt Gallery entitled Fishlamp Champii, a retrospective on his love of a ’90s novelty nightlight toy for which an inhabitable shrine tent was created. Physical “fishlamps” and projections were accompanied by music composed specifically for the piece inside the meditative "shrine," with the music also released on a performing arts technology MixTape. In addition, circuit-bent musical instruments were displayed, along with a prototype of an installation involving a series of feedback loops in an intercom system.


Shuying Li, a first-year master’s student in composition, received three honors during the summer 2013: The Libby Larsen Prize, from the International Alliance for Women in Music in their “Search for New Music” competition, for Shuying's first orchestral work, Overture of "The Siege;" Third Place recognition from the Foundation for Modern Music in the 2013 Robert Avalon International Competition for Composers, University/Emerging Artist division, for her six-hand piano piece; and her string quartet, "For Lutoslawski," was one of five pieces selected from 113 submissions from five continents to be performed in the Florence String Quartet’s “Call for Scores” concert in September. The work will also be published by the editor Sconfinarte.


Senior theatre arts student Joanna Miller began interning in the Office of Development and External Relations for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance in January 2013 and expects to continue through December. Over the summer, Miller, an aspiring development officer, participated in U-M’s Development Summer Internship Program, deepening her understanding of and interest in philanthropy on campus. She has aided in planning several campaign-related events, and will work for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts after graduating in December.


Mimi Minagawa, BA ’16 (piano performance), returned to Piano Summer Festival at SUNY-New Paltz to give a full solo recital in July as the 2012 Jacob Flier Piano Competition Winner at Shepard Recital Hall. She performed the Bach-Busoni chorale prelude, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645); six selections of Rachmaninoff preludes; Ravel’s jeux d'eau; Schumann’s Sonata Op. 22, no. 2; and Scriabin’s Prelude for Left Hand. A few weeks later, she performed Mozart’s Sonata and Schubert-Liszt’s Gretchen am Spinnrade at Steinway Hall in NYC. After the camp, Paul Harvey Aurandt, Jr. contacted her to offer future performance opportunities.


Jules Pegram, a first-year MM student in composition, is the winner of the 2013–14 Symphony in C Young Composers' Competition. His work Neon Nights was selected from dozens of submissions and was performed by New Jersey’s Symphony in C in September. According to composer-in-residence Daniel Dorff, "Neon Nights has all the sparkle and brilliance promised by the work's title, and all the elegance and craft of a composer who has just completed training at the University of Southern California and now beginning graduate studies at the University of Michigan. Neon Nights and Jules Pegram will join the ranks of the many successful composers and winning works honored by our Young Composers' Competition as a stepping stone to future acclaim."


Dan Piccolo (BM ’01, MM ’06), a current DMA percussion student, has been selected to present a workshop at the 2013 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis, IN.  Entitled "Tala 101: An Introduction to the Rhythmic Systems of India," the workshop will guide attendees through the fundamental and characteristic elements of North and South Indian rhythmic theory.  At the convention, Piccolo will also join U-M alumni Anthony Di Sanza and Neeraj Mehta, along with U- M faculty member Jonathan Ovalle, for a concert featuring new works for world percussion soloists with Western percussion ensemble accompaniment. Piccolo is busy working on a recording with a new trio led by U-M alumnus Mark Stone.  


Samuel Plumb, an incoming freshman vocal performance major, was selected from a nationwide online audition to perform in Making Magic, Defying Gravity at Lincoln, NE’s Lied Center for the Performing Arts at the 2013 Thespian Festival last summer. Making Magic strives to use performance to show audiences why the arts are imperative in schools. Plumb and his castmates staged the entire production in less than 48 hours, enjoying the opportunity to work with current Broadway professionals as well as accomplished board members of the Educational Theatre Association.


Dance seniors Madeline Rager and Nola Smith were the winners of the 2013 Maggie Allesee New Choreography Award for their duet Small Victories, which they performed at Michigan Dance Day at Hope College in October. The award comes with a $1,000 prize. This is the second year in a row that the award has gone to U-M Dance students.


Michael Schachter, a PhD student (theory and composition), received national recognition for recent choral compositions originally written as entries for SMTD’s Brehm Prize competition."Herbst," based on the poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, was selected for the American Composers' Forum's "Essentially Choral" competition, culminating in a workshop and recording session with Philip Brunelle and the Vocal Essence Ensemble Singers and a commission for Vocal Essence's 2014–15 season. "Three Wallace Stevens Songs" received a 2013 BMI Student Composer Award and was programmed for a spring 2014 world premiere in Merkin Hall, NYC, by the New York Virtuoso Singers. Schachter also received honors from the Minnesota Orchestra (with a performance of his "Freylekhe Tanzen" scheduled for January 2014) and the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra (with performances of his "Oseh Shalom" featured in both the 2012–13 and the 2013–14 seasons).


Gregory Simon, a DMA composition student, was the national (U.S.) winner of the 2013–14 Polyphonos choral composition competition administered by The Esoterics, a Seattle-based vocal ensemble dedicated to performing and perpetuating contemporary a cappella choral settings from around the world. He received a $1,000 commission for a five-minute new work that The Esoterics premiered at a concert in October. The winners also receive funds for lodging and travel to the premiere.


Over the course of the 2012–13 academic year, senior voice performance major Rhemé Sloan was the student researcher for “Engaging Next Generation

Audiences: A Study of College Student Preferences Toward Music and the

Performing Arts” through his marketing internship with UMS. The study concluded in June with a symposium at Dartmouth College where he presented findings from his research and projects at U-M. Rhemé spent the remainder of his summer at the Aspen Music Festival and School working as the capital campaign intern in the festival's development department.


Patty Solórzano, first year MFA in dance, was invited to present her choreography INCorporated at the 2013 Michigan Dance Festival and Gala Concert at Hope College in October. She is a finalist for the Maggie Allesee New Choreography Award, which will be presented to an outstanding new dance work at the MDC Statewide Showcase Concert.  INCorporated was presented in August at the YMCA Boll Theatre for the Detroit Dance City Festival 2013, a three-day community-building dance celebration organized by artLabJ.


In April, Alekos Syropoulos, then a senior saxophonist in the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, was recognized as a Yamaha Young Performing Artist (YYPA) for 2013. YYPA recognizes outstanding young musicians from the world of classical, jazz, and contemporary music. Winners are invited to attend an all-expense-paid weekend awards ceremony at the Music for All™ Summer Symposium; appear in a performance for an audience of thousands; receive national press coverage, a recording, and photos of the live performance; and participate in workshops designed to launch a professional music career.


Dee Tomasetta, a junior dance major, auditioned for FOX-TV’s So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) last season and for the second time advanced to the top 17 girls. She then spent the summer training with choreographers and dance companies in New York, including a class with choreographer Mia Michaels, well known from SYTYCD, who selected Tomasetta from the hundreds of student participants to become her assistant in both NYC and Los Angeles. Michaels set pieces on Tomasetta and together they taught works to members of the Joffrey Ballet training program and to SYTYCD contestants, who later performed the dances on air.


Kaidi Wu, a senior pursuing a joint degree in piano performance and psychology, recently received the Asian American Psychological Association Undergraduate Research Award and Student Travel Award. The awards marked the culmination of a yearlong research project, the results of which she presented this summer as a first author at the 2013 Annual Convention of the Asian American Psychological Association in Honolulu. She appreciates the myriad of opportunities provided by the SMTD/LSA joint degree program that aids her growth in both musical performance and academic research.


Evan Zegiel, a sophomore tubist, was awarded First Place in the Tuba Student division of this year's Leonard Falcone International Euphonium & Tuba Festival. Dr. Falcone was a euphonium virtuoso and a passionate music educator. The Festival is hosted each year by the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and is an important event within the euphonium and tuba community.