Michigan Muse Summer 2023 > Alumni Updates

Alumni Updates

2020s / 2010s / 2000s / 1990s / 1980s / 1970s / 1960s / 1950s


Arianna Dotto poses on a river bridge by a historic structure

Arianna Dotto

Arianna Dotto (DMA ’21, violin) was appointed principal leader of the second violin section at the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg (France) in March 2023.

Group of over 2 dozen people pose closely around a framed item

Samantha Estrella (far left) and the company of Elyria. Photo credit: Gregory Costanzo

Samantha Estrella (BFA ’22, theatre & drama: directing) expressed gratitude for being able to share space, collaborate with, and witness a generative corner of care-based artistry these past few months. During 2023, she served a directing observership under Awoye Timpo during the world premiere of Deepa Purohit’s Elyria at the Atlantic Theatre. She assistant-directed Dominique Rider’s Off-Broadway debut of Diane Exavier’s Bernarda’s Daughters, a world premiere through the New Group and the National Black Theatre in May. The summer brought the end of her mentorship with Wingspace Theatrical Design.

Two actors performing with concerned looks

Vincent Ford directed God Kinda Looks Like Tupac, featuring MJ Handsome (BFA ’22, theatre & drama) and Nate Brassfield, at Ann Arbor’s TheatreNOVA. Photo credit: Sean Carter

Vincent Ford (BFA ’20, theatre & drama) has earned a master of science degree from Northwestern University’s Leadership for Creative Enterprises program (’21). He serves as the assistant director of the Center of Campus Involvement at U-M, overseeing the campus resources and major events portion of that unit, including the Michigan Union Ticket Office, the Student Theatre Arts Complex, the Major Event Office, and the Student Organization Resource Center. In fall 2022 he became a Michigan Wilde Award winner for directing God Kinda Looks Like Tupac at TheatreNOVA in Ann Arbor. The production won Best Play of the Year and Best New Script.

Gregory Gropper (BM ’22, voice) completed the first year in a master’s program in classical voice at Manhattan School of Music. During summer 2023 he performed in operas at the Israel Conservatory of Music.

Katie Jewell poses with arms folded holding a baton

Katie Jewell

Katie Jewell (MM ’23, music education) has been teaching band/music in southwest Michigan for 15 years, the last 13 of which were in Coldwater, Michigan. Her ensembles have consistently earned Division I ratings at Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) district and state festivals. Jewell is a member of American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA) and MSBOA. In 2022, she was voted MSBOA District XI Band Director of the Year by her colleagues.

Actress on stage holds a teacup costumed in historical dress

Ella Olesen as Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo credit: Nick Adams

Earnest and Beyond

From January to March, Ella Olesen (BFA ’22, musical theatre) played witty ingenue Cecily Cardew in the Florida Repertory Theatre’s extended production of Oscar Wilde’s most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest. Olesen acted in-the-round alongside Broadway actors Jan Neuberger and Max Roll, to audiences’ delight. In July 2023, she traveled to Oxford University to study Shakespeare in the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford program. She was one of just 90 applicants accepted worldwide and received training from leading British theatre practitioners and faculty from top American graduate programs. Midsummer in Oxford is run in association with the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University.

Teacher and student pose outside a concert

Danielle Kim (right) with Professor Amy Porter

Danielle Kim (BM ’21, flute) performed Carl Reinecke’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra with the Flint Symphony Orchestra on February 11, 2023. This performance was part of her prize for winning first place in the 2022 William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition.

Mi-Eun Kim poses in a long black dress with dramatic background of shadows

Mi-Eun Kim

In fall 2022, Mi-Eun Kim (MM ’14, piano, chamber music; DMA ’21, SM ’22, piano) joined the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as lecturer, teaching piano in the Emerson/Harris Scholarship program, as well as coaching for the Chamber Music Society and collaborative piano. She continues to return to Ann Arbor in the summer as collaborative piano faculty for Center Stage Strings, an MPulse institute. She also joins fellow alums in the Four Corner Ensemble at Operation Opera at Sacramento State.

In historical costume, Larson points at the empty ornate multi-story theater behind him

Anthony Larson. Photo credit: Kurt Vinion

Anthony Larson (MM ’22, voice) is performing two major operatic roles this summer. He will sing Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte with Alexandria Summer Nights and Frank Maurrant in Street Scene with Varna International Music Academy in South Carolina, where he will also perform the bass solo in Verdi’s Requiem and sing bass in choral works.

Amanda Ross smiles holding a trumpet; black background

Amanda Ross

Amanda Ross (DMA ’20, trumpet) has been reappointed to the position of visiting assistant professor of applied trumpet at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, for the 2023–24 academic year. Ross will teach private trumpet lessons, brass chamber music, and other brass-related courses. She also serves as principal trumpet of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, Oakland University’s orchestra-in-residence.

Alain Sullivan performs saxophone on stage

Alain Sullivan. Photo credit: Cody Scanlon

Jazz Musician Heads to U-M Med School

Alain Sullivan (BFA ’20, jazz studies), who also earned a BS in biomolecular science, has continued to be a major presence in the west Michigan jazz scene, performing with the Grand Rapids and Holland Jazz Orchestras. Most recently, he was a featured soloist with the Vintage Parlor Orchestra, in a unique collaboration to pay tribute to the landmark recording, Charlie Parker with Strings. Sullivan will be returning to Ann Arbor this summer to begin his studies at the University of Michigan Medical School in pursuit of his MD; he plans to continue to perform in the area, especially with the Ann Arbor-based funk group, Sabbatical Bob.

Eric Shroeder poses outdoors, wearing suit coat

Eric M. Schroeder

Eric M. Schroeder (BM ’20, music education, euphonium) has successfully started a K-5 music program and a middle school band program at Schulze Academy for Technology and the Arts in Detroit. He has also established himself as a wind band composer; his works have premiered across Michigan and been performed across the nation. He is currently accepting commissions for new works and is excited to continue serving the ensembles of Michigan and beyond.

Katherine Shrader (BFA ’21, theatre design & production) works as a stitcher at Euroco Costumes in New York City, helping to create costumes for Broadway musicals, film, and TV. Recently she has worked on New York, New York; Some Like It Hot; Beetlejuice; Moulin Rouge; and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Ellen Sirower headshot, wearing blue blouse

Ellen Sirower

“Cultivating Supportive Musical Communities,” an article by Ellen Sirower (BMA ’20, piano), who also earned a BA in philosophy, was published in the spring 2023 issue of Piano Magazine, a publication by the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy. The article explores the idea of “psychological safety” – a group climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect where people are comfortable taking risks and being themselves – and its practical applications to private and group teaching in all age groups and levels.

Mike Sulecki (MM ’21, music education) teaches band for grades 6–12 in Portland, Michigan. He is finishing up his sixth year in the district, and he loves seeing his students work towards reaching their true potential. While at Michigan, he focused on designing a grade 6–12 jazz curriculum and is proud to announce that next year he gets to fully implement it. After years of recruiting and planning, he will have a 7th–8th grade jazz band and a 9th–12th grade jazz band, both offered during the school day as full elective classes.


Immanuel T. Abraham poses holding violin in a mountainous landscape

Immanuel T. Abraham

Immanuel T. Abraham (BM ’13, MM ’15, violin) is an award-winning performer, dazzling live audiences across nine countries to date. He shares knowledge and inspiration with students from renowned institutions all over the United States. After completing his DMA in violin in 2019, he finally published his ten-year “magnum opus” – a 76-page compilation of works titled 24 Caprices for Solo Violin. The work has sold over 460 prints in its first two years. The music cataloging department of the University of Arizona has called it “a masterpiece of advanced violin repertoire reflecting the musical globalism and diversity of the 21st century.”

Justin Benavidez poses half-seated wearing a blue suit, with tuba next to him

Justin Benavidez. Photo credit: Alicia Osborne Photography

Justin Benavidez (MM ’07, DMA ’10, tuba) has been appointed associate professor of tuba & euphonium at the Eastman School of Music and will begin in this position in fall 2023. He previously served as associate professor of tuba & euphonium at Florida State University’s College of Music.

Jacob Berlin portrait outdoors in woods

Jacob Berglin

Jacob Berglin (MM ’14, music education) was appointed to the faculty at Western Michigan University, where he teaches courses in music education, supervises student teachers, and conducts AMPHION, the university’s tenor/bass ensemble.

Jason Bergman holds his trumpet, outdoors at a historic plaza

Jason Bergman. Photo credit: Christina Alegre

Jason Bergman (MM ’08, trumpet, chamber music; DMA ’11, trumpet) was appointed associate professor of music in trumpet at Indiana University in August 2022. He continues to serve as president of the International Trumpet Guild. Bergman recently completed a tour of the UK, where he gave performances and taught classes at the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. He completed a similar tour of Brazil during the summer of 2023.

"Music of Black Composers - Level 1" book cover, Compiled and Edited by Leah Claiborne

Leah Claiborne’s recently published book

Leah Claiborne (MM ’12, DMA ’18, piano performance & pedagogy) has edited two volumes of piano music by Black composers for beginning and intermediate students. This collection begins to fill a large hole in piano pedagogy by addressing representation by Black composers at the most fundamental levels of piano studies. Both volumes of Expanding the Repertoire: Piano Music of Black Composers are published by Hal Leonard, the largest sheet music publishing company in the world, and are available for purchase through Hal Leonard and Amazon.

David Cook (MM ‘14, clarinet, chamber music) was awarded the Research and Artistic Achievement Award at Millikin University, where he is assistant professor of clarinet and chair of instrumental performance studies. His critically acclaimed book, Clarinet Conditioning: Warm-Ups and Perspectives, was published by Conway Publications in July 2022.

Mélisse Brunet is pictured with arms up, conducting in a dark concert hall

Mélisse Brunet in Maestra. Photo courtesy of Oléo Films

Brunet Featured in Documentary Maestra

Mélisse Brunet (DMA ’16, conducting) is featured as one of the five women conductors in the documentary Maestra. The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival selected this new feature documentary as part of the official competition and for its world premiere on June 9. Maestra follows five women from around the world as they prepare for and perform in La Maestra – the only competition in the world for female orchestra conductors. Personal stories of survival, passion, and perseverance are woven together with the drama and excitement of this one-of-a-kind event created to break yet another glass ceiling for women.

Alison DeSimone headshot, smiling

Alison DeSimone. Photo credit: Andy Schwartz (Kansas City, MO)

Alison DeSimone (PhD ’13, historical musicology) served as interim chair of music performance at University of Missouri – Kansas City from 2022–23. She published two articles: “Handel as Miscellany” (Eighteenth-Century Music, 2023) and “Beauty, Voice, and Wit: Learning Courtship and Sex through Song in Early Eighteenth-Century England” (Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 2023). She served as scholar-in-residence for Northwestern’s production of Handel’s Alcina in May 2023.


Josh Graham (MM ’13, percussion) began a full-time position as instructor of percussion at the University of Northern Iowa in August 2022. Through the year, he premiered new works written for his violin/clarinet/percussion trio F-PLUS and solo works by composers Charles Peck, Griffin Candey, and Michael Conrad. He also won the principal percussion position with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony in September 2022.

Drummer performs on stage in 1960s attire and sunglasses

Billy Harrington. Photo credit: Timothy Norris

Billy Harrington (BMA ’10, jazz studies) is currently on the 2023 North American tour of The Simon & Garfunkel Story (Maple Tree Entertainment and Right Angle Entertainment) as drummer and vocalist, after just wrapping up the national tours of Dirty Dancing Live in Concert (Quatro Entertainment) and The British Invasion: Live on Stage (Maple Tree Entertainment and Quatro Entertainment) in 2022.

Kelly Hirina dances in a studio with other dancers

Kelly Hirina. Photo credit: Jubal Battisti

After more than 20 years living and dancing professionally in Amsterdam, Kelly Hirina (BFA ’99, MFA ’19, dance) has returned to the United States to teach dance technique (Countertechnique and Double Skin/Double Mind), improvisation, and choreography. This summer, she was excited to teach at the American Dance Festival (ADF). This fall, she returns for her third year as an assistant professor of dance at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. In spring 2023, she premiered two works for the student dancers, Hommage and eos. Both works incorporated singing, and eos was a collaboration with the music school, with Abi Koehler performing live double bass.

Jeri Hockensmith smiling portrait; dramatic black background

Jeri Hockensmith. Photo credit: Jerri Graham Photography

Jeri Hockensmith (MM ’16, music education) is currently in pursuit of her doctorate in music education at Boston University. She is also teaching high school orchestra full time in Westport, Connecticut.

Two dancers performing with bodies lowered to the stage

Sean Hoskins performing with MFA dance alumna Molly Paberzs. Photo credit: Kirk Donaldson

Sean Hoskins (MFA ’11, dance) established shape // matter in 2018 as a way to showcase dance choreography and performance from around the greater Ann Arbor region. The free outdoor concerts take place in downtown Ann Arbor’s Liberty Plaza over two nights. This year’s events were held on Thursday, August 24, and Friday, August 25.

Bassonist performs on stage in a section of winds and horns

Liam Jackson (center) with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography

Following two years of teaching middle and high school band, Liam Jackson (BM ’18, bassoon, music education) performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a substitute bassoonist and contrabassoonist for three separate concert programs this season, including a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony no. 3 Kaddish, under the direction of Marin Alsop. This performance was recorded for PBS’s Great Performances. Jackson was also a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago through June 2023.

Album cover with mossy groundcover, focus on two small sculptures

Shane Jones’s newly released album

Shane Jones (DMA ’17, percussion), who also earned a graduate certificate in world performance studies, has released his debut solo percussion album, Six Japanese Gardens. The album spans a variety of virtuosic solo percussion music as well as a newly commissioned flute/percussion duo by Valerie Coleman, featuring Joanna Goldstein.

Group of 4 poses wearing red shirts and white hats; one holding percussion sticks

slapslap features (l. to r.) Maddy Wildman, Ezra Gans, Tanner Tanyeri, Cameron Wilson. Photo credit: Colin McCall

A New Album from slapslap

After forming at SMTD and performing at the 2019 commencement ceremony, electric-bassoon-performance-art-rock band slapslap went on to release and tour their debut album, slapslEP. They released their second studio album, Bad Idea Good Execution, on June 2, 2023, followed by a small summer tour. Their album can be purchased online or streamed. slapslap is composed of Maddy Wildman (BM ’19, bassoon), Ezra Gans (BM ’19, bassoon), Tanner Tanyeri (BM ’19, percussion), and Cameron Wilson (BM ’22, percussion).

Joseph Kemper smiling portrait, wearing a suit

Joseph Kemper. Photo credit: Jonathan Conklin Photography

Joseph Kemper (DMA ’18, choral conducting) will be joining the choral faculty at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, this fall as the new assistant professor of choral music and conductor of the Concordia Chapel Choir and Kantorei. Kemper was previously a visiting professor of music and director of choirs at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

In March 2023, Heather Kendrick (BM ’15, music education), who also earned a BA in organizational studies, was appointed dean of education and community at the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Blue book cover, "The Synthase Guide to Chords" Written and illustrated by Nate May

The cover of Nate May’s recently published book

Nate May (BFA ’11, jazz & contemplative studies) received a Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and completed his DMA in composition at Yale. His work was the subject of chapters in two newly published books. He recently founded Synthase, an online school for music creators, and published The Synthase Guide to Chords. Synthase uses innovative pedagogy and technology to connect theory and creative music instruction with students’ innate love of music, and it partners with music teachers to create a holistic learning ecosystem.

Paula Muldoon seated, smiling, holding her violin and bow

Paula Muldoon. Photo credit: Wilcox Collective

Paula Muldoon (BM ’10, violin) was recently promoted to lead software engineer at Zopa Bank in London. She has been invited to speak at a programming conference in Copenhagen about her experiences combining music and software. Muldoon is finishing a year-long sabbatical from the violin during which she hosted a Ukrainian refugee family, and she is looking forward to getting back to both Baroque and modern playing.

Trio of bass, drums, and saxophone perform with purple backlighting

Kenji Lee (right) in Kenji Lee’s Fortune Teller Trio, with Jonathan Barahal Taylor (drums) and Andy Peck (bass). Photo credit: Jeff Dunn

Debut Album Featuring SMTD Alums

Kenji Lee (BFA ’19, jazz studies; BM ’19, music education) released his debut album Kyūdō. The recording features Lee on saxophone alongside Andrew Peck (MM ’16, improvisation, double bass), Jonathan Barahal Taylor (BFA ’13, jazz studies, percussion; MM ’24, improvisation, percussion), and vocalist Estar Cohen. The record was recently featured on Best Jazz on Bandcamp: January 2023, and has received critical acclaim from JazzTrail, All About Jazz, and A2Pulp. Kyūdō is available now on 12” lathe cut vinyl and CD and in digital formats. The music uses diverse resources to sow joyful and tender melodies.

Andrew Munn's face is reflected in a mirror he holds up with his arm

Andrew Munn. Photo credit: Oz Jacob Tabib

Andrew Munn (BMA ’14, voice) performed Schubert’s Winterreise with pianist Rami Sarieddine at the Berlied Festival in Berlin in January 2023, and he headlined the Berliner Festspiele’s MaerzMusik in March 2023 with the new and experimental music collective Phønix16 with Pauline Oliveros’s Sonic Meditations and the world premiere of Jakob Ullmann’s voice, books and FIRE II. With pianist Jacob Greenberg he presented a recital of Charles Ives songs, soon to be released on an album with soprano Sharon Harms. In May 2023 he sang Shostakovich’s Suite on Verses by Michelangelo in concert at the Hungarian State Opera.

Andreas Oeste (MM ’16, oboe, chamber music; DMA ’19, oboe) is the newly appointed chair of the Fernand Gillet-Hugo Fox Competition for Oboe.

Portrait of Nicole Patrick smiling, looking to the side

Nicole Patrick. Photo credit: Cosa in a Box Photography

Nicole Patrick (BM ’16, percussion; BFA ’16, jazz & contemporary improvisation) is premiering the role of “The Rockstar” in the Blue Man Group World Tour. The role includes playing percussion and electronics.

Will Pertz walking away on a vast beach, wearing a backpack

Wil Pertz. Photo credit: Boon

After a fantastic winter vacation in Vietnam, Wil Pertz (DMA ’11, composition) returned home to Daejeon, South Korea. During the months of January and February 2023, he released four new videos that explore image and video manipulation from his travels. These videos also spotlight synthesizers he recently designed to use Max MSP and extreme polyrhythmic and polymeric time solutions. In April, his installation Singularity ran at CICA International Gallery in Seoul, South Korea. In May, the Daejeon Arts Collective (DJAC) in Daejeon displayed his new synth sounds, titled Space Between Nothing. Pertz’s new book, Music for the Non-Musician, was published in spring 2023.

Portrait of Diego Piedra wearing a black suit, white background

Diego Piedra

Diego Piedra (MM ’05, violin; MM ’08 & DMA ’18, conducting) was the recipient of a finalist honorable mention from the American Prize in Conducting – college/university orchestra division, 2022. He was a finalist in two divisions during the same year as he submitted two recordings, one with Luther College Symphony Orchestra (this award) and one with the London Classical Soloists, which incidentally gave him another honorable mention. He currently works at Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Composite photo of 6 musicians holding their string and wind instruments

Four Corners Ensemble

A Contemporary Music Collaboration

Four Corners Ensemble, featuring Michigan alumni and music composed by Shuying Li (MM ’15, DMA ’18, composition) premiered the World Map concerto cycle with the Chelsea Symphony on May 26 at Merkin Hall in New York City. The cycle celebrates cultural diversity through concertos inspired by different countries, highlighting unique musical traditions. Soloists include Erika Boysen (DMA ’15) on flute, Joshua Anderson (DMA ’18) on clarinet, Christina Adams (DMA ’18) on violin, Juliette Herlin (an exchange student who attended SMTD ’12–’13) on cello, and Mi-Eun Kim (MM ’13, DMA ’21, SM ’22) on piano. The collaboration emphasizes the ensemble’s commitment to cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of contemporary music.

Ray poses laying on a checkerboard floor wearing a red suit, with bananas

Dan Ray. Photo credit: @figmentartphotography

Dan Ray (BA ’16, vocal music) recently moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and published her first piece of writing with Iowa Public Radio in April. She dropped her third single, “Water,” in March 2023 to rave reviews. She began modeling in Des Moines and has done numerous shoots with local photographers.

Shea Renne smiling headshot, wearing red top

Shea Renne. Photo credit: Corinne Louie Photography

Shea Renne (BFA ’14, musical theatre) is in New York City; she recently appeared in the Broadway cast of Hadestown as a Fate and understudy for Persephone. In July, Renne began performing in the original Broadway cast of Here Lies Love.

Two actors on stage sit cross-legged

Karl Ronneburg and Grey Grant in The Precipice. Photo credit: Corey Smith

Karl Ronneburg (BM ’17, percussion) works at the Metropolitan Opera as the assistant for new works, commissioning, and dramaturgy. He premiered his chamber-rock opera, The Precipice, with alums Grey Grant (BM ’16, composition, voice; MA ’22, composition) and Corey Smith (BM ’14, composition, trumpet) at the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti on April 29–30 with their company, Fifth Wall Performing Arts.

A conductor directs an orchestra, with sheet music and bows in foreground

Rodrigo Ruiz rehearsing the Mexican Orchestra of the Arts at Sala Nezahualcóyotl. Photo credit: Paulina Vallejo

A new piano concerto by Mexican American composer and conductor Rodrigo Ruiz (MM ’14, orchestral conducting), commissioned by Sistema Nacional de Fomento Musical (Mexico’s National System of Musical Endowment), premiered March 2023 in Mexico City’s Los Pinos Cultural Complex to a sold-out audience. Also in March, Rodrigo’s poem for orchestra and elemental water, Varuna, received its world premiere by the Symphony Orchestra of the State of Mexico in Toluca. The next work in this series, a symphonic poem inspired by the elemental king of air, premiered in June at the stunning Nezahualcóyotl Hall with the Eduardo Mata Orchestra.

Actress in mid-century costume holds up and examines a scientific image

Samantha Massell as Rosalind Franklin. Photo credit: Emily Assiran and Paragon Retouch

The Title Role in a World Premiere

Samantha Massell (BFA ’12, musical theatre) led the world premiere production of Double Helix at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York. Double Helix tells the story of scientist Rosalind Franklin and details her immense and notoriously uncredited contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA, widely considered the greatest scientific discovery of our time. Written by Madeline Myers and directed by Scott Schwartz, Double Helix played at Bay Street from May 30–June 18, 2023.

Nicholas Shaneyfelt portrait, seated in empty theatre seats

Nicholas Shaneyfelt. Photo credit: Chip Peterson

Nicholas Shaneyfelt (DMA ’16, collaborative piano) was promoted to associate professor of music at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, an undergraduate liberal arts institution in which one-third of students participate in music in some capacity. Shaneyfelt serves as the faculty collaborative artist, vocal coach, and instructor of collaborative piano, and he music directs the Luther College Opera.

Headshot combined with a second portrait half covered by a hand, with dark background

Album cover for Annika Socolofsky’s Don’t say a word. Photo credit: Xuan

On June 23, 2023, Annika Socolofsky (MA ’14, composition), a composer and avant-folk vocalist who explores colorful corners of the human voice, released Don’t say a word, an album of feminist rager-lullabies for the new queer era on New Amsterdam Records. Described as “grotesquely gorgeous” (Chicago Tribune) and “unbearably moving” (Gramophone), Socolofsky’s work explores vocal worlds tender and violent and everything in between. Supported by new music supergroup Latitude 49, these are eight new lullabies for her adult self: self-love, queer love, love for her temper and tongue, and love for those who have lighted her way.

Red background with three dancers holding tightly together - headline "Moving Meditations"

Briana Ashley Stuart (BFA ’13, dance), who also earned a BA in sociology, premiered her latest work, Moving Meditations, to a sold-out audience on March 25, 2023, at the Royal Flemish Theater in Brussels, Belgium. She is currently performing in Gorges Ocloo’s most recent work, The Golden Stool, which premiered in April 2023 at the Toneelhuis Opera House in Antwerp, Belgium. In February 2023 she gave a dance lecture about her research in percussive dance at Rendezvous Get Down, an event that highlighted dancers represented by Get Down Dancer’s Management Agency.

A person stands with arms folded, in front of a giant M

Sam Vettrus at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre with the tour of Motown: The Musical.

Sam Vettrus (BFA ’14, theatre design & production) recently served as the automation carpenter on the 50th Anniversary Pilate Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. After closure of the tour in June, she looked forward to another Worklight Productions Broadway tour as a flyman.

Portrait of Ian Williams smiling, wearing a suit and bowtie

Ian Williams. Photo credit: Ruth Yaro Photography

Bass-baritone Ian Williams (BMA ’15, voice; BTA ’15) is now a two-time finalist for the 2022 and the 2023 Lotte Lenya Competition. This year, he received praise for his performance of “Moving (The Lincoln Center Song)” by Mark Sonnenblick. This was also the 25th anniversary of the competition, and all of the events were held at Kilborn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Williams is a recent graduate of Level I of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method; he studied vocal pedagogy centered in contemporary commercial music (CCM). He is also a co-founder and “co-managing divo” of Opera on Tap Fort Wayne, the first Opera on Tap chapter in Indiana.


Emily Albrink portrait, seated on a white couch wearing a long pink floral gown

Emily Albrink

Emily Albrink (BFA ’04, musical theatre) released her debut album, Force of Nature, on the Lexicon Classics label, with pianist Kathleen Kelly. The album features world premiere commissions by Jake Heggie, Rene Orth, Nailah Nombeko, and Steve Rouse. It is dedicated to her late mother, pianist Nancy Albrink, and centers on stories by women, about women.

Lisa Allely poses standing by an orange tree holding her euphonium

Lisa (Hocking) Allely

Lisa (Hocking) Allely (BM ’05, euphonium) has recently been promoted to senior teacher with the Queensland Department of Education (Australia). She has lived in Australia since 2008; she teaches instrumental music and conducts bands in four state schools in the Brisbane metropolitan region. She is also a proud member of the Queensland Wind Orchestra, a community-based ensemble committed to enriching lives through exceptional music-making. She is committed to diversity in programming and takes great care in selecting repertoire for her band students and her own solo and chamber performances.

Greyscale headshot of Rebecca Biber with black background

Rebecca Biber. Photo credit: Tom Smith

An SMTD Collaboration at the Ark

Rebecca Biber (BM ’01, MM ’08, music education) recently music directed and performed the piano score for a concert reading of The Fourth Messenger, a new musical by Vienna Teng and Tanya Shaffer. The event took place at the Ark in Ann Arbor. Several current SMTD musical theatre students were featured in the cast: Zuri Clarno as Harmony/Water, Anna Zavelson as Raina, and Lleyton Allen as Yasha. Fellow music education alumna Christine Kapusky Moore (BM ’00, MM ’07, voice, music education) played the role of May. The concert reading was a fundraiser for the Ark and played to a packed house.

Headshot of Heather Chockley, wearing a red scarf

Heather Chockley

Heather Chockley (BFA ’01, theatre design & production) continues her journey as the director of production at Troika Entertainment, which has recently been acquired by Crossroads Live.

Large SSAA choir wearing blue shirts performs on stage with their conductor

Lindsay (Pettitt) CieChanski and the students of the MSVMA SSAA High School State Honors Choir. Photo credit: MSVMA

Lindsay (Pettitt) CieChanski (BM ’02, voice; MM ’07, music education), director of vocal music at Ann Arbor Skyline High School and director of specialized events for Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA), was honored to conduct the MSVMA SSAA High School State Honors Choir in January as part of the Michigan Music Conference. CieChanski greatly enjoyed working with the talented and passionate students of Michigan. The program featured works by Mendelssohn, Beach, Sample, Thomas, and Gibbs, and it was accompanied by fellow U-M alumna Dianna Hochella (MM ’03, voice).

Greyscale portrait of Travis Cook with arms folded, holding conductor's baton

Travis Cook

Travis Cook (BM ’08, trombone, music education) is the director of bands at Plymouth Christian Academy in Canton, Michigan; director of music at Covenant Baptist Church in West Bloomfield, Michigan; bandleader and lead trombone of the Swing Syndicate Big Band; and music director and trombonist of the Cuivré Brass Quintet. He was also recently appointed music director of the Troy Metro Symphony Orchestra in Troy, Michigan.

Kathy Courter stands with an ensemble on a stage, speaking and holding clarinet

Kathy Courter

Kathy Courter (BM ’02, education) has held a band director position in Van Buren Public Schools (in Michigan) since 2004. She has been an integral part of the feeder program to Belleville High School and continues to foster passion for music into her youngest instrumentalists each day.

Erin Craig headshot, horizon of water in the background

Erin Craig. Photo credit: Cyndi Whipkey

New York Times bestselling author Erin A. Craig (BFA ’05, theatre design & production) had her new young adult novel, House of Roots and Ruin, published on July 25 with Delacorte Press. She has also sold her adult debut, A Land So Wide, to Anchor Books.

Songs of Spring, a piano quintet by Michael Djupstrom (BM ’02, MA ’05, composition), returned to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, with an April 1, 2023, performance at the Kennedy Center by the 6821 Quintet. Originally commissioned by the festival for a premiere in 2016, the work was previously performed in four consecutive annual festivals.

Roundhouse Designs, a company founded by musical theatre alums Ryan Foy (BFA ’07) and Nick Gaswirth (BFA ’06), has developed the website for RISE Theatre, a newly launched initiative from Maestra Music, Inc., funded in part by the Lin-Manuel Miranda Foundation, U-M alumnus Jeffrey Seller, and the Nederlander Organization. RISE (Representation, Inclusion, & Support for Employment) Theatre is a national personnel directory created to promote visibility of individuals who work backstage, behind-the-scenes, and in support of theatre-making. It amplifies those who are often overlooked, including women, people of color, and folks from underrepresented backgrounds, allowing them to be discovered for employment opportunities in the industry.

Headshot of Brian Hall wearing a grey shirt, grey background

Brian Hall. Photo credit: Terah Partridge

Brian Hall (MM ’09, arts administration) joined Ballet Arizona as the new director of marketing in April 2023. Since graduating in 2009 with a dual MM/MBA (Ross) degree, he is pleased to be returning to the arts, after a decade-plus career in marketing cleantech, consumer goods, and startups.

A pianist and jazz ensemble perform on stage with tall purple shaded cyclorama behind them

Amy K. Bormet (piano) with the Celestial Spang-A-Lang Ensemble. Photo credit: Jason Andrew

Highlighting Women in Jazz

Amy K. Bormet (BFA ’06, jazz studies, piano) completed a successful run of her 13th annual Washington (DC) Women in Jazz Festival with over 60 musicians, including a residency at Blues Alley, a new big band, and 22 college student performers. Alongside her husband Matt Dievendorf (BFA ’05, jazz studies, guitar) she continues to produce and distribute music through their label Strange Woman Records, which this spring published the first issue of a women in jazz magazine, The Turnaround.

A choir in white robes and organist perform together in a church

Gregory Hamilton at the organ

Gregory Hamilton (DMA ’02, sacred music/organ) continues his tenure at St. Joseph Church in Macon, Georgia, a historic church on the national historic register. He continues his composing activities, fulfilling a number of commissions, and his music is published by Lorenz, Concordia, Augsburg Fortress, CanticaNova, and Paraclete Press, with over 100 works currently in print. Performances have taken place internationally, at churches, concert halls, and airports. Hamilton also continues his performance schedule, with solo appearances playing organ, harpsichord, and lute/theorbo, at the Macon Cherry Blossom Festival (First United Methodist) and Bach Ascending in Savannah, Georgia, and with the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and the Amethyst Baroque Ensemble.

Gavin Kenny studio headshot, wearing a blue suitcoat

Gavin Kenny. Photo credit: J. Demetrie Photography

Gavin Kenny (BFA ’00, musical theatre) is a clinical psychologist in full-time private practice in New York City. Following his undergraduate work at Michigan, he earned his doctorate in clinical psychology and has integrated his Michigan education and artistic training with rigorous clinical training at Columbia University Medical Center, New York University, Rutgers University, and the National Institute for the Psychotherapies. Kenny specializes in relational psychotherapy with adults of all ages, including creative artists, working professionals across industries, and graduate and undergraduate students.

Adam Levi (BFA ’01, musical theatre) recently became a business representative for live performance at United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, IATSE, after serving nearly 11 years as contract affairs representative for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). At Local USA 829, Levi oversees the administration of all designer and assistant designer contracts and the negotiation of collectively bargained agreements with employers nationwide in the live performance field (including theatre, opera, and dance). In addition to his role at Local USA 829, Levi recently completed his final semester at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law and received his Juris Doctor in May 2023.

A 4 piece rock band performs with nearby tech gear and spotlighting

Brian Mazzaferri (center) on stage with I Fight Dragons. Photo credit: Michelle Reid

Brian Mazzaferri (BFA ’06, musical theatre) wrote “Believe in Us,” the culminating song for The Muppets Mayhem, a new musical comedy series based on The Muppets by Jim Hensen. The show began streaming on Disney+ on May 10. Mazzaferri also produced a handful of additional tracks for the show and the show’s soundtrack, with collaborators from his chiptune/rock band I Fight Dragons.

Ron Merhavi poses with hands on hips wearing a blue Oxford shirt; string lights behind him

Ron Merhavi. Photo credit: Michael Pavia

Ron Merhavi (DMA ’04, double bass) was chosen to present a recital at the International Society of Bassists Convention, held on campus in June 2023. With his collaborator, pianist and composer Eyal Bat, Merhavi traveled from his native Israel to perform a recital entitled Hidden Treasures, which includes Israeli and Jewish music for double bass and piano, composed or arranged at Ron’s request.

Corynn Nordstrom smiles seated at outdoor dining along a riverfront

Corynn Nordstrom

Corynn Nordstrom (BM ’03, clarinet, music education; MM ’08, music education) maintained National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Certification in 2023 and holds a master educator license in Wisconsin. Nodstrom currently teaches kindergarten through 2nd grade general music in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. She served two terms as early childhood chair of the Wisconsin Music Education Association and regularly presents on early childhood topics at the Wisconsin State Music Conference. Nordstrom directs the Introductory Choir of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir (MCC). She and fellow MCC directors were recognized by the Wisconsin Choral Directors Association for their work with children during the pandemic and their virtual concert, “What the World Needs Now.”

Opera singer in costume performs with arms held high

Andy Papas as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola

After a busy 2022 with opera performances all over the United States, Andy Papas (BM ’07, voice) returned to his hometown in May for Boston Lyric Opera’s production of the acclaimed opera Omar. He covered the roles of Owen/Johnson in Omar in Boston, and he performed those roles at the 2023 Ojai Music Festival in June, alongside composer Rhiannon Giddens. In Ojai, he premiered a new chamber version of the opera titled Omar’s Journey. This summer, he reprised the title role in Don Pasquale for back-to-back performances for Opera Saratoga and, in St. Louis, for Union Avenue Opera.

Sameer Patel poses standing in black tie attire; grey background

Sameer Patel. Photo credit: Sam Zauscher

Sameer Patel (BM ’04, conducting, music theory; MM ’07, conducting) was named Musical America’s New Artist of the Month for April 2023. This followed winter and spring performances where he conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Princeton Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and the La Jolla Symphony.

Rob Rokicki portrait, in blue suit coat with plaid tie with pink background

Rob Rokicki. Photo credit: Michael Kushner Photography

Lightning Thief Goes International

The wildly popular Broadway show The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, with music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki (BFA ’01, musical theatre), recently completed international productions in Japan and Germany. Rokicki’s musicals Monstersongs and Punk Rock Girl! (with Joe Iconis) have been licensed through Concord Theatricals and will be available this year. Rokicki, who also earned a BA in English, was one of several artists on the musical Breathe, with New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult. The project, starring Denée Benton, Kelli O’Hara, and Brian Stokes Mitchell, among others, was chosen for the Library of Congress and just came out on Audible. Rokicki was recently signed by Kobalt Music, and he just released a new album.

Daniel Pesca headshot with dramatic side lighting and black background

Daniel Pesca. Photo credit: Caitlin Oldham

Daniel Pesca (MM ’07, composition, piano) has been appointed assistant professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he will begin teaching in fall 2023. In addition to his prolific career as a composer, Pesca maintains an active schedule as a pianist, both as soloist and as member of the Grossman Ensemble at the University of Chicago.

Alan Posner headshot, wearing glasses, a tie and blue sweater with grey brick background

Alan Posner. Photo credit: Jessica Riley

Alan Posner (BM ’08, music education) is currently in his 15th year of teaching and 8th year at Bloomfield Hills High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. His group has consistently received first division ratings through the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) festival. His jazz groups performed this past year at Cliff Bells, at Aretha’s Jazz Cafe with the Scott Gwinnell Orchestra, and at Zal Gaz Grotto with Paul Keller Orchestra. Posner is the founder and co-chair of the MSBOA Committee for Equity, which creates a fair and equitable educational experience in music by providing detailed suggestions and proposals to the MSBOA State Executive Board.


Felicia Sandler (PhD ’01, music composition & theory) is developing a critical edition of the collected works of Ephraim Amu (1899–1995). Amu is recognized as the “Father of Ghanaian Art Music,” and as such is a national treasure in that country. The first volume is complete and available for purchase.

Dylan Saunders portrait wearing a Guess jacket and Keith Haring New York t-shirt; vibrant textiles and patterns as background

Dylan Saunders. Photo credit: Bill Kennedy

Dylan Saunders (BFA ’09, theatre & drama) appeared in a recurring role in the most recent season of HBO’s Perry Mason, opposite Academy Award nominee Paul Raci. This season, he also guest-starred on the NBC action drama Magnum P.I. and on HBO Max’s superhero series Doom Patrol.

Book cover with historical photo of a man; "Vaughan Williams" by Eric Saylor

Eric Saylor’s newly published book on Ralph Vaughan Williams. Photo credit: Douglas Glass

Vaughan Williams (Oxford University Press, 2022), written by Eric Saylor (PhD ’03, historical musicology), was named the 2022 Book of the Year by the Presto Music Awards and was named a Best Book of 2022 on Classical Music by the Financial Times. One of the latest entries in Oxford’s acclaimed Master Musicians series, it is the first comprehensive survey of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s life and works published in the twenty-first century, and it has received critical approbation in outlets ranging from the Guardian and the New Statesman to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Darryl Semira speaks with hands up in a studio

Darryl Semira. Photo credit: Joe Sofranko

Darryl Semira (BFA ’01, musical theatre) has joined the 2023 repertory company at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, playing Gordon in their production of Rent as well as understudying the Duke of Buckingham in Kirsten Childs’s new adaptation of The Three Musketeers.


Brittni Sennett (BM ’08, French horn) works as a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual, running a national practice supporting career-driven women and entrepreneurs to take ownership of their financial life.

Heather Shouldice smiling headshot, wearing a light brown suitcoat

Heather Shouldice

Heather Shouldice (MM ’09, music education) was appointed to the editorial board of the journal Update: Applications of Research in Music Education. She presented her research on gender microaggressions experienced by female and feminine-presenting band directors at the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) National Conference, the Michigan Music Conference, and the Association of Concert Bands Convention.

Gregory Whitmore studio headshot holding conductor's baton, wearing black

Gregory Whitmore

Conducting a Youth Ensemble Premiere

Gregory Whitmore (BM ’01, music education) led the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble in a premiere of composer Derrick Skye’s End of Beginning (May 2023). Whitmore partnered with composers Frank Duarte and Steven Mahpar in performances of their music in March and May 2023 as conductor of the California State University Fullerton Symphonic Winds. In his role as music education coordinator at CSU Fullerton, Whitmore has presented research at the California All State Music Conference with Bill Tonissen (BM ’00, music education). Whitmore was invited by the World Strides Honor Performance Series to conduct the World Strides Middle School Concert Band in concert at Carnegie Hall in June 2023.

Rob Stowe headshot, his arms perched on a table surface in the foreground

Rob Stow

Rob Stow (BM ’03, music education) recently finished his first year teaching K-12 performing arts with students at Glen Lake Community Schools in Maple City, Michigan. Stow led his small school to successfully advance to State Choral Festival and State Solo and Ensemble appearances and led his elementary students to success in learning how to perform proudly in several languages, incorporating movement and musical literacy and joy.

Mindy Greenblatt Streem close headshot with hand to her temple

Mindy Greenblatt Streem

Mindy Greenblatt Streem (BMA ’01, voice), who also earned a BS in biology and an MS in orthodontics at U-M, has been practicing orthodontics clinically in Cleveland, Ohio, at Parker & Streem Orthodontics. After 15 years, she has been given the wonderful opportunity to work as a clinical advisor for ClearCorrect/ Straumann Group. She is working as an advisor to dentists, orthodontists, and pediatric dentists using ClearCorrect around the country, as well as lecturing. In her free time, she lectures on how to treat LGBTQ+ youth in the dental setting.

Benton Whitley portrait in dark collared shirt; WT logo in the corner

Benton Whitley. Photo credit: Evan Zimmerman

In April 2023, Benton Whitley (BFA ’08, musical theatre) launched Whitley Theatrical, a new casting and producing office in New York City for theatre, TV, and film.

Amanda Winkler portrait outdoors, wearing a blue blouse with nature motif

Amanda Winkler. Photo credit: Jason Winkler

Acclaimed musicologist Amanda Eubanks Winkler (MA ’96, PhD ’00, historical musicology) was appointed director of the music department at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.


Janet Davis portrait standing with arms folded, next to a column and foliage outdoors

Janet Davis. Photo credit: Lisa Wotkowicz Photography

In the spring of 2023 Janet Davis (BFA ’91, musical theatre) launched a new branch of Clarkson Davis, the management consulting company that she and her husband Wyatt founded 16 years ago. Clarkson Davis Arts will specialize in collaborating with executives and boards of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. The specialty offering marries Davis’s passion for the arts and her three-plus decades of nonprofit management experience. Her mission is to help forward-thinking leaders of the cultural economy plan, operate, and fund their visions, helping bring new ideas and approaches to fruition by embracing the unique challenges inherent in the creative sector.

"See Jane Run" film poster

Poster from the documentary film See Jane Run, produced by Brenda Foley. Photo credit: Brooke Hoyer

Brenda (McEldowney) Foley (BFA ’97, musical theatre) is producing the documentary film See Jane Run: An American Indo Story, featuring actor/activist and former child trauma psychologist Dr. Jane Mantiri, a child immigrant refugee from Indonesia. The team plans to travel with Jane to Indonesia this summer to visit sites important to her family’s history.

Akayo Kato dances in flowing attire with a waterfront horizon in the background

Ayako Kato. Photo credit: Ricardo Adame

Kato Selected as US Artists Fellow

In January, Ayako Kato (MFA ’98, dance) was selected as a 2023 United States Artists Fellow. Also this year, Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Music and dance trio Suzuribako, in collaboration with Sebastian Strinning, saxophone, and Frantz Loriot, viola, will be touring in Japan this fall. Continuing since 2018, her episodic ETHOS project is growing together with Indigenous guiding performers, dance and music collaborators, and filmmaker Wills Glasspiegel toward ETHOS IV: Reveal for this fall.

Joseph Gramley portrait, seated at snare drum with one stick thrown up; outdoors at a country garden locale

Joseph Gramley

Two-time GRAMMY Award winner Joseph Gramley (BM ’92, percussion) – winner of the Stanley Medal while at SMTD – has been named chair of the percussion department at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and was appointed to the Jacobs School Council. Gramley performed and toured with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in May in New York City, New Jersey, and Washington, DC. He will perform as a guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre at the Met Opera Lincoln Center in a ballet co-production with the Royal Ballet of a new evening-length work by Christopher Wheeldon. Gramley continues to perform, tour, and record with the Knights and to teach at Juilliard.

Marah Gubar headshot, smiling with hand held to chin, wearing a blue pattern shirt

Marah Gubar. Photo credit: Tory Preston-Djamboe

An associate professor in MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Marah Gubar (BFA ’95, musical theatre), who also earned a BA in English, has been named a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow. This ten-year appointment honors MIT faculty who have made “exemplary and sustained contributions to the teaching and education of undergraduates at MIT.” Gubar was recognized in part for her work creating undergraduate courses that cross disciplinary boundaries, including “How We Got to Hamilton,” which is cross-listed between literature and music and was inspired by the wonderful musical theatre history classes she took at the University of Michigan.

Daniel Gwirtzman studio portrait, smiling in a dance pose with leg raised high

Daniel Gwirtzman. Photo credit: Sarah Hillmon

Daniel Gwirtzman (BFA ’92, dance) joined the SMTD Alumni Board in January, along with being re-elected to another three-year term as a policy board member for the National Dance Education Organization. Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company’s dance/theatre piece e-Motion had its world premiere May 26–June 4 at the Cherry Arts in Ithaca, New York, with six livestreamed performances edited with multiple cameras in real time. Gwirtzman dances in the program-length duet, which he choreographed and co-developed with playwright Saviana Stanescu and Cornell professor So-Yeon Yoon. His dance film Charged screened in Reno, Nevada, in February and in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in March, and was featured during the American Dance Festival’s 90th anniversary programming in June.

Mark Kilstofte sits at a grand piano surrounded by sheet music, CDs and books

Mark Kilstofte at the Aaron Copland House. Photo credit: Ian Murdoch

Mark Kilstofte (MM ’85, DMA ’92, composition) was completing Everyone’s Voice (on Sassoon’s WWI-era poem) when the war in Ukraine broke out; consequently, all sales proceeds benefit Ukrainian relief efforts. The piece has been featured by Minnesota’s Summer Singers, Sweden’s Råby Kammersångare, New York City’s New Amsterdam Singers, and the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Durham. What You Dream, part of Kilstofte’s ongoing series of Rilke settings, was commissioned/premiered by Jeff Bauman and the Young Harris College Choirs. Other recent publications include Here, for treble choir/cello, and Oh, David, drawn from Kilstofte’s award-winning string quartet, lamenting the tragic death of conductor/violist David O’Dell.

Actor leaps on a stage set as a 1940s bandstand

Jody Madaras in The ALL HANDS ON DECK! Show. Photo credit: Marshall Meadows Photography

10 Years of a Musical Homage

Jody Madaras (BFA ’93, musical theatre) recently celebrated ten years as creator/producer/star of The ALL HANDS ON DECK! Show. His musical homage to the days of Bob Hope toured the United States, receiving widespread acclaim, and found residency in Branson, Missouri. Madaras also recently founded Theatre for America, a non-profit professional theatre company dedicated to encouraging American unity through the arts.

Aimee McDonald headshot, smiling with light background

Aimee McDonald

Aimee McDonald (BFA ’96, dance) is artistic director of Terpsichore Collective, which just had its first performance of the company’s relaunch in Ann Arbor. Her work How We Got Here, with music by David T. Little, was presented on May 20 at the Detroit Collage Dance Festival hosted by DDCdances and again in Grand Rapids on June 3, while McDonald served as a guest artist at Mosaics of Humanity by Atelier Dance Company. She is currently working on numerous dance for camera projects.

Eric Milligan portrait wearing dark plaid shirt

Eric Millegan

Having spoken at the UN about his struggles with bipolar disorder, Eric Millegan (BFA ’95, musical theatre) now works as a peer counselor at a mental health respite in Washington Heights, New York.

Daniel Neer headshot wearing suit coat, with textured ceiling above

Daniel Neer. Photo credit: Ted Goro Photo

Performer and lyricist Daniel Neer (SM ’95, voice) recently performed the world premieres of numerous collaborations in new art song and vocal chamber music, including Polar Bear with Sara Carina Graef, Hopper Haiku with Ellen Mandel, and the opera And Here We Are with Matthew Welch, for which Neer supplied the libretto. In addition to performances with Washington National Opera, American Repertory Theater, and Experiments in Opera, Neer recently presented a lecture recital entitled “The Final Waltz: Viennese Operetta and the Anschluss” at Temple University, where he serves on the voice faculty in Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance.

Laura Talbott portrait wearing blue blouse, holding string instrument

Laura Talbott-Clark. Photo credit: Stukenborg Photography

Laura Talbott-Clark (MM ’98, violin) was recently promoted to professor of violin at the Greenwood School of Music, Oklahoma State University, where she also serves as assistant director of equity and inclusion. Talbott-Clark produced and performed on a recording of duo works by Mary Howe, Between Us: Music for Two by Mary Howe, released by Navona Records.

Vitale, Piper, and Caruso pose standing with Soderquist Atrium sign above

Sam Vitale (left), Scott Piper, and Aaron Caruso

Celebrating Neapolitan Song at SMTD

The first annual Sam Vitale & Aaron Caruso Neapolitan Song Vocal Competition was held on Sunday, April 2, 2023, at the Earl V. Moore Building. Sponsored by Sam Vitale (BMA ’97, voice) and Aaron Caruso (BMA ’99, voice), the competition was overseen by Scott Piper, chair of the Department of Voice. Vitale and Caruso were on hand to act as judges for the competition. William Fishwick, tenor, was awarded the top prize in the undergraduate category, and Antona Yost, mezzo-soprano, in the graduate category. In all, $4,500 was awarded to participants, and Piper expressed his thanks to Vitale and Caruso for their support and for creating an unforgettable experience for all.


Peter DuBois portrait in front of an organ, wearing suit and tie

Peter DuBois. Photo credit: Daniel Fischer Photography

Peter DuBois (MM ’80, organ) retired from his position as director of music/organist at Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York, after 32 years of service there and 42 years of full-time music ministry. He will continue to host the nationally syndicated public radio program, With Heart and Voice, a program of sacred choral and organ music heard on over 100 public radio stations nationwide.

Jim Johnson seated at home computer music studio, wearing a t-shirt with abstract art

Jim Johnston

James Johnston (BM ’81, composition) has been busy composing a number of works in 2023. Of these, Vox Aeterna 4 is probably the most profound. The fourth in a series of religious works, it is scored for large orchestra and full choir. Vox Aeterna 4 explores the nature of our profoundly disturbed society and how God, Christ, and man have come together to create a troublesome reality. The four movements contrast various societal and religious themes.

A Composition in Memory of U-M Alum

A new composition by Stephen Michael Gryc (BM ’71, music education; MM ’78, composition & theory; DMA ’83, composition) recently received three performances. Stone Colors: Three Desert Images for Wind Symphony was commissioned by a large consortium in memory of Michigan graduate Eric Rombach-Kendall (MM ’84, clarinet, music education; MM ’88, clarinet, choral conducting), director of bands at the University of New Mexico. Michigan graduate Glen Adsit (BM ’86, trombone; MM ’94, trombone, conducting) conducted performances in Santa Fe (March 19) and Hartford (April 29). The Washburn University Wind Ensemble also performed the work (March 26) on its Topeka campus, where Gryc served as composer-in-residence. On May 1, Adsit recorded the work with the Hartt Wind Ensemble for the Naxos label.

Three individuals pose on a stage at a performance

Stephen Michael Gryc (left), Julie Rombach-Kendall, and Glen Adsit

Headshot of Tong Soon Kwak next to organ buttons

Tong Soon Kwak

Tong Soon Kwak (DMA ’81, organ) started the YouTube channel “Musician K,” which hosts videos of her organ and church music concerts.


Scott Messing (PhD ’86, musicology), Charles A. Dana Professor of Music Emeritus at Alma College, read his conference paper “Schubert Gets Busted” at the Fourteenth Kent Invitational Conference on Historical Musicology, Kent State University, April 22, 2023.

Headshot of R. Anderson Sutton outdoors, wearing Hawaiian pattern shirt

R. Anderson Sutton

After a decade as dean and assistant vice provost at the University of Hawai’i, R. Anderson Sutton (PhD ’82, ethnomusicology) has moved to the music department, where he is teaching full time and is chair of the ethnomusicology program.


Morton Achter (BM ’61, MM ’63, music theory; PhD ’72, musicology) directed a production of Noel Coward’s comedy Private Lives in March 2023 for the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath, Maine. He serves on the board of directors and teaches music-related courses for Midcoast Senior College based in Brunswick, Maine, and delivers pre-opera talks at the Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta, Maine, for the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday HD broadcasts.

Thomas Clark close headshot

Thomas S. Clark

University of North Texas professor emeritus Thomas S. Clark (BM ’71, MM ’72, DMA ’76, composition) retired from Texas State University in 2020, having served 12 years as director of the School of Music. He previously served as dean of music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In the last two years since administrative retirement, he has composed 24 new pieces and published 12 of his “sound sculptures” on the TClark Art Music YouTube channel. He also recently wrote his fourth book, published at MappingTheMusicUniverse.com. Clark and his wife, Elizabeth, continue to live near their six granddaughters in San Marcos, Texas.

Jacqueline DeBoey wearing headphones at an office desk decorated for Christmas

Jacqueline DeBoey

Jacqueline DeBoey (BM ’72, viola, music education) has had a varied career in financial services, the legal field, real estate, private teaching of piano, organ, and viola, as well as freelancing on the harp. For the last four years she has been teaching ESL (English as a second language) online to children in China.

Connie (Bergstein) Dow (MFA ’76, dance) is publishing two picture books about dance in 2023: Beastie Jamboree (Young Dragons Press, April 2023), and Tap and Rap, Move and Groove (Free Spirit Publishing, October 2023).


Peter Kentes (MFA ’78, dance) is the instructor of the Lifetime Fitness Program at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, a Kinesiology Community Program offered through the U-M School of Kinesiology, where he has taught for over 30 years. Kentes is also active in professional and community dance and theatre performances and choreography. He most recently performed the role of R.H. Macy in the Croswell Opera House production of Miracle on 34th Street in Adrian, Michigan. Kentes is currently involved with a three-part premium documentary series about Madonna to be filmed by Optomen Television, a UK Emmy Award-winning production company, to be shown on Sky Documentaries on BBC, ITV, Discovery+, and Netflix.

Timor et Tremor, a motet by Jeffrey Quick (BM ’78, music history & musicology) that was commissioned by the Benedict XVI Institute, was premiered by Band of Voices under Alfred Calabrese in Mission Dolores, San Francisco, on March 11, and broadcast live on EWTN. On May 19, the finale of his opera-in-progress, The Little Hen, was sung on a concert of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.

Bill Ritchie stands with his bass and bow in a lobby with a wall of windows

Bill Ritchie

Bill Ritchie (MM ’77, double bass), assistant principal bass of the Omaha Symphony, retired in June after serving in this position for the past forty years. He began his career as the director of orchestras for the St. Joseph Public Schools in his hometown of St. Joseph, Michigan, after graduating with a bachelor of music degree from Western Michigan University in 1975 and a master’s degree from U-M in 1977. He is frequently asked to coach bass players from the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras and has given master classes at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, and the University of Nebraska. He is married to Patty Ritchie, a professional cellist and conductor.

James Warren smiles sitting at an organ keyboard

James Warren at Notre Dame de Paris. Photo credit: Tom McAfee

James Warren (BA ’74, music literature, organ) is an active church organist and recitalist. He has recorded three commercial CDs for Regent Records (UK) and has played recitals at Notre Dame de Paris, Madelleine (Paris), and St. Paul’s (London). He is also active in software implementation.


Marty Zyskowski poses next to a huge drum on exhibit

Marty Zyskowski

Returning to Ann Arbor after 59 Years

Marty Zyskowski (BM ’66, MM ’67, percussion) was one of the first freshman music majors in 1963 to audition and make it into the famous University of Michigan Symphonic Band under the direction of William D. Revelli. He also performed all of the snare drum charts arranged by U-M professor Jerry Bilik for the well-known Kick Off, USA Vanguard recording at Carnegie Hall, featuring the U-M Symphonic Band. It has been 59 years since Zyskowski has been in Ann Arbor, but that will change on September 23, 2023, when he will attend the U-M vs. Rutgers homecoming game and once again will pick up the snare drum to perform in the U-M Alumni Band.

Charles Atkinson portrait outdoors, hands on hips, wearing brown suit coat

Charles Atkinson. Photo credit: Hanno Clausing

Charles M. Atkinson (MM ’65, music education) has just seen published his article “Über den Wechsel der Tonarten im östlichen und westlichen Gesang: Techniken, Texte und Rhetorik,” (“On Modulation in Eastern and Western Plainchant: Techniques, Texts, and Rhetoric”) in Beiträge zur Gregorianik 74 (2022): 27-85. The article is the redacted version of his keynote address for the German-Language Section of the Associazione Internazionale Studi di Canto Gregoriano, held in Reichenau, Germany, November 12–14, 2021.

Vintage photo, greyscale, of a young boy holding his arms out

Jerry Bilik

Jerry Bilik (BM ’55, music education; MM ’62, composition) has upped his tennis game to 3.5, has retired from show business, and just completed a text on advanced composition while he himself slowly decomposes. He continues to teach and guest-conduct, and 70 years after his first Michigan Marching Band arrangement, produced another for that outstanding group! Bilik summers in Michigan and winters in Florida.

Brent Herhold poses outdoors holding a brass instrument

Brent Herhold

Tubist Brent Herhold (BM ’64, MM ’65, music education) and the Altos Brass Quintet performed at the March 4th afternoon concert of the Fortnightly Music Club in Palo Alto, California, playing Victor Ewald’s Quintet No.1. That evening, Herhold joined the Stanford Wind Symphony for their winter concert at Bing Concert Hall on the Stanford University campus. The program included Michael Daugherty’s Lost Vegas. In May, Brent joined the Stanford Wind Symphony for their spring concert, featuring clarinetists Wenzel Fuchs, principal clarinet soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic, and Sebastian Hayn, of the Salzburg Philharmonic.

Greg Heuer portrait holding his clarinet, wood background

Greg Heuer

Fifty-four years after first raising a baton, Greg Heuer (BM ’69, music education) is stepping down from his last podium. In June of 2023, Heuer retired as conductor of the Airstream Club International Concert Band. He conducted his last concert with the band in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

William V. Johnson portrait wearing formal black coat and white bowtie

William V. Johnson

William V. Johnson (MM ’66, music education), professor emeritus at California Polytechnic State University, served as that university’s director of bands and coordinator of instrumental music from 1966 to 2010. He is past president of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE). As an arranger and transcriber of music for the wind band, Johnson’s works have been performed by wind bands from many countries. As a guest conductor, lecturer and clinician, Johnson has conducted wind ensembles and orchestras in many countries. He was selected as one of three Distinguished Teachers at Cal Poly. Recently, he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Band Directors Association and received the Distinguished Service to Music Medal from Kappa Kappa Psi.

Headshot of Paul Kirby wearing patterned blue sweater

Paul Kirby

Composer Paul H. Kirby (BM ’67, music education) provided incidental music for the recent off-Broadway play, Bonhöffer – The Final Days. The Zoom reading of his musical, The Boy Who Listened to Paintings, is available on YouTube.

Sheilah Rae (Bernstein-Gross) (BM ’67, voice) was awarded a Special Vivace Award from the Bret Adams and Paul Reisch Foundation on April 20, 2023. Many U-M alumni were in attendance.


After teaching instrumental music in public schools, Janet Harmon (BM ’56, music education) became an adjunct instructor at Olivet College. She had a choral anthem published and later began accompanying Dr. Eugenia Yau, a soprano soloist, in Michigan, Kansas, and Hong Kong. Harmon is retired now and living in California.