Michigan Muse Winter 2024 > Alumni Updates

Alumni Updates

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


Album Release poster with purple textured background, photo of a person's back

KJ Ludwig’s album Identity Crisis was celebrated at a release party in her hometown of Marquette, Michigan

Karen Jane Ludwig (BMA ’23, multidisciplinary: voice), also known as KJ, included a minor in performing arts management & entrepreneurship in her degree. A dreamer at heart, she aims to blend her passions by opening KJ’s Cupcakes, a unique cupcake shop and music venue. Fueled by inspiration from music composition and electronic production courses and the support of professors, Ludwig combines baking, graphic scores, and painting in her creative endeavors. Her artist name (kjcup) and the recent release of her debut album, Identity Crisis, independently recorded and produced, celebrate her creative artistry where music, paint, and cupcakes harmonize.

Anna Rose Nelson headshot outdoors

Anna Rose Nelson

Anna Rose Nelson (PhD ’23, music theory) defended her dissertation, “Fragments, Miniatures & Microludes: Analyzing the Modernist Aphoristic Aesthetic,” in August 2023 and was awarded her PhD in music theory. In the fall, Nelson started a new position in the theory/composition division at the University of Maryland.

Music Festival in Korea Brings SMTD Community Together

The inaugural Yangsan Summer Music Fest took place during July and August 2023 in Busan, South Korea. Founder and artistic director Mi-Eun Kim (MM ’14, piano, chamber music; DMA ’21, SM ’22, piano) was joined by SMTD faculty Matthew Bengtson; alumni Michelle J. Kim (MM ’17, violin), Sandy Yu-Hsuan Wang (MM ’20, piano), and Heeseung Lee (MM ’23, bassoon, chamber music); and current student Hyerim Lee (DMA ’24, piano). This festival features solo and chamber works performed in a house-concert setting by SMTD-affiliated musicians based in Korea during the summer. A second edition of the festival, which will include master classes and outreach concerts, is forthcoming in summer 2024.

Five people pose together, holding two bouquets of flowers

Mi-Eun Kim (second from left) with Michelle J. Kim (left), Heeseung Lee, Sandy Yu-Hsuan Wang, and Hyerim Lee at the Yangsan Summer Music Fest. Photo credit: Mindy Sisco Photography

Ella Olesen poses on a grassy lawn in front of a historic tower at Oxford

Ella Olesen at the University of Oxford British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford program, July 2023

Ella Olesen (BFA ’22, musical theatre) studied Shakespeare at the University of Oxford with the British American Drama Academy in July 2023, after being one of just 90 worldwide admitted to the Midsummer in Oxford program. She learned directly from renowned actors and teachers including Brian Cox CBE, Mary Lou Rosato, Madeleine Potter, Leo Wringer, Andrew Wade, Jackie Snow, and Robert Price. Completing the program, Ella joins the ranks of alumni including Chadwick Boseman, Louisa Jacobson, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jack Davenport, and U-M professor Mark Colson.

Standing in a city street, William Thain holds up his violin

William Thain

William Thain (MM ’23, violin) recently won the concertmaster position of the Lansing Symphony. He received his master’s degree from University of Michigan studying with Danielle Belen and currently holds a teaching position in the U-M pre-college program. Thain is the recipient of the 2022 Performing Arts EXCELerator Fellowship as a co-founder of the Montréal-based Ensemble Urbain, a conductorless ensemble specializing in performing works by underrepresented composers.

Five people pose together in front of a photo op wall full of logos

Andrew Otchere (second from left) with some cast members from Becoming BFA – Pete Dickey (left), Clara Dossetter, Charles Lee-Rossing, and Violetta Fisco – at the Laugh After Dark Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.

Short Film Features SMTD Actors from Class of ’23

Becoming BFA: The Showcase Showdown, created by Andrew Otchere (BFA ’23, theatre & drama) and featuring the BFA acting class of 2023 and many other U-M student collaborators, is a mockumentary short film following the drama that ensues in and out of the rehearsal room at a “cutthroat Midwest drama school” as senior theatre majors prepare for their final showcase. The short film premiered at the Laugh After Dark Comedy Festival in Las Vegas in October 2023, and the film has since been adapted into a web series that is now streaming on YouTube.

Kisa Uradomo holds her violin in front of bright pink hibiscus flowers

Kisa Uradomo

The Hana Hou Music Program, founded by Kisa Uradomo (SM ’23, violin), held several benefit concerts in Ann Arbor to support those affected by the Maui wildfires. The concerts were the subject of a Detroit News article. Hana Hou develops, advocates, and provides music education in Maui, where Uradomo was born and raised.

Elisha Willinger portrait outdoors at dusk; holding a clarinet

Elisha Willinger. Photo credit: Colin McCall

Elisha Willinger (DMA ’21, clarinet) was appointed as the new assistant teaching professor of clarinet at Ball State University in the fall of 2023.

From Social Media Content Creator to Published Author

After graduating from SMTD, Eli Rallo (BTA ’20, playwriting, performing arts management) went on to get her graduate degree at Columbia Journalism School. Shortly after, she started a career on social media and launched her own podcast. Her debut book, I Didn’t Know I Needed This, was published by HarperCollins in December 2023.

Eli Rallo portrait, seated on a pink couch, wearing pink and looking inside her new book

Eli Rallo. Photo credit: Maggie Davis

Greyscale portrait of Xiting Yang, looking sideways, ivy-covered wall in background

Xiting Yang

Xiting Yang (DMA ’21, piano) joined the University of Arkansas faculty. She was appointed as teaching assistant professor of piano starting in fall 2023.

Recent Graduates Reunite in NYC for SongStudio

Molly Schwall (BM ’23, musicology, voice), Natalie Sherer (DMA ’22, collaborative piano), and Tzu Kuang Tan (MM ’21, SM ’23, collaborative piano) reunited in New York City at Carnegie Hall for the week-long art song and vocal recital program SongStudio, led by Renée Fleming. Collaborative pianists Sherer and Tan participated in the program as part of two of the eight singer/pianist duos. Schwall recently started an artistic planning position at Carnegie Hall as the artist training programs associate, managing SongStudio along with the National Youth Orchestras and other guest artist master classes throughout the year.

Three people pose and gesture to the Michigan hat in the center, in a city studio space

Molly Schwall (left), Natalie Sherer, and Tzu Kuang Tan


On a dark stage, five dancers form a pyramid shape through leaning and arm movement

A performance of Anthony Alterio’s Underneath. Photo credit: Robin Michals

Anthony Alterio (MFA ’16, dance) was hired onto the faculty of Ohio University in August 2023. He works in the School of Dance and the School of Theatre as assistant professor of instruction in musical theatre and dance. Alterio also premiered his new choreographed work, Underneath, at Dixon Place in New York City in November. In December he received funding from a grant to start his new interactive website combining media and movement entitled Conversations with My *Straight Boyfriends, which will archive dance and text from the lens of various LGBTQIA+ voices.

David Biedenbender studio headshot, wearing black suit coat and shirt

David Biedenbender

David Biedenbender (MM ’09, DMA ’13, composition), associate professor of composition at Michigan State University, recently released a portrait album of chamber and vocal music, all we are given we cannot hold. It features collaborations with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Haven Trio, and the Garth Newel Piano Quartet. Gramophone noted that “Each of the works on this recording of music by David Biedenbender seizes the ear through a blend of expressive beauty and formal prowess. Biedenbender isn’t afraid to wear heart on sleeve as he applies telling nuances to concise, exquisitely shaped sonic tales.”

Four people sit on a stone bench, shrubs and a city street in background

The C.A.R.Ma. Quartet: John Churchville (left), Peter Madcat Ruth, Brennan Andes, and Dan Ripke

John Churchville (MA ’13, music education) engineered and produced the album Cosmic Convergence with Grammy Award–winning musician Peter Madcat Ruth and their band the C.A.R.Ma. Quartet. As the chair of the New Directions Committee for the Michigan Music Education Association, Churchville oversees the Young Composers of Michigan, which tripled the number of submissions of original work from K-12 students in Michigan.

Thomas Cilluffo (BM ’15, MM ’17, voice), a tenor who studied at SMTD with George Shirley, made his European operatic debut with the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Germany, followed by a debut with Teatro Regio Torino in Italy. The summer was spent in performance with the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, and in late October, he won a career development grant in the Sullivan Foundation Vocal Competition.

Alexander Cannon portrait seated on a dark stage, wearing a suit and yellow tie

Musicology Alum Wins Book Prize

Alexander Cannon (MA ’07, PhD ’11, musicology), associate professor of music at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, was named the winner of the 2023 Royal Musical Association/Cambridge University Press Outstanding Monograph Book Prize for his Seeding the Tradition: Musical Creativity in Southern Vietnam (Wesleyan University Press, 2022). In November 2023, Cannon’s project SoundDecisions, a research program that studies how Mekong Delta farmers could fight climate change through music, won a €2 million grant from the European Research Council.

Sarah Coit studio headshot, wearing black turtleneck, light grey background

Sarah Coit. Photo credit: Rafael Clemente

Sarah Coit (MM ’15, voice) has had a busy season that consisted of role debuts as Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea with West Edge Opera and as Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola with the Toledo Opera, as well as concert appearances in Handel’s Messiah with American Bach Soloists and the Alabama Symphony. She will also sing Polly Thompson in the world premiere of Touch with Opera Birmingham and return to American Bach Soloists for a Baroque Mad Scenes concert.

Brancato and Faran pose for a studio portrait, wearing white, with black textured background

Teagan Faran (right) and Nicole Brancato. Photo credit: Adam Sisler

Teagan Faran (BM ’17, violin), as part of the duo Persephone & the Phoenix, recently released the debut single “High Voltage Wires (by Dr. Sal Brancato!).” The track features violin, piano, and synth tracks recorded asynchronously from Faran’s studio at DePauw University in Indiana and her collaborator Nicole Brancato’s studio in New York City.

Katrina Fasulo studio headshot, wearing a red turtleneck, with light background

Katrina Fasulo

In January 2024, Katrina Fasulo (BMA ’17, voice), who minored in performing arts management & entrepreneurship, joined Opera MODO as executive director.

Square promotional flyer for a benefit with stripes of rainbow coloring

A poster for Ring of Keys’ recent benefit, Queering the Gala. Design credit: Liz Neitge

Outgoing executive director of Ring of Keys Aislinn Frantz (BTA ’12) has programmed many community engagement and showcase events for the organization. Her tenure culminated in its first-ever gala, Queering the Gala: A Benefit for Ring of Keys, on January 29 at Joe’s Pub in New York City. The event featured a silent auction, testimonials from Keys who have benefited from the organization’s services, and a concert, Queering the Canon: Alan Menken, featuring queered performances of classic Menken songs and new songs written for and by queer women, trans, and non-binary artists.

Three people pose together standing in front of a photo op wall full of BCC logos

Andrés Holder (right), Joshua Glassman, and Sarah Kennedy

U-M Grads Among the “Small, Mighty Staff” of Boston Children’s Chorus

The Grammy Award–winning Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) harnesses the power of music to connect Boston’s diverse communities, cultivate empathy, and inspire social inquiry. BCC is one of the leading youth organizations in the city and beyond, featuring performances that are vibrant, jubilant, and powerful as the organization seeks to dismantle barriers students face seeking access to arts education. Andrés Holder (BFA ’10, design & production), the executive director; Joshua Glassman (BM ’12, voice, music education), the individual giving officer and assistant conductor; and Sarah Kennedy, who graduated from U-M in 2010 and is the analytics specialist at BCC, are among the small, mighty staff who make sure BCC remains a place where students feel confident in their ability to raise their voices and get into good trouble.


Rebecca Fülöp (PhD ’12, historical musicology) completed dual MLIS/MAS degrees (master’s degrees in library & information science and archival studies) at the University of British Columbia in December 2020 and has been working at Temple University in Philadelphia as the performing arts librarian since January 2022.


Josh Graham (MM ’13, percussion) serves as full-time instructor of percussion at the University of Northern Iowa. In fall 2023, with his trio F-PLUS, he premiered works by Emma O’Halloran, Gemma Peacocke, Matthew Ricketts, and Bobby Ge, among others, at the DiMenna Center and in the Princeton Sound Kitchen Series. In summer 2023, Josh premiered two new solo marimba works based on works of literature: Michael Conrad’s Four Hearst Poems, at the Hearst Center for the Arts (James Hearst’s home), and The Last Good Country, at the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum. The latter composition is based on Hemingway’s The Nick Adams Stories and was composed by Griffin Candey (DMA ’23, composition).

Kiana June portrait outdoors, standing in a field of yellow flowers, wearing a green dress, holding her violin

Kiana June. Photo credit: Yam Photography

Kiana June (BM ’13, violin) continues to break down barriers between the structured beauty of classical music and passionate creativity of the fiddle. Her online music academy, Fiddle Club, has brought best-in-class folk music education to students ages 10–72 across four continents. Uniquely skilled in translation of techniques between the two idioms, she has helped classical players find their voice as fiddlers. As a sought-after performer, she completed in 2023 a five-year project touring North America in Come from Away, the Tony Award–winning musical set in the soundscape of maritime Canada.

Diana Ladio portrait seated outdoors, holding her viola, a fence, trees and sunshine in background

Diana Ladio

Diana Ladio (BM ’10, viola) and her original ensemble, the Moxie Strings, achieved a #1 album on the Billboard Classical Crossover charts in July 2022. The ensemble has just retired after 15 years of playing professionally and teaching workshops in hundreds of schools nationwide. Ladio also co-founded and directs a nonprofit, the MOX Project, which provides musical experiences to underserved youth in schools all over the country.

Madison Montambault portrait, wearing black, seated on steps outside a historic wooden door

Madison Montambault. Photo credit: Lisa Tune Photography

A Season of Debuts and Honors

In the 2023–24 season, Madison Montambault (BM ’17, MM ’19, voice) made her company debut with Dayton Opera in Wagner’s Das Rheingold, singing Wellgunde and covering Fricka. Later in the season, she debuts at Edmonton Opera in Wagner’s Das Rheingold as Wellgunde. In January 2024, she made her Kerrytown Concert House recital debut. In 2022–23, Montambault was a top prize winner at Edmonton Opera’s inaugural Rumbold Vocal Prize Competition and a winner of the Indiana District of the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition.

Studio headshot of Michael Malis, wearing grey with light background

Michael Malis. Photo credit: John Mark Hanson

Michael Malis (BFA ’11, jazz studies) was appointed visiting instructor of jazz piano at Interlochen Arts Academy in September 2023. In October, his composition In Search of Softer Selves premiered at Edgefest in Ann Arbor, with support from the Foundation for Contemporary Art. In November, he gave a master class to Harvard University’s Contemporary Chamber Music class, which performed his composition Nourishment under the directorship of Professor Claire Chase.

Headshot of Joanna Miller taken outdoors, circle cropped with dark background

Joanna Miller. Photo credit: Samantha Tadelman

Joanna Miller (BTA ’14, performing arts management) started a new role as chief of operations for the Rock Creek Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to mental and behavioral health services in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

Jules Pegram with arms held up, conducting in a recording studio as others watch in background

Jules Pegram. Photo credit: ASCAP

Jules Pegram (MM ’15, DMA ’18, composition) recently composed the original score to the upcoming feature-length documentary Choral Singing in America: Nurturing the Country’s Soul, directed by Brian Gaukel (Collaborative Films) and advised by artistic director Jerry Blackstone (professor emeritus of conducting).

Jackson Pierce acts on stage, costumed as a military officer

Jackson Pierce, in an Academy at the Shakespeare Theatre Company production. Photo credit: Alec Wild

Jackson Pierce (BFA ’15, theatre & drama) has received his master’s degree in classical acting from the Academy at the Shakespeare Theatre Company at George Washington University. In October, he moved to the United Kingdom, where he is currently teaching speech and drama to young students.

Briana Ashley Stuart stands speaking to a large crowd from a dark stage with 3D TEDx logo

Briana Ashley Stuart speaking at TEDxBrussels

An International Tour and a TEDx Talk

Briana Ashley Stuart (BFA ’13, dance; BS ’13, sociology) recently completed an international tour with the production of The Golden Stool or the Story of Nana Yaa Asantewaa, an AfrOpera produced by LOD and Toneelhuis Theater in Belgium. She was also invited to give a talk at TEDxBrussels, “How to Unveil the Secret Power of Movement and Sound to Create,” which dives deeply into her artistic research and philosophy in movement and sound. In addition she has rebranded and expanded her arts organization, STU Arts Dance, which uses dance as a tool of personal and professional development for a wide range of audiences.

Nathan Platte headshot outdoors, wearing blue collared shirt

Nathan Platte

Nathan Platte (BM ’04, trombone; PhD ’10, musicology), associate professor of musicology and cinematic arts at the University of Iowa, received a 2023 Virgil Thomson Award for Outstanding Music Criticism from the ASCAP Foundation for his article “Mixed Motives: Soviet Symphonies and Propagandistic Duplicity in The Iron Curtain (1948).” The article, which explores the repurposing of Soviet music in an anti-Communist film, was published in the U-M open-access journal Music & Politics. Platte also contributed an article to the journal American Music describing his collaborations with students and community partners on the development of two podcasts, Sounding Cinema and FilmCastPodScene.

Blair Salter portrait, seated on outdoor staircase, holding a baton and wearing suitcoat and jeans

Blair Salter. Photo credit: Daniel Welch

In August 2023, Blair Salter (DMA ’17, collaborative piano) was named head coach for the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program at LA Opera. As part of this position, she oversees the musical development of the young artists, helps to plan their curriculum, and serves as music staff for mainstage LA Opera productions.


Jesus Sanchez (BM ’19, music education, jazz studies) is a general music teacher at Tecumseh Public Schools. He loves his job and has applied his non-traditional approach to music education to help his already successful district’s music department. Sanchez is also an active solo jazz guitarist and plays bass with an up-and-coming jam band called Keep It Casual, out of Toledo, Ohio.

Album cover with orange, pink and gold shapes form a star, half-obscuring a face in the background

The cover of Annika Socolofsky’s new album, I Tell You Me. Album cover: Tara Knight, Photos: Xuan

On September 8, 2023, Annika Socolofsky (MA ’14, composition) and ~Nois released I Tell You Me, an album celebrating queer joy and defiance on Carrier Records. Called “grotesquely gorgeous” (Chicago Tribune) and “raw and honest and engaging” (I Care If You Listen), Socolofsky’s original three-song cycle riffs on the old nursery rhyme “sugar, spice, and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of,” questioning gender roles and rejoicing in the beauty of queer self-expression and empowerment. The song cycle is followed by remixes of each song in the cycle, each created by a different queer artist: Phong Tran, Darian Donovan Thomas, and No Plexus.

Jacob Warren portrait outdoors with trees, holding his bass and bow, wearing a suit coat

Jacob Warren. Photo credit: Zola Hightower

Bassist Wins Top Prize in ISB Soloist Competition

In June 2023, Jacob Warren (BM ’17, double bass; MM ’19, chamber music, improvisation) won first prize in the International Society of Bassists (ISB) Convention Soloist Competition. As part of his award, Warren will perform a headlining recital at the 2025 ISB convention. He continues to perform and record with his groups Warren & Flick, Westbound Situation, and Kittel & Co. His performance and teaching videos – which can be found on his YouTube channel, Jacob Warren Bass – have gained attention from the string community and have been shared by publications like The Strad and others. He was also a featured guest on Contrabass Conversations.

Nathan Taylor (BM ’12, voice) has been appointed assistant vice president for board strategy and communications and associate secretary to the Board of Trustees at Northwestern University, where he has served in the central administration for eight years. He was elected president of Chicago’s Raven Theatre Company, an acclaimed company that celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and whose mission is to tell stories of today and of the past that relate to the cultural landscape of Chicago’s North Side. Taylor celebrated his tenth anniversary singing with the Music of the Baroque and its artistic director, Dame Jane Glover, last year.

15+ individuals pose standing with arms and hands held out, excited faces

Zannah Van Ryn (front row, right) and other alums from the SMTD bass studio reunited at the International Society of Bassists convention in Ann Arbor to perform a tribute concert for Diana Gannett

Zannah Van Ryn (BMA ’09, bass; MM ’11, music education) is in her 13th year of teaching orchestra in St. Louis. She plays in the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra, coaches the women’s water polo team at her old high school, teaches private bass lessons, and has taught “The Victors” to every student she’s ever had.


New Album of Music by Chris Fisher-Lochhead Features SMTD Alums

New Focus Recordings released a portrait album of music by composer Chris Fisher-Lochhead (BM ’06, composition) on December 1, 2023. The album, Wake Up the Dead, features performances by the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ben Roidl-Ward, and Quince Ensemble. The performers on the album include fellow SMTD alums Austin Wulliman (BM ’06, violin) and Chris Wild (BM ’05, cello; MM ’07, cello, music education), and the album’s liner notes are written by Eliza Brown (BM ’07, composition, cello).

Chris Fisher-Lochhead greyscale studio portrait, seated, grey background

Chris Fisher-Lochhead. Photo credit: Meghan Shalapin


The work of Robert Alexander (BFA ’07, performing arts technology; MA ’09, media arts; PhD ’15, design science) was recently featured in NASA’s Curious Universe podcast. While attending the University of Michigan, Alexander frequently traveled between SMTD and the Space Research Building, where he utilized the principles of psychoacoustics and deep listening to better understand the sounds of the solar wind through a process known as data audification. He is currently working with the HARP Citizen Science project to bring these sounds to space enthusiasts around the world. He and his team welcome ideas from potential collaborators.

Anna Beard and another actor sword fight, costumed in historic-inspired attire

Anna Beard (BFA ’03, dance) has always looked for interesting ways to bring dance to new disciplines, and recently that has been making the connection between historical dance and the art of sword fighting. As of June 2023, she and her husband relocated from Austin, Texas, to Traverse City, Michigan, where they have opened a new branch of their school, Historical Weapons Guild. She also travels the country bringing a movement experience that incorporates ballet, historical dance, modern dance, and even teaching methods to the historical European martial arts community at large.

Two people perform with electronic instruments in a large space

Ryan Black (left) performing “Temporal Biomes” with JaNae Contag. Photo credit: Aidan Kranz

Ryan Black (BA ’07, performing arts technology; BFA ’07, jazz & contemporary improvisation; MA ’09, media arts) designed and performed his original collaborative sound installation project “Temporal Biomes,” commissioned by the 150 Media Stream in Chicago, during summer 2023. The performance was a collaboration with artist JaNae Contag (NÆ). Black and Contag were sponsored performers at House of Vans Chicago, performed and hosted workshops at the University of Minnesota Morris’s Performing Arts Series, and were featured at Sound+Vision Synth Series in Rochester, New York. Black produced and mixed the experimental NÆ album Isolazen, which was released October 2023. Black’s art practice explores the performativity of technology. Black teaches at Columbia College Chicago in audio arts and acoustics and is a sound designer with Rocket Cat Games.

Seated audience watches as a saxophonist, pianist, and vocalist perform on a small stage

Amy K Bormet (piano) interviews Dr. Leigh Pilzer (baritone saxophone) and Jessica Boykin-Settles. Photo credit: Lyla Maisto

Amy K Bormet (BFA ’06, jazz studies, piano) created The Turnaround podcast to interview and perform duets with artists from the Washington Women in Jazz Festival. The latest issue of The Turnaround magazine was released in February 2024.

David T. Little portrait, standing and leaning on a wall, wearing black; studio lights in background

David T. Little. Photo credit: Daniel Welch

Black Lodge Earns Grammy Nomination

Black Lodge, by David T. Little (MM ’02, composition), received a 2024 Grammy nomination for Best Opera Recording. Premiered at Opera Philadelphia and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, this “captivating punk pageant” exists as both a film and live performance. It followed the world premiere last fall of Little’s choral opera Sin-Eater by three-time Grammy-winners the Crossing, with the Bergamot Quartet. A ”profoundly unsettling” meditation on the nature of power, Sin-Eater was recorded for future release. Little is currently completing What Belongs to You, an opera after the novel by Garth Greenwell, which will premiere in fall 2024.

Four people pose standing in a multi-level lobby space

Joys Cheung (second from left) with her students

Joys Cheung (PhD ’08, musicology), was recently promoted to associate professor at the Graduate Institute of Ethnomusicology, National Taiwan Normal University. Her research has focused on the emerging field of “music” in Chinese modernity, 1930s to the present. Her 2023 publications include The Art Song of East Asia and Australia, 1900–1950 (Routledge) and “Making Chinese Instrumental Relics in Pre-UNESCO Modernity: Datong Music Society’s ‘Heritage’ Project” (Journal of Music Research, Taipei). She is now developing a collaborative exhibit and research project on a set of historically important musical instruments that were donated in 1925–26 to the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Cheung was a Barbour Scholar of the Rackham Graduate School; recently she met other Barbours in Taipei through the coordination of Rackham’s Michele Siegal. She looks forward to attending the upcoming Pan-Asia Alumni Reunion 2024, to be held in Taipei.

Jameson “Jamie” Cooper (BFA ’07, musical theatre) has started working as a research speech language pathologist at the Vocal Hyperfunction Clinical Research Center at the MGH Voice Center in Boston, Massachusetts, a clinic known for the treatment of voice disorders in professional singers. Areas of interest are personality traits related to voice disorders and treatment, manual therapy, and professional voice issues.

Six people pose surrounded by instruments and theatre chairs

Musicians in the cinema to perform live: Sarah Hughes (left), Keith Butler Jr., Wesley Hornpetrie, Manny Arciniega, Amy K Bormet, Matt Dievendorf

Matt Dievendorf (BFA ’05, jazz studies) received a grant for Strange Woman Records’ “UnSound Sundays,” his series of silent films with improvised graphic scores. In addition to Dievendorf on guitar and effects, performers at the recent screening of Nosferatu included Amy K Bormet (BFA ’06, jazz studies, piano) and Wesley Hornpetrie (MM ’16, SM ’18, cello).

Nicole DiPaolo portrait, seated at a piano wearing a blue dress

Nicole DiPaolo. Photo credit: Julian Morris Photo

A composition by pianist, composer, and arranger Nicole DiPaolo (BM ’08, music theory) was included in a publication by EVC Music in August 2023. Her Nocturne in G# minor, written to prepare late-intermediate pianists for the challenges of Chopin’s music, was chosen for inclusion in the volume 22 Nocturnes for Chopin. This volume brings together the work of 22 women composers chosen through a worldwide call for scores. The book will be available on Amazon and through Hal Leonard Europe in addition to EVC Music‘s website; a selection of the book was performed September 18 at Steinway Hall in London.

Premiere of Tuba Compositions

Michael W. Nickens (DMA ’06, tuba), associate professor of music at George Mason University in Virginia, and Zoe Cutler (MM ’20, trombone), were commissioned by Carol Jantsch (BM ’06, tuba) for compositions that she then premiered at her faculty recital at Yale University in November 2023. Cutler reworked her composition “Duets with Benefits” for tubas. Nickens, who received his master of music degree in tuba performance from the Yale School of Music in 2001, composed “Harmonicsphere” for unaccompanied tuba to honor his applied professor, the late Toby Hanks, as well as Jantsch (currently serving as Yale’s tuba professor) and the Yale music community.

Composite photo of three musicians with their wind instruments

Michael W. Nickens (top left), Carol Jantsch (top right), and Zoe Cutler


Sean Jackman (DMA ’02, organ; MM ’05, organ, music education) is the teacher-leader of the Arts Academy @P-CEP in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools in Plymouth, Michigan. The Arts Academy is a smaller learning community of musicians and artists of all kinds who thrive on an arts-enriched curriculum at the high school level. The academy is open to all students in grades 9-12.

Two people pose standing holding small wooden instruments, wearing black suit coats

Ron Merhavi (left) and Eyal Bat. Photo credit: Yuval Capsuto

Ron Merhavi (DMA ’04, double bass) and pianist/composer Eyal Bat came from Israel to  perform a recital at the International Society of Bassists convention at SMTD in June 2023.  They performed the program “Hidden Treasures,” Jewish/Israeli works written or arranged especially for Merhavi.  

Francis Novak headshot outdoors, wearing black, a brightly colored mural in background

Francis Novak

Francis Novak (BM ’03, clarinet) performed on the recently released award-winning Albany Records album, That Star in the Picture, alongside Grammy Award–winning mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood and composer and pianist James Adler. Novak also recently earned his doctorate in psychoanalytic studies degree from the Parkmore Institute (South Africa) and has published a short essay in the journal Psychoanalytic Perspectives entitled “Seeing Is All the Rage.” His article “Queering Up Psychoanalysis – An Integrative Model with the Power to Meet the Moment” was published in the journal Psychoanalytic Inquiry in early 2024. Novak has joined the faculty of the Institute for Expressive Analysis in New York City.

Andy Perkins headshot outdoors with a marshy pond and trees in background

Andy Perkins

Tuebor Suite, composed by Andy Perkins (MM ’07, music education), was chosen as the winner of the 2023 American Bandmasters Association Sousa-ABA-Ostwald Award.

Two people walk together dressed in formal attire, a row of international flags behind them

Sameer Patel and his wife Shannon attending a State Dinner at the White House

Conducting Gigs from Coast to Coast…and a State Dinner

Sameer Patel (BM ’04, conducting, music theory; MM ’07, conducting) was named music director and orchestra conductor of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus. He continues in his role as artistic director of the San Diego Youth Symphony, and this season he serves as a guest conductor at the Florida Orchestra, the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, the Omaha Symphony, and New England Conservatory of Music. In June, Patel and his wife, Shannon, were official guests at a State Dinner at the White House.

Marisa Peters speaks into a microphone, wearing a name tag and holding papers

Marisa (Meyer) Peters speaking of her battle with rectal cancer to encourage preventative screening. Photo credit: VideoAmp Brand Design

Marisa (Meyer) Peters (BFA ’04, musical theatre) is an advocate for wellness, self-care, and proactive women’s health initiatives, and she is now a rectal cancer survivor. She currently serves as chief people officer at VideoAmp, growing the company to a multi-billion-dollar valuation and #1 best place to work, according to Ad Age, all while working with cancer. She is most proud of being a mom of three boys alongside Josh Peters, a film producer most recently premiering three features at Sundance ’24. Together, they are speaking out and using music to spread awareness so people recognize symptoms, get screened, and save lives, founding BE SEEN, with the mission to eradicate colorectal cancer once and for all.

Pat Posey plays a brass instrument on a dark stage, attired in white coat, a figure in a white masked costume in background

Pat Posey performing at the they/beast album release show, with dancer Kolby Keene. Photo credit: Kat Nockels

Pat Posey (MM ’01, saxophone) released they/beast, the first streamable solo tubax album, on Avie Records. They also appeared on Jognic Bontemps’s score to Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and Wild Up’s Grammy-nominated third volume of Julius Eastman’s music. Live performances include appearances with Bobi Wine, Maxwell, and DJ Kerry, the premiere of a saxophone quartet by and with Patrick Shiroishi, sellout shows with the Los Angeles Reed Quintet (LARQ), solo appearances with MUSE/IQUE, and orchestral engagements with the Pacific, Pasadena, San Bernardino, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara Symphonies as well as the Riverside Philharmonic.

Four people pose standing in a concert hall; holding a program and flower bouquet

SMTD alums at the 2023 Cabrillo Festival: Peter Shin (left), Yanchen Ye, Andrea Reinkemeyer, and Carlos Simon

Andrea Reinkemeyer (MM ’01, DMA ’05, composition) recently accepted the position of director of composition and associate professor in the Dewberry School of Music at George Mason University (Virginia). From 2014–23, she was the director of composition studies at Linfield University (Oregon), and in 2022–23, she was the Edith Green Distinguished Professor at Linfield and chair of the Department of Music. Her orchestral work Water Sings Fire was performed at the 2023 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Cristian Măcelaru conducting. Also performed at the Cabrillo Festival were the works of SMTD alums Peter Shin (BM ’14, piano, composition), Yanchen Ye (DMA ’23, composition), and Carlos Simon (DMA ’17, composition).

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

Rob Stow

Rob Stow (BM ’03, music education) was recently promoted to arts coordinator, expanding on  his choral director and performing arts duties at Glen Lake Community Schools. Recent projects that Stow spearheaded include updates to the lighting and sound systems and music library system and hiring an additional elementary music educator, which provides direct music instruction for preschool students in addition to the K-12 curriculum of general music, choral music, and band. This is a triumph for the underserved population of approximately 750 students at this rural Northern Michigan district.

Studio portrait of two people posing on a green couch, grey background and "WT" logo

Benton Whitley with associate Micah Johnson-Levy. Photo credit: Evan Zimmerman

A New Casting Office Handling Broadway Hits

In spring of 2023, Benton Whitley (BFA ’08, musical theatre) launched Whitley Theatrical, a New York City–based producing and casting office, where he and his team are currently responsible for the casting of Hadestown, Tony Award winner for Best Musical, and this Broadway season’s How to Dance in Ohio. As a guest of SMTD’s Working in Theatre Lab Series, Whitley visited Ann Arbor in January 2024 to speak to musical theatre students and offer guidance to seniors.

Several dozen people, mostly students, pose closely together in a studio, seated and standing

Benton Whitley (center, striped sweater) with SMTD students

Kirsten Volness headshot close-up, light background

Kirsten Volness. Photo credit: Rachel Hadiashar

In September 2023, Kirsten Volness (MM ’04, DMA ’08, composition) conducted the world premiere of Flood It with Love, a song cycle featuring vocalist Catherine Feeny and the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble at the 10th Annual Montavilla Jazz Festival in Portland, Oregon. Commissioned as part of the Views of an Urban Volcano project, the text and music were inspired by community events surrounding the geological and cultural history of Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano turned public park. DUO Stephanie and Saar also premiered two of Volness’s piano works, Ghosts of Cascadia and not all who wander are lost, at the Makrokosmos Festival in June 2023.

Aerial photo of about 15 people paddling a canoe in a body of water, with daylight reflecting on the ripples

Performers and audience members paddle in River Watchers, October 2023, in New York City’s Newtown Creek. Photo credit: Kate Baranovskaya

Dina Vovsi (BTA ’09; BA ’09, English) directed and co-created River Watchers, a site-specific, journey-based theatrical experience on a 14-seat Langley canoe in Newtown Creek. Immersed in a story inspired by the waterway’s environmental challenges and resilience, audience members worked together to make the boat – and the play – move. River Watchers was awarded grants from the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Puffin Foundation, and it sold out its October 2023 run in less than 24 hours. Dina recently joined the directing faculty at Playwrights Horizons Theater School at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she currently teaches second-year undergraduates. She is a member of the WP Directors Lab and the New Georges Jam.

Gregory X. Whitmore (BM ’01, music education), who is an assistant professor of music education at California State University, Fullerton, has presented research at the New York State School Music Association and has presented on inclusive ensemble programming at the Southern California School Band & Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Conference. Whitmore’s college band (CSU Fullerton Symphonic Winds) was selected as a featured ensemble in the SCSBOA conference. Whitmore gave a conducting lecture at Lehman College (New York City). He has also been invited to conduct honor bands throughout Southern California and was invited to be the Worldstrides Honors Performance Series Middle School Honors Band conductor at Carnegie Hall.


Performing and Teaching on the West Coast and Beyond

Carey Bell (BM ’97, clarinet, composition) is currently in his 17th season as principal clarinet of the San Francisco Symphony. In addition to regular orchestral and chamber concerts, he has gone on 20 national and international tours during his tenure with SFS, most recently to Paris, Luxembourg, and Hamburg in March 2023. In November 2023, Carey performed the West Coast premiere of SFS music director Esa-Pekka Salonen’s kinema for clarinet and string orchestra, with Salonen conducting. He also performed Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto with the Eugene Symphony in May 2023. Carey currently teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and lives in beautiful Pacifica, California.

Carey Bell close-up photo in a clarinet lesson

Carey Bell

Two people pose, wearing nametags and formal attire

Zadda Bazzy (left) with fellow alum Jason Spencer. Photo credit: Ben Hoffman of Square Productions

Zadda Bazzy (BFA ’96, musical theatre) recently received the North Carolina Symphony’s Maxine Swalin Award for Outstanding Music Educator for her work as an elementary music teacher on the coast of North Carolina. The recognition was presented by the North Carolina Symphony’s music director, Carlos Miguel Prieto, and the North Carolina state superintendent of public instruction, Catherine Truitt. The Music Educator Awards were organized by fellow Michigan alumnus, Jason Spencer (MM ’13, clarinet), the director of education for the North Carolina Symphony.

Shari Berkowitz studio portrait, dramatic dark background and attire, stepping up and reaching forward

Shari Berkowitz. Photo credit: Evan D’Arpino

Shari Berkowitz (BFA ’92, musical theatre) continues to use all that she learned in musical theatre in different ways. After a successful career in musical theatre, Berkowitz is now a scientist (biomechanist and ergonomist, with master’s in science degrees in both from NYU) as well as a Pilates teacher of teachers. She owns the Vertical Workshop. Berkowitz travels across the world providing continuing education to Pilates teachers and other fitness professionals. Additionally, she was the originator of livestream Pilates sessions in 2010–11 and the creator of Intrinsic Action Technique (IAT). In 2024, Berkowitz will lecture across the US, Europe, and Asia.

Stuart Bogie studio headshot in greyscale, wearing collared print shirt with dark background

Stuart Bogie. Photo credit: Susanna Howe

Stuart Bogie (BMA ’97, clarinet) has released Morningside (October 2023), an album of two long-form pieces for solo clarinet and drones on the record label DFA. The album was produced and mixed by James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem). Bogie premiered the pieces at Les Rencontres d’Arles in the Théâtre Antique as a guest of photographer Gregory Crewdsen. He is currently working on projects with drummer Joe Russo (the Selcouth Quartet), the dance company Pilobolus, and the conceptual artist Jill Magid, and he recently recorded with the rapper Logic.

Two people pose together in an office space

Evelyn Collins (seated) with Phylicia Rashad. Photo credit: James Edward Alexander

Evelyn Collins (MA ’94, theatre & drama: directing) directed the 50th anniversary of the musical Raisin at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in New Jersey. The production consultant was Phylicia Rashad. Collins also published her book, 10 Things Your Mama Should Have Told You: Lessons for Cultivating an Extraordinary Life. She is the founder of the Denzel Washington School of the Arts in Westchester County in New York (2015). Collins completed the first historical case study on the Duke Ellington School of the Arts; it was the dissertation for her doctoral degree in urban school leadership and administration awarded by Fordham University.

Three actors perform on stage attired in mid-century costume, with patio scenery

Barrett Foa (left) with Robert Lenzi and Kate Loprest in the Ogunquit Playhouse’s production of The Sound of Music. Photo credit: Sydney Bilodeau

A Sound of Music Production in Maine Features SMTD Alums

Barrett Foa (BFA ’99, musical theatre) will soon star in the new Netflix/Shondaland comedic White House whodunit, The Residence, as the First Gentleman of the United States. In December 2023, he played Max in The Sound of Music at the Ogunquit Playhouse alongside four other SMTD musical theatre alums, Emilie Kouatchou (BFA ’19) as Maria, Kate Loprest (BFA ’05) as Elsa, Spencer LaRue (BFA ’19) as Rolf, and Jack Mastrianni (BFA ’21) in the ensemble. Foa serves as board vice president of the nonprofit Every Day Action, which rescues the surplus catered meals from TV and film sets and delivers them to under-resourced and food-insecure communities all over Los Angeles.

Emma Cotter (BFA ’97, dance) and her company RETTOCAMME Inc had site-specific, roaming performances featured in the 2023 Chashama Gala in Times Square and in the 2023 Art in Odd Places: DRESS festival, which occurred along stretches of 14th Street in New York City and was curated by Gretchen Vitamvas and founder Ed Woodham. Collaborators in both events included fellow U-M alum Josef Woodson (BDA ’95, dance; minor in environmental studies) and visual artist Ryan Roth.

Ashley Davis studio headshot wearing medical lab coat, blue textured background

Ashley Davis. Photo credit: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Ashley (Leadbetter) Davis (BFA ’95, musical theatre) was promoted to assistant professor in Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology, where she serves on clinical faculty as a speech-language pathologist specializing in diagnosis and treatment of voice disorders, with a focus on gender-affirming voice and vocal performance. During 2023, she was invited to speak at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, about her research and clinical experience with gender-affirming voice, and she presented at an interdisciplinary research workshop on healing breath sponsored by the Renée Fleming Institute, Three Lakes Foundation, and Johns Hopkins Medicine’s International Arts + Mind Lab.

Linda Dzuris studio headshot, wearing dark red with black background

Linda Dzuris

Linda Dzuris (BM ’92, MM ’93, DMA ’98, organ), University Carillonneur and chair of the Department of Performing Arts at Clemson University in South Carolina, was elected president of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America in June. In August, she attended the World Carillon Federation Congress in Utrecht, Netherlands, as an appointed North American delegate. Dzuris returned to U-M in October for the 63rd Annual Organ Conference, teaching a carillon master class and honoring Professor Emeritus James Kibbie (organ) with a presentation on his teaching legacy.

Kyra Gaunt studio headshot, with chin resting on palm, grey background

Kyra Gaunt. Photo credit: Jamey Stillings, jameystillings.com

Kyra D. Gaunt (PhD ’96, ethnomusicology), esteemed ethnomusicologist and recipient of the SMTD Hall of Fame Award, continues to make waves in arts and culture with her prize-winning book, The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop. In 2015, it was a catalyst for choreographer Camille A. Brown and dancers’ Bessie Award-nominated performance, BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. In 2020, the New York Times Parenting section commissioned “The Magic of Black Girls’ Play,” selected as Editor’s Pick of the Day. This year, she is featured in the 2023 ESPN-produced documentary short, Black Girls Play: The Story of Hand Games, directed by Michèle Stephenson, which won the award for Best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Composing, Performing, and Parenting a First-Year SMTD Student

Named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year (2021), concert producer and presenter Sean Gao (BM ’96, MM ’97, violin) conceptualized and composed Shanghai Sonatas, a new hybrid musical (with live classical music) that has been developing in New York City since 2019. Based on trues stories of Jewish refugee musicians impactfully bringing Western classical music to Chinese children escaping the Nazis in 1930s Shanghai, Shanghai Sonatas promotes awareness of the Holocaust and genocide as well as the unifying power of classical music on all peoples. In March 2023, the musical’s concert version (10 singing actors with a narrator and chamber orchestra) had a successful world premiere in Beverly Hills, with five sold-out events at the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts. As a concert violinist and founder of 6-WIRE, Gao performs internationally to promote cultural understanding between the East and West. As a devoted alumnus following in the footsteps of his parents Rich and Susan Rogel, who are lifetime U-M supporters, Gao has been promoting SMTD excellence since the day he graduated. In this current ’23–’24 concert season alone, as the producing director of the University of Delaware Master Players Concert Series, he has produced concerts featuring U-M DMA students Yun Han, Youngeun Lee, and Tianyu Liu; faculty artists Aaron Berofsky, Nancy Ambrose King, and Kathryn Votapek; and alumni Jean Bernard Cerin (DMA ’14, voice) and Howard Watkins (MM ’89, DMA ’98, piano) among others. In the fall of 2023, Gao proudly dropped off his only child, an SMTD freshman, at his alma mater.

Sean Gao studio portrait wearing a black tuxedo and bowtie, holding his violin, black background

Sean Gao

An orchestra on stage during applause; a violinist and conductor on a podium stand at fore

Adam Glaser conducting the New Jersey Symphony with violinist Hilary Hahn. Photo credit: Grace Liu Anderson

Adam Glaser (MM ’98, orchestral conducting), who also earned an MBA at U-M in 2002, stepped in for the New Jersey Symphony music director Xian Zhang in early 2023 to conduct the symphony in two subscription concerts. The concerts featured Hilary Hahn performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto at the NJPAC (Newark) and Count Basie Center (Red Bank). In August 2023, Glaser began his first season as music director and conductor of Long Island’s South Shore Symphony. He serves as music director of the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra and as associate professor with tenure and director of orchestras at Hofstra University.

Adam Greenfield greyscale headshot with bright orange background

Adam Greenfield. Photo credit: Chelcie Parry

Adam Greenfield (BFA ’97, theatre & drama) is artistic director of Playwrights Horizons in New York.

David A Griffith (MFA ’98, design & production) spent the summer working as the lighting designer at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in the Rocky Mountains city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Founded in 1913 by Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield, Perry-Mansfield is the oldest continuously operating dance and theatre school in the United States.

Brian Horner studio portrait, seated with elbows on knees next to three saxophones on stands; dark olive background

Brian Horner. Photo credit: Derrick Pierce

Saxophone Alum Publishes New Book

Brian Horner (BM ’99, saxophone) is co-author of Playing & Teaching the Saxophone – A Modern Approach, published by Oxford University Press in October 2023 and rising to become a #1 new release and top 10 bestseller among music titles on Amazon. His co-author is Allison Adams, associate professor of saxophone at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and SMTD professor of saxophone Timothy McAllister wrote the foreword. Horner is an Atlanta-based saxophonist, educator, artist manager, author, and entrepreneur, and he has served on the faculties of Middle Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, the University of Tennessee, and Western Kentucky University. 

Daniel Gwirtzman stands on stage in a red costume, holding up bent arm and fist, purple background

Daniel Gwirtzman as the AI creature “H,” in Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company’s e-Motion. Photo credit: Katie Sims

In July 2023, the Lincoln Center and the New York Public Library presented the Daniel Gwirtzman (BFA ’92, dance) Dance Company in a full program, Everybody Can Dance, kicking off the nonprofit’s 25th anniversary. In the fall, Gwirtzman’s film Charged screened in Caracas, London, and Exeter, after the American Dance Festival at Duke University in July. In September, Gwirtzman presented research, “Creating Comfort in the Classroom,” in Denver at the National Dance Education Organization’s conference. In October, while in Ann Arbor for the SMTD Alumni Board meeting, he taught a guest class at the Department of Dance. In November, Ithaca College’s production of Newsies, featuring choreography by Gwirtzman, ran for two weeks; “Gwirtzman’s choreography is thrilling,” stated the Ithaca Times.

Two people pose together standing in a small lobby space, holding coat, hangers with clothes

Mark Kilstofte (right) and soprano soloist Jazmin Black Grollemund. Photo credit: Amarillo Master Chorale

The Southwest premiere of the oratorio Of Rivers Within, composed by Mark Kilstofte (MM ’85, DMA ’92, composition) was presented by the Amarillo Master Chorale in a November 3 concert benefiting 25:35 Water (which supports water well drilling in rural Uganda). That weekend, the Smith College Chamber Singers, led by Jonathan Hirsh (MM ’89, choral conducting), gave the premiere of Here for SSA and ’cello obbligato. Kilstofte’s Everyone’s Voice was featured by the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Durham at the ACDA Southern Region 2024 Conference in Louisville. Thea Kano and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC, recently commissioned a TTBB version of the work.

Scott Lefurgy (BM ’99, voice; BS ’99, biochemistry) was promoted to professor of chemistry at Hofstra University (Long Island, New York).

Two photos over a blue background, each with a conductor wearing a suit and conducting a youth band; photos taken from the stage

James MacArthur (left) and Henry Blackson-Pakela conducting the Clague Middle School Bands

In May 2023, the 8th grade band at Ann Arbor’s Clague Middle School, led by James MacArthur (BA ’89, economics; BM ’95, music education, clarinet) and Henry Blackson-Pakela (BFA ’18, jazz studies; BM ’18, music education), was invited by the Michigan State Band and Orchestra Association to perform at the 2024 Michigan Music Conference. The performance took place on January 26 at the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Two SMTD Alums Reconnect to Form Jazz Quartet Void Patrol

Void Patrol, the new jazz quartet of Payton MacDonald (BFA ’97, jazz, percussion), hit the ground running in 2023 in a big way. Void Patrol played packed shows in New York City and Philadelphia and at the FIMAV festival in Quebec. Upcoming shows include the Big Ears Festival and festivals in Europe. Their premiere recording received four stars in Downbeat and accolades from numerous critics. The quartet includes MacDonald on keyboard percussion, Elliott Sharp on guitars, Billy Martin on drums, and SMTD alum Colin Stetson (BFA ’97, jazz & contemporary improvisation) on saxophone. MacDonald and Stetson met during their freshman year in Professor Stephen Rush‘s theory class. Nearly 30 years later, they reconnected to form Void Patrol.

Greyscale, shadowy photo of 4 people standing by 2 brick arches

Payton MacDonald (right) formed Void Patrol with (from left) fellow alum Colin Stetson, Billy Martin, and Elliott Sharp. Photo credit: Reuben Radding

Daniel Neer portrait, outdoors, wearing a khaki jacket, light textured wall in background

Daniel Neer. Photo credit: Ted Goro Photo

Performer and lyricist Daniel Neer (SM ’95, voice) recently performed world premieres of two new vocal works: the L. Frank Baum–inspired Tin and Meat, by Francis Kayali, for baritone and piano, and Algo Viene. This chamber work for mezzo, baritone, and piano is based on elements of Taíno mythology; it is composed by Isabelle Lindsey with lyrics by Neer. A sneak peek of his libretto adaptation of Andreyev’s He Who Gets Slapped, a collaboration with composer Alex Burtzos, was recently offered at Orlando’s Steinmetz Concert Hall, as the newly composed opera’s arias and interludes were premiered by the University of Central Florida Symphony under the baton of Eric Jacobsen, with singers from Opera Orlando. 

A pianist and clarinetist perform together in a studio venue

George Stoffan performing at the Academy of Music in Zagreb, Croatia, with pianist Marina Matolić

George Stoffan (BM ’93, clarinet) performed recitals at the Academy of Music in Zagreb, Croatia, on November 13, 2023, and at the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary, on November 15. The program consisted of recent American works composed for clarinet. He also presented master classes on his visits. Stoffan’s performance interests include music of Central Europe. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the Liszt Academy in 2019 and at the Janacek Academy in Brno, Czech Republic, in 2012. He also presented on his work at the International Clarinet Association conference in Denver last summer. He is currently assistant professor of clarinet at Virginia Commonwealth University.

David Vayo (DMA ’90, composition) is the recipient of a 2023 Artist Fellowship from the Illinois Council for the Arts. His most recent composition, “Diverted Metal,” is for a percussionist playing on sculpture made from industrial machinery. Retired from Illinois Wesleyan University since 2020, Vayo regularly presents intimate themed solo concerts at his home that combine jazz, concert, and popular music.



First-Time Filmmaker Wins Award for Documentary Short

Sharen Camille (MacEnulty) (BFA ’86, musical theatre) was an award winner in the 2023 Orlando Film Festival and American Golden Picture International Film Festival for her documentary short Alice in Covidland. This was her first venture into filmmaking; she was the director, editor, cinematographer, writer, and producer. In October 2023, she was honored to have U-M professor of music Louise Toppin as an adjudicator, and the participation of Eileen Cornett (BM ’86, piano), for the fifth anniversary of the Camille Coloratura Awards, which Camille started in 2019 in memory of her mother. The competition is for classical singers who delight and excel in the art of coloratura repertoire.

Film poster with background of youth ballerina wearing a mask; 5 film festival notations

A poster for Sharen Camille’s documentary short, Alice in Covidland

Paulette Brockington studio portrait with her foot and elbows over a barre, wearing black and scarves with light background

Paulette Brockington

Paulette Brockington (MFA ’87, dance) is an active artist-in-residence and workshop teacher who has worked with dance, theatre, and opera companies. A former Michigan Arts Educator of the Year and Michigan Heritage Award Fellow, she is an assistant professor of dance in Michigan State University’s theatre department and directs A Company of Dancers (a contemporary ballet company) and the American Lindy Hop Championships. She is also a Fulbright Specialist available through the State Department. In April 2020 she launched an online dance training program, which, with her master teacher curricula, has morphed into the Lindy Technique and Teacher Training Workshop Series that certifies interested artists to teach Lindy.

John Fluker costumed in print cloth hat and cape; dressing room mirrors in background

John Fluker in the San Francisco Opera Chorus dressing room for Omar

John Fluker (BM ’84, music theory) performed with the San Francisco Opera Chorus in the 2023 production of the Pulitzer Prize–winning opera Omar.

On a stage floor with black curtains, 3 people pose standing with a harp

Stephen Gryc (center) with harpist Megan Sesma (left) and US Coast Guard band director Adam Williamson at Leamy Hall, at the Coast Guard Academy

Composer’s Work Premiered by US Coast Guard Band

On October 15, the US Coast Guard Band premiered Spring Rain, a recent composition for harp and wind ensemble by Stephen Gryc (BM ’71, music education; MM ’78, theory, composition; DMA ’83, composition), in Leamy Hall in New London, Connecticut. The work was commissioned by harp virtuoso and Coast Guard Band member Megan Sesma. The Coast Guard Band was under the direction of Commander Adam Williamson. The band performed Gryc’s work for woodwind octet, Rossiniana, on September 17. The Coast Guard Band recorded both Spring Rain and Rossiniana in late January 2024 for an online and CD release featuring six works by Gryc.

Elaine Harriss headshot outdoors, wearing an ivory suit coat, with brick building, portico in background

Elaine Harriss

Elaine Harriss (PhD ’81, music education), professor of music at the University of Tennessee at Martin (UTM), was inducted October 6, 2023, into the Steinway & Sons Piano Teachers Hall of Fame as a member of the hall’s fifth induction class. Harriss has taught piano for over 50 years. She joined the UTM faculty in 2001; there, she is pianist with the University Trio, directs the UTM piano ensemble, leads week-long summer piano camps, and chairs the annual pre-college piano competition. In previous years, Harriss played principal flute in the Paducah (Kentucky) and Jackson (Tennessee) symphonies, ran her own Kindermusik studio, and worked for Kindermusik International, teaching workshops across the US and five continents.

Seven performers stand for a bow on a dark stage; two trees as scenery

Neal Learner (center stage) takes a bow after a performance of TREES: A New Musical. Photo credit: John McCoskey

Bethesda Little Theatre in Maryland presented the world premiere of TREES: A New Musical, by Neal Learner (attended ’84, violin) October 27–28, 2023. The 10-person, sung-through show tells the story of Rachel, a high school environmentalist, and her best friend, Henry, as they fight to save a beloved local forest from a developer who wants to build thousands of luxury townhomes, condos, and high-rise apartments. The musical received glowing reviews by DC-area theatre critics. One described it as “topical and intriguing…a provocative and thoughtfully crafted production.” Another  said the “standout musical numbers are almost too many to mention.”

Roles in Oppenheimer, Blue Bloods, and More

Recent feature film credits for Gregory Jbara (attended ’79–’81, theatre & drama) include Senate hearing chairman Magnuson in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Sam Ringo in Adam Seidel’s Alien Intervention (directed by Janet Grillo), and a starring role in Oscar Brill’s upcoming A Ramble Towards Rain, directed by Lisa Angel. Jbara will complete filming the 14th and final season as DCPI Garrett Moore on the CBS police drama Blue Bloods in June 2024.

Six people costumed in suits and ties stand for a selfie; posters on a white wall in background

Oppenheimer senators and legal counsel in an off-camera selfie: (clockwise from lower left) Harry Groener, Tim DeKay, Steven Houska, Gregory Jbara, Scott Grimes, and Ted King

Naomi J. Oliphant (DMA ’82, piano) has come out of retirement to assume the role of chair of the MTNA Bluegrass Competition for the Kentucky Music Teachers Association. The first competition was held November 10–11, 2023, at Campbellsville University in Kentucky. Oliphant recently premiered a sonata for flute and piano by Steve Rouse (MM ’82, DMA ’87, composition) with flautist Kathleen Karr at the Kentucky Music Teachers State Conference Composer’s Concert. The work was originally to have premiered in March 2020.

Patricia Plasko headshot wearing a black shirt, light background

Patricia Plasko

Patricia Plasko (MFA ’89, dance) is retired as of June 2022 from a 23-year career in dance education for Education for the Arts in Kalamazoo. She is currently teaching BeMoved Dance® and Yoga at the Portage Zhang Senior Community Center. Plasko also has a thriving design business, PlaskoDesign, creating designer pillows, clothing, handbags, and jewelry for retail and her shop on Etsy.

Four people pose with saxophones, attired in matching black, tall windows and foliage in background

The PRISM Quartet: Timothy McAllister (left), Taimur Sullivan, Matthew Levy, and Zachary Shemon. Photo credit: Jon Rohrer

New Album from PRISM Quartet on Its 40th Anniversary

PRISM Quartet – with Matthew Levy (BM ’87, saxophone, music theory; MM ’88, saxophone), SMTD professor Timothy McAllister (BM ’95, MM ’97, DMA ’02, saxophone), Zachary Shemon (BM ’07, MM ’09, saxophone), and Taimur Sullivan – celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2024 and unveils the third album in its Heritage/Evolution commissioning project: Heritage/Evolution, Volume 3. Out March 22, Volume 3 features world premiere recordings of new works written for PRISM by jazz heavyweights Melissa Aldana and Terell Stafford, alongside works by PRISM’s own Levy. The album’s single, out on March 8, is an entrancing arrangement by Levy of “Send in the Clowns,” by Stephen Sondheim, featuring 2024 Grammy winner Miguel Zenón. Throughout the album, PRISM is joined by four jazz virtuosos: Aldana on tenor, Stafford on trumpet, and Zenón and Tim Ries (MM ’85, saxophone) on saxophones.


Stephen Pratt (MM ’83, flute), professor of music emeritus, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, is currently the conductor of the Southern Indiana Wind Ensemble (SIWE). The concert on November 6, 2023, featured the world premiere of composer Harold Popp’s Fanfare for Anemographic Celebration, which is dedicated to SIWE.

Jenny Lynn Stewart performs on a dark stage holding a microphone, costumed in a navy dress and bright pink shawl

Jenny Lynn Stewart. Photo credit: Bill Westmoreland

Jenny Lynn Stewart (BM ’81, voice) hosted Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music, presented by Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York, on November 18, 2023. Stewart has had the pleasure of performing the role of the Mother Abbess across the globe, most notably in the international tour with Marie Osmond. She continues to perform her one-woman shows for age 55-plus audiences, featuring uplifting and inspiring songs from classic Broadway musicals.

Frank Ward (MM ’84, DMA ’87, voice) was promoted to the rank of professor at the University of Akron beginning academic year 2023–24. Recent performance engagements include bass soloist for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Akron Symphony in September and his “All Spiritual Recital” at Illinois College in October. He performed the recital program at the University of Akron in February 2024.

Stepping Down as Dean of Bienen School of Music at Northwestern

Toni-Marie Montgomery (MM ’81, DMA ’84, piano), stepped down as dean of the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University on August 31, completing a 20-year tenure. Highlights of her tenure include the construction of the $111M Ryan Center of the Musical Arts; establishment of two international prizes; appointment of two-thirds of the Bienen School faculty; and successful completion of a university-wide capital campaign with Montgomery’s focus on merit aid for music students. Montgomery was named one of Musical America’s 2023 Top 30 Professionals.

Toni-Marie Montgomery studio portrait wearing black, short-sleeved suitcoat; grey background

Toni-Marie Montgomery. Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg


Stephanie (Pelz) Bennett (BM ’76, harp) shared her expertise as the featured speaker for two online events in the summer of ’23: “Harp Teachers’ Gathering,” presented by Melody’s Traditional Music (Texas) on July 6, and “Hangin’ with the Harp,” presented by Atlanta Harp Center (Georgia) on August 15.

Diane Aron Calhoun portrait, wearing light blue, with head resting on hand seated near a piano

Diane Aron Calhoun

Diane Aron Calhoun (BM ’64, MM ’71, music education) has appeared as a soloist with many area orchestras, including the University of Michigan, Dearborn, and Plymouth symphonies, and Detroit Chamber Winds, all while teaching in the public schools for many years. Recently, she returned to a group that began in 1990, reinvented for the current time and place. With friends from the Michigan Opera Theatre chorus (now Detroit Opera), where she sang for many years, the Encore Ensemble was reunited. “Getting the band back together” has been a thrill for everyone. Encore performs classic Broadway and jazz favorites and has tripled its musical offerings while delighting audiences throughout Metro Detroit.

SMTD Musicians Praised for Work on New William Bolcom Recording

The New York Times praised Steven Gross (BM ’76, French horn), along with violinist Phil Ficsor (BM ’97, MM ’98, violin), in the Naxos recording of Professor Emeritus William Bolcom’s Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano, in the article “Five Minutes That Will Make You Love the Horn.” It describes the work as “regal even in passages of tranquility” and says that it “uses this simultaneously lyrical and potent quality” and “lets the instrument strut.” Gross has commissioned Jennifer Higdon to write another work for the same instrumentation. In addition, he also performed the Brahms Trio, op. 40, on natural horn this fall at three concerts in Boston. 

Steven Gross performs French horn standing on stage, with a pianist in background

Steven Gross


Tyrone Greive (DMA ’77, violin) was deeply moved in July when he was presented with a photo album, “Student Memories for Professor Greive on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday,” by students he had taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and with whom he had interacted between 1985 and 2023. His edition of Jakob Dont’s 15 Selected Exercises, Opus 38, for two violins, which was released by International Music Co. in October, is his 14th violin performance edition published since he retired from UW-Madison in 2013. A number of his past articles, book contributions, and other printed research continue to be utilized in more recent violin-related publications.

Todd Gresick poses seated at the organ attired in a white robe; a monitor screen and arched cathedral ceilings in background

Todd Gresick at the console of the organ in Canterbury Cathedral

Todd Gresick (BM ’77, MM ’79, organ) accompanied the choir of Christ Episcopal Church of Winnetka, Illinois, on their residency tour at Canterbury Cathedral (UK), August 7–13, 2023. Gresick has served as organ associate at Christ Church since February 2023, following his retirement in 2020 from a full-time position at Sacred Heart Catholic Church (now Divine Mercy Parish) in Winnetka. In Canterbury, the Christ Church choir sang for daily Even Song and the Sunday morning Eucharist services. Gresick provided prelude and postlude voluntaries in addition to the accompaniment of choral anthems, chants, and hymns.

Tina Grosowsky (MFA ’76, dance) is retired from a career in public health. She volunteers with Elders Climate Action Mass, advocating for clean energy.

Dennis C Jackson studio headshot, leaning, wearing suitcoat and blue tie, with light background

Dennis C Jackson

Dennis C Jackson (DMA ’70, voice) finished a year as president of the Denver Lyric Opera Guild, whose purpose is to promote the art of singing by education and vocal competition. The organization has an annual competition with a top prize of $10,000. Jackson was formerly the head of the opera program in the College of Music at the University of Colorado, Boulder, for 25 years.

Dance Alum Publishes Fifth Novel

Lynn Slaughter (MA ’76, dance), formerly Rosenfeld, published her fifth novel in 2023. In Missed Cue (Melange Books), a homicide detective investigates the most complicated case of her career, the suspicious onstage death of a revered ballerina.

Book cover with a person attired in a suit and a dancer suspended in air upside down, wearing a long flowing dress

Richard Jennings (MM ’78, composition), who minored in composition, has composed music for 50-plus theatrical productions (including more than 30 Shakespeare plays), from Tony-winning to tiny. American Theatre Magazine has published Jennings’s Music for Plays, A Step by Step Guide. Jennings scored and led the stage band in a stellar summer production of The Comedy of Errors in Inverness, California. Currently he’s scoring a short horror film, Quaranteen. Jennings is a founder of the musical development non-profit, Musical Cafe. Four original musicals were recently provided with dramaturgy and musical direction and showcased to enthusiastic audiences. Jennings continues to teach voice to students online around the world and in his Berkeley studio.

Barrett Kalellis headshot outdoors, wearing white collared shirt and tie, heavy foliage in background

Barrett Kalellis

Barrett Kalellis (MM ’73, composition, piano) had the world premiere performance of his new piano trio – Dancing the Lively Air – in Manhattan at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music on May 22, 2023. Critics said the work was “excellent” and one claimed he was “awestruck” and that it was “a bright shining moment on the concert.” The piece was performed by New York City professionals and was featured on the New York Composers Circle 20th Anniversary Concert Series.


Book cover with background imagery from the Early Middle Ages

The cover of a new Festschrift published in honor of Charles Atkinson

Charles M. Atkinson (MM ’65, music education), professor emeritus in musicology at the Ohio State University, was recently notified of the publication of a Festschrift, a collection of scholarly essays in his honor. Music in the Carolingian World: Witnesses to a Metadiscipline: Essays in Honor of Charles M. Atkinson is edited by Graeme M. Boone and published by Brepols in the series Épitome Musical.

Brent Herhold poses with a museum display case, holding his tuba

Brent Herhold at the Beethoven Center, on the campus of San Jose State University

Brent Herhold (BM ’64, MM ’65, music education), tubist, joined Altos Brass for the Soirée Musicale (Saratoga, California) concert on October 20, 2023, performing Oskar Bohme’s Sextet for Brass, op 30. Joining the quintet, and playing the solo cornet part, was David Burkhart, a member of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty. In December, Herhold again joined Altos Brass for the monthly Noontime Concert at the Center for Beethoven Studies on the campus of San Jose State University. The program included four of Bach’s Contrapuncti from the Art of the Fugue, with a brief analysis of each, and Malcolm Arnold’s Quintet for Brass.

Headshot of Paul Kirby wearing patterned blue sweater

Paul Kirby

A three-week production of The Boy Who Listened to Paintings, a musical co-written by Paul H Kirby (BM ’67, music education) and Dean Kostos (based on his memoir of the same title), with music composed by Kirby, took place at Theater for the New City (TNC), in New York, beginning on February 1, 2024. In the story, the young protagonist overcomes many obstacles through love of art. The songs are generally uplifting and have titles such as “Art Is What Matters,” “I Can Speak Correctly,” and “I’ll Just Embrace My Feelings.” A Zoom reading of an earlier version of this musical was given by TNC on April 29, 2021.

Jim Phelps (BM ’59, MM ’60, music education) taught instrumental and vocal music before returning to U-M for a PhD in educational administration (’70). Then he served as the special assistant for education to the governor of Michigan, followed by deputy superintendent in the Michigan Department of Education. During this time, he sang in chorales and performed string bass in musicals while writing arrangements. After retiring, he concentrated on arranging and composing for choirs, orchestras, and ensembles while playing string bass in orchestras. To refresh his memory, he wrote a computerized “History of Harmony,” complete with text, music, and listening examples. His major effort was for a Gloria Mass for strings, oboe, and choir.