Michigan Muse Winter 2024 > Faculty Updates

Faculty Updates

Album cover with greyscale imagery merging a town scene with nature

Cover of Missing Scenes, a new album by Wet Ink Large Ensemble, codirected by Ian Antonio

Codirected by Ian Antonio (percussion), Wet Ink Large Ensemble recently released the album Missing Scenes, which features compositions by Alex Mincek, Kate Soper, and Eric Wubbels and is performed by a group of contemporary music’s most adventurous and virtuosic musicians. Wet Ink was named Best Ensemble by the New York Times and recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a three-night festival in Lower Manhattan.

Matthew Bengtson portrait outdoors, mountains in background

Matthew Bengtson. Photo credit: Jarek Kotomski

Matthew Bengtson (piano) has been an active recitalist: he gave 14 performances from August to November 2023 in locations ranging from Busan, South Korea, to New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Apart from modern pianos, he has performed on copies of 18th-century Viennese pianos and Romantic pianos from Pleyel and Blüthner. The repertoire has been wide-ranging and diverse, running from William Byrd through the sons of JS Bach, to Mozart, Schubert, and Chopin, to a full program of all contemporary works, including a premiere of Roberto Sierra’s 13th piano sonata, written for him.

Group of 7 people poses together standing on a red carpet

Daniel Cantor (second from left) with Michigan alums, all part of the Leopoldstadt team: Marty McGuire (left), Saawan Tiwari, Tedra Millan, Jesse Aaronson, Maureen Kelleher, and Carli Cooper.

In July 2023, Daniel Cantor (theatre & drama) completed the full run of the Broadway production of Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, which won the Tony Award for best play. Cantor collaborated with acting alum Gian Perez to create a rock ’n’ roll adaptation of Medea, which was performed multiple times in New York City, including at the Public Theater’s cabaret space, Joe’s Pub.

Four people pose standing next to a conference poster

Alumni Mike Vecchio (left), Christopher Marra, and Jessica Vaughan-Marra presenting with Colleen Conway (front) at the Society for Music Teacher Education.

Colleen Conway (music education) was the keynote research presenter for the Gordon Institute for Music Learning in Chicago in August 2023 and presented two papers last fall at the Society for Music Teacher Education, one with three current PhD students and the other with three recent PhD alumni. She recently contributed the foreword to Teaching Instrumental Music: Perspectives and Pedagogies for the 21st Century (Oxford, 2023). Fall 2023 also included a residency at the Ohio State University. Conway continues to be the faculty coordinator for the Crescendo Detroit Pathways program, which brings 40 K-12 students to the Ann Arbor campus on Saturdays.

Professor Belen coaches a strings student playing on stage.

Danielle Belen and Ellen Hayashi. Photo credit: Natali Herrera-Pacheco

Celebrating 15 Years of Center Stage Strings

Center Stage Strings (CSS), led by faculty director Danielle Belen (violin), will be celebrating its 15th anniversary in summer 2024. CSS attracts over 70 young artists from across the country to study and perform on campus during an intensive four-week program focusing on solo and chamber music. Belen founded CSS in 2010 in Three Rivers, California, growing the family-run program to become one of the foremost summer destinations for string players, eventually joining the roster of MPulse Institutes at the University of Michigan.

Antonio Cuyler portrait, tall bright windows in background

Antonio Cuyler

Antonio C. Cuyler (entrepreneurship & leadership) moderated “Truth-Telling: The Kinship of Critical Race Theory & Hip Hop” during the 2023 DEI Summit, and “More Than 8-Mile: Detroit’s Quest for Hip-Hop Glory” at the U-M Detroit Center. He presented papers in Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ghana, and Poland, and at the International Conference on Cultural Economics, International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry, and the Social Theory, Politics & the Arts conference. He led a plenary at the Chorus America conference and presented at the League of American Orchestras conference. OPERA America invited him to join its board. He will moderate a panel for the Lyric Opera of Chicago on its production of Champion.

Album cover featuring Aaron Dworkin portrait, covered in vibrant colors and patterns.

Aaron Dworkin album The Poetjournalist. Photo credit Shawn Lee

In September 2023, Aaron Dworkin (entrepreneurship & leadership) released a unique recording of poetry, The Poetjournalist, which captures the tapestry of our diverse society through the lens of a MacArthur Fellow, author, filmmaker, and social entrepreneur. This collection explores six overarching pillars – African American history, the arts, the power of women, identity, mental health, and childhood – through the unique prism of poetjournalism, a term originated by Dworkin, in which a news story or other experience is expressed in poetic form, incorporating elements of emotion, opinion, and creative illustration.

Kate Fitzpatrick portrait, dance studio windows in background

Kate Fitzpatrick

Kate Fitzpatrick, associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs and associate professor of music, recently contributed to the development of a white paper for the National Association for Music Education, “Blueprint for Strengthening the Music Teacher Profession,” which focuses on increasing access and removing boundaries to music teaching. Her research article, “Motherhood in the Music Academy: Perspectives of Early, Mid, and Late Career Faculty,” appeared in the January 2024 issue of the Journal of Research in Music Education. This year, Fitzpatrick will be presenting her work at the Symposium on Music Teacher Education, the Michigan Music Conference, and the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

Dancer wearing all black suspends in the air over a dark stage

Jason Cianciulli, member of Shannon Gillen’s VIM VIGOR, falling through space. Photo credit: Kirk Donaldson

VIM VIGOR, the dance company of Shannon Gillen (dance) was commissioned to premiere PUNCHLINE at the b12 festival in Berlin, Germany, in July 2023. This latest work was co-choreographed by VIM VIGOR member and SMTD MFA student Jason Cianciulli and also involved collaborator Tzveta Kassabova (theatre & drama). PUNCHLINE had its US premiere at the Arthur Miller Theatre at U-M in September before touring to New York City for sold-out performances at Gibney Presents. Gillen was also commissioned to create new work for Vassar College this fall and will travel to Reykjavik, Iceland, in April 2024 to choreograph new work for the Iceland University of the Arts.

Two dancers perform on stage wearing matching black with bright fur neck garments

Former SMTD students Rowan Janusiak and Stephanie Gennusa performing Plunder Thunder, 2021. Photo credit: Kirk Donaldson

Artists Join Amy Chavasse for Arts & Resistance Theme Semester Events

As a recipient of grants from U-M’s Arts & Resistance theme semester, along with support from the Center for World Performance Studies (CWPS), Amy Chavasse (dance) was able to invite an illustrious slate of nationally and internationally recognized artists to campus in fall 2023: Al Evangelista, a queer Filipino performance artist and activist, and two renowned choreographer/performers from Hong Kong – Terry Tsang King Fai and Jay Peng Zhang. The artists conducted residencies in Chavasse’s “Performance Practice” class, and on November 4, Tsang King Fai and Peng Zhang joined Chavasse and BFA dance alums Stephanie Gennusa and Rowan Janusiak for a performance in the Dance Performance Studio Theatre. The production, soul / over / encounter, included guest performances by Michael Gould (percussion) and percussion graduate student James Koo. Chavasse performed a new solo, Death in Dreams, and presented her 2019 duet, Plunder Thunder. Tsang King Fai and Peng Zhang also presented their work and research at the Keene Theater, sponsored by CWPS. Additionally, they visited Malcolm Tulip’s “Creating Original Theatre” class and had the opportunity to collaborate with guest artist John Jarboe. “An embarrassment of artistic riches,” Chavasse said, “only begins to capture the excitement this past semester brought.”

Movie poster dominated by a dark sky above; below people are gathered in a garden-type outdoor lounge.

Poster for The Zone of Interest. Credit: A24

Realized from a manuscript written by concentration camp prisoners in Auschwitz I and researched by Patricia Hall (music theory), “Chinesische Strassenserenade” (Chinese Street Serenade) was performed by SMTD students, along with nine other Auschwitz arrangements, in a series of concerts in May 2022. The Zone of Interest, a feature film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023, includes the audio of SMTD students’ Ann Arbor performance of “Chinesische Strassenserenade” in its soundtrack. The Zone of Interest, which the BBC described as “Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust masterpiece,” won the Grand Prix at Cannes and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including a nod for Best Picture. SMTD has published an album of several of these arrangements, Music from Auschwitz, on Spotify. A performance of these works by SMTD students will take place in Britton Recital Hall on May 7, 2024, preceding a European tour. Hall was interviewed for a PBS NewsHour segment about her efforts to preserve the music performed by prisoners in Auschwitz.

Book cover filled with photos of song recitals

The cover for Singing Down the Barriers, by Caroline Helton and Emery Stephens

Caroline Helton (musical theatre) and her co-author, voice DMA alum Emery Stephens, proudly announced the publication of Singing Down the Barriers: A Guide to Centering African American Song for Concert Performers. Released in July 2023 by Rowman & Littlefield, the book is a resource for voice teachers, voice students, collaborative pianists, and all who have questions about approaching, centering, and amplifying the foundational contributions of African American creators to the fabric of American vocal music. Stephens and Helton also serve as core faculty with Louise Toppin (voice) and Christie Finn for U-M’s Singing Down the Barriers Institute, a summer program for singers and pianists.

Áine Heneghan headshot, outdoors with trees in background

Áine Heneghan

Áine Heneghan (music theory) completed a two-year term as vice president of the Society for Music Theory. This elected position entails liaising with the society’s interest groups and regional societies in addition to serving on the executive board.

Two wind players perform standing on stage with an orchestra playing behind them

Nancy Ambrose King and Ryan J. King perform the world premiere of Miguel del Aguila’s Concierto con brio with the Michigan Philharmonic, conducted by Nan Washburn.

Having performed the world premiere of Miguel del Aguila’s Concierto con brio with clarinet alum Ryan J. King and the Michigan Philharmonic in October 2023, Nancy Ambrose King (oboe) subsequently performed that work with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. She presented master classes and/or recitals at University of Missouri–Kansas City, Indiana University, Butler University, and Grand Valley State University. She returned as faculty of the Round Top Music Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, and Michigan City Chamber Music Festival. Celebrating her 20th year as a Sarasota Music Festival faculty, King was featured in a profile interview. She served as adjudicator for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras Young Artist competitions.

Current and Former Students Join Tyler Driskill for Kerrytown Concert

Tyler Driskill (musical theatre) presented a program highlighting lesser-known songs of Johnny Mercer at Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Concert House on November 17, 2023. Joining him were SMTD graduate Olivia Hernandez (who can be seen on Broadway in Adam Guettel’s Days of Wine and Roses) and current SMTD students Kate Cummings, Annie Hayes, Carly Meyer, and Diego Rodriguez. The concert was the first in a series celebrating Great American Songbook writers; the next program, in May 2024, will feature the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II.

Six people pose together standing in an event space

Diego Rodriguez (left), Tyler Driskill, Olivia Hernandez, Annie Hayes, Kate Cummings, and Carly Meyer at the Kerrytown Concert House

Christian Matijas-Mecca (dance) is a volunteer pianist in the Healing Arts program at St. Joseph Mercy/Trinity Health Hospital in Ypsilanti. Matijas-Mecca also earned certification in “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Dialogue for Change” through eCornell.

Marie McCarthy speaks standing on a conference stage with blue backlighting, wearing a blue dress

Marie McCarthy

Marie McCarthy (music education) presented several sessions at the National Symposium on the History of Music Education held in Normal, Illinois, and was an invited speaker at the NAfME National Leadership Assembly held in Reston, Virginia. She serves on the 70th Anniversary Committee of the International Society for Music Education, and as external examiner for music education at the University of Limerick. In September 2023, she hosted the second workshop in the Phyllis Kaplan Leadership Series in General Music at SMTD. She is author of the chapter “Centering Black Music, Culture and Education in the Decades Leading up to Brown v. Board of Education” in Milestones in Music Education (Routledge, 2023).

Nine people pose together in a dance studio in rehearsal attire

Fangfei Miao (front right) with Kate Jewett (front center right) and dance students

Dance professor Fangfei Miao’s Chinese translation of her article “Mis-step as Global Encounter: The American Dance Festival in Reform Era China” was published in Contemporary Research in Dance, China’s leading dance studies journal, in January 2024. She invited Kate Jewett, rehearsal director of the world-renowned Shen Wei Dance Arts, to have a residency at the Department of Dance. Miao served as a panelist for “Dance Transcending the Demonic Woman: A Performance and Conversation with Yasuko Yokoshi” by the Center for Japanese Studies, and she invited the dance master Yasuko to teach workshops on Japanese traditional theatre at the dance department.

Andy Milne portrait, seated at a grand piano

Andy Milne. Photo credit: Jason Wood

Andy Milne (jazz & contemporary improvisation) composed the score to the CBC-TV documentary Black Life: Untold Stories. He also contributed arrangements and compositions to Showtime’s sharp historical epic miniseries Fellow Travelers and served as the show’s musical director. Milne’s newest recording, Time Will Tell, will be released in 2024. He is currently collaborating with SMTD alum Carlos Simon, who earned a DMA in composition, contributing orchestral arrangements for the John Coltrane: Legacy project, premiering with the Toronto Symphony in 2024.

Ellis and Hall Honored with Teaching Awards

In November 2023, SMTD named John Ellis (piano) and Patricia Hall (music theory) as the recipients of the 2024 SMTD teaching awards. Ellis has been named the recipient of the 2024 Harold Haugh Award for excellence in studio teaching; this award is named in honor of Haugh, former professor of music and a leading oratorio soloist. As specified in the award guidelines, Ellis will present a recital and lecture during the fall 2024 term. Hall has been awarded the 2024 SMTD Teaching Excellence Award, which recognizes outstanding teaching in any SMTD department.


John Ellis and Willis Patterson pose in the Brehm Pavilion at SMTD

John Ellis (left) with Willis Patterson

Pat Hall and Josh DeVries work together seated at a table, with musical scores in front of them

Pat Hall (left) with SMTD alum Josh DeVries

Nancy Murphy portrait, full bookshelves in background

Nancy Murphy

In August 2023, music theory professor Nancy Murphy’s book, Times A-Changin’: Flexible Meter as Self-Expression in Singer-Songwriter Music, was published by Oxford University Press. In October, Murphy’s article, “Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Self-Expressive Voice,” was published in Music Theory Online, a journal of the Society for Music Theory.

Two actors on stage in a mid-century domestic scene

Blues for an Alabama Sky, at the Detroit Public Theatre. Photo credit: Chuk Nowak

Christianne Myers (theatre & drama) designed the costumes for the production of Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky at Detroit Public Theatre in early 2024. Alumna Shaunie Lewis played Delia in the production.

The backs of 3 heads nestled together, watching an organ performance

A family watches Tiffany Ng perform on the Lundarbrekka organ in Iceland at the Sunnuhvoll Festival. Photo credit: Aslaug Thorgeirsdottir

Professor of organ and carillon Tiffany Ng‘s summer 2023 performance of organ works by Sarah Davachi drew an at-capacity crowd at the Sunnuhvoll Festival in Iceland. She also made concert and master class appearances at York Minster, England; Berlin, Germany; and Porto, Portugal. During the fall, she performed the rededication recital of the newly expanded carillon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and made carillon and organ teaching and concert appearances at Berea College, Kentucky. For the 63rd annual U-M Organ Conference, Ng, Joseph Gascho (harpsichord), and Nicole Keller (organ) performed the world premiere of TIME PLAY for organ, harpsichord, and carillon, by Roshanne Etezady (composition).

René Rusch headshot, brick walls in background

René Rusch

In September 2023, René Rusch (music theory) published a new book, Schubert’s Instrumental Music and Poetics of Interpretation, with Indiana University Press. The book draws on a range of philosophical, hermeneutic, historical, biographical, theoretical, and analytical sources as a means to explore the poetics of contemporary analyses of Schubert’s instrumental music and propose new ways to engage with this repertoire.

Amy Porter holds her flute and a bouquet of flowers, posing with Gascho and Singer outside Britton Recital Hall

Amy Porter (center) with Joseph Gascho (left) and Leo Singer

Amy Porter Celebrates 25 Years of Teaching at SMTD

Amy Porter (flute) celebrated her 25th anniversary teaching at SMTD in September 2023. She performed the Sonatas and the Attributions by J.S. Bach with Joseph Gascho (harpsichord) and Leo Singer, who earned a master’s degree and DMA in cello at SMTD. The complete recital can be found on the SMTD YouTube channel. Porter performed world premieres and new favorites arranged for Trio Virado (Jaime Amador, viola, and João Luiz, guitar) in Asheville, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida. The trio recorded their second album, Scaramouche, which will be released in 2024. Porter is featured on the first tonebase online master class series for flute. She was a guest at the Crane Flute Day at SUNY Potsdam and Vols Flute Fest at University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Rush sits at the foot of his teacher in India, they both have a palm raised

Stephen Rush (right) being taught by G.S. Rajlakshmi. Photo credit: Carson Landry

Stephen Rush (performing arts technology) presented the 19th version of his Pond Piece with the Digital Music Ensemble last fall, focusing on the Underground Railroad in Michigan. He premiered his Pavamana Mantra for choir and solo Carnatic singer (Rush) at Michigan Technological University in the Quincy Iron Mine; he played John Cage’s music at Michigan State University; and he premiered his seventh opera, Ice Guys, at the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor. He also performed at Edgefest, an annual avant-garde music festival in Ann Arbor. Rush led his 16th student trip to India last summer, and he led an all-campus development event on creativity with President Santa Ono.

Large ensemble of instruments and choir rehearse in a gilded concert hall

Amazonas Philharmonic performs Ed Sarath’s His Day Is Done

Last summer, Ed Sarath (jazz & contemporary improvisation) traveled to Manaus for the Brazilian premiere of his five-movement work, His Day Is Done, for orchestra, choir, and soloists. The Amazonas Philharmonic performed the piece, which featured NEA jazz master Regina Carter as well as South African legend Dizu Plaatjies, both of whom also joined Sarath in a performance with the newly formed Global Jazz Collective. Sarath’s newest book, Music Studies and Its Moment of Truth, was published as part of the new Routledge/CMS series. In the coming months, Sarath will launch the International Consortium for Academic Societal Transformation, predicated on an arts-driven revolution in creativity and consciousness.

Paola Savvidou portrait, dance studio windows in background

Paola Savvidou

SMTD Wellness Program manager and lecturer Paola Savvidou – along with Sarah Erlewine, marketing & communications director for ticketed performances, and Becky Olsen, academic advisor – has received the LaVaughn Palma Davis Wellness Committee Award through MHealthy for work promoting faculty and staff well-being. Savvidou has been invited to deliver the keynote address on mental health in the music lesson setting for the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Symposium. She will also co-present with Kristen Schuyten (dance), SMTD lecturer and physical therapist, on the topic of screening university dancers for injury at the National Dance Education Association Conference.

Three musicians stand working together near a piano, tall curtains in the background

Kirk Severtson (right) conducting a pre-production workshop of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in April 2023, with composer Joby Talbot (left) and baritone Lucas Meachem. Photo credit: Kyle Flubacker

Kirk Severtson (voice & opera) served on the music staff for the Dallas Opera’s November 2023 world premiere production of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. In addition, two separate productions of The Cunning Little Vixen (Janacek) that Severtson music directed and conducted received first place awards in their respective divisions from the National Opera Association’s annual Opera Production Competition: SMTD’s production won first place in Division VI, and Manhattan School of Music’s Graduate Opera Theatre production won first place in Division VIII.

Professor Emeritus Peter Sparling Displays Artworks in the Power Center

Dancer-choreographer, video artist, and painter Peter Sparling – Rudolf Arnheim Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Dance – celebrated his 45-year history dancing on the Power Center stage and his UMS appearances with his alma mater Martha Graham Dance Company with an exhibit of his large murals and banners in the lobby of the Power Center during January and February 2024. Inspired by the motion of dancing bodies, Sparling’s color-saturated acrylic paintings are kinetic mappings that appear like complex neural networks or sprawling, interconnected calligraphy.

A set of three tapestries in yellow, orange, red, each with painted clustered strokes, hanging from above in a soaring concrete lobby

Peter Sparling’s artworks displayed in the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Peter Sparling

Jeremy Sortore studio portrait, wearing a black suitcoat

Jeremy Sortore

Jeremy Sortore (theatre & drama) presented on recent pedagogical innovations at the joint conference of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association and Centro de Estudios para el Uso de la Voz in La Paz, Mexico, in July. In August, he spoke on two panels at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference in Austin, Texas, and co-led a two-day workshop in Fitzmaurice Voicework in Toronto, Canada. In October he provided dialect coaching support for the Detroit Public Theatre’s production of Jennifer Maisel’s Eight Nights. In January, he taught for the Fitzmaurice Voice Institute’s five-day intensive in Los Angeles, California.

Nicholas Walker holding his bass, speaking to a room of other bassists

Nicholas Walker leads SMTD double bass students in studio class. Photo credit: Mathew Pimental

In September 2023 Nicholas Walker (double bass) performed the Dana Wilson Concerto for Contrabass and Wind Ensemble in Hill Auditorium with the University of Michigan Symphony Band under the direction of Steven Peterson. Walker gave a solo recital with Joseph Gascho (harpsichord) and collaborative pianist Naki Kripfgans in Britton Recital Hall, served as acting principal of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, and performed the Schubert Octet with the Michigan Chamber Players in Stamps Auditorium.

Kortman Westphal and Wilson appear in an advertisement for their podcast "Broadway Vocal Coach"

Cynthia Kortman Westphal (left) and Chelsea Wilson. Photo credit: Laura Irion

November 2023 marked the first anniversary of the premiere of the Broadway Vocal Coach podcast, started by Cynthia Kortman Westphal (musical theatre) and musical theatre alum Chelsea Wilson. Since premiering in November 2022, Broadway Vocal Coach has reached nearly 20,000 downloads and has been listened to on every continent. The hosts have welcomed Tony winners Gavin Creel, Kristin Chenoweth, and Faith Prince as guests, as well as a number of other U-M graduates to talk about the business of musical theatre.

Julie Zhu takes a selfie with a large dummy head wearing sunglasses

Julie Zhu with a dummy head for binaural recording at Radio France for her paper on sheng and electronics

Since starting the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, Julie Zhu (performing arts technology) has had several premieres. The Diggers was premiered by Ensemble Semblance in a garden full of speakers at the Royaumont Abbey near Paris; Schallfeld Ensemble also performed. SFCMP premiered her work As swiftly and fading as soon for orchestra, and Robert Fleitz premiered Sehr sehr sehr, an intermedia work for piano and video, at the Sansusī Festival in Latvia. LOD muziektheater presented a tryout of Leonore, a chamber play about photographs, family memory, and the Holocaust, co-created with Tyler Cunningham. Zhu also presented her paper about ethically and idiomatically creating electronics for the sheng at ICMC in Shenzhen, China.