In Memoriam

Ellen Labes


Ellen Labes (BM ’55, piano), of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, passed away on October 3, 2023, at age 90. A native Detroiter, Labes volunteered as a fundraiser for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit for much of the last 50 years, including serving as president of Women’s Philanthropy from 1983–85. She was key in establishing the Federation’s “Women’s Day of Learning” events, which featured workshops led by women scholars, rabbis, cantors, and teachers. Labes was also a member of the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan, and volunteered with JARC, a non-profit organization that serves people with developmental disabilities. The Ellen Sherman Labes Endowed Scholarship Fund was established by her family, including James, her husband of 67 years, in 2013 in honor of her 80th birthday; it is intended for students studying music. To make a donation to the Ellen Sherman Labes Endowed Scholarship Fund, please call 734-647-2035.

Ellen Labes portrait wearing "90" crown

Ellen Labes

Jerald C. Schwiebert


Jerald Schwiebert studio portrait with dramatic side lighting

Jerald “Jerry” Schwiebert, clinical assistant professor emeritus of performing arts (theatre & drama), passed away on August 14, 2023, following a decade-long battle with cancer. Schwiebert joined SMTD in 1990 as assistant professor and was appointed clinical assistant professor in 1998, retiring in 2014. An innovative teacher and charismatic mentor, he developed movement courses that sought to address the physical demands of acting, eliminate tension by making the body movement patterns more efficient, and increase the student actor’s capacity for expression. His interdisciplinary work explored the fundamentals of anatomy and physiology, developed exercises to refine neuromuscular patterns, utilized digital analysis, and drew inspiration from the Alexander technique, the Feldenkrais technique, Laban movement training, and Tai Chi.

An Ohio native, Schwiebert earned a specialized BA degree in theatrical arts and production at the University of Toledo, and he went on to work as an assistant film editor in New York. He was then named director of the Toledo Public Arts Center, where he oversaw the design and construction of a theatre. After earning his MFA in the graduate directing program at the University of California, San Diego, he began his academic career, which included positions at Hillsdale College, Michigan Technological University, the University of Toledo, and Southern Methodist University. In 2011, the University of Michigan Press published his first book, written with Candace Platt, titled Physical Expression and the Performing Artist: Moving Beyond the Plateau. It was followed by Expressive Conducting: Movement and Performance Theory for Conductors, written with Dustin Barr, published in 2017. At SMTD, Schwiebert directed a number of Department of Theatre & Drama fully staged productions, including Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and John Cariani’s Almost, Maine. He also directed productions at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Syracuse Opera, and the Intiman Theatre at Seattle Central College.

Chris Peluso


Chris Peluso studio headshot

A graduate of the Department of Musical Theatre who enjoyed a prolific stage career, Chris Anthony Peluso Jr. (BFA ’14, musical theatre), died suddenly on August 14, 2023, at age 40. In an announcement about his death, Linda Goodrich, interim chair of the Department of Musical Theatre, said, “The Michigan Musical Theatre family is heartbroken as we announce the passing of our dear family member/alum, the loving, charismatic, and divinely gifted Chris Peluso.… Our hearts go out to his family.” Peluso’s death came a year after he publicly shared that he had “stepped away from theatre work to seek treatment for a schizoaffective disorder.” At the time, Peluso said he hoped that his transparency about his condition might help “bring some awareness to how so many suffer from mental illness in silence.”

Peluso’s Broadway career began soon after graduating when he understudied the role of Balladeer in the Roundabout Theatre’s revival of Assassins (2004). He went on to understudy leading roles in Lestat (2006), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and Off-Broadway’s The Glorious Ones (2007). He starred as Sky in Broadway’s Mamma Mia! (2008) and performed in both the first (2005) and second (2009) national tours of Wicked, playing the replacement Fiyero in the second tour. In more recent years, Peluso enjoyed great success in London’s West End, starring in Miss Saigon (2015), Show Boat (2016), The Woman in White (2017), and in the UK tour of Funny Girl (2017).


Ruth W. Greenfield (BM ’45, MM ’47, piano), died July 27, 2023
Lenrose D. Jahiel (BM ’47, MM ’49, piano), died September 23, 2023
Marjorie H. MacPherson (MM ’49, music education), died September 2, 2023
Margaret N. Webber (BM ’47, music education), died June 23, 2023


John C. Beck (BM ’52, MM ’55, music theory), died August 31, 2023
Ellen C. Brown (BM ’51, piano), died November 17, 2023
Nathan C. Judson (BM ’54, music education; MM ’57, wind instruments), died October 16, 2023
Shirley E. Klueter (MM ’57, music education), died June 3, 2023
Anne C. Ormand (BM ’57, music education), died October 15, 2023
Roberta W. Siegel (BA ’59, music education), died July 18, 2023
Jack Snavely (MM ’55, wind instruments), died September 17, 2023
Jay Thompson (BM ’54, MM ’59, voice), died April 2, 2023
Darina J. Tuhy (MM ’51, piano), died September 27, 2023


Rhonda B. Ballou (BM ’67, MM ’69, piano), died November 18, 2023
Sally A. Chiddister (BM ’61, music education), died September 13, 2023
Ernest C. Daunter (BM ’66, music education), died September 21, 2023
Donald F. Dygert (MM ’65, music education), died October 4, 2023
Martha A. Eliopulos (BM ’55, music education), died April 3, 2023
Kathleen A. Haley (DMA ’64, piano), died July 12, 2023
Anne M. Honeywell (MM ’63, organ), died July 3, 2023
Albert M. Katz (MA ’60, PhD ’66, theatre), died April 28, 2023
Ralph L. Lehman (MM ’64, music education), died June 3, 2023
Patricia A. Miller (BM ’63, music education), died July 21, 2023
Bruce E. Nieuwenhuis (MM ’63, music education), died June 26, 2023
Lana N. Patterson (BM ’63, music education), died July 13, 2023
Norman B. Pierson (MM ’65, music education), died November 27, 2023
Francis E. Polanski (MM ’63, piano), died June 25, 2023
John D. Strobel (MM ’60, DMA ’68, French horn), died November 21, 2023
Ross H. Van Ness (MM ’60, music education), died November 26, 2023


Dawn M. Dick (BM ’74, music education), died October 29, 2023
Larry W. Edwards (PhD ’71, music education), died April 27, 2023
Derek A. Francis (MM ’67, DMA ’74, violin), died September 19, 2023
Loretta King (MM ’77, chamber music & accompanying, organ), died November 22, 2023
Christine R. Martin (BM ’71, MM ’72, viola), died November 24, 2023
Melanie K. Munro (MM ’75, piano), died December 11, 2023
Henry J. Naasko (BM ’64, MM ’70, music education), died July 9, 2023
Frederick H. Ollerman (PhD ’78, theatre), died September 19, 2023
Steven D. Reiley (BM ’73, MM ’74, double bass), died August 16, 2023
Karen Romeri (BM ’72, organ), died October 27, 2023
Jerry J. Smith (BM ’59, MM ’61, PhD ’72, music education), died November 11, 2022
Nancy A. Strom (BM ’74, voice), died May 3, 2023
Albert J. Wirth (MM ’70, music history & literature), died November 20, 2023
Linda C. Wotring Cuneo (BM ’76, piano), died August 27, 2023


Bradley L. Creswell (MM ’82, voice), died December 4, 2023
Phyllis A. Howell (MM ’80, piano), died June 18, 2023
Hunter C. March (MM ’70, PhD ’80, music education), died October 17, 2023
William D. Oakes (MM ’81, PhD ’88, organ), died April 27, 2023
Robert D. Thomson (MM ’83, organ), died September 29, 2023


Russell R. Miller (DMA ’95, piano), died July 11, 2023


Zachary D. Kazarinoff (BM ’07, French horn), died May 18, 2023