Michigan Muse Winter 2024 > Student Updates

Student Updates

PlayFest 2024

The works of several student playwrights were selected among numerous submissions for the 2024 PlayFest Reading Festival this past January. Their scripts will be developed throughout the semester, culminating with a play reading and feedback sessions with professional theatre artists. The winners are Margaret Brice (LSA), Nathan Goldberg (BFA ’24, theatre & drama), Diego Rodriguez (BFA ’24, musical theatre), and Nathaniel Sheehan (BTA ’24, playwriting). Brice’s play, The Laird and the Bhean-Nighe, follows a family of four as they celebrate the father’s 80th birthday, and the daughters seek to convince their mother to put their father, who suffers from a degenerative disease, into a care facility. Chekhov’s Gun, Goldberg’s play, depicts four people waking up in a dark and empty room as a sixty-minute timer counts. As they contemplate why they are there and how they can escape, they notice a large old rifle mounted on the wall and tantalizingly out of reach. Rodriguez’s work, WONDERMENT, is a poignant, autobiographical one-man show about a no sabes kid from the border of South Texas who reflects on his transformative four years at U-M. And The Croissant!, Sheehan’s play, is a farce following an eclectic group of customers and baristas who become stuck inside a coffee shop one morning after finding themselves unexpectedly snowbound.

Four students stand with smiles, grey wall in background

The PlayFest winners: Nathan Goldberg (left), Nathaniel Sheehan, Margeret Brice, and Diego Rodriguez

Two people pose with a music score, with Hill Auditorium's curved ceiling and stage behind them

Yeo Ryeong Ahn (right) with composer Hansol Choi

Yeo Ryeong Ahn (DMA ’24, orchestral conducting) conducted the University Symphony Orchestra performing a reinterpretation of intimate and intense traditional Korean music for the orchestra, the contemporary piece (Sahmdoh) for Orchestra, written by Hansol Choi. Combining traditional Korean percussion quartet music, Samulnori, and various Korean rhythmic patterns and folk songs, the performance captured the audience’s attention.
Two people perform standing on a small stage with guitar and vocals

Payton Carter (right) and Annabelle Fuerst perform at the Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Payton Carter (BM ’27, music education) will be releasing an album with her duo band Payton&Annabelle in March 2024. Payton&Annabelle is a folk duo band based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The duo won the 2023 New Moon Songwriting Challenge with their recent release, “projection,” which can be found on all streaming services. The duo, which released new singles in January and February ahead of the album release in March, won the Kalamazoo Battle of the Bands hosted by the Kalamazoo State Theatre, and its members are excited to share their debut album.
Five students pose standing, holding up their KCACTF competition certificates

Donovan Rogers (left), Shelby Alexander, Briana Barker, Abi Farnsworth, and Diego Rodriguez earned honors at the KCACTF Region 3 Festival.

SMTD Students Earn Honors at KCACTF Region 3 Festival

Several SMTD design & production student presenters were recognized for accomplishments in their fields at the 2024 Region 3 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). The event, which was held January 10–14 at the University of Michigan-Flint, encompassed university theatre entrants from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and western Ohio. Elianna Krusakal (BFA ’25, design & production) presented for their lighting design for Intimate Apparel, and Abi Farnsworth (BFA ’24, design & production) presented on her lighting design for Guys and Dolls. Both made it to the final round, and Farnsworth won the Theatrical Design Excellence in Lighting Design, Meritorious Achievement award. Briana Barker (BFA ’24, design & production) won the stage management competition and received the Stage Management Fellowship for her work on Guys and Dolls, an honor that will take her to the national KCACTF Festival in Washington, DC, this summer. For her dramaturgy work on The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Shelby Alexander (BTA ’25) received the LMDA/KCACTF Dramaturgy Fellowship and is a nominee for the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy. Alexander will compete at the national KCACTF Festival. SMTD students also won awards in two different playwriting divisions: Diego Rodriguez (BFA ’24, musical theatre) won Best 10-Minute Play for his work No Me Sueltes, and Donovan Rogers (BFA ’24, theatre & drama) won Best Full-Length Play for Into the Light of the Dark Black Night. It was later announced that both playwrights earned national KCACTF honors: Rodriguez was named a co-winner of the Gary Garrison National 10-Minute Play Award and Rogers was named the winner of the Hip Hop Theater Creator Award.

Corinne Galligan speaks standing, near a PowerPoint display

Corinne Galligan presenting at the BTAA Music Education Conference in Minneapolis, October 2023. Photo credit: Tiffanie Waldron

In October 2023, Corinne Galligan (PhD ’25, music education) presented two posters at the Society for Music Teacher Education Conference in Utah; a lightning talk (“Teaching and Supporting Neurodivergent Music Education Majors”) at the Big Ten Academic Alliance Music Education Conference in Minnesota; and a session (“Promoting Executive Function Skills in Music Teachers”) at Wisconsin’s state music conference. In January 2024, she presented two sessions (“Just Keep Swimming: Supporting Music Teachers’ Cognitive Processes” and “Focus on the Teacher: Neurodivergent Music Educators”) at the Indiana and Michigan state music conferences, as well as a poster (“Focus on the Teacher: Experiences of an Elementary General Music Teacher with ADHD”).
Greyscale portrait of Molly Jones seated, playing saxophone

Molly Jones performs improvised music at Le Maison Max Ernst in Huismes, France, October 2023

Molly Jones (BFA ’11, jazz & contemplative studies; PhD ’28, performing arts technology) continues to perform and record as an experimental musician in Chicago. She recently joined the curatorial team of the Elastic Arts Improvised Music Series, a cultural hub of free jazz in Chicago, and is recording a second laptop-and-toys album for Ann Arbor’s 1473 Records with Hunter Brown and Ishmael Ali. In May 2024, she will participate in an Atlantic Center for the Arts artist residency under the mentorship of composer Pamela Z.
Three students hold up their Sphinx Competition awards on stage

Bethlehem “Betti” Kelley (center)

SMTD Violinist Earns Third Prize in Sphinx Competition

Bethlehem “Betti” Kelley (BM ’24, violin) won third prize in the senior division of the 2024 Sphinx Competition with her performance of the first movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto. She will receive $10,000 in addition to scholarships and fine instruments through the Sphinx Music Assistance Fund. The Sphinx Organization was founded by Aaron Dworkin, professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship & Leadership, and is run by Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, a lecturer in that department.

Sunhong Kim portrait outdoors, wearing a suit coat

Sunhong Kim

Sunhong Kim (PhD, musicology) was a 2023 recipient of a 21st Century Fellowship, a dissertation fieldwork grant, from the Society for Ethnomusicology. With this generous support, she is currently at her field site in Seoul to explore the sonic lineage of Korean instruments within folk and court musical genres. She works with professional musicians who play traditional Korean instruments in top-tiered ensembles.
Theatre flyer with a bright pink background and title "SHE LOVES ME" in yellow

The program from a musical produced by Veronica Koz, with the Golden Theatre Company. Designed by Lara Abruzzo

Veronica Koz (BM ’24, voice) produced her first full-scale musical, She Loves Me, in the Arthur Miller Theatre with Golden Theatre Company, a musical theatre student organization she co-founded. Veronica is passionate about arts administration and is currently pursuing a business administration minor at the Ross School of Business. With her extensive business knowledge and performance experience, she was able to offer opportunities within SMTD to younger artists. She had the privilege to work alongside her two friends, Jaxon Williams (BM ’24, voice, music education), who served as music director, and Lucy Koukoudian (BMA ’24, voice), who served as director. Golden Theatre Company plans to continue to create administrative and artistic opportunities for all students.

2024 Concerto Competition

In January, SMTD held its annual Concerto Competition for undergraduate and graduate students. The undergraduate winners are Karl Rueterbusch (BM ’26, percussion) and Aleks Shameti (BM ’25, piano). The graduate winners are Leo Schlaifer (MM ’24, saxophone, chamber music) and Sarina Zhang (DMA ’25, cello). Each of the winners will perform their competition piece with one of the school’s orchestras in a future concert at Hill Auditorium. Rueterbusch performed Sieidi, Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra, by Kalevi Aho, accompanied by Liz Ames (lecturer, collaborative piano). Shameti performed Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, accompanied by Muse Ye (DMA ’25, collaborative piano). Schlaifer performed Joel Love’s Solace: A Lyric Concerto and was accompanied by John Solari (MM ’24, chamber music; DMA ’25, piano), and Zhang performed Concerto for Cello and Wind Orchestra, by Friedrich Gulda, accompanied by Narae Joo, a collaborative pianist in the Department of Strings.

Composite image of 4 winners performing on percussion, saxophone, cello, and piano

Clockwise from top left: Karl Rueterbusch, Leo Schlaifer, Aleks Shameti, and Sarina Zhang

Carson Landry studio portrait standing, holding a bell

Carson Landry. Photo credit: Stagetime

The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America awarded Grace Ann Lee (DMA ’25, composition) and Carson Landry (MM ’24, carillon) the Student Composer-Performer Pair Grant to collaborate on a new piece for carillon. Lee’s resulting work, “Breathe now,” was premiered on campus last spring in collaboration with SMTD’s Wellness Initiative.
Goitsemang Lehobye studio portrait, wearing red with white background

Goitsemang Lehobye. Photo credit: Korrin Dering

Goitsemang Lehobye (DMA ’24, voice) was invited to perform in January 2024 in a New Year’s Strauss concert in Helsinki, Finland, at the Finnish National Opera House. In February, Lehobye was featured on the NPR program 1A in an episode about opera training in South Africa.
Composite image of four student headshots

Clockwise from top left: Pelagia Pamel, Catherine Goode, Spencer VanDellen, and Qirong Liang

The 2023–24 Friends of Opera Competition

On September 30 and October 1, 2023, SMTD’s annual Friends of Opera Competition was held in the Britton Recital Hall. Made possible by the Friends of Opera, a group that supports the Department of Voice & Opera through annual giving, the competition awards prizes to vocal performance students in two categories, undergraduate and graduate. Pelagia Pamel (BM ’24), a soprano studying under Professor Daniel Washington, won the John Knapp Undergraduate Award. In the graduate category, Catherine Goode, a soprano studying with Professor Amanda Majeski and pursuing a DMA in voice, was named the Anna Chapekis Graduate Award winner. Qirong Liang (MM ’24), a mezzo-soprano who studies with Professor Freda Herseth, and Spencer VanDellen (MM ’24), a tenor studying with Professor Stanford Olsen, both earned the Graduate Encouragement Award.

Qirong Liang (MM ’24) and alumnus Meridian Prall (MM ’20) were named semifinalists in the 2024 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. They sang in the semifinals on the Met stage on March 11, 2024. Prall emerged as one of five winners of the competition; each winner will receive a $20,000 cash prize in addition to several career opportunities.

Ryan Lofland (BM ’26, tuba, music education) was selected to present his research project, “Creating Accommodations for Instrumental Music Students Who Are Deaf/Hard of Hearing: A Review of Literature,” at the 2024 Michigan Music Conference Recent Research in Posters session in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The purpose of this project is to provide educators with ideas, accommodations, and awareness on how to create a more accessible and equitable space where deaf and hard of hearing students can participate in the instrumental classroom.

SMTD Students Earn Honors at Chopin Competitions

In October 2023, on two different continents, two SMTD students earned honors at competitions celebrating the work of Frédéric Chopin. Angie Zhang (MM ’24, fortepiano, DMA ’24, piano) – who studies with Professor Logan Skelton – won third place and was the top American performer at the second annual International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments, in Warsaw, Poland, held October 5–15. Around the same time, Ariya Laothitipong (BM ’25, piano), who studies with Professor Christopher Harding, won third place at the inaugural Nashville International Chopin Piano Competition, which took place in Tennessee October 14–15.

Composite photo of two students in formal attire, each bowing on stage next to a piano

Angie Zhang (left) and Ariya Laothitipong

Caleb Middleton studio headshot, wearing a suit coat

Caleb Middleton

During a summer 2023 internship at the Muny, the oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre in the country, Caleb Middleton (BMA ’24, multidisciplinary studies) was named a Carol B. Loeb Production Fellow. This program allows fellows to be paired with skilled artisans for the purpose of observation and with an industry professional for an extended mentorship after completing the program.
Zack Nenaber stands in front of a PowerPoint screen speaking, holding his clarinet

Zack Nenaber

Zack Nenaber (music education) is in his first year of the PhD program at SMTD. In October 2023, he presented “Cultivating a Community of Belonging through Beginner Improvisation: A Literature Review” at the Big Ten Academic Alliance Music Education Conference at the University of Minnesota.

Sharing Reflections on Global Travel

After a pause in international faculty-led trips during the COVID-19 pandemic, several groups of SMTD students and faculty experienced memorable global travels during the summer of 2023, and they shared their experiences in reflections published on the SMTD website. Ten students from SMTD’s Department of Dance traveled with Amy Chavasse (dance) to Seville, Spain, for a two-week study-abroad program. Alongside a cohort of Spanish dance students, they studied at the Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía. Claire Schick (BFA ’24) shared her reflections on the experience. Christopher Harding (piano) traveled with four SMTD piano students and two alumni to the Sicily International Piano Festival and Competition, an experience Nhi Luong (DMA ’24) wrote about. SMTD students traveled with Stephen Rush (performing arts technology) to Mysore, India. They spent a month there, immersing themselves in the culture and studying Carnatic music, a form of classical music originating in southern India. Annabella Paolucci (BM ’25, violin, performing arts technology) shared her thoughts on the journey. Fangfei Miao (dance) created an institutional exchange project between the SMTD Department of Dance and the Shanghai Theatre Academy College of Dance. She and five dance students traveled to China for 10 days. Miao and the studentsRobert Farr-Jones (BFA ’25, dance), Rileigh Goldsmith (BFA ’24, dance), Reina Kitasato (BFA ’24, dance; BSE ’24, biomedical engineering), Nana Otaka (BFA ’23, dance; BA ’23, psychology), and Kevin Wang (BFA ’23, dance; BSE ’23, materials science and engineering) – wrote about their time performing and learning in Shanghai and Harbin.

Seven dancers pose in two coordinated rows, holding bright pink fans and yellow handkerchiefs

SMTD students and Professor Fangfei Miao in a class on Chinese folk fan dance at the Shanghai Theatre Academy

Three people pose with a statue in a garden, wearing Indian style attire

Professor Stephen Rush (center), with Annabella Paolucci (left) and Carson Landry at the Swami Vivekananda Institute in Mysore, India

Two dozen smiling dancers, some with matching t-shirts, pose in a studio

Participants in the summer dance program in Seville, Spain

Group of 8 poses in front of grand steps to a historic Italian building

Professor Christopher Harding in Sicily, Italy, with SMTD students and alumni