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Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - March News

In February the department announced the winners of the 13th annual MaTilDa Awards. Open the envelope please . . .

The Alumni Achievement Award in Dance was given to Mary Bischoff Devitt and the Alumni Achievement Award in Theatre to Brian Dambacher. Student winners were: Outstanding Student in Dance Award, Meghan Sullivan; Jacob Decker Dance Award/Outstanding Dance Performance, Justine Gagne and Madeline Metzger; Maggie Allesee Distinguished Dance Student Award, Catherine MacMaster; Pat and Mercedes Nicosia Meadow Brook Estate Award, Lauren Keen; Gittlen Achievement Award in Musical Theatre, Alexandra McCaw; Gittlen Achievement Award in Theatre Design and Technology, Jeffery Block; Gittlen Achievement Award in Acting, Lauren Knox; Gittlen Theatre Award, Samuel Rohloff; Distinguished Musicianship Award, Megan Trewhella; Outstanding Student in Voice Performance, Jacob Skipworth and Suzanne Grogan; Outstanding Student in Piano Performance, Ge Lanjiabao; Outstanding Student in Instrumental Performance, Julianne Holmes and Daniel Turchyn; Outstanding Student in Music Education, Benjamin Clark and Vivian Ellsworth; Outstanding Student in Jazz, Mark Johnson; Outstanding Student in Chamber Music, Matthew Eastwood, Annette Brewer, Trevor Critchett, and Daniel Turchyn; Jennifer Scott Memorial Award, Stephen Komer; Joyce Adelson Piano Ensemble Award, Piaras Kent, Danish Ali, and Ge Lanjiabao; Outstanding Student Service Award – Music, Stephanie Perlaki; Theatre, Christopher Neville; MTD Award, Jeffery Block.

Most of these students are drawing near to the end of their MTD careers and are preparing to launch themselves into the wider world, but a new face in the music program has also recently made her mark.

Jenna Mauro-Vetter was the winner of our “What is MTD to you?” competition this past fall. The answer she submitted was placed on the T-shirts that were given to all the participants in our intensives for middle and high school students this year. Additionally, she was the first current MTD student to receive the tee shirt. Jenna’s phrase was, “Uncovering and cultivating excellence.” She is a freshman who plans to major in Vocal Music Education, although her primary instrument is the piano. Jenna, who grew up in Davisburg and commutes every day, was homeschooled and has been deeply involved in music for many years. She plays piano and credits Scottie Moilanen with being the teacher who really helped her develop her skills. She also played violin in the orchestra and sang in the choir with Oakland Homeschool Music Incorporated (OHMI) which is run by husband and wife Merlyn and Cherub Beard.

She came to OU expecting good things, since her teachers had encouraged her to come here and it was her first choice college, but even so, she said she was “impressed beyond words” once the semester began last fall. She believes the teachers here “really care about the students” and also feels that “Oakland is the perfect size.” It’s not so big that students get swallowed up and not so small that there are too few opportunities. In addition, Jenna likes the family feeling that prevails among the piano students. She says that she sometimes asks an older student for help with a piece during practice and always receives a warm welcome and “fabulous” advice.

Also a big success recently were our students dancers, represented by OU Repertory Dance Company, who performed at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts in West Bloomfield, along with dance companies from Marygrove College, Wayne State University, Hope College, and Grand Valley State University. The evening, coordinated by OU’s own Gregory Patterson, was a huge success. In addition to the wonderful dancing, a generous donor offered $1,000 to the university that brought in the most audience members, and Oakland University was the recipient. Plans are already in the works for a repeat event next year. Congratulations to all our performing dancers. February was a very busy month for the dance program. Please read more about it in the article “The World of Dance.”

Out in the world, our alumni and colleagues, current and former, are busy as always. Alexandra Zorn ('09), who, last time we caught up with her, was being reviewed in The New York Times for her performance as Maria in West Side Story, was seen this month in Seattle playing Laurey, the female lead in Oklahoma! at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle. See an interview with Alexandra.  And watch Alexandra and Eric Ankrim perform “The Surry with the Fringe on Top” at the Oklahoma! Spot Light Night

Appearing a little closer to home were acting instructor Tom Mahard and alum Rob Arbaugh ('05)who both appeared in the very well-reviewed Meadow Brook Theatre production of Mary Stuart. Professor Karen Sheridan was the dialogue coach for this production and alum Travis Walter ('05) was the director. Read the Free Press review here.

Up next at Meadow Brook is Spreading it Around, a dramedy about what happens when the retired members of a gated Florida community decide to share their wealth with needier members of their wider community. Appearing in this production will be the Michael Gillespie, recently retired from the department and growing a beard especially for the occasion. Read more about the production here.

Terry Herald, our technical coordinator and sound technician, is a busy and successful composer, always at work on something. He occasionally sends us updates on his exploits and here is the most recent: He is composing once again for CBS Sports, in anticipation of the music being used for March Madness or the upcoming golf season. He also reports that Wayne Brady is still using his music on the television show Let’s Make a Deal. And Terry is happy to say his work Grand Design, which was commissioned by the Detroit Metropolitan Youth Symphony about five years ago, will be the final piece played at the organization's 30th anniversary concert on Sunday, April 29 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in Dearborn. It will be played by all four youth orchestras, meaning that more than 300 young musicians will be on stage at the same time.

If you plan to enjoy music at home, please don’t forget the annual piano sale, this year at the Shotwell-Gustafson Pavilion, located off Adams Road, just south of Walton. The selection will include new and used grand, baby grand, vertical, and digital pianos. In addition, a limited group of used pianos from Steinway, Estonia, Kohler & Campbell and more will be available. For the tech enthusiast, IPAD, and Disklavier player pianos will also be featured, all from the company that loans and maintains pianos to the department for our students to use. To ensure the best selection, service and price you can call (248) 648-4770 to schedule an appointment on Friday, March 9 or Saturday, March 10. The public sale is on Sunday, March 11 from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm. Your support of this event enables us to continue our commitment to providing the best equipment to our talented students.

And then there is the news we would prefer not to have to pass along. Last fall we told you of the death jazz musician Brad Felt, who attended OU in the late seventies. In January, his former band, NuQuartet Plus, gathered with friends and fans at Cliff Bells for a memorial concert, playing Brad’s compositions and following up with a jam session – a most fitting tribute.

And finally, everyone in the department was shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely death of Ron DeRoo, musician, teacher, rock and roll historian, and friend to many at Music, Theatre and Dance over many, many years. You can read Ron’s obituary here. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and to those who considered Ron part of their musical family.

Photo: Jenna Mauro-Vetter, winner of our competition to define what music, theatre and dance means to her.