MTD News September 2016

MTD News September 2016
2016 ISME conference
OU Music Education faculty, alumni, graduate students and friends at the 2016 ISME conference in Glasgow, Scotland.


An impressive number of OU music educators attended July’s International Society for Music Education (ISME) conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Among them were seven PhD alumni, all of whom presented their research which you can read about in our Working in the Arts News story, and two current doctoral students – Cierra Mixdorf and Joshua James. James presented a well-received session on teaching jazz authentically. Laura Rasmussen, a master’s student, also attended, as did department chair Distinguished Professor Jackie Wiggins and music program director Associate Professor Deborah VanderLinde.

In July, voice student Robert Skylis was the winner in the men’s Lower College (freshman and sophomore) category of the National Student Auditions at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) National Conference in Chicago. Thousands of college singers, including some from the largest and best known colleges across the U.S. and Canada, competed for the award. Preliminary rounds at the state level led to regionals and semi-finals, until only four men remained in the final round. Skylis sang Dein ist mein ganzes Herz by Franz Lehar. He was delighted with his achievement. "Thank you all so much for the love and support,” he wrote on social media. “Coming home with a national title has been nothing short of surreal. Let this be a testament to the great things that happen at Oakland. We are blessed with a combination of unrelenting skill, talent, hard work and dedication between the faculty, staff, teachers and student body.”

OU celebrated two other highlights at the NATS conference.  Associate Professor of Music Drake Dantzler, Robert’s voice teacher, received an Emerging Leader Award from the organization, and OU alumna Ann Toomey, who was a finalist at the recent Met Opera competition and spent the summer with the Chicago Lyric Opera, appeared on stage with a true opera legend in the "Renée Fleming and Friends" concert. She also took part in a master class with Ms. Fleming. Toomey trained under Dr. Alta Dantzler while at OU.

When musical theatre student Emily Hadick competed at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) National Awards in April, she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Open Jar Institute Summer Intensive in New York this summer. Hadick wrote on her website that it was a phenomenal week of learning. She worked most closely with Jeff Whiting and James Gray, but was also able to take workshops from Thayne Jasperson, Bob Cline, Beth Johnson Nicely, Stacia Fernandez, Jamie Cummings, and Joseph Mitchell Parks.

It’s been a busy few months for Hadick. She received a generous scholarship from the Riverwalk Theatre in Lansing, where she’d been a part of the community since she made her first appearance on their stage at seven years old, and she made her professional debut as an actor at the Huron Playhouse in Huron, Ohio, where she played Bebe in A Chorus Line and was in the ensemble in Little Shop of Horrors. Hadick gained additional experience putting her sewing skills to use in the costume shop and working with the makeup crew for other shows. She’ll be back at OU as a junior this fall. You can follow Emily’s news on her website.

Joey Fontana also spent the summer at the Huron Playhouse where he played Paul in A Chorus Line and was in the ensemble in Little Shop of Horrors. Joey will be a BFA musical theatre senior this fall and you can see him as Robespierre and The Prince of Wales in The Scarlet Pimpernel in October. He is also choreographing the show.

Tony Sharpe
Musical theatre student Tony Sharpé

Musical theatre student Tony Sharpé recently acted in his first TV part, playing a store clerk with a couple of lines, in the upcoming Comedy Central comedy Detroiters, which stars Sam Richardson (Veep), Tim Robinson (Saturday Night Live) and Jason Sudeikis (SNL). He’ll appear in the sixth episode which he thinks will air around next March. Sharpé said it was fun and an educational experience, and he’s hoping to get more television work.

The Oakland Chorale, OU’s elite choral ensemble, which is open to all university students via competitive audition each fall, has been invited to perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. They will give four performances in February of “A Night at the Academy Awards” with Lawrence Loh conducting. Chorale director Professor Mike Mitchell said the group was invited to join the orchestra after a prominent member of the DSO organization attended the ensemble’s spring concert. Tickets are available on the DSO website.

In summer 2017 the Oakland Chorale is planning a ten-day European tour which will take them to Venice, Vienna and cities in Slovenia and Croatia. The students will have amazing opportunities to rehearse and perform in spaces where some of the world’s greatest music was first sung. If you’d like to know more about supporting them you can read about the tour on our Giving page.

Dance major Brooklynn Lambert was chosen to be the new Miss Oakland County this summer. Brooklynn received a $1,000 educational scholarship and an opportunity to compete in the Miss Michigan pageant. She also won both the Kelly Garver-Nieto Talent and Kirsten Haglund Lifestyle and Fitness Awards.


On August 15 Gregory Cunningham, our instrumental program coordinator, was officially promoted to the rank of professor of music. He serves as director of bands, conducts the Oakland University Wind Symphony and teaches orchestral/wind conducting and literature at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Professor Cunningham also serves as music director and principal conductor for the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, which will give its first performance this season on Sunday, October 2.

Theatre professor Anthony Guest worked with Rochester's Full Impact Theatre, a non-profit group for local teens, over the summer. He directed a production of Romeo and Juliet which was performed in Rochester Municipal Park’s Bebout Bandshell.

Guest also taught a week-long Shakespeare Bootcamp at Interlochen Center for the Arts this summer, where voice faculty Dr Drake Dantzler and Dr Alta Dantzler were returning teachers. Assistant Professor Jeremy Barnett was the theatre design and production faculty member at the center’s camp. He was in residence for six weeks. Barnett also worked as the scenic designer for two summer productions at the Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck. Theatre goers who saw Million Dollar Quartet or The Great American Trailer Park had an opportunity to appreciate his work.

OU jazz program coordinator Miles Brown announced the release of “Middle Game,” his newest record, which was funded by a grant from the University Research Committee. The album features University of Michigan jazz professor Andrew Bishop on saxophone, University of Utah professor Kris Johnson on trumpet, Michael Jellick on piano, and Jesse Kramer on drums. All the tunes are Dr Brown's original compositions. Downloadable tracks are available at CDBaby. And the album is available on iTunes.

Kitty Dubin has taught playwriting at OU for the past 20 years and throughout that time she’s also been creating her own work. This fall her new play, Rights of Passage, will premiere at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre (JET) in West Bloomfield where Dubin is playwright-in-residence. The show will open the season and run from October 20 until November 13. The play blends comedy and drama as it explores the defining moments of life, from birth to death. Rights of Passage is the seventh of Dubin’s plays to be produced on the JET stage. Her work has also been performed by other Michigan companies, and her students’ work has been seen in Michigan and around the country. For details about times and tickets visit the JET website.

Mark Stone, coordinator of the World Music and percussion programs, attended the Quito Percussion Conference in Ecuador this summer where he says he met many wonderful musicians and made new friends. He also caught up with Walt Szymanski who once studied at OU and Professor Emeritus Marvin (Doc) Holladay, both of whom live in Ecuador.

Theatre professor Karen Sheridan has won two “best actress in a play” awards for her work in Chapatti at the Williamston Theatre earlier this summer. The first was a Thespie from the Lansing State Journal and the second a Pulsar Award from City Pulse. But Sheridan is not resting on her laurels. She spent the last few weeks of the summer in Wisconsin at the Peninsular Players directing The 39 Steps which runs from September 7 until October 16. Tickets are available on the company’s website.

Guitar instructor Bret Hoag completed the first session of Guitars Not Guns at Children’s Village in Pontiac. The program was well received by the participants and the community. Fox 2 broadcast a news story about the final class.

Terry Herald, composer and lecturer in audio technology, wrote the soundtrack for the 2006 documentary Journey to Justice, which tells the powerful story of Howard Triest, a German Jew who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 when he was 16 years old, served as an American soldier and then as an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials where he came face-to-face with imprisoned Nazi officials who were among those responsible for the death of six million Jews. The producer recently posted the entire film on Vimeo.

Associate Professor of Theatre Kerro Knox 3 used his Travis professorship funds to attend the Festival of Avignon in France this summer. Of the 63 shows on offer, Knox managed to see 29, including eight in one day. Stunning photos of the productions are available on the festival’s website. They are sure to be inspirational.