School of Music, Theatre and Dance

SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News

March 2023

icon of a calendarMarch 23, 2023

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SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News: March 2023
KCACTF award winners
OU student award recipients at the Region III Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

The Region III Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), which took place Jan. 11-15 at the University of Michigan-Flint, featured the work of 48 students from the Department of Theatre in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. You can read more about their accomplishments here.

Voice alums Mark Hosseini and Amandalynne Perzyk have been chosen as apprentice artists for the Sarasota Opera's Winter Opera Festival. The program runs from Jan. 11 through March 26 and includes participation in the four main stage productions (Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Verdi's Ernani, and Massenet’s Thérèse), masterclasses and coaching, networking with experienced colleagues, performing at concerts during the season and covering main stage roles.

Alexa Moffo (BFA ‘15) was cast in a Radio Play podcast titled “Hollow’s Bend: the Radio Play” alongside James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Paul Johansson (One Tree Hill), George Sear (Love, Victor), and Jan Luis Castellanos (13 Reasons Why).

Countertenor John Holiday, one of the opera world's fastest-rising stars, performed a free concert on Jan. 13 at the Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts. After his performance, Holiday held a public masterclass with OU students Cristina Aldo, Aniya Gray, Dion Jackson, Jr. and Kait Wieg. Holiday is currently associate professor of music (voice) at Lawrence University, was a 2020 contestant on NBC's The Voice, and holds degrees from The Juilliard School, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Southern Methodist University.

On Jan. 13, Professors Mark Stone and Patrick Fitzgibbon kicked off a series of monthly Global Music Jam Sessions at the Pontiac Little Art Theater (PLAT). Each session includes two sets, open mic and an open jam session focused on freedom of musical expression through improvisation. Additional sessions will happen every third Tuesday of the month with remaining performances on April 18 and May 16. The sessions are sponsored by the OU/Pontiac Initiative.

Michigan Music Conference

Drs. Gregory Cunningham and Pam Klena were clinicians at the 45th Annual MSBOA Conducting Symposium, which took place on Jan. 19 at the Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids. The OU Wind Symphony served as the featured music ensemble for the guest conductors, which included music teachers from all over the state of Michigan, many of which were OU alums. 

Several OU faculty, students and alumni presented at the conference, as well: Cat Bennett, Kevin Czarnik, Jeffrey Heisler, Kasey Julian, Pam Klena, Mike Mitchell, and Domonique Rose. In addition, Scott Gwinnell, special lecturer in music, was commissioned by the Michigan School Band & Orchestra Association to write a piece to commemorate 50 years of jazz within MSBOA. "Silver and Blue" was performed on Jan. 21 at the Michigan Music Conference in the Ambassador Ballroom of the Amway Grand Hotel by the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra.

Amanda Ross, visiting assistant professor of music, presented a free recital on January 23 at University Presbyterian Church in Rochester Hills. The program included music by Francis Poulenc, Jean Françaix, Remi Inari, Franz Joseph Haydn and Herman Bellstedt.

Shea Socrates (BM '22) was hired by Lake Orion School Community Schools as a music teacher for both Webber and Paint Creek elementary schools. Bret Hoag, Shea's guitar instructor while at OU, said “I'm so fantastically proud of Shea and their work! Lake Orion is lucky to have Shea on the faculty!”

Mark Stone, Gayelynn McKinney, Jeremy Barnett, and Regina Carter recently traveled to South Africa for the South Africa/America Music Exchange (SAME) Festival, which featured 190 local and international musicians on a single stage. You can read more about their experience here.

Jagged Little Pill dancers

Jena VanEslander, a cast member in the Jagged Little Pill tour, visited Amanda Lehman’s Dance for Musical Theatre course in February. SMTD’s musical theatre students had the opportunity to learn original choreography from the show.

From Feb. 3 – 5, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance presented Eisenhower Dance Detroit in COLLIDE, an eclectic concert featuring repertory past and present with dances from previous decades curated by EDD's followers. Back by popular demand, this dynamic performance featured the revival of Laurie Eisenhower’s Tom’s Songs, as well as the return of Stephanie Pizzo’s Solace and DanzonThe performances took place at the Maggie Allesee Studios for Dance and Arts Innovation in Bloomfield Hills.

Lynnae Lehfeldt

Lynnae Lehfeldt, associate professor of theatre, was the dialect coach for The Language Archive, which ran from Feb. 3 - 26 at Theatre Nova in Ann Arbor. The production was previewed here by Davi Napoleon of A2 Pulp. In addition to The Language Archive, Lehfeldt also presented at the 74th Southeast Theatre Conference (SETC) in Lexington, Ky. on March 4 - 5. SETC is the largest theatre convention in the U.S. with over 5,000 participants. “I always look forward to presenting at SETC,” Lehfeldt said. “It is an opportunity for me to reconnect with academics, professionals and students. This year was particularly special as I presented with a former Oakland student, Brett Radke.” Radke first worked with Lehfeldt as an undergraduate theatre student at OU. “Lynnae brought a vibrant energy and practical lens into the classroom that inspired the actor and teacher I am now,” Radke said. Since graduating from OU, Radke has worked professionally as an actor, completed a rigorous graduate acting program, began teaching voice, and will soon be Designated Linklater Voice Teacher (DLT.) “The seed of this all started with Lynnae and the many wonderful professors I had at OU,” Radke said. “Presenting alongside Lynnae at SETC was a full circle moment that I will cherish.”

Renovation Brass

Renovation Brass were selected as the winners of the 2023 OU Chamber Music Competition. The members of this ensemble include Anna Greyerbiehl (trumpet), Shannon Sheldrick (trumpet), Derek Kolp (horn), Mabelynn Dill (trombone) and Noah McDonald (tuba.) Four OU chamber ensembles competed this year, and Dr. Jeffrey Heisler, chair of the Department of Music, said "the level of artistry on display was inspiring." Renovation Brass was invited to perform at the inaugural OU Music Honors Award GALA Concert on March 25 and will receive the MaTilDa Award in Chamber Music.

The Oakland Chorale, conducted by Dr. Michael Mitchell, performed Feb. 16 in “Psalms, Hymns, & Spirituals: Celebrating the Music of Stacey V. Gibbs” at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. This Black History Month Choral Celebration included choirs from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Pioneer High School and the Madrigal Chorale. Gibbs is a prolific Detroit composer best known for his arrangements of traditional African American spirituals. 

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance presented “Kaleidoscope Cabaret” Feb. 18 – 19 on OU’s new West Campus, located at 1500 University Drive in Auburn Hills. Honoring the human experience and celebrating joy, “Kaleidoscope Cabaret” featured performances from students of the global majority, with songs from HamiltonSixIn the Heights, and much more. You can read more about “Kaleidoscope Cabaret” here.

Concerto winners

Joseph Walters (piano), Tyler Hewett (saxophone) and Olivia Donnel (soprano) were selected as the winners of the 2022-23 Oakland University Concerto and Aria Competition The winners performed with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra in the 25th Annual David Daniels Young Artists Concert, which took place on Feb. 19 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township. You can read more about the concert here. 

The OU Wind Symphony (Gregory Cunningham, conductor) and Symphonic Band (Pam Klena, conductor) performed Feb. 20 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts. The winner of the 2022-23 OU Band Concerto Competition, Dustin Freeman, performed Trombone Concertino by Ferdinand David. The concert also featured music by Katahj Copley, Mark Camphouse, Katherine Bergman, Jaime Texidor, Fisher Tull, Christopher Buchanan, Julie Giroux and John Williams.

The recipients of this year’s MaTilDa Awards, which recognize distinguished students, alumni and community members, were announced on Feb. 23. This year’s winners include: Kellen Dunlap, Distinguished Musicianship Award (undergraduate); Tyler Hewett, Distinguished Musicianship Award (graduate); Olivia Donnel, Outstanding Student in Vocal Performance; Qi Zheng, Outstanding Student in Piano Performance (undergraduate); Yang Yang, Outstanding Student in Piano Performance (graduate); Joseph Walters, Outstanding Student in Piano Performance (graduate); Ana Miller, Jennifer Scott Memorial Award; Litang Feng, Jennifer Scott Memorial Award; Jaiwen Zhang and Yipeng Zhou, Joyce Adelson Piano Ensemble Award; Anna Greyerbiehl, Outstanding Student in Instrumental Performance (undergraduate); Mahki Murray, Outstanding Student in Instrumental Performance (undergraduate); Shannon Sheldrick, Outstanding Student in Instrumental Performance (graduate); Angela Bonello, Outstanding Student in Music Education; Shea Socrates, Outstanding Student in Music Education; Jackson Stone, Outstanding Student in Jazz; Jacob Voight, Outstanding Student in World Music; Kyle Marker, Outstanding Student in Music Technology; Renovation Brass (Anna Greyerbiehl, Shannon Sheldrick, Derek Kolp, Mabelynn Dill and Noah McDonald), Outstanding Students in Chamber Music; Madeleine Krick, Outstanding Student Service Award (Music); Olivia Friedenstab, Outstanding Student Service Award (Music); OU Percussion Studio, Outstanding Student Service Award (Music); Travis Darghali, Pat and Mercedes Nicosia Meadow Brook Estate; Mason Gaida, Gittlen Achievement in Acting; Joe Kocenda, Gittlen Achievement in Theatre Design and Technology; Mark LeMire, Gittlen Achievement in Musical Theatre; Anna De Valois Konno, Gittlen Theatre Award; Emily Nichter, Outstanding Student Service Award (Theatre); Brady Jacot, SMTD Award (for commitment to the interdisciplinary nature of the school); and Sarita Alvarado, Social Justice Award. The music awards will be presented at the Music Gala which is March 25 at 7 p.m. in the Varner Recital Hall. The theatre awards will be presented after the 2 p.m. matinee performance of A Little Night Music on March 25 at the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts. The dance awards will be announced and presented after the 8 p.m. Young Choreographers Forum on April 15 in the Varner Recital Hall.

Kevin Cornwell II, vocal music education major, is one of only four undergraduate students selected for the Collegiate Student Conductor’s Institute at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference, which took place Feb. 22 – 25 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kevin had the opportunity to work with clinician Felicia Barber from the Yale School of Music. At OU, Cornwell, who studies conducting with Dr. Michael Mitchell, served as the assistant conductor for the Oakland Chorale and University Chorus. Cornwell is currently student teaching at Grosse Pointe North High School and will graduate in April.

Gayelynn McKinney

OU alumna Gayelynn McKinney was  featured in the March 2023 edition of OU’s Alumni Magazine in an article titled “Essence of Jazz: Gayelynn McKinney sets the beat to her own drum.” You can read the article here.

Brian Wiik (Brass), Jackson Stone (Jazz), Mattheas Boelter (Percussion), Yang Yang (Graduate/Piano), Catherine Hechtman (Undergraduate/Piano), Mahki Murray (Strings), Kellan Dunlap (Voice), Tyler Hewett (Graduate/Woodwinds), Benjamin Preuhs (Undergraduate/Woodwinds), and William Angliss (World Music) were recognized as the winners of the inaugural OU Solo Performance Competitions. The achievements of these award-winning students will be celebrated on March 25 during the inaugural OU Music Honors Gala.

Associate Professor Melissa Hoag recently released a podcast episode titled "Counterpoint Expanded" through SMT-Pod, the podcast series published by the Society for Music Theory. The episode examines ways to incorporate broader composer representation in eighteenth-century counterpoint courses. Five outstanding OU music students — Olivia Friedenstab, Corrin Kliewer, Iyla Miller, Mahki Murray, and Kaleigh Schott — were interviewed as part of this episode. You can listen to the episode here.

St. Lucia

Several OU students, along with professors Mark Stone and Patrick Fitzgibbon, spent their winter break studying Caribbean music and culture in Laborie, Saint Lucia with legendary steel pan artist Andy Narell. You can learn more about the Global Arts in St. Lucia study abroad course here.

Ben Fuhrman, a lecturer in music, technology and composition, performed on March 11 at the College Music Society's Great Lakes Regional Conference at Bowling State University. He also performed March 17 and 18 at the MoxSonic festival at the University of Central Missouri. “I performed the same piece for both — Curvilinear Space — a multichannel electronic piece exploring historical methods like sine summation, interference tones, and musique concrète, with a modern approach to spatialisation,” Fuhrman said.

Take Root, dance company in residence at Oakland University, presented BE YOU HERE on March 10 and 11 in the newly-renovated Varner Recital Hall. The March 11 show included a special opening performance by the Dance for Parkinson’s Disease Program. 

Senior dancers

From March 11 – 12, the 2023 B.F.A. dance seniors presented “19/23,” featuring works by Morgan Pinkham, Lea Purrett, Rissa Smith, Theresa Sommers, and Iyobosasere Enabulele. This capstone concert dealt with themes of dreams, growth, life lessons, comparisons, self-confidence, hurting those around us, and bittersweet endings and new beginnings.

Recent alums Brant Ford (saxophone) and Peyton Miller (percussion / piano) are co-recipients of the Ruth Laredo "An die Musik" Award and performed a Young Artists of the Year Concert on March 12 at the Birmingham Unitarian Church. 

The Encore Musical Theatre Company’s production of Once on This Island, which ran from Feb. 23 – March 12, included OU musical theatre students Leah Wilson (Ti Moune) and Cali Hill (Andrea), as well as musical direction by OU faculty member Frank E. Pitts. raved, “Leah Wilson brings a big voice and a lithe dancing figure to Ti Moune. Her voice soars on songs of both aspiration and romantic yearnings.”

The Oakland University Department of Music will present the inaugural Music Student Honors Gala Concert, a celebration of the achievements of our award-winning music students, on March 25. The evening will include performances by the awardees, a presentation of MaTilDa and competition awards, and a reception. Tickets are available here. All ticket proceeds go to the SMTD Student Opportunity Fund, part of Varner Act II, a special fundraising campaign supporting SMTD students by providing enrichment experiences beyond the classroom.

The Oakland Chorale and University Chorus, under the direction of Dr. Michael A. Mitchell, presented their final concerts of the season on March 17-18 at the University Presbyterian Church. The sold-out concerts featured works of Beethoven, Schubert, Vaughan Williams, Runestad, Barnum, and others, as well as music from India and South Africa. The choirs was joined by OU music faculty members Dr. Cat Bennett (guest conductor) and Patrick Fitzgibbon (percussion).

Ian Lester (BM ‘18) recently performed at the Gateway Brass Band Championships with the Fountain City Brass Band, who placed first in the championship section. Lester is a doctoral student at the University of Missouri at Kansas (UMKC) and was recently commissioned by the KC Trombone Workshop to compose a fun and exciting new work for trombone ensemble. His new piece, “Release the Beast,” will premiere this summer.

Mila with Chicago alums

Mila Govich, a special lecturer in theatre at OU, was in Chicago recently shooting a role for Chicago Fire, which airs on NBC. “I play a woman working a blood drive when a fire breaks out at the community center,” Govich said. “I am desperate to save the blood. It was so much fun jumping in and out of fire. I’ll be an action hero yet!” The episode will air at 9 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 29. “I’m also very excited that many of my camera students, both past and present, are getting to audition for the ‘Chicago’ Dick Wolfe shows.” For example, Isabella Goff did background on Episode I, on Episode 17, Reggie Svoverland,  who was Govich’s class a few years back, worked in the camera department on the set of Chicago Fire. In addition, Govich will be reprising her role as Judge Leeann Dreben on Law and Order. “It’s so much fun,” she said.

OU alumna Isabella Goff recently appeared as an extra on an episode of Chicago Med on NBC. “I found the listing on Facebook for extra work and quickly got hired into filming an episode,” Goff said. Since graduating in April 2022, Goff moved to Chicago and has worked as an extra on Chicago Med and Chicago Fire. She is currently in a musical titled UnCaped Heroes, which will be on tour throughout the Chicagoland area from May - June, 2023.

Beth Guest, a special lecturer in theatre at OU, is in rehearsals for the musical The Magnificent 7, which runs March 31 - April 16 at the Flint Repertory Theater. A world premiere, The Magnificent 7 is directed by Carie Davis and focuses on the 1996 gold winning Olympics gymnastics team. “I’m playing Elfi Schlegel,” Guest said. “Theatre alum Emi Fishman is also in the production with me.”

Denise Caston-Clark, a lecturer in theatre at OU, is over the moon to be returning to the historic Priscilla Beach Theatre in April to choreograph Singin' In the Rain! She's also thrilled that her former tap students are doing amazing things. Griffin Krause and Sydney Nummer recently appeared in Nicely Theatre's The Drowsy Chaperone, and Sydney was recently cast in Encore Musical Theatre Company's production of 42nd Street. “It's exciting to see the talented OU SMTD students doing great things,” Caston-Clark said. “Here's to continuing to create and educate.”

Whitney Locher, assistant professor of theatre at OU, is designing costumes for Hartford Stage’s production of The Winter’s Tale, which opens April 13. You can find more information about the production here.

Red Piano Music Studio in Rochester Hills, owned by Oakland University alumna Mackenna Greene, employs 18 OU SMTD graduates or soon-to-be graduates teaching music lessons: voice, piano, brass, strings, woodwind, percussion and more. Mackenna recently opened a second location, employing even more Grizzlies.

David Visnaw, a lecturer in music at OU, has been asked by MSBOA District XVI to be the director of their annual All-Star High School Jazz Band (“MSBOA District XVI Jazz All-Stars”). The band will perform a concert on Tuesday, April 18 at Lakeview High School. This is a select ensemble of high school jazz students from MSBOA’s District XVI. The students participate in four rehearsals and a concert spread out over a three month period, and the ensemble features some of the finest high school jazz musicians in the area.

Anetria Cole, a former student of Theatre Lecturer Kitty Dubin and an award-winning playwright from Pontiac, Mich., is a semi-finalist in the 3rd Annual Obsidian Theatre Festival, which will be held June 22 -2 5 in Detroit. Cole’s play Rent Party is about tenants of a dilapidated tenement building coming together to help a resident on the verge of being from her apartment.

OU alumna Kelsi Fay is currently touring with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival with their MiSFITS company that travels to high schools in the Michigan/Ohio/Indiana area. “We are performing Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, the latter of which I performed in my last show at Oakland under the direction of David Gram,” Fay said. “I, again, am playing a witch and it's nothing but fun. I would encourage any high school teachers out there that want to introduce students to the wonderful world of Shakespeare, to book us to come to your school. Who doesn't want to see people fighting with swords onstage?” Fay was also accepted to a Playback Improv Troupe in Detroit at Matrix Theatre Company. “This is the inaugural year of the troupe and we get the opportunity to go out into the community, hear their stories, and re-tell them in fun, different, and/or inspiring ways,” she said. These events, once scheduled, will be available to anyone. 

Tristan Hughes (BM ‘22) has been hired as band director at the Saddle River Day School in Saddle River, New Jersey. Tristan said, “Moving to New York has been a dream of mine for years, and the move is made all that better knowing I'll be able to teach at an institution that values individuality, creativity, and a student-centered approach to learning. I feel fortunate to be able to be at a gem like Saddle River. None of it would've been possible without my friend Tyler (Capa {BM ‘15}), whom I am so excited to keep building on a strong performing arts program with. I also need to thank Pam (Klena, assistant professor of music) and David (Uhrig, cooperating teacher at Rochester High School) for supporting me over the finish line of my degree and inspiring me to push my boundaries as a musician, educator, and person.” Tristan recently announced that he has been accepted into the New York University Steinhardt Musical Theatre Conducting Intensive where he will spend two weeks at NYU studying the art of musical theatre conducting with Tony Award-winning conductor and orchestrator Ted Sperling.

OU Repertory Dance Company

This weekend the OU Repertory Dance Company, under the direction of Thayer Jonutz, presents PATHS in the atrium of the Engineering Center on the campus of Oakland University. This is the fourth show the Rep Company has performed in this space, and this year’s iteration will include works by faculty members Elizabeth Kattner, Teresa Muller and Thayer Jonutz. Presenting a show in the atrium realizes one of the missions of the Department of Dance — to collaboratively perform in non-traditional spaces. In that spirit, the Repertory Dance Company will be performing a collaborative work that was created with Shannon Sheldrick, an OU master of trumpet student. For more information, read here.

Twelfth Night

The Department of Theatre, which opens A Little Night Music March 23 at the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts, presents two additional productions in Pontiac with William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Caryl Churchill's Love and Information, both at Pontiac’s Little Art Theatre (The PLAT). The productions run March 30-April 2 and April 6-8, respectively. 

The Oakland Symphony Orchestra (Gregory Cunningham, conductor) and Oakland University Symphony Chorus (Michael A. Mitchell, conductor) perform its annual concert at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall on Tuesday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. The orchestra will perform The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps) by Igor Stravinsky. They will be joined by the Oakland University Symphony Chorus for Requiem by Gabriel Fauré, featuring OU faculty soloists Melissa Maloney (soprano) and Constantine Novotny, baritone. 

Founder's Day Faculty Recognition
Founder's Day Faculty Recognition

Two SMTD faculty members were honored March 22 during the annual Founder’s Day Faculty Recognition Luncheon: Gregory Patterson, associate professor of dance (Service); and Jessica Payette, associate professor of musicology (Scholarship). The Founders’ Day Faculty Recognition event recognizes faculty members whose teaching and research excellence, creative achievements and community service have contributed to the betterment of society. Founders’ Day honors the memory of university benefactors Alfred and Matilda Dodge Wilson, whose gift of 1,400 acres and $2 million has enriched the lives of thousands of people since Oakland University’s founding in 1957.

For a listing of upcoming events, please visit

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