School of Music, Theatre and Dance

SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News

April 2024

icon of a calendarApril 16, 2024

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SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News: April 2024
Jesus Christ Superstar
Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance presented Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” on Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 20-24 in the newly renovated Varner Studio Theatre.

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance presented Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” on Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 20-24 in the newly renovated Varner Studio Theatre on the campus of Oakland University. Featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a rock opera loosely based on the final seven days in the life of Jesus Christ, as told through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

Performer, director and choreographer Tyrick Wiltez Jones stopped by Oakland University on Jan. 30 to give a masterclass and meet with OU theatre students.

Gold Vibrations

Oakland University’s Gold Vibrations a cappella group took fourth place at the Great Lakes Quarterfinal of the International Championship of College A Cappella (ICCA), which took place on Feb. 3 at the Jenison Center for the Arts in Jenison, Mich.

Oakland University welcomed Dr. Mel Stanfill for a special presentation — “One Nation Under Somebody Else’s Groove: Making Cultural and Legal Sense of Musical Reuse” on Feb. 15 at the Kresge Library. An associate professor with a joint appointment in the Texts and Technology Program and the Department of English at the University of Central Florida, Stanfill’s latest book, Rock This Way, examines what it means to re-create and borrow music, how the racial identity of both the reusing artist and reused artist matters, and the ways in which the law polices artists and their works.

David Daniels Young Artists Concert

The Oakland Symphony Orchestra presented its 27th Annual David Daniels Young Artists Concert on Feb. 18 in Varner Recital Hall. The Young Artists Concert program featured three solo student performances by the winners of the 2023-24 Oakland University Concerto and Aria Competition, including Yuhan Wei (pianist), Christopher Peters (baritone), Garret Klauss (saxophonist), and Montana King (soprano).

Every spring Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance recognizes distinguished students and community members with MaTilDa Awards, which are named to honor Matilda Dodge Wilson, who donated the land on which Oakland University is built. This year’s award recipients were announced on February 20 by Kerro Knox 3, professor of theatre and associate director of the SMTD. You can read more about this year’s recipients here.

Oakland University’s dance program, and Dr. Elizabeth Kattner, associate professor of dance, were highlighted in an article, “Making Sense of Quantitative Data as a Dance Artist,” which was published Feb. 21 in LA Dance Chronical. You can read the article here.

The Aizuri Quartet made their much-anticipated debut on Feb. 24 in the Varner Recital Hall on the Oakland University campus as part of Chamber Music Detroit’s “Oakland Winterfest.” Their spectacularly creative programs feature gems from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, including masterpieces by renowned women composers.

Seth Parker Woods, cello & Friends performed on Feb. 25 on the Oakland University campus as part of Chamber Music Detroit’s “Oakland Winterfest.” Nominated for this year’s GRAMMYTM Award for Best Classical Instrumental Performance, Woods headlined a program featuring the stirring “Transfigured Night” by the 25-year-old Arnold Schoenberg, and works for cello and piano by Beethoven and Walker.

Teri Hansen

Teri Hansen, visiting Oakland University professor, appeared in two concerts of Broadway Showstoppers with the Portland Symphony Orchestra on March 9 and 10 at the Merrill Auditorium.

March was a busy month for Ben Fuhrman, a special lecturer in music, technology and composition. He performed at the Electronic Music Midwest Festival on March 2, the College Music Society Great Lakes Conference on March 9, and MOXSonic on March 16. “All performances were of my piece Blue Echoes, Reflected for mandolin and live, interactive, multi-channel electronics,” Fuhrman said. The EMM performance was also streamed live on YouTube by Vox Novus.  Fuhrman has also been working with music tech major Trey Martin, who presented his senior thesis project, “Technomusicology,” on April 4. The project explored the ethical and technical aspects of sampling traditional instruments. “It's a very impressive body of work that he's assembled,” Fuhrman said.

Catherine Hechtman

Catherine Hechtman, a recent OU alum (Dec. ’23) who majored in piano performance, presented a paper at the annual “Women in Music” conference, held March 9 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York and jointly sponsored by the Eastman School of Music. Hechtman’s paper, titled “Florence Price: A Synthesis of the Expressive and Vernacular,” came out of a final project in her Form and Analysis class in Fall 2023 with music theory professor Dr. Melissa Hoag. In her paper, Hechtman identifies Black cultural musical topics in the first movement of Florence Price’s piano sonata. You can read more here.

The U.S. Air Force Woodwind Quintet visited Oakland University on March 19 to perform and present a chamber music masterclass.

Whitney Locher

Assistant Professor of Theatre Whitney Locher designed costumes for the Curtis Institute of Music's double bill of Les mamelles de Tirésias and The Seven Deadly Sins on March 15 and March 17 at the Philadelphia Film Center in Philadelphia, Penn. You can read more here.

Sarita Alavarado and Alexander Hernandez, two current OU students, booked Native Gardens at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, Mich. Performances ran from March 20 through April 14.

Material Advantage, a play directed by OU alumna Cassandra Svacha, opened March 8 at Matrix Theatre Company in Detroit. The play also featured lighting design by Anita Banks, a fellow OU alum.

Golden Grizzlies Band Basketball

The Golden Grizzlies Band accompanied the OU Men’s Basketball and Dance teams to Indianapolis for the Horizon League Finals and Pittsburgh for the NCAA Tournament and the team’s historic win over Kentucky on March 21.

The Oakland Chorale and University Chorus, led by Conductor Michael A. Mitchell and accompanied by Aran Kim as collaborative pianist, performed March 22-23 at the University Presbyterian Church. The concert featured works of Handel, Buxtehude, Vaughan Williams, Runestad, Hogan, Antognini, Ruthie Foster, and others.

Repertory Dance Company presents "Just"

The Oakland University Repertory Dance Company presented Just on March 22-23 in the atrium of the Engineering Center on the campus of Oakland University. “Just is named after the first full work that I choreographed in the Fall Semester,” said Thayer Jonutz, associate professor of dance and director of the Repertory Dance Company. “The original Just was inspired by devastating loss and the community that finds its way there to pick you up, literally off the floor, in support. Just became the overarching theme for this year’s show and has been the springboard for four additional works, all of which are titled with the work Just at the beginning. For example, a second full ensemble work is titled and themed Just Wave.” This year’s show marked the fifth time the Repertory Dance Company has performed inside the OU Engineering Building. You can read more about the performance here.

The Laramie Project

Oakland University’s Department of Theatre presented The Laramie Project, from March 28 – April 7 in Varner Studio Theatre. The Laramie Project, directed by OU faculty member Kelli Crump, chronicles the reaction to the 1998 hate crime murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The play draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theatre company with inhabitants of the town, company members’ own journal entries, and published news reports. OU’s production received rave reviews from Sarah Hovis of Rochester Media, and Chelsea Bossert of The Oakland Post. Hovis wrote, “It is not fun revisiting past transgressions, but they can’t be ignored either. Telling the story of Matthew and countless others helps to keep their memory alive and reminds us there is still so much work to be done. By doing so, we can hopefully enact change that will impact future generations. Make time to see The Laramie Project and become part of the conversation.” Bossert wrote that “’The Laramie Project’ is a shining bastion within a sea of doom and gloom — OU’s SMTD has put on a wonderful production and it is well worth it.” You can read their reviews on the Rochester Media and Oakland Post websites.

JJ Farr, a senior music education major, played Japheth/Snake in the Stagecrafters production of Children of Eden, which opened March 29. Many OU alumnus were also featured in the production, including Matt Kush (Adam), Kryssy Becker-Krenitsky (Yonah), and Kayvon Kashani-Gharavi (Vocal Director).

April Tini

Vocal clinician April Tini visited Oakland University on March 26 and worked with the Golden Grizzly Jazz Singers under the direction of Scott Gwinnell.

On March 29 and March 30, Theatre Lecturer Kitty Dubin presented readings of two of her one act plays, It’s My Party, and Split Decision in the Columbi New Play Festival at Notre Dame College in S. Euclid, Ohio. More information can be found here.

OU student Annabel Pulmans is playing Tabatha/Cheshire Cat in DIO’s production of Alice by Heart! Shows will run from April 5 to May 12.

Two current theatre students, Zachary Andrew and Zena Kissinger, were booked for Godspell with Arsène Performing Arts in Macomb, Mich. Performances run May 17-26.

Reeve Carney

Actor and singer-songwriter Reeve Carney, who is best known for originating the role of Orpheus in the original Broadway cast of the Tony Award-winning musical Hadestown, visited OU on April 5 to conducted a masterclass with OU theatre students.

The Oakland University Jazz Combo performed April 7 at Aretha’s Jazz Café in Detroit.

OU Professor Mark Stone performed in March with singer/songwriter Joe Reilly at “Sing for Mother Earth,” at the Ark in Ann Arbor as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Ann Arbor Pow Wow. At the concert, Stone was invited to perform with Native Music Hall of Fame artist Keith Secolaan icon and ambassador of Native music. In April, Professor Stone also performed with Joe Reilly and the All Nations Dancers at the University of Toronto for a special concert entitled "Healing Songs.” In addition, he led his own ensemble, the Stone Sound Collective, in a performance at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival featuring world-renowned Veena artist Rajhesh Vaidya.  

On April 15, Distinguished Professor Karen Sheridan and Professor Kerro Knox 3 presented a combined “Last Lecture” on April 15 in Varner Recital Hall. The “Last Lecture” series is a tradition at Oakland that gives a retiring faculty member an opportunity to reflect on his or her career, the history of the university and what they see as the future for the university. The program also provides an opportunity to thank a departing faculty member for his or her contributions to the university. “A unique aspect of this event is that we are doing our ‘Last Lecture’ together,” said Knox, professor of theatre and associate director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. “Due to the nature of theatre, and the fact that we have collaborated on so many projects, it seemed like a no-brainer.” Knox has been at OU for 27 years, while Sheridan has taught at the university for 33 years.

Deagan Krohn
Sydney Nummer

This summer, two musical theatre BFA students — Deagan Krohn and Sydney Nummer — will travel to Italy to participate in the Broadway al Monte program. Both students were awarded full scholarships and will work with Broadway professionals during a two-week intensive, culminating in a public concert. SMTD faculty member Teri Hansen is the program director and teaches voice and acting. The program includes students from Musical Theatre programs throughout the U.S. and offers such awards as the prestigious Chita Rivera, Norm Lewis, and Baayork Lee Scholarships.

Dr. Amanda Ross was selected to perform as a featured soloist on the New Works Recital of the 2024 International Trumpet Guild Conference, which will take place on May 28 – June 1 in Anaheim, Calif. Dr. Ross will be performing “Did you see the Dragon?” by Remi Inari. You can find more information here.

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