School of Music, Theatre and Dance

SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News

January 2024

icon of a calendarJanuary 24, 2024

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SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News: January 2024
Beth Guest & Karen Sheridan
OU theatre professors Karen Sheridan (pictured) and Beth Guest were nominated for awards presented by Broadway World Michigan.

OU theatre professors Karen Sheridan and Beth Guest were nominated for awards presented by Broadway World Michigan. Sheridan was nominated for Best Supporting Performer in a Play (Rain on Fire) and Best Supporting Performer in a Musical (Ragtime). Guest was nominated for Best Supporting Performer in a Musical (The Magnificent Seven). In addition, OU student Casey VanDyke was nominated for Best Performer in a Musical for their performance in Planet Ant’s Firebringer, which featured other Oakland University students as well.

From October 25-29, ballerina Lauren Anderson — one of the first African American dancers to become a principal for a major dance company, the Houston ballet — was in residence at Oakland University for a “Dance Showcase” sponsored by the Judd Family Endowed Fund.

Terry Herald

OU Music Faculty Member Terry Herald spoke with Michael Patrick Shiels on the MI Big Show radio program on Nov. 3 and shared his insights, thoughts and feelings about the new Beatles song release. You can listen to the interview here:

OU alum Braeden Haggarty, who earned a bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre from Oakland University in 2022, directed Chippewa Valley High School’s production of “The SpongeBob Musical,” which opened on Nov. 10. In addition to Haggarty, OU alumna Lily Slayton also worked on the production, and Isabella Pacifico, a communications major and dance minor at OU, handled choreography.

Alex Benoit

Oakland University alum Alex Benoit was cast in The Notebook musical on Broadway. The Notebook is a new musical based on the best-selling novel that inspired the iconic film.

Michael Noble, winner of numerous international piano competitions, presented an evening of virtuosic piano repertoire and Masterclass to the OU community on Nov. 15 in Varner Recital Hall.

The Oakland Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band presented its final concert of the year on Nov. 21 in Varner Hall. The concert featured guest conductor Damien Crutcher.

Jeffery Cobb

Oakland University alum Jeffery Cobb’s (MM, conducting) new choral arrangement of “America” was performed on Nov. 28 at the memorial service for former first lady Rosalyn Carter. Cobb is a highly successful composer, arranger, and conductor living in Traverse City. His compositions have been performed all over the world, including at Oakland University, and have won several prestigious competitions. He has guest conducted throughout the U.S., including at Carnegie Hall. Cobb is a professor of music, choral director, and chair of Fine Arts at Northern Michigan College.

The Golden Grizzly Jazz Singers presented their Holiday Cabaret on December 13.

Kaleidoscope Theatre hosted a Traditional Hmong Dance Workshop, taught by Tuger Xiong, on Dec. 7 in Varner Hall.

World Music

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance presented the World Music Concert on Dec. 8 in Varner Recital Hall.

OU kicked off 2024 with a faculty recital featuring Jeffery Heisler, I-Chen Yeh, and Adam Estes on Jan. 5 in Varner Recital Hall. The recital featured a repertoire of new music and was free to attend.

Teri Hansen

Musical Theatre BFA students Rileigh Bautel, Yeshua Hardy, and Tuger Xiong joined SMTD Musical Theatre faculty member Teri Hansen as backup singers during an engagement with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 17, 2023. “There is no greater gift than watching your students succeed … except, perhaps, watching them while you are performing with them,” said Hansen. “It’s a gift when faculty can provide opportunities like these to the students. It benefits everyone and expands our OU community.” Professor Hansen appears regularly with symphony orchestra and toured for years under the baton of Marvin Hamlisch (Boston Pops, Kennedy Center). They hope to establish an ongoing Broadway Pops series with SMTD students and the Oakland Symphony Orchestra.

Midwest Band

Oakland University School of Music, Theatre and Dance was well represented at the 77th Annual Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, which took place Dec. 20-22 in Chicago, Ill. Every December, OU faculty and staff, including Dr. Pam Klena and Professor Michelle Tschirhart, join the 18,000+ attendees at this invaluable conference that focuses on music education through an array of clinics, exhibits and concerts.

OU aum Devin Jackson-Price performed in Ain’t Too Proud, which was on tour at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit until Dec. 23.

The Assembly Saxophone Quartet’s new album (Re)Mix, featuring music by Avner Dorman, Alfred Schnittke, and Bill Ryan, won the Silver Medal in Contemporary Classical Performance and Music Production from the Global Music Awards.

Jerome Balsab

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance will welcome Ghanaian artist Jerome Balsab for a special performance at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23 at the Pontiac Little Art Theatre in Pontiac, Mich. He will be accompanied by Professor Mark Stone of Oakland University, Professor Michael Vercilli of West Virginia University, and Tijan Dorwana, a renowned gyil performer and instrument maker from Ghana. The event is free to attend and is sponsored by the Judd Family Endowed Fund. “Thanks to the work of the late Ghanaian gyil pioneer Bernard Woma, the gyil xylophone has become a truly global percussion instrument,” said Stone, professor of world music and percussion at Oakland University. “Jerome Balsab has continued the vital work of Bernard in Ghana, North America, and beyond; cultivating the instrument’s rich musical heritage.” You can find more information here.

Oakland University’s “Kaleidoscope Cabaret” is back for their second year’s performance. This year’s theme is “America Through Our Lens.” Ticket information will be available soon. Kaleidoscope Cabaret’s mission is to highlight the voices of OUSMTD students within the global majority. This cabaret will feature songs from Hamilton, Encanto, American Idiot, and more! Directed by Sarita Alvarado and stage managed by Trish Brown and Bex Papazian. Poster/Pictures by Crystal Orser. Check out “America Through Our Lens” on January 27 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and January 28 at 3 p.m. in the Varner Lab Theatre.

Pam Klena

Dr. Pamela  Klena was recently made an honorary member of the board for MSBOA (Michigan Band and Orchestra Association and will be recognized at the state Michigan Music Conference, which will take place January 25-27 in Grand Rapids. “I am so humbled by this great honor to join the talented, innovative Michigan music educators within the Michigan Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA),” Klena said. “I am so appreciative of this opportunity to learn from, support and collaborate with our incredible instrumental educators. It is my foundational belief that we, the faculty at Oakland University, are an active part of our Michigan community. Together, we can provide meaningful music-making opportunities for our students. I offer my sincere gratitude to the Michigan Band and Orchestra Association members and Executive Board. I'm looking forward to many, many fruitful years together!” Klena is assistant professor of music at Oakland University, where she conducts the Oakland University Symphonic Band, teaches instrumental music education methods courses, teaches graduate conducting, and supervises student teachers. She also serves as the faculty advisor for the Oakland University Nu Zeta Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, an International Music Fraternity to encourage, nurture and support the art of music. Additionally, she serves as a faculty advisor for the Oakland University Collegiate Chapter of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

Melissa Hoag

Melissa Hoag, associate professor of music theory, was recently named co-editor of the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy by the Gail Boyd de Stwolinski Center for Music Theory Pedagogy. The journal publishes an annual issue that includes research articles, reviews of books and textbooks, and resources for music theory instructors. Professor Hoag’s other recent activities include publication of Expanding the Canon: Black Composers in the Music Theory Classroom (Routledge, 2022), and being named Chief Reader-Designate for the College Board’s Advanced Placement Exam in Music Theory. Hoag was also recently elected to the Society for Music Theory’s executive board.

OU’s Antonio Vettraino, Kai Stidham, and Sam VanKampen performed in A Christmas Carol, in November and December at Meadow Brook Theatre. Joining Vettraino, Stidham and VanKampen on stage were Associate Professor of Theatre Anthony Guest and Thomas Mahard, a special lecturer in theatre, who reprised role as Ebenezer Scrooge in the popular production. A Christmas Carol was directed by Terry W. Carpenter and featured sound design by Michael Duncan.

Ben Fuhrman

Dr. Ben Fuhrman’s piece, "Blue Echoes, Reflected" for mandolin and 8-channel live electronics has been programmed at the Electronic Music Midwest festival, the College Music Society Great Lakes conference, and the MoxSonic festival, all of which will take place in March 2024.

Madison Wiley, a graduate student in Milica Govich Vukasovich’s Advanced Acting for the Camera class, booked the role of Lexie on an upcoming episode of Chicago PD. She was a 2023 Musical Theatre graduate.

For the third year in a row, David Gram's Directing students and Kitty Dubin's Playwriting students collaborated on a special event, this year entitled, "Where Do We Go From Here?" Eight 10 minute plays, all but one written by OU playwriting students, were performed in the Varner Lab Theatre on December 8-9. This event has been enormously successful in giving opportunities to student directors, student playwrights, and student actors to showcase their talents. The student playwrights whose plays were performed this year include: Sarita Alvarado, Lori Eaton, Kennedy Vernengo, Alessia Fionda, Antonio Vettraino, and Anna DeValois Konno

Alta Boover Dantzler

Dr. Alta Marie Boover's new album Of Time and Love (Centaur Records 2023) was featured in American Record Guides latest issue "Critics Choice: Best of 2023" This album was made in collaboration with Mary Siciliano, piano, and John Alexander Madison, viola and was recorded and mastered by Terry Herald. It features premiere recordings of Shakespeare Sonnets set by French composer Nicolas Bacri, which according to the American Record Guide "Ms. Boover spins out in ravishing tones with great depth and nuance.” Of the Loeffler Quatres Poèmes; “Ms. Boover expresses joie de vivre as well as she expresses tragedy. She presents superlative vocalism, expressive and sensitive to the words.” In March of 2024, along with Dr. Drake Dantzler, she will present at the International Academic Forum in Tokyo, Japan on Vocal Health for Educators & Public Speakers.

Thayer Jonutz, associate professor of dance, was selected as the 2023 President's Colloquium honoree for his research on choreography and performance. “I am the first music, theatre and dance recipient of this prestigious award,” he said. Jonutz was also selected to perform his latest work, “Hammer and Nail,” during the President’s Colloquium in December. “Presenting my research in the ballroom spaces in the OC required a huge team effort from many experts to transform a non-theatre setting into an immersive experience,” he said. “The whole event exceeded my expectations as an artist.” This month, Jonutz will be travelling to Utah to teach a variety of master classes and perform “Hammer and Nail” at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley State University. “Both graciously invited me to interact with their students for a weeklong residency,” he said. Jonutz was also invited by Kayt MacMaster, a graduate of OU’s Dance Department and the Interim director of the dance at Alma College, to teach for two days at the end of February and present “Hammer and Nail” to her students. “Eventually, my vision is to translate ‘Hammer and Nail’ into the Spanish language, so that I can travel to Costa Rica to share my work there,” he said. “I have been communicating back and forth with faculty from the Universidad Nacional about my coming there for a week of teaching and sharing my work.”

Mahki Murray

Mahki Murray, a violin performance and music education major at Oakland University, began his student teaching internship this semester at Troy High School with Orchestra Director Wendy Stuart. Murray will be assisting Stuart in teaching four Orchestras and an after-school Fiddle group. He will also be working with her in all administrative duties needed to maintain the program, including MSBOA work assignments, parent/teacher conferences, a trip to Disney in Orlando, an Orchestra Banquet, and numerous concerts. “I have already begun immersing myself in the culture of Troy High School, and I look forward to learning as much as I can from this prestigious program,” Murray said. “I look forward to gaining as much wisdom as I can from Ms. Stuart. I am also excited to bring my ideas to Troy High and to challenge myself to develop them further. Finally, I look forward to developing new relationships with my students and giving them reasons why music is so special through my teaching.” PHOTO

Emily Watta, an instrumental music education major, began student teaching on Jan. 3 at Walnut Creek Middle School. Watta will be mentored by Jennifer Fogoros, who has been teaching string orchestra for over 20 years, and will be assisting in, and eventually teaching, the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade orchestras, conducting repertoire and teaching instrumental technique. She will also be working with music teacher, Jeff Danner, to gain experience in the choir classroom. “I am excited to build my skills as a string teacher and to create music with beginning musicians,” Watta said. “It’s fun to help young students learn new techniques and develop their musicianship in their first few years of music- making. Most of these students have never fully realized what they could be capable of on their instruments, and I am lucky enough to be in a position to help them discover their musicianship and creative possibilities. I am realizing now more than ever that there is still a lot for me to learn about music and string techniques. While it is a huge task to begin a career in music education, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with great mentors and wonderful students to support my education.”

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