School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Music, Theatre and Dance News

March 2020

icon of a calendarMarch 3, 2020

Share this story

Music, Theatre and Dance News: March 2020
Facing Our Truth
Oakland University presented "Facing Our Truth: 10-Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege" from Dec. 5-7 in Varner Lab Theatre.

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance presented Facing Our Truth: 10-Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race, and Privilege from Dec 5-7 in the Varner Lab Theatre in Varner Hall. The collection of plays included works by Dan O’Brien, Winter Miller, Dominique Morisseau, Mona Mansour and Tala Manassah, Marcus Gardley, and A. Rey Pamatmat. “I selected Facing Our Truth because I was struck by the raw honesty and complexity of the writing by such a beautifully diverse collection of accomplished playwrights,” said Director Kelli Crump, a lecturer at Oakland University. “I think our students can relate to a subject matter that was relevant to young people then as it is still relevant to young people today and they have a strong desire to be a part of this national conversation.”

On Dec. 15, several of SMTD faculty members, including Alta Dantzler, Amanda Blaikie, and Amanda Sabelhaus joined alum Alexander Walker, director of the Dakota High School Varsity Choir, to perform in Joy To You at Trinity Lutheran Church in Utica.

Dialogues of the Carmelites

On Jan. 12, OU College of Arts and Sciences faculty discussed the historical, social, and musical circumstances surrounding Francis Poulenc’s opera Dialogues of the Carmelites, which was performed from Jan. 16-19 in Varner Recital Hall. Participants included: David Kidger, associate professor of musicology; Victoria Shively, special lecturer in music history and theory; Ashley Voeks, visiting assistant professor of French; Sara Chapman Williams, associate professor of history. “The story (of Dialogues of the Carmelites) follows the arc of a fictionalized character, Blanche de la Force, though the other nuns portrayed in the play were real-life individuals,” said Dr. Drake Dantzler, director and associate professor of music at OU. “It is a meditation on faith, fear, death and redemption.”

Music alumna Jacquelyn Wagner (BM ‘03) has been extremely busy performing in prestigious venues throughout Europe. She played Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus on Dec. 20, 31 and Jan. 2 with Deutsche Oper Berlin; performed as a soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on Jan. 11; and played Alcina in Alcina in February/March with Deutsche Oper am Rhein. Next, she will be Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with the Paris Opera in March and April. For her complete schedule, visit

OU alum David Adragna (BM ‘18) was commissioned in January to write a “Gloria” for Vestal United Methodist Church's Chancel choir in Vestal, New York and their music director Isaac Garrigues-Cortelyou, another OU alumnus.

William Raveau (BFA '17) performed a concert in December at the Freshwater Art Gallery and Concert Venue in Boyne City. In the new year, he also began recording his debut album: “I'm so wildly excited to collaborate with another alum, Stefanie Sambrano,” Raveau said. “I've asked her to sing a duet — maybe two — with me on the album and thankfully she said 'yes.’”

Oakland University students earned a number of awards at Region III Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). This year’s standouts include: Matt Carlsen, who won the National Award for Design Excellence in Costume Design for his presentation/costume design for Urinetown; and Abigail Elliott, who won the Focal Press/Rafael Jaen Showcase Award for her presentation/sound design for Blue Stockings. Also, out of 350 nominees for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition, four OU nominees moved on to the semi-finals: Dryden Zurawski, Alaina Whidby, Clayton Sallee and Kelsi Fay. Dryden and his partner Reggie Swoverland moved to the final round of 16 nominees. For a complete account of the KCACTF experience, click here.

Michigan Music Conference

The Michigan Music Conference, which was held Jan. 17-19 in Grand Rapids, featured a performance of David Maslanka's Concerto for Alto Saxophone by Jeffrey Heisler (saxophone) and I-Chen Yeh (piano) with the Ann Arbor Huron High School Symphony Band; as well as dance alumni/students performing with Eisenhower Dance Detroit during Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring with the Troy High School Symphonic Band (conductor Brian Nutting, an OU music Ph.D. student). The conference also included sessions and panel discussions, presented by music faculty members Lauri Hogle and Mike Mitchell (2020 MMC Session Headliner); performances by Huron High School A Cappella Choir (alumnus Kent Wattleworth, conductor) and the Walled Lake Northern Chamber Singers (alumna Ashley Ward, conductor).

Anthony Guest, associate professor of theatre and chair of the Department of Theatre, performed with Special Lecturer Beth Guest and students Stanley Misevich, Madison Wiley and Sam Sommer at the New Works Festival, held Jan. 17-19 at the Flint Repertory Theatre. They performed a stage reading of the new musical, "Talk To Me," which Anthony Guest directed.

A Chinese version of Teaching for Musical Understanding, a book by Distinguished Professor Emerita of Music Jackie Wiggins, was recently published. The book, which explains current research-based theories of how students learn in order to show prospective and practicing music teachers how to teach effectively, is used by music educators around the world.

Josh Young performance

SMTD Director Amy Hardison Tully discussed the new renovations to Varner Hall during the first-ever Alumni Town Hall and Reception on Jan. 24. The event was followed by a performance by Tony Award nominated Broadway star Josh Young, an assistant professor in Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, who performed show tunes from the catalog of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Young will also be performing the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on April 14-15.

The Gryphon Trio, one of the world’s preeminent piano trios, returned to Oakland University with an all-Beethoven program on Jan. 26 in Varner Recital Hall on the OU campus. The program was presented in partnership with the Chamber Music Society of Detroit as part of its Beethoven 250th Anniversary celebration, which will continue on March 15 as the Chamber Music Society of Detroit presents the multi award-winning young Vera Quartet with pianist Meng-Chieh Liu. The program will include one of Beethoven’s early string quartets, the Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4; String Quartet No. 4 (“Silent Temple”) by University of Michigan composer Bright Sheng; and César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor.

Carly Uhrig, a music lecturer and marketing manager for Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, has been selected to serve as a judge for the theme song contest during the “I See You Awards,” an annual celebration of low-budget independent filmmakers. The program was created by Terri Lee Chandler, film critic for WWJ Newsradio 950. “We are looking for a song that will play during our highly-anticipated awards ceremony,” Chandler said. “But we’re not just looking for any song. We’re looking for one that will help represent and grow our brand; one that is unique and grabs the listener’s attention.” The contest is open through May 15 and those who would like to submit an entry may do so on FilmFreeway.

The Oakland Area Saxophone Ensemble (OASE) performed on the Grosse Pointe Chamber Music Series at the War Memorial in Grosse Pointe on Feb. 1, while the quartet purple (Alex Sellers, Brant Ford, James Besaw, and Paige Grider) performed there on Feb. 16. Sellers has also been invited to perform at the NASA (North American Saxophone Alliance) National Conference, which will take place March 6-9 at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Lynnae Lehfeldt, an associate professor of theatre at OU, performed in Blithe Spirit, which ran through Feb. 2 at Meadow Brook Theatre. The production received rave reviews, with Encore Michigan noting, “Lynnae Lehfeldt is delightful as the over-the-top, down-to-earth medium, Madame Arcati; she is as proud of her craft as any skilled tradesman and twice as loud” and Carole Azizian of The Oakland Press wrote that “Lehfeldt gives an over-the-top performance as Madame Arcati. She waves her arms and dances around the Codomines’ perfectly appointed living room to throw herself into a trance, telling everyone that she experienced her first ‘ectoplasmic manifestation’ when she was 5 ½ years old.”

Maggie Hinckley (BFA ‘17) played the role of Mary Jane in the Michigan premiere of Amy Herzog’s Mary Jane, which ran Feb. 1, 2, 6-8 at the Actor’s Theatre Grand Rapids. Next, she’ll be in Macbeth with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company.

Sigma Alpha Iota

The Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of Oakland University was excited to welcome the newly formed Sigma Alpha Iota Colony of OU to share the stage as they presented An American Music Recital on Feb. 2. The student-led performance included individual and duet performances by members of each organization. SAI sang two choral pieces as an ensemble, as did PMA. The program closed with two choral pieces, combining sisters of SAI and brothers of PMA. Kevin Cornwell II, Erin Kurtz, and Blake Rosser conducted and Dr. Lauri Hogle, faculty advisor for the new SAI Colony, served as accompanist. Sigma Alpha Iota, a professional music fraternity for women, was officially accepted as a colony in December, by the National Executive Board of SAI. Angela Bonello serves as the colony’s president.

The Department of Theatre presented William Shakespeare’s Macbeth — a cautionary tale about the trappings of power and what happens when vaulting ambition takes priority over the people one is expected to govern — in a sold-out run from Feb. 6-9, 13-16 in the Varner Studio Theatre on the OU campus. Blurring the line between the psychological and the supernatural, Macbeth traces the downfall of a respected soldier who, in collusion with his industrious wife, employs extreme measures to fulfill and counter the eerie prophecies of “three weird sisters.” “The story has a fresh relevance amidst today’s political and cultural climate,” wrote Sarah Hovis, a reviewer with Rochester Media. “And its bold proclamation is one we’d be wise to listen to.” You can read the entire review at

Dr. Joseph Shively was appointed to serve as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I’m excited for and honored by the opportunity to continue to serve the students, faculty and staff of the College of Arts and Sciences,” he said. Shively, an associate professor of music education, previously served as interim director of the College of Arts and Sciences and was the interim director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

Karen Sheridan

Karen Sheridan, professor of theatre, was appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor following a unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees at the formal meeting on Feb. 10. The appointment is effective on Aug. 15, 2020. “I think it’s great to have your work recognized and the amount of time that you spend and how much you care about the university,” Sheridan said. “I feel it’s very exciting that the arts are making an impact here at Oakland University. I’m the third Distinguished Professor from the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and I think it’s exciting when the university sees how much a part of the fabric of the university we are. I’m excited to still be working here and to still be challenged by my students. I’m delighted and honored. It’s a nice group of people to be affiliated with.” Sheridan is currently performing in the world premiere of 900 Miles to International Falls, which runs through March 1 at Williamston Theatre in Williamston, Mich., and will be directing George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, which will run from April 16-18 at Oakland University.

The winners of the 2019-20 Oakland University Concerto Competition — Brant Ford (saxophone), Catherine Hectman (piano), Danielle Maurer (mezzo-soprano) and Gillian Tackett (soprano) — performed on Feb. 16 during the Oakland Symphony Orchestra 23rd Annual David Daniels Young Artists Concert at Varner Recital Hall. “Named after Professor Emeritus David Daniels in recognition of his distinguished career at Oakland University and sustained commitment to teaching Oakland University’s aspiring student musicians, the concert is always an annual highlight of the OSO season,” said Gregory Cunningham, music director of the OSO and professor of orchestral and wind conducting at OU.

Assistant Professor of Music Alta Marie Boover and Applied Instructor Angela Theis were part of a concert series on Feb. 16 called “Chamber Music at the Scarab Club: The Romantics from Schubert to Bacri.” The concert featured romantic music by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Medelssohn, Borodin and Nicolas Bacri.

BFA musical theatre seniors

On Feb. 20, graduating theatre students presented their BFA Musical Theatre and Acting Senior Showcase. Next up, they will take their showcases on the road. The musical theatre seniors will travel to New York City to perform on March 2 for casting directors, agents and managers. They will also participate in masterclasses and seminars with the industry’s leading artists. The acting seniors will perform March 2 at Stage 773 in Chicago to local agents and casting directors. They will participate in a number of workshops at The Acting Studio, including classes that focus on improvisation, voice over and on-camera work, auditions, and a concentrated introduction to the theatre, film, and television industry in Chicago.

Brant Ford, a junior saxophone performance major, was recently named a semi-finalist for the North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) Collegiate Solo Competition. The finals will be held at the NASA 2020 Biennial Conference at Arizona State University from March 6-9. Ford is one of 20 Collegiate saxophonists from North America (ages 18-26) selected to the live rounds selected by video recording application.

Theatre alumna Lily Talevski (BFA '18) played the role of Yitzhak in Detroit Public Theatre’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which ran through Feb. 29 in Hamtramck. "I've been wanting to work with the Detroit Public Theatre for years, so being able to come back to the mitten for such a special production was amazing,” Talevski said. “Working in Hamtramck has definitely been a game changer and highlight as well — when my family emigrated to America in the late 60's, they owned a bakery in Detroit right by the border of Hamtramck as well as lived above it in the apartment buildings, so there's a lot of nostalgia driving down there everyday for me. Hedwig's story is incredible and playing Yitzhak with our amazing band makes me feel about as close as I can to being a rockstar. The book and the music are absolutely astounding and I will be in awe of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask forever."

Krysty Swann

Music alumna and mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann is playing Mayme in the new opera, Intimate Apparel, in its Off-Broadway run at Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater. One of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage’s best known works, Intimate Apparel tells the story of a single African-American woman named Esther, who sews luxurious ladies’ undergarments. She begins writing to a suitor on the Panama Canal, but quickly realizes she is the only person she can rely on. Performances began Feb. 27 with an official opening marked for March 23. Distinguished Professor of Music John-Paul White, special lecturer Phyllis White, Distinguished Professor Emerita Jackie Wiggins and Professor Emeritus Robert Wiggins were in attendance. It has also been announced that Swann will be making her Metropolitan Opera debut in the role of Mrs Boucher in the highly anticipated premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (premiering April 8, 2021). Distinguished Professor of Music John-Paul White, special lecturer Phyllis White, Distinguished Professor Emerita Jackie Wiggins and Professor Emeritus Robert Wiggins were in attendance.

Ann Toomey, soprano, (BM '14) recently made her European debut at Philharmonie Berlin in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, under the baton of Kirill Petrenko (Berliner Philharmoniker). The opera is currently streaming for free in their Digital Concert Hall at

Dance Department faculty selected Alexa Donnelly’s work, Intervolve, which she created for her senior capstone project, was selected to be performed at the East-Central regional ACDA (American College Dance Association, which takes place March 1-4 and  is attended by around 20 colleges from the region. “It is a wonderful dance that uses intricate partnering that evolves into tangled limbs and spectacular lifts,” said Thayer Jonutz, associate professor of dance. “It was well received by the audience and audible gasps were heard as Alexa’s cast out of nowhere lifted each other in surprising ways.” Intervolve will be performed in the Senior Concert series on March 12-14, along with the works of other seniors.

Ben Fuhrman, a lecturer of music technology and composition at Oakland University will be performing his piece,Particle Forge, at the MoxSonic festival in Missouri on March 7. Also, Fuhrman’s piece, Xenoglossia for solo pipe organ, will premiere on March 28 as part of the Vital Organ Project concert at Ann Arbor's First Congregational Church. Fuhrman has also been busy writing software, including a Scanline Synthesis, which takes a photo and converts it to waveform values on a pixel by pixel basis.

Fuhrman will also be performing and presenting, along with other OU music faculty, during the 38th College Music Society (CMS) Great Lakes Conference, which will take place April 3-4 at Oakland University.

Devin Price (BFA ‘15) has just been cast as Wailin Joe in the musical Memphis, opening March 24 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in North Carolina. Music faculty John-Paul and Phyllis White recently met up with Devin at Top of the Rock in NYC.

Alyssa Primeau

Alyssa Primeau (BM '18) is the 40th Annual James Pappoutsakis Memorial Flute Competition prize winner. Primeau will graduate from Boston University in May 2020 with her masters degree in flute performance. Her teachers at OU included Detroit Symphony Orchestra flutists Sharon Sparrow and Jeffery Zook. For more information, visit 

Detroit Symphony Piccoloist and Applied Instructor at OU Jeffery Zook will host a “Mile High Piccolo Masterclass” from July 10-12 at The Highland Center in Denver, Colo. For more information, visit

Music alumnus Jacob Voight is marching this spring with the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps, a member of the DCI (Drum Corps International). Another music alum, Michael Abel, who also marched DCI but as a member of the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps, is now working with the Carmel High School Marching Band — multiple time finalist and champion of Bands of America — in Indiana.

JLBoone Photography, the photography company of OU alum Jessica Stasik, was recently announced as a winner of the 2020 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards, an accolade representing the top wedding professionals across the board in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism reviewed by couples on WeddingWire.

Marina Kondo

Former OU Community Music student Marina Kondo, who studied voice with Elizabeth Medvinsky, made her debut as Anna in the first Broadway national tour of Disney's FROZEN: The Musical. “Never let someone’s lack of imagination dictate your self-worth, your power, and your dreams,” Kondo wrote on her Facebook page. “I promise, believing is worth it. Who you already are is enough. And what you identify with is incredibly unique. Claim it. Love it. Use it. Show it — loudly! I urge you to learn and dive deeper into your own culture. You’ll be amazed at how empowering it is to know where you come from. Thank you to the @frozenbroadway team for seeing me for me. I am incredibly grateful to be here.”

Coming Up:

Note: All performances and events are suspended and/or postponed to the public until the end of the semester (or further notice). Anyone who has already purchased a ticket has three options:

  • Exchange your ticket for an event during our 20-21 performance season.
  • Receive a refund: if you purchased your ticket online, you will be contacted by our box office manager. If you purchased your ticket in person, please contact the box office at [email protected], (248) 370-4578 or visit during regular business hours (Tuesday-Friday, 3-6 p.m.)
  • Do nothing - your ticket purchase will be a donation to SMTD.

Share this story