Working in the Arts: MTD Alumni News, May 2017

Working in the Arts: MTD Alumni News, May 2017
Headshot of Michaela Judkins
Michaela Judkins

Michaela Judkins (BM ’16), who majored in vocal performance and music education, has been accepted into the PhD program in musicology at the University of Michigan and awarded a Regents Fellowship, their most prestigious funding package. She will start there in fall 2017. She was also accepted into PhD programs in musicology at The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Nicolette Book (BM ‘14) has won the Corbett Award at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s scholarship competition. The prize is CCM’s top award and is supported by the Corbett Foundation. Book is working on an Artist Diploma in Opera, and studying with William McGraw.

Piaras Kent (BM ‘16) finished his MM in violin performance at MSU 2016 and this fall he will return to East Lansing to begin his DMA with his teacher Dmitri Berlinski. During his break from academic work Kent played with a mariachi band in Flint and with CARA, a Polish American singer. He was recently hired to work in the Mostly Music program run by Dale Anderson.

James Long (BM ‘14) was the second place winner of the Low Brass Technical Solo Competition at the North American Brass Band Association in March. Long is an alumnus of the OU Brass program. The program’s coordinator, Associate Professor Kenneth Kroseche, said, “I could not be prouder of his accomplishment.” Long currently studies euphonium at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

OU was represented at the annual Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids by Angel Gippert (BA ‘99) who conducted the 6-7-8 State Honors Choir. Gippert is the director of choirs at Farmington High School. She is currently serving on the MSVMA Executive Board as director of honors choirs. Nikki Rose, (BM ‘11) who teaches in South Lyon Schools, presented at the conference with her colleague Jason Rose from Warren Consolidated Schools. Their topic was “Strumming Towards Success: Incorporating Ukuleles in Your Classroom.”

In April, alumna and artist-in-residence Regina Carter was interviewed by Bob Pawlo for the Associated Musicians of Greater New York’s newsletter. It’s a fascinating read, providing a detailed narrative of Carter’s life and career. Pawlo asked Carter what advice she would give a young musician. "I think everyone should take a business course. You should know a little bit about dealing with contracts...If it’s a difficult contract, you need to take it to someone and have them look it over...If there’s someone who you really want to play with, make yourself known to them...Show up on time when anyone hires you...Learn how to compose and arrange. When you’re teaching, ask your students, “What is it that you want to get from me?...I’d just say really be open to all styles of music. Don’t close yourself off, because you’ll work more if you’re able to play more styles." Read the article for her full answer.

At the end of the company’s performance season, Laurie Eisenhower will step down as artistic director of Eisenhower Dance, and alumna Stephanie Pizzo (BA ‘90) will take over that role in August. Pizzo was a founding company member and has worked with the ensemble for nearly three decades, rising to co-artistic director.

Field art, multi-colored glass bottles, some wrapped with twine, outside on rocks
"Field Art"

Jason Maracani (BFA ‘16), who teaches at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City, was in Michigan this spring to work on an open air gallery that incorporated the work of many OU students and alums including Lucy Price, Alex Benoit, Gina Smothers, Delaney Kamm, Ashley Gaal and Emily Stoddard. Jeremy Barnett, assistant professor of scenic design, also worked on the pop-up gallery, which was sponsored by the non-profit artist support organization Fractured Atlas. Krystal Smoger and Elaina Ciccone were assistant project managers. “Field Art” showcased the work of local and international artists, and the audience was encouraged to come, touch, interact, and create within the venue, which was a 20-acre Christmas Tree Farm. Some Lowry Center preschool students presented work created in the classroom and children at the gallery were invited to create their own art and place it anywhere in the space.

Shinko Kondo (PhD ‘15) gave the keynote address at a conference in Japan this spring. She addressed the attendees at the Institute of Creativity in Music Education’s Creative Conference on the topic of “Rule Breaking and Playfulness to Channel Creativity and Expressive Power.”

Alexandra Zorn (BFA ‘09) is making her debut at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. She will play Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls and Kate in Shakespeare in Love. “I am looking forward to this summer and fall in Utah,” she said. “I can’t wait to walk in Sarah Brown’s shoes, explore Shakespeare in Love, and see all the sights gorgeous Utah has to offer.”

Jillian Mitchell sitting in a directors chair with the word Detroiters on the back
Jillian Mitchell on the set of The Detroiters

Theatre alumna Jillian Mitchell (BA ‘15) recently appeared on the Comedy Central show The Detroiters. Her episode, S1/Ep.5, aired on March 8. Her other work includes Chicago PD, the Investigation Discovery Channel’s Murder Comes to Town, and the feature film Game Day. Mitchell’s résumé also includes voice-over work. She is based in Michigan but has agents in Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit, and she travels frequently between all three areas.

While Devin Price was in town with the national tour of Motown, he and another Michigan native and fellow cast member, Louis James Jackson, appeared on both Channel 2 and Channel 4. Price was also interviewed in the Detroit News, the Metro Detroit edition of C and G News, and the Macomb Daily where he spoke about OU’s “great program.”

Congratulations to Jayne Houdyshell on her nomination for a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her work in A Doll's House, Part 2. Houdyshell graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Art at Oakland University in 1974. “She is a role model our current and future students can look up to and we will be pulling for her at the awards ceremony in June,” said OU Music, Theatre and Dance chair Jackie Wiggins. Houdyshell won the Tony Award in the same category last year for The Humans, and was nominated in 2006 for Well and 2012 for Follies.

Jocelyn Zelasko (BM ‘03 and PhD in progress) is one of only 30 candidates chosen from more than 200 applicants to receive a fellowship to the Blackbird Creative Lab in Ojai, California this June.  The tuition-free summer intensive is run by Eighth Blackbird, which the Chicago Tribune called “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet.” The Chicago-based group is “a brand-name…defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality...known for performing from memory, employing choreography and collaborations with theater artists, lighting designers and even puppetry artists” (Detroit Free Press). The fellowship will culminate with two concerts open to the public on June 23 and 24. If you’re in the area you can get more information here.

Tony Stroh, who attended OU as a commercial music major from 1982-1986 and worked on staff from 1990-1993, is back in Michigan after 30 years as a performer on cruise ships and in regional theatres in this country and in Europe. He spent the last 16 years both performing and running non-profits in Portland, Oregon. In May he taught a class at the Center for the Arts of Greater Lapeer called “The Fun-damentals of Musical Theater,” designed to help young actors and singers work on their craft. The class was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chris Rozanski (BFA ‘09) is living in New York City where he is an actor, and also a bartender at the iconic Broadway venue Joe Allen’s Restaurant. The management allows him and the rest of the staff to leave to do a show and return when it’s over. On May 9 Rozanski took his bartending skills to the small screen when he appeared as guest bartender on the Bravo network’s "Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen, and special guests Patti LuPone and Christopher Meloni.

In May Jake Wood (BFA ‘13) flew down to Miami to join the cast of Grease on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas. For the next nine months he’ll be playing Sonny, one of the T-Birds. He also had an offer to do Mamma Mia in Nantucket this summer.

Cassady Renee Temple, who just left OU this spring, has also joined Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. She’s currently in rehearsals in Miami, after which she’ll board the Radiance of the Seas for a seven-month contract, heading to Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and many islands along the way. "The training I received at OU has given me the tools and the confidence to jump right into this new adventure,” Temple said.

Eric Essler (BM ‘16) is currently the Director of Vocal Music at Clawson Schools in Clawson, MI. "I am very grateful for the opportunities I had at Oakland both performing and teaching,” Eric said. “These opportunities helped me stand out as an educator in a very competitive job market. I’m not able to thank the faculty enough for molding me into the musician and educator I am today.”

In June theatre alumna Cassandra Svacha (BAPA '02), a NYC resident, was in Michigan co-directing and performing in the debut production of Detroit's newest professional theatre company, Assembly Line Theatre Company. She’ll spend the summer back east for her fifth season directing at the Helen Hayes Youth Theatre. In the fall she'll head to the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London, England, to work on her MFA in directing and acting in the Advanced Theatre Practice program. “I will be with other artists and practitioners, who also have strong specialties,” Svacha said. “We’ll be creating new works in a collaborative effort and taking them to festivals across Europe, as well as working them within different theatre companies in London.”

Luciana Piazza in The Bridges of Madison County, seated in a chair with a man standing behind her
Luciana Piazza in The Bridges of Madison County -
Michele Anliker 

One of our newest alums, Joey Fontana (BFA ‘17), has signed with the Daniel Hoff Agency, Inc. in New York City, but before he moves out east he will be playing Mush in Porthouse Theatre’s production of Newsies in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. "Newsies has been my dream show for as long as I can remember,” Fontana said. “Being offered these incredible opportunities has made me so thankful for everything Oakland's program has taught me!" Newsies plays from July 27 - August 13 and guests can enjoy the Porthouse experience by picnicking by the water, before the show in their covered outdoor theatre.

Luciana Piazza (BFA ‘15) recently finished a run of the Michigan premiere of the musical The Bridges of Madison County at the Dio Theatre in Pinckney, where she played the role of Chiara. She also did a benefit concert at the Dio where she sang a selection from the musical Mary Poppins. Piazza went from there to the Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter, MI, where she is appearing in Camelot, playing Lady Sybil/Ensemble. The show runs from June 8 - July 2.

Jacqueline Wagner standing next to a seated man in The Meistersinger at La Scala Opera House in Milan
Jacqueline Wagner in The Meistersinger at La Scala
Opera House in Milan

Curtis Armstrong, an OU Academy of Dramatic Art alumnus, recently appeared at the Redford Theatre for two showings of his most famous movie, Revenge of the Nerds. Armstrong was interviewed by the Detroit Free Press and the Oakland Press, and he appeared on Live in the D on Channel 4. He was promoting his book, Revenge of the Nerd: Or ... The Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would Be Booger.

Meadow Brook Theatre is rounding out its season with a new show, Why Do Fools Fall In Love? Three members of the four-person cast are OU alumni: Katie Hardy, Allison Hunt-Kaufmann and Renee Turner. Felicia Renae is also featured. The show, which runs until June 18, is directed by Meadow Brook’s artistic director Travis Walter, with costumes by Corey Collins, both OU theatre alums.

Finally, we want to send our congratulations to Jacquelyn Wagner (BM '03) and share a photo from her performance in the lead role of Eva in Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg, at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Europe’s most prestigious opera house. Brava!