Working in the Arts: SMTD Alumni News, September 2017

Working in the Arts: SMTD Alumni News, September 2017
Headshot of Elise Eden in a blue shirt in front of a brick background
Elise Eden

Elise Eden (BM ‘16) is beginning the second year of her MM in vocal performance at the University of Michigan, and she’s doing it in style. She will sing the lead role of Millicent Jordan in the fall opera, Dinner at Eight, based on the 1933 movie, which has only been produced once before. It premiered earlier this year at Minnesota Opera. The composer, William Bolcom, was previously on faculty at Michigan. Recently Eden participating in the Westminster CoOPERAtive Summer Program at Westminster Choir College at Princeton. At OU her voice teacher was Dr Alta Dantzler. Currently she studies with Professor Freda Herseth. There will be four performances of Dinner at Eight, beginning November 9.

Constantine Novotny (BM ‘13) is starting a new chapter this fall. He will attend the University of Notre Dame to earn a Master of Sacred Music degree. His timing is perfect; the university is opening a new building, O'Neill Hall, which will house the Department of Music and the Sacred Music Program, and place musicians close to important campus venues like the Reyes Organ and Choral Hall, and the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Voice alumna Ann Toomey (BM ‘14) will perform in the prestigious Beyond the Aria series at the Harris Theater in Chicago. Toomey, who is a soprano and a current member of the Ryan Opera Center, will perform alongside bel canto master and tenor Lawrence Brownlee, and Ryan Opera Center alumnus baritone Anthony Clark Evans on the enclosed stage of the Pritzker Pavilion, with pianist and Beyond the Aria artistic director Craig Terry. The cabaret style concert is on February 5, 2018. Ticket information is available on the theater’s website.

Allison Vernon (BM ‘16) started a new job teaching elementary general music at University Hills Elementary for Rochester Community Schools. Last year she taught for New Haven Community Schools and was happy to work on building up their music program, but she knew from her student teaching experience in Rochester that the district offered teachers great support, resources and opportunities. “There is a strong focus on collaboration and support within the music department,” she said, “and everyone is constantly looking for ways to help each other. I couldn't ask for a better building with a more positive outlook . . . I'm so thrilled to be starting the next chapter of my career with Uhills!”

In July musical theatre alumna Kryssy Becker (BFA ‘11) organized a fundraising Detroit Princess Cabaret which included performances by alumni Bianca Keitel Ashby (BFA ‘15), Gabrielle Minchella (BFA ‘17), Colleen Miner (BFA ‘14), Shannon Kraemer (BFA ‘17) and Maria Reed (BFA ‘17) among others. The proceeds from the show, which was held at the Orchid Nightclub in Ferndale, went to benefit youth productions by Dream Arts Co. Becker was inspired to organize the show when she saw video of the first Broadway Princess Party at Feinstein’s 54 in New York City. Among the many people she thanked after her show was alumna Alexandra Zorn (BFA ‘09) who appears in those shows. “You were my direct line to the Broadway princess magic,” Becker wrote. “You and your friends have inspired us. We're not Broadway, but we have our own kind of magic and talent.”

Craig Miller dancing on a beach with a city skyline in the background
Craig V. Miller

Two regional theatres have decided to share in that magic. Tipping Point Theatre and Open Book Theatre are both planning to produce what Becker calls “similar modern day fairytale cabarets,” which she will perform in, along with Bianca Keitel Ashby. Tipping Point are planning an “Enchanted New Year's Eve” with performances between December 29-31 and Open Book expects their show to run on February 9 and 10. Becker has just started to plan her next project, The Detroit Villains Cabaret.

Dance alumnus Craig V Miller (BA '09) is busy in Chicago. He is the co-choreographer of an important production opening in October, Porchlight Music Theatre’s Billy Elliot. Miller is an artistic associate with Porchlight. He is also in demand as a master class teacher and is still dancing. He just wrapped his sixth season with Dance in the Parks and will dance the finale piece of Dance for Life, choreographed by Randy Duncan.

At the end of August dance alumnus Matt Wagner (BFA '15) and his colleagues in the dance company DIAVOLO appeared in the live rounds of America's Got Talent at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Matt asked all his friends and family to share the journey with them even if they didn’t plan to vote, but many people did vote. The performance won the company enough support to propel them into the semi-finals of the show. Watch DIAVOLO’s performance in this clip.

Musical theatre alumnus Brendan Lindberg (BFA ‘17) has begun a year-long acting and administrative internship with Meadow Brook Theatre. He’ll serve as an understudy for multiple roles in each production, including the Broadway preview show Johnny Manhattan, perform in the ensemble of A Christmas Carol, learn how to use the Ticketmaster system and paint scenery. For more information about MBT’s season visit their website.

Met Dance Company at Jacob's Pillow, standing outdoors with trees in the background
Met Dance Company at Jacob's Pillow, with Brett
Wotherspoon, first left. Photo by Ben Doyle.

Dance alumnus Brett Wotherspoon (BFA '15) performed at Jacob's Pillow Dance on August 3 with his colleagues from MET Dance Company & Center, which is based in Houston, TX. Jacob's Pillow in the Berkshires, MA is the oldest summer dance festival in the U.S.

In June theatre design and technology alumna Amy Brooks (BFA ’13) relocated to Atlanta, where she accepted the position of assistant charge artist at Alliance Theater. Brooks earned certification as a Graduate Scenic Artisan at Boston University, finishing in 2015. For the last few years she’s been working in Chicago where she was the charge artist at Victory Gardens Theater, winner of the 2001 Tony Award for Regional Theatre. She also gained a lot of experience freelancing.

We had a recent career update from theatre design and technology alumna Laura Camposeo (BFA ‘13) who is the production planner for Epcot Entertainment, at Disney World in Florida. She works with production teams and external partners to make sure all Epcot events have every technical thing they need including up-to-date CADS, labor, rental and in-house gear. During load-in and the show she acts as overall crew chief to keep things running smoothly. She’s usually working on 5-10 events at a time, ranging from corporate award dinners and weddings, to larger scale events like the Disney Dreamer’s Academy. In 2016 she coordinated with outside talent, the secret service, and others to ensure the smooth running of the VIP tent at the Invictus Games Closing ceremony, which was attended by Prince Harry and Dr. Jill Biden.

Theatre alumna Jillian Mitchell (BA ‘15) posted her recent work in a commercial for Biggby Coffee to her Facebook page. You can see it here.

Music education doctoral alumnus Daniel Abrahams (PhD ‘13) was recently appointed assistant conductor of the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor of the Arkansas Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's Chamber Winds and Percussion. Abrahams is assistant professor of music education in the Department of Music in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

Theatre design and technology alumnus Daniel Robinson (BFA ‘15) is saying goodbye to the West Coast and hello to the East Coast. He left his job working in lighting design for television and accepted a job as an associate lighting designer at Sight and Sound Theatres in Lancaster, PA, which is one of the country’s largest Christian theatres. Robinson said, “I am extremely excited to get back into theatre and to work for a place I have dreamed of working at.”

Congratulations to all four voice alumni who were finalists in this summer’s Opera MODO Detroit Aria Competition: Elise Eden, Cheyanne Coss (BM ‘14), Constantine Novotny and Ashley Bahri Kashat (BM ‘08 ). Eden was the winner of the Dorothy-Anne Wright Memorial Award.

In July musical theatre alumnus Garrett Dale Markgraf (BFA ‘16) celebrated his one year anniversary living in New York City, and he took the opportunity to note the work he’s done, giving an interesting glance into the life of an actor waiting for his big break. Among other things, Garrett has worked as an extra on countless movies and tv shows, at a temp agency, at Dylan's Candy Bar, with the Heartbeat Opera company, stage-managed two Off-Broadway shows at the Elektra Theatre and a political satire at Judson Memorial Church, built (and struck) sets for shows at Columbia Preparatory and Grammar School, and worked as a freelance electrician at the Juilliard School. “Overall,” he said, “this was a pretty good year!”

Music education alumnus Alexander Walker (BM ‘16) has accepted a position as director of choirs at Dakota High School in Macomb Township, replacing Todd Moses, his own middle school choir teacher. Moses has accepted a position at Macomb Community College. Walker wrote to the OU music faculty to thank them, using a story from his final year mock interview conducted by Dr. Joe Shively.  “After he posed a practice question about describing my fitness for some theoretical position, I gave an honest answer listing my credentials and my strengths. During the post-interview talk-back, Dr. Shively said, ‘Well, a principal probably would have started rolling their eyes after about the fifth time you mentioned Oakland University.’ He's obviously right, and during my recent interview at Dakota I strove to namedrop my alma mater no more than a healthy few times. But . . . I am so grateful for my time at OU and its part of who I am today, due exclusively to the faculty's shared commitment to excellence, and the resulting education and professional preparedness that I left school with.”

Dance alumna Noelle Millis (BFA ‘17) taught at Dance North Summer Intensive in Harbor Springs this summer. She began attending the camp as a student when she was only six years old. “It has always been one of my favorite things in the world,” she said. “In fact, this camp is where I came to the realization that my destiny was to become one of the professional dancers I had the privilege of taking class from. Four years ago I was asked to become a teacher at Dance North and that truly was a dream come true. This camp has opened up so many avenues for me and has made me a better dancer, teacher, and choreographer.” The camp is directed by the mother/daughter team of long-time Michigan choreographer Jo Cooley and her Radio City Rockette daughter Ann Cooley. It features all styles of dance – jazz, hip-hop, L.A., precision and classical.

Theatre alumnus Esau Pritchett (BA ‘99) has had a busy spring and summer. In April he was at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival where he played Prospero in The Tempest. He ended the season at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, where he played Treville in playwright Ken Ludwig’s version of The Three Musketeers. He was also cast in Marvel’s Iron Fist, which premiered on Netflix in March.

Jamie Reed and Jeremy Barnett holding plaques at the Wilde Awards
Jamie Reed and Jeremy Barnett, Wilde
Award winners. Photo by Kendra Barnett.

There were plenty of congratulations to go around among the OU community when the 2017 Wilde Awards nominations were announced. Theatre faculty member Jeremy Barnett was nominated in Best Design – Sets, for his work on The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Mason Street Warehouse. Alumnus Jason Maracani (BFA '15) was assistant scenic designer. Alumna Jen Price Fick (BA ‘01) was nominated in the same category for Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at Meadow Brook Theatre. Alumni Anna Marck (BFA ‘15) and Joshua Steckelberg (BFA ‘16) were both nominated for their work in Mary’s Wedding for AM Production: Marck as Lead Actress – Play, and Steckelberg for Supporting Actor – Musical. Alumna Amanda Rae Evans (BFA ‘14) was nominated in Lead Actress – Musical, for her work in Little Women at the Snug Theatre. Alumna Rachel Constantino (BFA ‘14) was nominated in Best Choreography for Mary Poppins for the Encore Musical Theatre Company. Special lecturer in theatre Jake Hooker received two nominations: one as co-director of Re­Release Party (The Golden Record), in the Best Original Production or One-Act category, and a second for Best Design - Sound or Video, for the same production. And finally, Jamie Reed, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in choral conducting, was nominated in Best Music Direction for The Great American Trailer Park Musical at the Mason Street Warehouse. The awards were presented at the Berman Center for Performing Arts on August 28, and both Reed and Barnett won their categories.

Theatre alumnus Courtney Warford (BA ‘08) played the role of Nana in the new musical It Happened in Key West for the Musical Development Lab at the Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, PA in August. The show, which also featured Wade McCollum, who appeared in the original Broadway production of Wicked, is a zany romantic comedy based on true events that rocked Key West in the 1930s. The musical's writers Jill Santoriello, Jason Huza and Jeremiah James are planning a full production in 2018.

Music education alumna Amber Cooper, (BM ‘10, MM ’14) who teaches in the Birmingham school district, spoke on the topic of “Growth Mindset in Elementary Music” at ARTS FIRST! in August. Cooper’s presentation helped participants explore the skill of composition in elementary music through the lens of growth mindset.

Music alumna and mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann continues to build her impressive career. In July she was the soloist with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra in their performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 3.

Finally we want to draw your attention to the spring issue of OU Magazine where you can find a wonderful feature on theatre alumnus Joe Bailey. "I gravitated to Professor Karen Sheridan immediately," said Bailey. "I really learned a lot of my directing style from her. And she's really one of these 'Dead Poet's Society'- type teachers, who just makes such an indelible mark on your very soul." Read more about Bailey in the online magazine.