School of Music, Theatre and Dance

SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News

May 2021

icon of a calendarMay 19, 2021

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SMTD Faculty, Student and Alumni News: May 2021
Noah Canales
Noah Canales

Noah Canales, junior musical theatre major, has been named the “First Place Male Singer” in the fourth annual “NextGen National: Finding the Voices of Tomorrow” competition, which featured vocal performers from colleges and universities from across the United States. The national honor includes a $1,000 scholarship and a paid performance with the American Pops Orchestra (APO) in their 2021-22 season. “When I found out I won the Chip Hand Award for Vocal Excellence through the ‘NextGen National: Voices of Tomorrow’ competition, I was overwhelmed with gratitude,” Canales said. “There were so many talented vocalists that could have easily won. However, with supportive coaching, extensive hours of training, and a love for musical theatre I received the honor. I am honored to have placed first, and I look forward to working with the APO and utilizing the professional resources they will provide.” You can watch Noah’s award-winning performance on YouTube and listen to him on The Oakland County Megacast.

The Oakland Chorale’s video, “Imaginari Pace,” premiered Feb. 20 on YouTube. Latin for “Imagine Peace,” “Imaginari Pace” was composed by Dr. Michael A. Mitchell for the Oakland Chorale’s 2020 European concert tour, which was cancelled due to the global pandemic. Featuring Michael A. Mitchell, conductor; Brandon Gauvin, assistant conductor; Hyekyung Sia Lee, piano; Angela Bonello, soprano soloist; and Jake Yetzke, audio editing.

The winners of Oakland University’s Virtual Piano Day Competition were announced on March 21. This year’s winners include: Division I - 1st prize: Fayfay Sheng, 2nd prize: Kimberly Ke, 3rd prize: Alina Ju, Honorable Mentions: Audrey Shi, Sophia Jin, Kuroda Nasutko; Division II - 1st prize: Shaun Lee, 2nd prize: Bryna Sullivan, 3rd prize: Alexandra Xu, Honorable Mentions: Grace Chengyang, Genki Kondo, Sayaka Minami; Division III - 1st prize: Kristine Ma, 2nd prize: Julia Huang, 3rd prize: Emma Fu, Honorable Mentions: Jean Yu, Carolyn Liu, Karah Myers. Thank you to all that submitted recordings and to Evola Music for sponsoring the event.

Famed composer and conductor Eric Whitacre named Dr. Alta Boover, assistant professor of music, the “Teacher of the Week” for February 25, saying "She is doing such great work, inspiring her students and colleagues with her boundless passion for our shared choral art. Thank you Alta, for keeping the flame alive.”

Alta Boover

On March 3, Dr. Boover participated in a panel discussion entitled "'Where’s Al?' Race and Representation in Music from Vaudeville to Today.” This event was part of “The Music Behind the Mural,” a documentary/performance featuring Dr. Boover, Dr. Drake Dantzler, and the Toledo Opera resident artists, which premiered on March 18. “I wrote the documentary, which features music associated with artists in a famed mural, which is installed at the historic Valentine Theatre in Toledo,” Boover said. The event was featured on the Toledo Opera’s Facebook and YouTube pages. For more information, visit

In recognition of Pride Month, the OU Department of Dance presented “Not In My House,” a collaboration between Kristi Faulkner Dance and the Ruth Ellis Center to engage and inspire LGBTQ+ youth through dance. The documentary, which premiered on Zoom on March 25, provides a behind-the-scenes look at the project and explores how dance has been integral in shaping and defining the identities of many LGBTQ+ youth in Detroit. “Not In My House” radically shifts the narrative about LGBTQ+ identity through the creative re-imagining of coming out stories.

OU artist-in-residence Regina Carter was featured in J.Jill's latest ad celebrating International Women's Day: In addition, she was WUSF Public Media (Tampa Bay)'s focus artist of the week:

Kyle Paoletti and Kylie Bedard performed marimba duets at the beginning of March for the bands at Rochester High School, Stoney Creek and Troy High School as part of their “Trevino Tour.” Kyle is a percussion performance/music education major and Kylie is majoring in biomedical science.

The recipients of this year’s MaTilDa Awards, which recognizes distinguished students and community members, were announced on March 16 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s award recipients were announced virtually by Dr. Amy Hardison Tully, director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance; and Kerro Knox 3, professor of theatre and associate director of the SMTD. You can view the full list of this year’s award recipients here.

Voice alumna Cheyanne Coss (BM '14) was a semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She competed on March 14 in the Rocky Mountain Region after becoming an Arizona district winner in November. While at OU, Cheyanne studied with Edith Diggory.

Oakland University Brass Band

The Oakland University Brass Band won the University Section of the 2021 Kapitol Cory Online Brass Band Championships, which were held March 12-28. The championship competition consisted of more than 100 bands from around the world, which were broken up into five Adult Sections, a Youth Section, and a University Section. The OUBB was the only American band included in the University Section, and competed against 10 other groups from the United Kingdom. The competition requires that bands submit a video no more than 10 minutes in length which is judged on its quality of the performance, program content and presentation. The Oakland University Brass Band's program, titled "Heroes,” celebrated and honored the contributions of frontline workers during the global pandemic. The cornet section, taught by Assistant Professor Jennifer Oliverio, also won the Best Cornet Section Award with British Bandsman magazine praising Principal Cornet Alexis Dill’s performance You can watch their performance on their YouTube page at The OUBB is conducted by Professor Kenneth Kroesche.

In March, the Detroit Opera Theatre announced its 2021-22 season and voice alumna Krysty Swann was cast as the Mother in the September production of Blue.

OU Outside the Box

After a year of restricted and virtual events, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance unveiled its new outdoor stage for “OU Outside the Box,” a performing arts festival which started April 7 and will run throughout the summer and fall months. The festival features performances by SMTD students, artists-in-residents and faculty in a safe, outdoor setting on the OU campus. Read more about the performance line-up here. The stage was designed by Joe Beck and constructed by a team of OU students, faculty and staff. Kerro Knox, professor of theatre and associate director of SMTD, had the vision of creating an outdoor stage to give our students an opportunity to perform for live audiences. The OU Percussion Ensemble Concert was the first official performance on the new outdoor stage. Read more about “Outside the Box in this article by Rochester Post Reporter Mary Beth Almond.

Music faculty member Bret Hoag performed March 25 in "Classical Guitarists of Michigan Concert," a free and virtual on-demand event that can be viewed anytime.

High school music students and teachers were invited to the Virtual OU Jazz Festival on April 6. This free event included a performance by the OU jazz faculty and a webinar featuring guest artist Regina Carter. You can watch the event here.

Mark Stone, associate professor of music, and his group, Stone Sound Collective, virtually performed March 30 in Sansar Sangeet Utsav – Virtual Pan World Music Festival. Professor Stone helped to organize the festival with Carnatica Global, an organization he works with in India. The festival is also presented by the International Music Premiere League and Global Arts Temple USA and runs through April 1. Stone Sound Collective also includes Chinelo Amen-Ra, OU music lecturer. You can watch the festival performances on their YouTube page.

"Senior Experience Week" began April 5 for OU’s senior musical theatre majors. It included daily seminars and masterclasses with casting directors, agents, directors, vocal and acting coaches, and musical directors. The seniors will perform a virtual showcase later in the spring and will join next year's seniors in New York for a live showcase. Meet the seniors at

Caleb Wayman, vocal performance major and music theory minor, was awarded a full tuition waiver and assistantship at the University of Illinois. This is the same offer Victoria Shively — OU music lecturer, opera conductor and vocal coach — received when she attended the University of Illinois. At the end of an Opera Workshop rehearsal in April, Shively tossed her Illinois baseball cap to Wayman, a student of Drake Dantzler's. Wayman has decided to pursue a career as a vocal coach upon his May graduation. "OU was Caleb's university of choice because he knew he would have first-hand experiences here that would not be available to him as an undergraduate elsewhere,” Shively said. “The OU Music Department has prepared him so well in so many ways, and Caleb has embraced every challenge and succeeded. I am bursting with pride for Caleb, OU, and my alma mater, Illinois.”

Students of the Oakland Chorale and Oakland University Chorus presented "Hallelujah Chorus" by George Frideric Handel in a video premiere April 10 on YouTube and featured Michael A. Mitchell, conductor; Hyekyung Sia Lee, piano; James Holk audio editing; and Katrina Van Maanen, video editing.

New York Times campus shots

A photographer from the New York Times was on campus on April 9 and captured beautiful shots of SMTD choir students and Take Root. They were featured on the New York Times homepage on April 12.

Ben Furhman, a lecturer of music technology and composition at OU, hosted the College Music Society's Great Lakes Regional Conference and served as the composition chair for the conference. The conference was held on Zoom on April 16-17. Fuhrman recorded Joo Won Park's piece Hungry for the conference, along with Bret Hoag, OU special lecturer, on guitar and Lynnae Lehfeldt, associate professor of theatre, as the vocalist. In addition, Fuhrman had a performance of his piece, Rust and Blue (After Mark Rothko), by Mary Kothman at Western Michigan University on April 16, and on May 8, his piece, In Darkness We See Ourselves Reflected, was performed at the Society of Composers, Inc. National Conference via Zoom.

Jai Carrero

Theatre major Jai Carrero was awarded the Oakland University Human Relations Award. Established in 1986, this award recognizes an Oakland University graduate or graduating senior who has displayed significant leadership in advancing intergroup harmony. These contributions include conflict resolution within or among groups and an increased understanding of cultures, groups and nations. Carrero has served as founder and president of OU’s Black Lives Matter chapter, founding chair of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region III Student Council and OU Admissions Ambassador and CMI CORE Ambassador. She is the recipient of the Jan and Don O’Dowd Performing Arts Scholarship, OU's Keeper of the Dream Award Scholarship, and the SMTD Outstanding Student Service Award in Theatre. Learn more about Jai's significant contributions here.

OU recent alumna Sarah Bussineau won the Michigan Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Secondary Grades Student Teacher of the Year Award for 2020. Bussineau student taught band and choir to students in grades 9-12 at Cousino High School in Warren, Mich. in fall 2020 where she was mentored by Jason Rose (MM ’15 and current music education Ph.D. student). You can read more about Sarah in this Macomb Township Chronicle article, and listen to her on The Oakland County Megacast.

Jordan Taylor (BFA ‘19) was in the Cleveland Play House’s April 21-25 virtual event Electra/Orestes. Jordan played the role of Phrygian.

The Assembly Saxophone Quartet (including soprano saxophonist Jeffrey Heisler, associate professor of music) had a livestream performance on April 26 during their residency at Tennessee Tech University. The program included “Original Blend” by Bill Ryan (arr. Heisler), “Quintet” by Alfred Schnittke (arr. Heisler), “Jerusalem (Re)Mix” by Avner Dorman (World Premiere) (adapt. Heisler); and “Turbo Scramjet” by William Pitts.

Lily Belle Czartorski

Music student Lily Belle Czartorski was cast in Opera Grand Rapids’ production of Matthew Aucoin’s Second Nature, which premiered April 30 and May 2 at The Pavilion at Millennium Park. Czartorski is currently student teaching and finishing up her senior year, but she says “I’m so thankful OU set me up for exploring opportunities! In addition, OU alumna Lauren Lenz, who is a prominent opera director and stage manager, was the production stage manager for Second Nature.

Scott Gwinnell, SMTD special lecturer in music, was selected as the Oakland University winner of the A4EOE 2021 Online Faculty Member of the Year Award. A4EOE, the Alliance for Excellence in Online Education, is a coalition of members from education institutions, vendors and corporate partners, dedicated to advancing the quality of online learning and pedagogy. Gwinnell, a jazz pianist and music composer, teaches jazz theory, improvisation and arranging. When it comes to online education, Gwinnell approaches his classes with the strategy to create a small community with his students. Gwinnell says they “sing for each other, take risks together and catch each other when someone falls. We take pride in the music we sing, knowing that everyone had an equal hand in its identity.” For more information on the A4EOE awards, visit

Students in “Constructing the Cabaret: From Conception to Concert,” a course offered in the Department of Theatre, premiered videos May 3-12 on instructor Josh Young’s YouTube page. In this course, students share the age-old tradition of cabaret, perhaps one of the greatest solo performing art forms.

Kasey Julian

Oakland University has been selected as the 2020 NAfME (National Association for Music Education) Collegiate Chapter of Excellence Recognition recipient for the Professional Development category in recognition of the OU chapter’s hard work and dedication to furthering music education throughout the 2019-2020 school year. Kasey Julian, president of the OU NAfME chapter, has also been selected as a recipient of the 2020 NAfME Collegiate Professional Achievement Award. “I am grateful for my time as president of this organization and am so immensely thankful for my board members, Hannah Combs and Ilyssa Brunhild, the rest of our NAfME OU chapter, and our music education faculty,” Julian said. “The opportunities that OU has granted me have allowed me so much growth, more than I could have ever imagined. This has been such a wonderful and fulfilling journey filled with so much learning. If you are looking for a music education program OU is where to be.” You can learn more about the OU NAfME chapter by following them on social media: Facebook (NAfME at Oakland University) and Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter (NAfMEOU).

DANco Dancing Among Nature

Recent grad Trevor Powell (BFA ‘21) has founded a unique new dance company called DANco Dancing Among Nature, inspired by a passion for environmental sustainability, a desire to create safe, socially distanced art during a pandemic, and a belief that art need not be constrained by predictable spaces. DANco’s first production was a two-weekend run of its debut piece, GROW, at Camp Agawam in Lake Orion on May 7-8 and 14-15. The company includes current OU students Jane Lyszak and Leah Purrett, and recent OU alums Mariah Colby (BFA ‘21), Nadia Klug (BFA ‘21) and Elliott Vargas (BFA ‘20). For more information, visit

Creative Dance for Children

Dancers studying Creative Dance for Children (with Special Lecturer Roberta Lucas) collaborated virtually for the second pandemic spring with Lowry Center children and staff. Even though staff and children were face-to-face this year, they could not teach classes in person due to COVID-19. Instead, OU dance majors made "Dance Boxes" containing materials, directions for staff and children to explore and create their own dance explorations. Their creations included “A Space Dance Box,” “Colors and Emotions” and a “Dance with No Plan” inspired by The Book With No Pictures. Lowry teachers shared videos of the children's responses, as well how they interpreted and adapted each dance box for the children. Dancers also created a video of themselves dancing on the Lowry playground for the center to share with children and families.

Roberta Lucas was also selected to be a member of Jacob's Pillow Curriculum in Motion® 2020-2021  inaugural international training institute, also known as a Dance-Makers' Think Tank. Lucas is one of 15 participants selected from 60 international applicants. Together, artist educators are exploring "How does our work as dance-makers position us as essential artistic, civic, and community partners in a COVID-19 world and beyond? How might we use this historic moment to engage ourselves in understanding what it means to be essential?”

SMTD Graduation Celebration

On May 15, an SMTD Graduation Celebration was held on the outdoor stage. Amy Tully, director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance addressed the seniors by saying, “The OU vision states that ‘we will unlock the potential of individuals and leave a lasting impact on the world through the transformative power of education and research.’ I am confident that all of you here today will have a lasting impact on the world through your intellect, creativity, and entrepreneurship. The artistic, creative, and academic skills you have learned at Oakland University will be more important than ever in a post-COVID-19 society, and I believe as graduates of OU you are models of the next generation of makers and performers because you are passionately creative students.”

Alyssa Primeau (BM '17) has been accepted to the Civic Orchestra of Chicago as a regular member for the 2021/22 season. Founded in 1919, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago is one of the nation's premier training programs for the finest emerging professional musicians. Primeau received a Bachelor of Music from OU and a Master of Music in Flute Performance from Boston University. “I am forever grateful to so many wonderful teachers and mentors that have helped me get here,” Primeau said. For more about Alyssa, visit

Dr. Amy Hardison Tully, SMTD director and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been accepted into EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship. This nine-month, cohort-based experience aims to build community, develop a depth of expertise in the topics and issues that matter most to institutional strategy, and provide focused professional skills development from EAB industry experts. Each fellow completes a capstone project on a topic of interest to their home institutions with the support of EAB resources, advancing a key institutional priority while building a network and community of practice. “I am thrilled to be part of the EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship,” Dr. Tully said. “In addition to learning more about trends in higher education, I look forward to collaborating with peers around the country discussing innovative ideas and concepts that foster academic excellence and student success.”

The SAI Colony at Oakland University recently completed a successful semester of fundraising, recruitment, and service. The SAI Colony sold and delivered roses and gifts for Valentine’s Day, and helped a group of Girl Scouts in the area earn their Music Badge during a “Music Day” event planned via Zoom in March. Coming up, the SAI Colony at OU is looking forward to a potential summer camp collaboration with the Red Piano Music Studio, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Sigma Nu Chapter, and NAfME Collegiate later this summer. The SAI Colony are currently in the final stages of submitting their formal petition to the National SAI Board to petition for chapter installation. If all goes as planned, they will be installed as an official SAI Chapter on Oakland’s campus in fall 2021.


Three students from Oakland University — Angela Bonello (Upper Classical Treble), Kellan Dunlap (Lower Classical TBB), and Kevin Cornwell II (Upper Classical TBB) — have all advanced to the national quarterfinals of the NSA (National Student Auditions) of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing). All three won first place in their divisions in the Great Lakes NATS competition in March. All three are double majors in music education and vocal performance. Angela studies with Dr. Alta Boover, Kevin with Distinguished Professor John-Paul White and Kellan with Dr. Drake Dantzler. Five singers from each regional category also advanced to a national online screening round of the NSA. Fourteen singers from each of the 14 categories advance to the semifinal round where three singers from each category will be selected to compete in the final round. The national semifinal and final rounds will be held July 7-10, in conjunction with the NATS Summer Workshop. Cornwell II was also awarded the Jessye Norman Award at the event. The award, named after one of the world's most celebrated performing artists Jessye Norman, was voted on by all of the participating judges.

Dr. Elizabeth Kattner

Dr. Elizabeth Kattner, associate professor of dance, has been appointed as the new assistant director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, where she will be the coordinator of assessment and evaluation. In the OU Department of Dance, Dr. Kattner coordinates the Dance Education program and directs the German Contemporary Dance Study Abroad program to Berlin. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and a Master of Music in Dance from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and completed her Ph.D. at the Free University Berlin, Germany. She works closely with the leaders in the field of Dance Education from around the U.S. through the National Dance Education Organization. Dr. Kattner performed widely in the United States and Europe with various ballet and baroque ensembles, including Nevada Dance Theatre, L'Autre Pas, and Contretem(p)s Berlin. She has published in Ballet Review, Dance Research Journal, Journal of Dance Education and in the program notes for the State Ballet Berlin and the Grand Rapids Ballet. She serves on the editorial board of Dance Education in Practice. Dr. Kattner is also an active choreographer and a Balanchine reconstructor. Her book, Finding Balanchine’s Lost Ballets: Exploring the Early Choreography of a Master was released by University Press Florida in November 2020.

Starting in the fall, Dr. Enrique Rios-Ellis, assistant professor of music, will coordinate the OU jazz program. Tim Blackmon, special lecturer, will serve as assistant coordinator.

OU alum Michael Baker will be pursuing a Master of Music in Trumpet Performance, studying with Brandon Craswell and Philip Smith at the University of Georgia. Baker recently graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education and Trumpet Performance in 2020. “I've been fortunate to have so many teachers who have gone out of their way to invest in me,” Baker said. “From the Lamphere school district through and beyond the walls of Oakland University, the dedication of our community to bringing up the next generation makes Southeastern Michigan a very special place to learn and grow.”

OU alumni Mackenna Greene and Gina Dlugosielsk graduated May 15 with degrees in music education. Mackenna recently completed her student teaching at Hamilton Elementary in Troy with Cara McKeever where she taught K-5, virtually. She also started a Rochester Hills music school called Red Piano Music Studio, which currently has twelve staff members (exclusively OU students and alumni) and over 150 students. Gina is spending the summer working band camps with multiple high school marching band programs and is looking forward to making music in person again.

Several graduating theatre seniors shared their future plans: Haley Spencer will be attending the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga.; Emily Fishman will be performing in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown in Kansas at the Great Plains Theatre Company (Mitchell Aiello (BFA ‘16) is artistic and education director) and is planning on eventually moving to New York; Jonathon Stecevic will play the title character in a Zoom play reading of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and plans on moving to Los Angeles within the next year or so; Sam Torres plans to travel the country before moving to New York City in the beginning of September; Josh England will be performing this summer at Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock, New York in the ensemble of Sweet Charity, Fame and Evita!; Mariah Colby is living in Midtown Detroit and submitting for commercials and short films to build up her resume before moving to New York; Kady Booth plans to work and obtain her Masters Degree in Performing Arts Management; and Sarah Grace Odom is performing in Great Plains Theatre’s summer productions of Godspell (with OU alum Mitch Aiello directing) and Grease.

Oakland University’s partnership with DIME Detroit for “Alive Detroit” was highlighted in a report on WDIV Local 4 about a virtual concert being put on by DIME to help struggling musicians. You can view the report here.

Ellen M. Peck’s (BA ‘95) book, Sweet Mystery: The Musical Works of Rida Johnson Young, has been published by Oxford University Press. She says, “It has taken a long time to come to fruition and I'm very proud of the result.” For more information, click here.

Dr. Pamela Klena, visiting assistant professor of music, will participate in the Maryland Music Educators Association’s July 2021 Virtual Conference and her proposal, “Recognizing and Confronting Gender Bias/Discrimination,” was one of 44 proposals selected from among 92 applicants. For more information about the conference, visit

Associate Professor of Music Jeffrey Heisler’s transcription of Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane (Rapsodie de Concert) for soprano saxophone was recently published by Theodore Presser. The program note states, “Jeffrey Heisler’s brilliant transcription for soprano sax captures all the sparkle of Ravel’s violin writing and is fully compatible with both authentic versions, to allow optimum performance for saxophonists with either accompaniment.”

How I Became a Pirate

The outdoor performances will continue throughout the spring and summer. Please join us for the following events:

How I Became a Pirate (children’s musical)
Thursday, June 3 at 10 a.m.
Friday, June 4 at 10 a.m.* and 5 p.m.*
Saturday, June 5 at 2 p.m.*
*Shadow signed for the Deaf by Synergy on Stage
Varner Courtyard Outdoor Stage

Tickets are available at

• Patience (opera by Gilbert and Sullivan)
Thursday - Sunday, June 24 - 27 at 5 p.m.
Varner Courtyard Outdoor Stage
Tickets are available at

• Summer Carillon Concert Series
July 9, 16, 23, 30 and August 6 and 13
6 p.m. at Elliott Hall Tower
Free admission

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