School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Music, Theatre and Dance News: July 2018

icon of a calendarJuly 23, 2018

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Music, Theatre and Dance News: July 2018
Assistant Professor of Theatre Jeremy Barnett (pictured) and theatre alum Jason Maracani and are spending the month of July at the Art’N’Ground artist’s residency in Rojales, Spain.

Assistant Professor of Theatre Jeremy Barnett  and theatre alum Jason Maracani are spending the month of July at the Art’N’Ground artist’s residency in Rojales, Spain. The pair are staying in a man-made cave with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom in a community of over a dozen local artists. The caves were built over the past few hundred years in the area’s soft sandstone hills. While many were abandoned in favor of more modern homes, the Rojales town government in 1994 took over about 15 abandoned caves in the town’s Rodeo Barrio, outfitted them with running water and gave them free of charge to local artists and artisans. While there, Barnett and Maracani have been learning about traditional building materials and historic forms of architecture, including the use of cane — a river grass similar to bamboo – as a building material. “We are working with local experts to learn how to use this material in architecture, and then to create a large artistic installation that might be similar to how we would use the material for a theatrical production,” Barnett said. “When the project is completed it will be the largest sculpture in the Cuevas de Rodeo sculpture garden.” Visit in the near future to learn more about what Barnett and Maracani have been up to in Spain.

Joseph Shively began his new position as interim director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance on July 2. He replaces Jackie Wiggins, who retired at the end of June after 24 years of serving as a tireless champion of music, theatre and dance at Oakland University. “No doubt you will see Jackie at many SMTD performances, and I know you will join me in thanking her for all she has done for us over the years,” Shively said. “I am honored to step into Jackie’s place to serve as interim director of the SMTD.

The School of Music, Theatre and Dance is excited to announce that the Music Preparatory Division is now Oakland University Community Music! This name best reflects the school's commitment to teaching music to community members from age 0 (early childhood music classes) to adult (private lessons) and everything in between (lessons, camps, classes.) Fall lessons kick off on Sept. 9.

Congratulations to theatre special lecturer Jake Hooker. A Host of People, the theatre company he co-directs with Sherrine Azab, has received a 2018 Kresge Artist Fellowship in the category of Live Arts. The Kresge Arts in Detroit program represents the foundation’s desire to support artists living and working in the foundation’s hometown, and to elevate the profile of metro Detroit’s artists and creative communities. A Host of People is a Detroit-based ensemble theater company creating original work that celebrates complexity, imagination, and the synthesis of seemingly disparate elements — at once epic and intimate, political and personal, poetic and approachable.

OU dancers performing in Berlin

Students, alumni and faculty from Oakland University’s Dance Department recently traveled to Berlin, Germany where they were able to learn about German contemporary dance techniques, take classes at the Tanzfabrik dance center and work with German dance artists, including Berlin-based choreographer Henrik Kaalund. Take Root, a professional contemporary dance company-in-residence at Oakland University, also traveled to the German capital from April 24 through May 2 and ended their week by performing a full-length, sold out evening concert at Uferstudios.

Music faculty member Bret Hoag is president of the Michigan chapter of the Guitars Not Guns program. Organized in Michigan two years ago by Judge Frank Szymanski of the Wayne Circuit Court Juvenile Division, the program is aimed at teaching foster kids and at-risk teens coping skills by helping them learn to play the guitar. May 10 was graduation day for the young musicians that learned how to play the guitar over the 10 week-period. Several of Hoag's current and former students have taught for the program, including Al Bettis, Keith Kunkel and Jessica Julian.

Erica Kennedy

Erica Kennedy, a musical theatre major at Oakland University who was named Miss Congeniality in the 2017 Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant, recently received the Non-Finalist Talent Award at the 2018 pageant, which is a prelim to the Miss America pageant. The $500 scholarship award is given to the contestant that did not make the Top 12 but had the next highest talent score of the remaining 20 contestants. “Even though I did not make the Top 12, it is such an honor to be recognized for my hard work and dedication,” Kennedy said. “Being a singer is not easy; we put in long hours just like dancers and instrumentalists, and like the latter, we have to make it look easy. I am so grateful to the judges who awarded me and really, honoring the entire vocal staff at Oakland University for helping me become the best vocalist I can become for my profession as a performer as I continue to pursue my BFA as a musical theater major.” Besides devoting time to pageants and theatre, Kennedy also is active in her community. She has helped raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network and also speaks to high school students about the financial literacy required to navigate college expenses, a platform she calls "Get A Grip: Strategies to Reduce Student Debt."

OU theatre alum Alexandra Zorn (BFA ‘09) guest starred on the season finale of the popular NBC series, The Blacklist. The episode aired on Wednesday, May 16 on NBC.

Carly Uhrig, music lecturer and marketing manager for Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, discussed the focus of OU’s Foundations of Rock course on WWJ Newsradio 950’s “Education Today” segment with Laura Bonnell. "I want people to leave this class listening to music differently,” Uhrig said. It is so intimately intertwined with historical and social movements.” You can listen to the entire segment at

Oakland University Dance Professors Ali Woerner and Thayer Jonutz recently created a dance version of "Ink" — a newly published memoir by OU English Professor Kathleen Pfeiffer — with their dance company, Take Root. To view a performance, visit Composed of three essays, "Ink" is an artfully woven tapestry of emotions and events, drawing on personal recollections and historical research. In it, Pfeiffer chronicles memories of her brother Gerry, who died at age 11 after a seven-month battle with brain cancer.

Josh England

Musical theatre major Josh England opened June 21 in West Side Story with The Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter, Mich. Josh will play the role of Baby John. The musical, which runs until Aug. 12, also includes OU alums Emily Hadick (Velma), Jake Daley (A-Rab) and Rachel Costantino (associate choreographer.) For more information, visit

Mark Stone, associate professor of music at Oakland University, will be a featured artist at Estudio de Percusion - XII Percussion Festival in Quito, Ecuador this August, where he will present workshops and performances. His new group, Stone Sound Collective, has also been busy performing locally at events including Music Hall’s Detroit Music Weekend.

Nadine Deleury, an applied instructor of cello at Oakland University and cello teacher for OU Community Music (formerly the Music Preparatory Division), will be retiring after a 31-year career at Oakland University, including 12 years teaching Music Prep. Deleury said she and her husband plan to move to Montreal in two years to enjoy their retirement. Congratulations and bon voyage!

Hannah Faith Stevens

Oakland University junior Hannah Faith Stevens was Elle Woods, a  blonde bombshell who attempts to win back her ex-boyfriend by getting a law degree at Harvard Law School while learning that there is more to her than just her looks, in the Branch County Community Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde The Musical from May 17-19. “Playing Elle Woods was more than just another part in a musical for me. It was honestly a dream come true,” Stevens said. “The very first time I saw the movie, Legally Blonde, I fell in love with it and the character of Elle. She embodies so many qualities that I admire and try to emulate in my own life. Elle is confident, loyal, a great friend, she knows what she deserves and doesn’t accept anything less, and to top it all off, she has a great sense of fashion! When I saw that Legally Blonde was made into a musical, I knew I just had to play Elle someday! The show is so much fun and the music is amazing! I hope this isn’t the last time that I get to play Elle. She and the memories of playing her will always hold a special place in my heart.”

The Oakland University Brass Band presented a summer concert on June 6 featuring a wide variety of music, including Peter Graham’s inspirational work, "Shine as the Light" as well as Claudio Monteverdi’s "Prelude" from his "Vespers," which was written in 1610. This was followed by two pieces depicting epic motion picture scenes: "Scherzo for X-Wings" by John Williams musically describes the battles scene from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Colonel Bogey" march was used in the 1957 classic, "Bridge On the River Kwai." The second half of the concert featured Philip Sparke’s "Hymn of the Highlands." This seven-movement work featured numerous soloists in the band, as well as provided a musical portrayal of the sounds and vistas of the Scottish highlands.

Casa Valentina

The Jewish Ensemble Theatre’s production of Casa Valentina was full of OU talent, including Assistant Professor of Theatre David Gram (Jonathon/Miranda), theatre alum Joe Bailey (Bessie) and theatre lecturer Dana Gamarra (stage manager). The play, which ran through June 17, received positive reviews, with The Jewish News saying “The acting is superb, with every cast member embracing their male and female personas with absolute believability.”

The Oakland Chorale kicked off its Spring 2018 Michigan Concert Tour on April 28 at Birmingham First as part of the Live at First Concert Series. After that, they performed on May 3 at the First Presbyterian Church in Lansing and on May 5 at Central United Methodist Church in Traverse City.

The Three Little Pigs

The Oakland University Department of Theatre presented The Three Little Pigs in Varner Recital Hall on May 18, 20 and June 8, and toured local schools and community venues May-June. Musician George Styles and lyricist Anthony Drewe, the award-winning writers of the international smash hits Mary Poppins and HONK!, put their own musical twist on the classic fairy tale. In this novel retelling, the three little pigs become world-renowned celebrities out of reach of a misunderstood wolf who just wants to have them for dinner. “The Three Little Pigs is pure joy to watch,” wrote Sarah Hovis, a reviewer with Rochester Media. “Not only will this be great experience for the actors, but it also solidifies how Oakland University and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance plays an important role in our community.”

Congratulations to our graduate students, alumni and faculty that have been accepted to present/perform at the Michigan Music Conference in January:

  • Caitlyn Bramble (BM '18) will present Teaching Outside The Cart: Solutions and Strategies for Mobile Music Learning
  • Jeffrey Heisler, associate professor of music, is performing a saxophone concerto with Eisenhower High School (Christopher Traskal, director.) Gregory Cunningham, professor of music, will be guest conducting a piece for Eisenhower High School, as well.
  • Thomas Torrento, doctoral student, is presenting a session titled Overcoming Poverty and Disparity in Today’s Public Schools.
  • Matthew W. Smith’s (BM ‘09) Women's Chamber Choir has been selected to perform for choral hour (BMus in Music Ed) Smith is the choral director at Lake Shore High School in St. Clair Shores.
  • Lauri Hogle (Ph (BM '18) will present Teaching Outside The Cart: Solutions and Strategies for Mobile Music Learning and When Emotions Make it Hard to Sing: Learning From Our Kids and co-present a session about the Danielson evaluation system and ways to excel.
Mariah Colby & Sam Torres

Musical theatre majors Sam Torres (Heather Chandler) and Mariah Colby (Republicanette) performed recently in the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of Heathers, The Musical. Their voice professor, John-Paul White, as well as fellow music faculty member Phyllis White, were in the audience cheering them on.

Mannon McIntosh, an acting major is spending this summer as the assistant stage manager for the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival and the stage manager for the Junior Repertory production. She recently served as stage manager for The Three Little Pigs, OU’s touring children’s production.

Mark Ujkstivani
Mark Ujkstivani

Acting major Mark Ujkstivani has been on tour with The Missoula Children’s Theatre during their week-long residencies throughout the continent and beyond. MCT Tour Actor/Directors serve as ambassadors for the arts-especially the theatre. “In this company, I tour around the country in a truck that has the costumes, set, lights and sound with it,” Ujkstivani said. “I go to a new community every week and teach kids from ages 6-18 an entire show in just five days!” He recently taught The Pied Piper to children in Princeton, W. Va., and headed to Marion, Va. on July 22 for another week of the tour. To learn more, visit

Music Education doctoral candidate James Isabirye addressed the UNESCO General Assembly in Paris, France, on June 4 about the success of one of his Ugandan cultural preservation projects that was funded by a substantial grant from UNESCO. James has several such projects that are ongoing — involving preserving the musics of several Ugandan cultures by learning the music and reteaching it to the cultural communities. Much of this music was lost in the political upheaval that took place in Uganda during the 20th century. James’s work has fostered revitalized spirit within these communities. The work has been recognized by both Ugandan kings and central government officials. They also invited a spokesperson from one of the communities to join him in his presentation to share the community perspective on the strength of the program as well.

Bernard Woma

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Bernard Woma. Bernard graced the Varner Recital Hall stage many times over the years for World Music and Children’s Concerts, but more than that, he was a dear friend and mentor to many in our OU community, including Associate Professor of Music Mark Stone. “I played the gyil with Bernard all around the world and cherish the musical journey we shared together,” Stone said. “Whatever knowledge I have of African music has been built on the foundation that Bernard generously shared with me over a period of 25 years.” There was a celebration of Woma’s life on Sunday, July 22 at Oakland University’s Varner Recital Hall. For more information, visit

Oakland University Flute Instructor Jeffery Zook, who has been a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra flute section since 1992, performed the Hovland Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra at the National Flute Convention in Minneapolis, Minn. at their Gala Evening Concerto night. He will be visiting Professor of Flute this fall at Western Michigan University. His Detroit Symphony Trio of Sheryl Hwangbo, violin and David Ledoux will also give recitals in September in Ferndale and Saginaw.

Karen Sheridan, professor of theatre at Oakland University, is playing Sarah Bernhardt in Memoir, a two-person show directed by Mary Job and also starring John Lepard. Racing against the setting sun, the famous and infamous, Sarah Bernhardt endeavors to complete her memoirs. Much to the chagrin of Georges Pitou, her devoted secretary, ends up portraying various characters from her youth and stage career in an attempt to help stimulate her fading memory. The delightful comedy runs through Aug. 19, 2018 at the Williamston Theatre in Williamston, Mich. For more information, visit

Dana Lentini & Alta Marie Boover

Alta Marie Boover, assistant professor of music, recently presented at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) 55th National Conference in Las Vegas. Alta’s presentation was on adaptable apps to measure goals and activity for singers. OU alum Dana Lentini, Great Lakes Region recipient of the 2018 Boytim Award, was also at the conference.

Congratulations to Oakland University Flute Instructor Amanda Blaikie on her engagement to Brett Maciag. “Words can’t quite express how I feel to be engaged to (Brett),” Blaikie said. “He is everything!” The couple was vacationing on Mackinac Island on June 27 when Maciag proposed. “Amanda gave me the greatest gift — she said ‘yes,’” Maciag said. “Looking forward to the many memories ahead of us.” Blaikie was recently tenured as 2nd Flute of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She previously held the positions of Principal Flute with the Michigan Opera Theatre, Sarasota Opera, Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra and the Miami City Ballet.

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