School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Music, Theatre and Dance News

July 2019

icon of a calendarJuly 30, 2019

Share this story

Music, Theatre and Dance News: July 2019
James and the Giant Peach
"James and the Giant Peach" was directed by Lynnae Lehfeldt and based on Richard George’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fantastical tale.

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance presented James and the Giant Peach — directed by Lynnae Lehfeldt and based on Richard George’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fantastical tale — on May 17, May 19, June 7 in Varner Recital Hall on the OU campus. The June 7 performance was also shadow-signed for the Deaf by Synergy on Stage. Additional performances were held June 1 at the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts in Pontiac, Mich., as well as local elementary schools as part of a 20+ stop tour. “The tour is an opportunity for students in the show to learn how a touring production works, and a chance for local schools to see a live, fully produced theatrical production,” said Mannon McIntosh, assistant director, stage manager and tour manager for the production.

On June 3, former Oakland University Community Music student Naomi Yamaguchi advanced to the Quarterfinal Round of the 2019 Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition. Naomi, now 15, was a student in Shinko Kondo’s (PhD ‘15) group piano class when she was five years old. Shinko, who still teaches for OU Community Music, uses a highly innovative approach to teach young students how to use the piano as a means of expression before they begin to learn piano technique — the opposite of traditional approaches. For more information about Naomi performing at The Cliburn, visit

Oakland University voice and theatre professor Stephanie Michaels has been training middle and high school students as part of a new dance program she formed called IGNITE!theSparks!. The students train in Michaels’ performing arts studio now house at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. Michaels stepped in after the studio where the students had been training for years was suddenly shut down. “What they really needed was a complete fresh start,” Michaels told The Jewish News. I talked it over with the staff and clergy at Temple and asked how we could make it happen for these kids, and Temple came through.” The students, joined by OU percussion faculty member Dan Maslanka, performed at Temple Israel on Sunday, June 9.

After presenting their summer concert at OU on June 13, the Oakland University Brass Band travelled to Gahanna, Ohio to compete in the Ohio Brass Arts Festival on June 22. The OU Brass Band, two time Grand Champions of the Dublin Festival of Brass, performed a variety of selections from John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen from the moving Saving Private Ryan to Bohemian Rhapsody by Freddie Mercury.

On June 21, Jacquelyn Wagner (BM ‘03) played Donna Anna in a live broadcast of Mozart’s Don Giovanni from the Opéra national de Paris. The performance was screened in cinemas in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Morocco. For more information, visit

Junior musical theatre major Samuel Sommer (Cliff) and alumna Grace Rosen (Texas) performed June 14-23 in Cabaret with the Owosso Community Players at the Lebowsky Center.

Chris Warren

Oakland University sophomore music education and euphonium performance major, Christopher Warren was in Saint Joseph, Missouri for the inaugural course of the National Youth Brass Band of America. The band brings together over 50 brass and percussion students under the age of 23 from across the country for a week of intensive rehearsals culminating with a concert on June 22. Chris earned his spot as first chair baritone in the group through a national audition process and was also selected as the first recipient of the Edworthy Scholarship, which paid his tuition and housing for the week. The course was taught by nationally recognized faculty, while the band was led by David King, who is recognized internationally as one of the leading brass band conductors. At OU, Chris studies with Professor Kenneth Kroesche.

Music faculty members Dan Maslanka, Liz Rowin and Dave Denniston performed on stage with The Who on May 30 in Detroit. Maslanka also performed percussion with Hugh Jackman at Little Caesars Arena on June 24.

This summer, John Hallman (BM ‘19) participated in the Great Plains Saxophone Intensive happening during the Great Plains Saxophone Workshop, which took place June 24-29 at the University of Oklahoma. John was one of 40 saxophonists accepted for this intensive. 

Hannah Grace Johnson, rising junior musical theatre major, and Dimitri Jurgensen, rising sophomore musical theatre major, are performing in Follies, an Exit Left Theatre Company production, directed and performed entirely by west Michigan artists. Remaining performances are August 1-3 at 7:30 p.m. and and August 4 at 2 p.m. at the Park Theatre in Holland, Mich. with the opportunity for community conversations and post-show discussions with the cast and creatives following performances. Show information and advance tickets are available at

Theatre major Kelsi Fay opened as Nina in Monster Box Theatre’s production of Stupid F#%*ing Bird, Aaron Posner’s comedy based on Chekhov’s The Seagull, which ran through June 30. Later this summer, Kelsi will be coaching students at Madonna University's Summer Musical Theatre Camp.

Ken Kroesche

Professor Kenneth Kroesche was recently invited to play euphonium with the Chicago Brass Band in their historic tour of New Zealand to take part in the New Zealand National Brass Band Championships. The group is only the second band from North America to travel to New Zealand since the John Philip Sousa Band’s tour in 1911. The band was there from July 5-14, traveling to Auckland, Wellington, Napier, and Rotorua on their way to the championships that were held in Hamilton. In addition to rehearsing, the band gave concerts in two cities, three contest performances and provided a 45 minute featured performance at the Gala Concert that concluded the championships. While there, the band also enjoyed a number of sight-seeing excursions. Highlights included touring Hobbiton, where the first Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies were filmed, as well as mount Te Mara (The Giant). When talking about the trip, Prof. Kroesche said “the great thing about traveling with a brass band is meeting people from another country who are just as passionate about the brass band movement…it was also amazing to see the incredible landscapes of this country.”

Oakland University’s popular summer Carillon Concert Series, which features carillonneurs from around the world, returned July 5 and continues through August 9. The free concerts take place at 6 p.m. on Fridays next to the Elliott Tower on OU’s campus. The summer’s guest performers include: Bernard Winsemius of Amsterdam, Netherlands (July 5); Gijsbert Kok of The Hague, Netherlands (July 12); Carlo Van Ulft of Springfield, Ill. (July 19); Alex Johnson of the University of Rochester (July 26); The Verheyen Carillon & Guitar Duo of Hasselt, Belgium (August 2); and Dennis Curry of Kirk in the Hills & Oakland University (August 9).

Detroit Jazz Workshop

The 11th Annual Detroit Jazz Workshop featured multiple jazz-interested students, alumni, and faculty of Oakland University, including: Brittany Rose (bass), Sarah Cracknell (trumpet), Taylor Hermann (voice), Madeleine Krick (voice), Wesley Hutchison (voice), Kylie Wieand (voice), Melanie Moore (voice), Miranda Tucker (voice), and Scott Gwinnell (director, jazz, piano, arranging). The Detroit Jazz Workshop is an intensive all-day workshop where students of all ages learn from jazz instructors from multiple universities. Participants met at Detroit's CMS building from July 8-12 for clinics and classes in jazz theory, jazz improvisation, jazz composition and arranging, and played in combos that performed over the weekend at Cliff Bells.

Debbie Does Dallas - The Musical opened July 12 at The Ringwald Theatre, and music student Lily Belle Czartorski is playing the starring role of Debbie. The production, which runs through August 5, also includes Ringwald Theatre Artistic Director and OU theatre alum Joe Bailey.

Theatre professor Karen Sheridan was one of 18 actors who participated in the inaugural 48 Hours in...Detroit, a twist on the traditional 24-hour play festival, held July 14 at the Maggie Allesee Studio Theater in Detroit. The event, presented by Harlem9 and Detroit Public Theatre, brought together both native Detroit and current artists, including six playwrights, six directors, and 18 actors. In October, Sheridan opens in The Safe House at Williamston Theatre in Williamston, Mich.

On July 14, Meadow Brook Theatre and Detroit Playwrights' Lab presented a free staged reading of a new play about the on and off relationship of Rita Moreno and Marlon Brando. The reading featured OU theatre major Doran Berger in the lead role of Marlon Brandon and was highlighted in The Oakland Press.

Summer Sings

Professor Mike Mitchell conducted Haydn's Mass in C Major (Paukenmesse) for Summer Sings 2019 with the UMS Choral Union in Ann Arbor on July 15. The soloists included Constantine Novotny (BM '13) and voice faculty members Alta Marie Boover, Drake Dantzler and Melissa Maloney.

OU faculty members Sean Dobbins, Scott Gwinnell and Marion Hayden, along with alum Gayelynn McKinney (BM ‘89) performed at the 25 Annual Michigan Jazz Festival, which was held on July 21 at Schoolcraft College. 

Assistant Professor of Theatre David Gram played “an excellent Roy, the sensible accountant” ( in the Jewish Ensemble Theatre's production of The Odd Couple, which ran until July 14 in the Jet’s new space in Walled Lake.

Take Root

Take Root, a contemporary dance company-in-residence at Oakland University will present an evening of movement and dance at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 2 at The Cube at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in Detroit. In addition to live music, the unique program will also include the premiere of two new works: “In Dreams” and “One Fish Blue Fish.” Also in August, Take Root will host their third annual PD Expo Day — a wellness day dedicated to those living with Parkinson’s Disease — from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 10 at the Oakland University Recreation and Well-Being Center at 569 Pioneer Drive in Rochester, Mich. For more information, or to register online, visit

Brandon Thibault (BM ‘19) was accepted to the Bayview Music Festival in Bayview, Mich. He is participating in the Spectrum Brass Seminar, which started June 15 and runs through August 12. This fall, Brandon will be pursuing a masters degree in tuba performance at Bowling Green State University. He received the tuba euphonium graduate assistantship which includes playing in the graduate brass quintet and full tuition.

Kaitlyn Keith and Joe Walters

Congratulations to OU alumni Kaitlyn Keith (BA ‘14) and Joe Walters (BM ‘14), who were married on July 26. “Thanks to everyone that cheered us on for seven years, knowing something was right in the world when we were together,” Kaitlyn wrote on Facebook on July 24. “We finally made it.”

Olivia Griffin (BFA ‘16) will be performing Aug. 3-9 in Beau, a new musical that’s currently in rehearsals at Adirondack Theatre Festival. She’s also performed song selections from the show at Lincoln Center and will again this fall at Joe’s Pub (part of the Public Theater).  She also works as a producer with Iris Productions, a production company that is paving way for works centered around diversity.

Come Dance With Me, an educational dance television show hosted by dance special lecturer Rebecca Crimmins on TheMittTV, is looking for dancers of all ages to perform on their next taping on August 13. Contact Crimmins at [email protected] or for more information.

Jarvis Pitts

Theatre major Jarvis Pitts will play Caliban and other roles in The Tempest for Shakespeare Royal Oak through August 4. The performance will also feature theatre faculty member Sara Catheryn Wolf (artistic director), and OU alumni Luciana Piazza (BFA ‘15/intern coordinator), and Chris O’Meara (BFA ‘16/lights).

Theatre majors Noah Canales, Taylor Jones and Sarah Odom will appear in Dreamgirls for Detroit Actors Theatre Company, August 14-18 in New Center Park. The performances are free for the public.

Dr. Joe Shively, associate professor of music and interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will present The Core Arts Standards in Music (Band, Choir & Orchestra): Creating, Performing, Responding and Connecting from 9:45-10:45 a.m. on Monday, August 19 in Room 250 at the Oakland School Building (2111 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford, Mich.) during ARTS FIRST! 2019, a wonderful professional development conference especially for K-12 fine arts educators. ARTS FIRST! will feature a wide array of fabulous art, music, dance and general/ collaborative workshops. The keynote speaker will be Alison Watson, executive director of the Michigan Council for the Arts & Cultural Affairs. Participants may register for a half-day or full-day conference. The registration fee for both half-day and full-day sessions includes lunch and all related materials. To register, visit

Learn to Play!, a piece by Oakland University’s Ben Fuhrman (lecturer of music technology and composition) will be premiered at the West Fork New Music Festival by the Great Noise Ensemble at Fairmont State University on September 28. Another piece by Fuhrman, Xenoglossia for solo organ, was included in the American Guild of Organists Great Lakes Regional AGO (GRAGO) Organbook II. “I’m sure it will be an interesting change of pace from all of the ‘Variation on Hymn Tune X’ pieces for some, and the end of the sonic world for others,” Fuhrman said.


The Oakland University World Percussion Ensemble will be presenting a Showcase Concert on November 14 at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). The program, entitled The Embaire Xylophone of Uganda, will feature the renowned Ugandan musician Haruna Walusimbi and be presented together with percussion ensembles from Ohio University and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. “There are a very limited number of showcase concerts at PASIC each year and to be accepted to present one is a major accomplishment for our program,” said Mark Stone, associate professor of world music and percussion. The following students will be performing at PASIC: Peyton Miller and Chris Sinelli (sophomores), Max Correia and Kyle Paoletti (juniors), William Angliss (jazz minor), Madeline Wilson (world music minor), and Stephen Niko Martinez (graduate student). “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and a significant achievement for our program with high profile national visibility,” Stone said.

Summer Camps

More than 125 children attended a series of summer camps held on the campus of Oakland University and hosted by the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. The camps included: Piano Camp, Summer Theatre Camp, newDance Detroit, and Golden Grizzlies Jazz Camp, which culminated with a performance on July 26 at Aretha’s Jazz Cafe in Detroit.

Oakland University alumna Jen Price Fick was recently hired as the new art director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “It’s a dream come true,” said Fick, who graduated from OU in 2001 and was the recipient of the university’s Alumni Achievement in Theatre Award in 2016. As art director, Fick works closely with the Tonight Show’s music producers and the rest of the art department to put together the floor plans and creative elements for all of the show’s musical acts. “I’m the art director that is responsible for all the musical guests, and as a huge fan of all types of music, that’s really exciting,” she said. “During my second week there, the musical guests were Perry Farrell, Willie Nelson, Ari Lennox, and my absolute favorite band — Sleater-Kinney. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming!”

Mackenzie Grosse

Musical theatre major Mackenzie Grosse is out west this summer working at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse in Bigfork, Mont. She’ll be performing as Mayzie in Seussical, Rosie in The Wedding Singer, and in the ensemble of Oklahoma! and Catch Me If You Can. “This contract is an absolute blast,” Grosse said. “Putting up four shows in seven weeks is an incredible opportunity and has shown me the amount of information my brain truly can store. Montana is absolutely beautiful and the community is beyond welcoming.”

Brandon Santana (BFA ‘18) plays Tim in A Kept Boy, an independent film by Peter Chapman. This surrealistic film, which is currently in post production, is about a young gay teen who finds himself in an odd relationship with an older woman that convinces him she is able to turn him straight. For more information about this project, visit In addition, Santana is currently road tripping across the country to relocate to Los Angeles for more film and television opportunities.

Mike Mitchell, OU professor of music, assumed the role of artistic director and conductor of the Detroit Concert Choir. Dr. Mitchell, who spent time teaching at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp this summer, said “This amazing choir has a storied history of great music-making and I could not be more excited!” Dr. Mitchell will be on sabbatical from OU for the fall semester, but he’ll make his conducting debut with the DCC in October.

Bret Hoag, special lecturer of classical guitar at Oakland University, has been helping children learn to play guitar through Project Healthy Community — a health and wellness nonprofit that promotes the well-being of persons of all ages through educational and health-related programs in Northwest Detroit — with assistance from OU students and graduates.

Jason Maracani/Jeremy Barnett

While in Sanquhar, Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway doing an artist residency and putting up an art exhibition at MERZ Gallery, OU alum Jason Maracani met up with Associate Professor of Theatre Jeremy Barnett in Orkney to see some Neolithic sites and hike before making their way to Edinburgh. “Having taken several independent studies with Jeremy on the history of architecture while I was at Oakland, it was special to get to experience the content of so many of our discussions together in person,” said Maracani, who is also getting ready to open an art installation with Barnett at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts entitled, Playful Spaces. The piece will extend about 250 feet through the exterior and interior spaces of the SCA. It opens in October in tandem with Illuminaries, a group exhibition of artists working with light and audience interaction, and will remain up through March 2020.

Theatre alum Brian Baylor is spending the summer in Colorado performing at Creede Repertory Theatre.

OU artist-in-residence Regina Carter is featured in the "Sisters of Swing" article for Vanity Fair's upcoming August issue. "For a century, jazz was a men’s club. Now a vanguard of women virtuosi — including these 16 standouts — are reshaping this most American of art forms,” the article states. Carter will also be on campus for a “Women in Jazz” discussion and concert this March.

Jeffrey Heisler, associate professor of music (saxophone), was recently awarded a $719 teaching development grant from the Senate Teaching & Learning Committee. “I am looking forward to procuring more technology in my studio to apply to my teaching,” he said.

Theatre tech and design student Leilas Kaakarni, who was properties master for OU’s production of James and the Giant Peach, is spending her summer as costume/wardrobe apprentice at Lake Dillon Theatre Company in Silverthorne, Colo. “I love it here,” she said. “The staff is so caring and knowledgeable. Also everywhere you go is absolutely gorgeous. I’m excited to see what the summer brings me!” While there, she will be costume designing their children’s production of James and the Giant Peach!

The 2019 Wilde Award nominations, which honor outstanding work in Michigan's professional theatre community, include several OU actors. Congratulations to Karen Sheridan (Professor of Theatre) for her two nominations for Best Performance, Supporting Actress - Play for The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Silent Sky; Emily Hadick (BFA '18) for Best Performance, Lead Actress - Musical in Spitfire Grill; and Michael Brian Ogden (lecturer of theatre) for Best Performance, Supporting Actor - Play for The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Sheridan also won a 2019 Pulsar Award for Best Featured Actress - Play for her role in Silent Sky.

Jennifer Harge, dance faculty member, has been awarded a Dance/USA Artist Fellowship, given to 31 artists addressing social change. She intends to continue pursuing artmaking and infrastructural building within Detroit’s Black dance community. For more information, visit

Oakland Chorale Europe

The Oakland Chorale is raising funds for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to perform a European Concert Tour in 2020. This trip will expand the horizons of students  who have rigorously studied the music that has roots in a rich European history. During this trip, students will travel to locations where much of the music they study day in and day out has grown from. For more information, or to make a donation, visit www.isupportou/

OU theatre alumna Mallory Stehle recently received her MSW (Masters of Social Work) with honors from Hunter College.

Theatre special lecturer Milica Govich won “Best Protagonic” (Protagonist) in the Buenos Aires International Film Festival for her role in MEL, a Michigan-made short that was produced by former Theatre 100 student Collin Krick. For more information about the film, visit

Theatre alumna Marissa Pattullo closed her second LA theatrical endeavor, an immersive theatre piece called Sockhop on Saturn. Alumni Shannon Kraemer, Gabe Jamison, Britney Spindler and Brandon Santana went to see her.

OU alum and tenor Jason Wickson made his German debut at Oper Wuppertal as Paul in Die tote Stadt. To read more about his debut, visit Das Opernagazin.

Music professors Alta Marie Boover and Drake Dantzler completed a three-week intensive course with Dr. Ingo Titze, one of the world’s leading voice scientists, at the SVI Summer Vocology Institute at the University of Utah, hosted by the National Center for Voice and Speech (NCVS). The course — which combines bio-mechanics, physics, calculus, acoustics and pedagogy — lines up squarely with Drs. Boover and Dantzler’s desire to teach Functional Vocal Technique, which is based on vocal wellness and best practices for the longevity of the instrument.  “We're very proud to teach all styles of singing at OU, and continued training helps us stay on the cutting edge of the research which supports that,” said Dr. Boover.

Share this story