School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Music, Theatre and Dance News

May 2019

icon of a calendarMay 14, 2019

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Music, Theatre and Dance News: May 2019
Josh Young
Actor, singer and Tony Award nominated Broadway star Josh Young will joins the faculty in the Department of Theatre in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance this fall.

Oakland University will welcome actor, singer and Tony Award nominated Broadway star Josh Young to campus this fall as he joins the faculty in the Department of Theatre in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. “This opportunity at OU has given us a chance to share our love and knowledge of musical theatre in a wonderful, supportive community,” said Young, who married Broadway favorite Emily Padgett in June 2018. The couple welcomed their first child, daughter Adele May Young, in February 2019. “Adele, Em and I are thrilled for this next chapter,” he added. Young made his Broadway debut as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, which transferred to New York after an acclaimed run at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. For his role as Judas, Young was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He has also appeared in The Grapes of Wrath, Evita (for which he won the Broadway World Toronto Award for Best Actor in a Musical), and Kiss Me, Kate at Stratford, as well as a national tour of Les Misérables and an international tour of West Side Story. In 2015, he starred in the musical Amazing Grace on Broadway where he originated the role of John Newton. “Josh brings a depth of experience in the field of musical theatre marked by a Tony Award nomination and numerous other awards,” said Anthony Guest, associate professor of theatre and chair of the Department of Theatre at OU. “We’re delighted to welcome him to the Department of Theatre in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.”

SMTD Grads

Congratulations to all the recent graduates of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance! “We are so proud of each of you,” said SMTD Interim Director Joe Shively. The commencement ceremony took place on Saturday, April 27.

On Feb. 23, several OUSMTD music students performed at the Detroit Chinese Business Association’s Chinese New Year Gala at the Royal Park Hotel. These students included Tyler Conway (guitar), Geoffrey Good (piano), Cassandra Gunn (flute), Nathan Kirkwood (guitar) and Shea Socrates (guitar.) 

Oakland University presented a semi-staged pairing of Leoš Janáček's haunting song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared on Feb. 28 and March 2-3, along with the world premiere of Ben Fuhrman's Needle Point, which tackles the subject of opioid addiction. This performance featured OU voice students and faculty members Alta Marie Boover (mezzo-soprano), Drake Dantzler (tenor) and Victoria Shively (piano).

Dance senior Claire Little was honored at the American College Dance Association (ACDA) conference, which took place March 1-4 at Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH. She was selected to present her work Nuisance: Ballad of the First Born at the ACDA Gala Concert. There were 10 dances out of around 40 adjudicated works that were selected for this honor. Claire’s piece, which is her senior capstone project, was also showcased as part of the Senior Dance Concert at OU.

Lynnae Lehfeldt, an associate professor of theatre, served as narrator on March 6 during a presentation of The History of Physics in 13 Songs — an original physics-based performance event created by collaborations between physicists and artists — at the Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) in Boston. The History of Physics in 13 Songs highlights turning points in the history of physics. The performance establishes theatrical interpretations by creating lyrics from the writings of some of the most prominent physicists and presents original songs based on these fragments. In addition, Lehfeldt also presented “unlocking character through resonators” from Feb. 27 through March 3 at the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) in Knoxville, Tenn. and was invited by the U.S. State Department to teach at The American Center at U.S. Embassy Havana in Cuba on March 25.

OUMTD Faculty Recognition

Several music faculty members were honored at the Faculty Recognition Luncheon, which was held March 1 at the Oakland Center. Teaching Excellence Award nominees included Gregory Cunningham, Terry Herald, Melissa Maloney, Mike Mitchell, Carly Uhrig and Phyllis White. The Teaching Excellence Award recognizes superior teaching, innovative instructional practice, high educational standards, the creation of productive learning environments, and the ability to inspire and motivate students. Victoria Shively, special lecturer in music and winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018, spoke at the event.

Ben Fuhrman, a lecturer of music technology and composition at Oakland University, performed his piece, Shoreline, at the MoxSonic Festival at the University of Central Missouri on March 8-9 and at the College of Music Society’s Great Lakes Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Stout on April 5-6. He was also the special guest for the April 16 episode of the Now&Xen podcast, during which he discussed his work with electronics, microtonality, just intonation, and Bohlen-Pierce scales.

OU’s Department of Theatre presented The Who’s Tommy, a fast-paced and exhilarating rock opera featuring a thrilling score by the legendary British rock band The Who, from March 21-24 and March 27-31 in the Varner Studio Theatre in Varner Hall. “In a society that is constantly trying to label people, Tommy provides a refreshing reminder that we are more than how people see us,” wrote Sarah Hovis, a reviewer with Rochester Media/The Community Edge. “And his story gives us the inspiration to triumph over our adversities – whatever they may be.” Winner of five Tony Awards, Tommy was adapted by The Who’s Pete Townsend and Tony Award-winning writer/director Des McAnuff. It premiered in 1992 at the La Jolla Playhouse and officially opened on Broadway in March of 1993. The musical was an immediate hit and went on to have a successful two-year run, and toured nationally.

The Assembly Saxophone Quartet, which includes Jeffrey Heisler, OU associate professor of music) performed at the North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) Region VI Conference, which took place March 22-24 at the University of Mississippi. They performed Aurum Tetra (Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra) with the University of Mississippi Orchestra, as well as Heisler's arrangement of Alfred Schnittke’s Quintet (for saxophone quartet and piano.) In addition, OU sophomore saxophonist Brant Ford performed at the conference in a masterclass for guest artist Nikita Zimin.

Oakland University Professor Thayer Jonutz and the OU Repertory Dance Company presented Iterum — an evening of dance that explores a range of daily, celebratory, and familial rituals — on March 28 at St. Claire County Community College; on March 29 on The Habitat in the Oakland Center; and on March 30 in the Atrium of the OU Engineering Building. “Iterum takes a journey illustrating greetings and goodbyes, symbolic items from our childhood, and the importance of the many dates we highlight annually,” Jonutz said.

BFA MT Showcase in New York

Oakland University’s BFA Musical Theatre Seniors performed twice on March 4 for agents, casting directors and other theatre professionals at the Beckett Theatre in New York City. The students received over 20 agent interviews and several of them secured audition appointments for Hamilton and The Book of Mormon.

On Tuesday April 2, the Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band performed music by John Mackey, Eric Whitacre, Frank Ticheli, David Gillingham, John Williams, Paul Hindemith and more! This concert also featured the co-winners of the 2018-19 Oakland University Band Concerto Competition: Brant Ford, saxophone and Peyton Miller, marimba. Miller also won first prize in his age group for "Best Bach Performance" in the Great Composers Competition, which is a series of international music competitions for young performers. Peyton's winning submission featured him playing Bach's Violin Partita No. 3 on vibraphone.

Oakland University’s Professional Artists Series Concert, Children’s Concert and World Music Concert featured legendary steel-pan artist Andy Narell, who was in residency at OU during the first week of April.  “Having spent his whole life devoted to this art form, Andy has made countless contributions to the development of this musical style,” said Patrick Fitzgibbon, a special lecturer of world music at Oakland University. “His compositions have been played for decades by Steel Bands all over the world and are favorites of pan players everywhere.” Narell also appeared on the "Fox Beat" segment on Fox 2 News on April 3. You can view the video here.

Students brought personal dialogue, song and story to the stage as part of a series of imaginative, honest and entertaining cabaret performances on April 4-7 at the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts in Pontiac. These unique solo performances invite audience members to share the artists’ unique journeys through the creative process. Performers included: Matthew Carlsen, Emily Grossutti and Stacie Sambrano, Erica Kennedy, Kristin Rebera, Tony Sharpe, Hannah Faith Stevens, Sammy Borla, Will Dunn, Stephanie Gettings, Grace Rosen, Aaron Sargeant, and Clayton Sallee.

Members of the Oakland University Brass Band received some well-deserved recognition at the North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) Championships held April 5-7 in Fort Wayne, Ind. Sophomore euphonium performance and music education major, Iyla Miller placed 3rd in the Euphonium/Baritone Slow Melody Competition. Senior tuba performance major, Brandon Thibault received 2nd place on the Tuba Technical Solo Competition. Special recognition goes to junior performance major, Colin Holstein who was named the winner of the Tuba Slow Melody Competition. Oakland alumnus, Ian Lester (BM Euphonium Performance ‘18) was the winner of the Euphonium/Baritone Slow Melody Competition. In addition, several members of the OU Brass Band were awarded caption prizes, including: Michael Baker, best soprano cornet; Ben Feuerhelm, best flugelhorn; best section awards were also presented to the trombones, basses, and percussion.

Several OU theatre students were called in to audition for a feature film shooting in Michigan this summer during their annual pilgrimage to audition and register at Productions Plus/The Talent Agency on April 12.

Liz Rowen & Lin-Manuel Miranda

Music faculty member Elizabeth Rowin snagged a picture backstage with Lin-Manuel Miranda when he surprised everyone by stopping by during the March 19 performance of Hamilton at the Fisher Theatre. Rowin played violin in the pit orchestra.

Three SMTD faculty members were honored April 17 at the annual Faculty Recognition Luncheon: John-Paul White, for being named Distinguished Professor of Music, as well Drake Dantzler and Elizabeth Kattner, who were both honored for research.

David Gram, assistant professor of theatre, was part of a Seminar Session that focused on John Webster’s Jacobean play The White Devil at the 47th Annual Shakespeare Association of America Conference, which took place April 17-20 in Washington, D.C. “As a member of this seminar group, I wrote a paper entitled, “Directing the Devil: Staging Challenges in John Webster’s The White Devil, which focused on specific production and storytelling obstacles that face 21st Century theatre practitioners and audiences who encounter the play,” Gram said.

Ali Woerner, associate professor of dance, was part of The Parkinson’s Awareness Episode, hosted by April Moss, for the CW50 show Street Beat on April 25. The episode, which discusses ways to support those with PD and how to fight the disease, aired April 27. “It is an understatement to say it was an inspiring day,” Woerner said. Woerner, who teaches Dance for Parkinson’s Disease through Take Root, was joined by the following women for the show: Mary Sue Lanigan (president of Michigan Parkinson Foundation), Sharon Vesche (Team Fox Detroit/early on-set Parkinson’s currently in a new clinical trial), Donna Rajkovic (founder of Team Fox Detroit), Lisa Germani (CW50), April Moss (Street Beat host) and Evonne Simoff (secretary of Team Fox Detroit).

Take Root performed Airplanes and Elevators on April 5-6 in Varner Studio Theatre, which included a special presentation by the Dance for Parkinson's Disease program. For this year's concert, Take Root collaborated with Mike List and Thom Monks (percussionists at OU and members of Rela Percussion), along with Jon Anderson (Take Root composer) and Danny DeRose (Take Root violist), on the music for the concert. The musicians played live for the Dance for Parkinson's Disease Program dancers during the matinee performance. One of the performances also featured a video of the Take Root dancers that was filmed for the World Dance for Parkinson's Disease Conference in Kyoto Japan. The video, which will be combined with others dance companies' submissions, will be shown at the conference June 4-7.

Professor Mike Mitchell received a 2019 Inspiration Award through the Oakland University Honors College. Dr. Mitchell was nominated by music education student Brandy Hewines. In her nomination letter, she noted his “positive energy” and that “He inspires everyone in chorus and beyond, myself included, with his anecdotes and small, insightful, and thoughtful speeches.”

Oakland Symphony Orchestra

The Oakland Symphony Orchestra, Oakland University Symphony Chorus, Detroit Concert Choir and Madrigal Chorale presented Verdi’s Requiem on March 29 at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. This performance featured soloists and Department of Music alums Ann Toomey, soprano; Lisa Agazzi, mezzo-soprano; Jason Wickson, tenor; and Joel Frederiksen, bass.

The Hour After Westerly, a short by OU Theatre Special Lecturer Milica Govich, premiered on May 8 at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles. Govich plays opposite Peter Jacobson, who is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Dr. Chris Taub on the Fox medical drama series House. “I’ve also had a pretty busy year with indie projects,” Govich said. “Mel — the film that was produced by Colin Krick, my former student — is nominated for several awards, including a Best Actress for me!”

Come Dance With Me, the TV show produced by dance faculty member Rebecca Crimmins with The MITTV of Romeo, Bruce and Washington townships is now being carried on Roku and will be shared with Orion Township and the city of Sterling Heights. “We are looking for dancers of all ages and styles to appear on the show,” Crimmins said. Her dance studio, Rebecca Crimmins Dance Studio of Washington Township, Mich., is also holding summer classes for college students (ages 18+) from 8:30-9:10 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning July 23. Classes will take place over six weeks: July 24 (Musical Theater Tap Routine), July 30 (Musical Theater Tap Routine), Aug. 7 (Musical Theater Jazz & Audition), Aug. 14 (Musical Theater Jazz & Audition), Aug. 21 (Hip Hop Routine), and Aug. 28 (Hip Hop Routine). Contact Crimmins at [email protected] or for more information.

Leslie Littell, a special lecturer in costume design at OU, recently took several Theatre Design and Technology students to Bloomfield Hills to view the Affleck House, which was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Jeffery Zook (DSO affiliate applied faculty, flute) was honored at a Musicians Anniversary Luncheon to celebrate his 28th anniversary with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. “It was an unbelievable honor to be recognized for my time with the orchestra at the luncheon,” Zook said. “For me, it was a great day of reflection at the artistic and personal journey working for such an organization has brought to my life and artistry. It was a joy to have one of my first flute teachers there, Ervin Monroe, former Principal Flute of the DSO, as well as my current colleagues Sharon Sparrow, Amanda Blaikie and DSO flute fellow Adam Sadberry.”

Lyle Nordstrom, who taught at Oakland University for 23 years, was awarded the 2019 Howard Mayer Brown Award for lifetime achievement in the field of early music. “Howard Mayer Brown was a very important American musicologist, who studied at Harvard, as well as abroad, and worked with some of the top musicians in the field,” said Professor Emeritus David Daniels. “He wasn’t just a wasn’t just a dry academic — he was out there playing recorders, shawms, viols, and other ancient instruments. He wanted to bring this music to the public. I would say that was Lyle’s goal, as well.” During his time at OU, Lyle played an integral role in developing the university’s music program and brought in students from around the country and beyond, including David Douglass, Ellen Hargis, Michael Lynn, and Joel Frederiksen.

MaTilDa Awards 2019

The 20th Annual MaTilDa Awards were held on Monday, April 15. This event, named to honor Matilda Dodge Wilson, who donated the land on which Oakland University is built, honors outstanding contributions from SMTD students, alumni and community partners. This year's emcees were music student Lily Belle Czartorski, theatre alum Andrew Barikmo and dance student Ernesto Duran-Gutierrez. You can see the entire list of 2019 honorees at

Music faculty member Dan Maslanka has booked several exciting percussion gigs for the summer: The Who at Little Caesars Arena on May 28; Anastasia (June 11-23) at the Fisher Theatre; and Hugh Jackman at Little Caesars Arena on June 24. Dan, who is the house percussionist for the Fox and Fisher theatres, just finished up Hansel and Gretel at the Detroit Opera House, which also included SMTD faculty members Gordy Simmons on trumpet and Dave Denniston on horn.

Oakland University’s World Percussion Ensemble will present a Showcase Concert at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) this November. 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. “PASIC is one of the largest percussion events in the world, and to be selected to present a showcase concert represents the highest level of achievement any percussion ensemble can accomplish,” said Mark Stone, associate professor of world music and percussion at OU. Stone recently returned from Cleveland, where the Stone Sound Collective had a wonderful time participating in the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival. “This was my sixth year in a row taking part in the festival, but my first year participating as a band leader,” Stone said. “We all enjoyed not only our performance but also the opportunity to meet and listen to the performances of so many dedicated musicians, teachers and students of Carnatic music.” The entire performance can be viewed online on YouTube.

Jeremy Barnett, assistant professor of theatre, is designing scenery for the production of In The Heights at the Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck. He is also creating some installation art for their grounds in October.

The Oakland Chorale, under the director of Michael A. Mitchell, performed on Thursday, May 2 at the Prayer Breakfast, which is held in recognition of the National Day of Prayer and brings together people of different backgrounds and affiliations for the betterment of the community, the state, and the nation. They were joined for a few songs by string players from the Rochester Symphony Orchestra.

Karen Sheridan, professor of theatre, will be appearing in the role of Mag in The Beauty Queen of Leenane at the Detroit Public Theatre from May 2 - 26 in Orchestra Hall’s Allesee Hall. The play is a dark Irish tale by Martin McDonagh who wrote the screenplay for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Sheridan will also be traveling to Cambridge, England in June to do preliminary research for her November university production of Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale. The play is about events that occurred as young women at Cambridge University in 1896 fought for the right to receive a degree at the end of their studies. She is excited to bring this romantic and moving story to the stage Nov. 14 - 24.

Jeffrey Heisler, associate professor of music / saxophone, was a juror at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, which was held May 10-12  Heisler, who is a laureate (1st prize-gold medal in 2005) of the competition, was honored to serve on the jury. “The performance level of the Fischoff Competition is so unbelievably high.  Serving on this panel has been one of the most rewarding, inspiring, and enriching experiences of my career.” For more information, visit

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