School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Working in the Arts

SMTD Alumni News, February 2019

icon of a calendarFebruary 14, 2019

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Working in the Arts: SMTD Alumni News, February 2019
Native Howl
Native Howl, a “thrash grass” band consisting of OU alumni Alex Holycross and Mark Chandler, as well as Josh LeMieux and Jake Sawicki.

Native Howl, a “thrash grass” band consisting of OU alumni Alex Holycross and Mark Chandler, as well as Josh LeMieux and Jake Sawicki, recently headlined a show at Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit and will be joining rock legends Roger Daltrey, Kansas, Buddy Guy, 38 Special, Dave Davies, Foghat, The Outlaws, Nazareth, and more for the “Rock Legends Cruise VII” from Feb. 14-18.

Joe Santoni (BA ‘14) was featured in an article by the Asbury Park Press on Feb. 6 about his experience touring with DCappella, Disney’s new seven-member a cappella group that recently released its self-titled debut album and is on a nationwide tour. “DCappella is an amazing experience,” Santoni told reporter Ilana Keller. “So amazing because we’re bringing a new, fresh take on all this music that people have listened to their entire lives. It’s music that people in their 60s and their 70s and the younger generation can also appreciate and enjoy. It’s super exciting to bring a fresh take on Disney classics.” To read the article, visit

Renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter, OU’s artist-in-residence, was featured in the J.Jill catalog and website in “Rhythm in Blues,” a feature on inspired women who are breaking down barriers in the music industry. View the article online at

Lily Talevski (BFA '18) signed with the Hybrid Agency after the Senior Showcase in New York City and is currently living in NYC. This past summer, she played Ali in Mamma Mia at Mason Street Warehouse, and will be playing No. 7 in the Theatre Squared production of The Wolves, which runs from Feb. 27 to March 24 in Fayetteville, Ark.

Ann Toomey

On Jan. 10, alumna Ann Toomey (BM ‘14) sang the role of Musetta in Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of La Boheme. She is also performing with fellow OU alumna Krysty Swann in Lyric Opera Chicago’s current production of Elektra.

Musical theatre alumnus Joey Fontana (BFA ‘17) is currently traveling the country in the ensemble of Phoenix Entertainment’s 2018-2019 National Tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot! The Tony Award winning musical — lovingly ripped off from the film classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail with a book by Eric Idle and music and lyrics by the Grammy Award winning team Idle and John Du Prez — tells the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on their quest for the Holy Grail. The production comes to the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on March 31.

Stone’s Throw Theater — a “pop up” theater/production company founded by OU alumnus Tony Stroh — was recently awarded $2,500 by the Lapeer Development Corporation as a catapult competition for new businesses providing growth and economic impact to the area. Winners from the local competition went on to compete for a regional catapult award with a $5,000 award for first place, $2,500 for second place, and $1,500 for third place. “Stone’s Throw Theater was selected as one of seven new businesses from the Thumb Region of Michigan to compete for a catapult competition,” Stroh said. “We didn’t take home a prize but made some great connections and possible opportunities for continued growth."

Vocal performance alum Kayvon Kashani-Gharavi (BM ‘17) had the amazing experience of performing Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 9 with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin (music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.) Kashani-Gharavi, who is currently working on his masters degree at Westminster Choir College, said “Such an unreal experience being on a stage with musicians of this caliber (not to mention Joyce Didonato just popping in to listen to us). I have been truly blessed this past year and a half and I have been lucky enough to learn from some of the best musicians in the world.” He recently traveled to China with the Westminster Choir to perform in Beijing at the Forbidden City Concert Hall, the National Center for the Performing Arts, Tsinghua University, and Kaiwen Academy.

SMTD alumnus Luke Perzyk (BM ‘15) recently accepted a position as a Musicians Specialist in the U.S. Army Regional Band.

Curtis Armstrong

Actor, producer, writer and OU alumnus Curtis Armstrong returned to campus on Feb. 7 for “An Evening with Curtis Armstrong.” While at OU, Armstrong also spoke to theatre, cinema studies and creative writing students in the Varner Lab Theatre, and attended an OU Theatre performance of Seagull. “Terrifically impressed by the talent and professionalism on display in the production of Chekhov’s Seagull I attended last night at my alma mater,” Armstrong wrote on Twitter. “An inspiring end to a lovely visit.” Armstrong, probably best known for his acting roles in Risky Business, Revenge of the Nerds, Moonlighting and New Girl, is a 1975 graduate of OU’s Academy of Dramatic Art.

SMTD alum Nicholas Swatz’s (BA ‘16) documentary, Making Masculine, has been selected to screen at the Women and Gender Studies Film Festival in March on the OU campus. “I am so beyond grateful to come back to screen my first feature film at Women and Gender Studies Film Fest,” said Swatz, cinematographer, creative director and founder of Baby Pomegranate Productions, LLC, an independent production company. “Not only is it a sort of symbolic reference to full circle, but I'm honored to come back with a film that means so much to me, and that has been sparking a very important conversation among so many people. There couldn't be a better time for the subject matter — I think we, as a people, a cumulative populous, are ready to talk about some uncomfortable truths that have been ingrained in our society for far too long. Making Masculine is by no means the answer, but it is rather the beginning of the dialogue.” 

JLBoone Photography

JLBoone Photography, founded by SMTD alumna Jessica Stasik, was announced as the winner of the renowned WeddingWire Couple’s Choice Awards in Rochester. According to WeddingWire, Inc. — a leading global online wedding marketplace — JLBoone Photography “received this esteemed award based on their outstanding experience working with real newlyweds.”

Main Street Opera Theatre will present Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic masterpiece, H.M.S. Pinafore, for only two performances on March 15-16 at The Village Theatre at Cherry Hill. The talented cast includes OU alumni Shannon Watts as Josephine, Robert Skylis as Ralph Rackstraw, and Leslie Ann Naeve as Little Buttercup. OU alumnus Kevin Naeve will conduct the pit orchestra. The plot revolves around thwarted love between members of different social classes, namely the daughter of the gentlemanly Captain of the Pinafore who has fallen in love with a common sailor but is betrothed to the First Lord of the Admiralty.

SMTD alumnus Robert Arbaugh was recently recognized with Hannah Niece with BroadwayWorld Regional Awards for their work in UnCovered Theatre Company’s summer production of Macbeth. Arbaugh received the Best Shakespearean Actor award.

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