School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Working in the Arts: SMTD Alumni News

May 2019

icon of a pencilBy May 14, 2019

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Working in the Arts: SMTD News, May 2019
Marvelous Wonderettes
"The Marvelous Wonderettes," which runs through May 19 at Meadow Brook Theatre, features OU theatre alumni in three of the four lead roles.

Emily Hadick (BFA '18) recently performed in Meadow Brook Theatre’s production of Spitfire Grill, which ran through March 10. BroadwayWorld Detroit said Emily's "portrayal of the main character, Percy, was magnificent. Above all else, her voice is strong and is more than up to the task of tackling this demanding role” Hadick is also one of three OU theatre alumni in three of the four lead roles in Meadow Brook Theatre’s production of The Marvelous Wonderettes, which runs through May 19. The production stars Hadick as Betty Jean, Kai Stidham (BFA ‘18) as Missy, and Olivia Ursu (BFA ‘18) as Suzy. Directed by OU alum Travis Walter (BA ‘02) and featuring sound design by theatre faculty member Mike Duncan, The Marvelous Wonderettes takes you to the 1958 Springfield High School prom, where we meet four girls with hopes and dreams as big as their crinoline skirts! “The Marvelous Wonderettes has played in New York for more than a decade,” Walter said. “This is many people’s favorite music. Everyone’s going to be tapping their toes while we find out who will be prom queen.” The production also features music alums Matt Kush on first keyboard and David Mety on drums. In addition, Hadick is starring as Wendla Bergman in Exit Left Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening in Holland, Mich. from May 30 - June 9. For more information, visit

Detroit native, jazz artist and Oakland University artist-in-residence Regina Carter honored her favorite musician, jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, when she performed at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing on Feb. 22. Carter was joined by her quartet: piano, bass, guitar and her husband, Alvester Garnett, on drums.

Joshua Tyler Kelly - Modern Family

Joshua Tyler Kelly (BA ‘13) played Gerald, an Uber driver, on an episode of the hit television show Modern Family, which aired on May 1 on ABC.

James Besaw, a graduate student in saxophone performance, was invited to perform at the North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) Region 5 Conference, which took place March 8-10 at Marian University in Indianapolis, Ind. James, who is a student of Dr. Jeffrey Heisler, presented Benjamin Taylor’s Drum n Bari (for baritone saxophone and electronics) and Adam Kennaugh’s Crepuscular Light (for solo alto saxophone), a piece James commissioned and premiered.

Main Street Opera Theatre presented Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic masterpiece, H.M.S. Pinafore, on March 15-16 at The Village Theatre at Cherry Hill. The talented cast included OU alumni Shannon Watts as Josephine, Robert Skylis as Ralph Rackstraw, and Leslie Ann Naeve as Little Buttercup. OU alumnus Kevin Naeve conducted the pit orchestra.

OU theatre alumna and scenic designer Jen Price Fick (BA ‘01) was featured in the March 2019 issue of Stage Directions Magazine. She discusses nine points that have guided her work philosophy: Follow Your Heart, Don’t Be Too Practical, Be Brave, Be Humane, Be Daring, Use Unexpected Materials, Let Others Make Your Work Look Good, Immerse Yourself in What’s New, and Always Keep Going. To read the entire article, visit

Alyssa Primeau (BM '18) was selected as one of the winners of the Boston University concerto competition. She performed Carl Reinecke's Concert in D Major with the Boston University Symphony Orchestra on April 1. Alyssa, who is pursuing a masters degree in flute performance at Boston University, said "I'd like to thank the music program at Oakland for helping me to get to this point. I am really grateful for the many experiences I had in undergrad that helped me prepare for this."

James Isabirye Grad

Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, James Isabirye, who defended his doctoral dissertation on Nov. 14, 2018, returned from from his native Uganda on April 22 to attend the Doctoral and Masters Commencement Ceremony on April 25. “It’s great to have James back on campus for this great celebration,” said Joe Shively, interim director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. “He is doing incredible work in Uganda and beyond, and he joins an impressive group of OU Music Education Ph.D. alums.” Isabirye, a lecturer of music and drama at Kyambogo University in Uganda, used the seeds of a nearly extinct gourd to help the people of Uganda rediscover their musical roots by reintroducing instruments, songs and traditions that were almost lost forever following decades of conflict and political upheaval. His dissertation — titled “Nurturing Identity, Agency and Joy-filled Passion Through Revitalizing Indigenous Music Education Practices: Learning In and From a Cultural Revival Project in Busoga, Uganda” — focused on the process of reviving those musical traditions, the impact the rebirth has had on the country’s youth, and the importance of music education on a society.

Meet the Author, a film by Oakland University alum and former Days of Our Lives actor Steve Blackwood, was screened at The Boston International Film Festival on April 13. Starring Blackwood, Marty Smith and Pamela Jayne Morgan, Meet the Author is based on a one act play by David Susman. Blackwood, who also wrote, directed and produced the 10-minute film, stars as Marvin Bregman, a struggling novelist whose first book, "Shades of Red," was a major success but his latest novel, a sequel to it, is failing to catch on with readers. On tour, at a book signing arranged by his agent, Marnie (Morgan), Marvin meets Jennifer (Smith), who is anxious to get her copy of the book signed but has a stunning confession to reveal about her feelings regarding the book. “Filled with wit and Neil Simon-esque dialogue, Meet the Author zooms through an engaging exchange between an artist who may have lost his mojo and a woman whose candor is hitting a nerve that is making him face his fears and insecurities,” wrote Amanda Getchell of The Daily News. “With some truly clever and perceptively funny verbal exchanges, Steve Blackwood's script hits the mark and scores well deserved laughter as well as a deeper sense of honest emotion.” You can view the film online at

Tyler Capa (BM ‘15) has been busy music directing shows at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Off-Broadway productions at Theatre Row, and other cabaret venues in New York City. His latest production, Tyler Capa & Friends In Concert, opened on April 26 at Feinstein’s/54 Below. The performance will include cast members from shows and programs including Jagged Little Pill, Frozen, Wicked, Harry Potter, The Jimmy Awards, and many others. “I work with Broadway vocalists all the time for auditions and preparing them to get jobs and/or roles,” Capa said. “By doing this, I’ve met some incredible talent and I decided to showcase these actors in my concert.”

Singer, songwriter and OU alum Amy Petty (BM ‘00) performed on April 27 at The Riverbank Theatre in Marine City, Mich. “There are so many great performance venues in Michigan and The Riverbank Theatre in Marine City is no exception,” Petty said. “As a songwriter, I’m always thrilled to discover listening rooms and communities that welcome original music. I was so excited to share my music on this stage!” The event also marked the first time Petty shared a stage with singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jen Sygit. “One of the people I was most looking forward to meeting when I first moved back to Michigan was Jen Sygit,” Petty said. “Her reputation as a great songwriter and performer preceded her. As it turns out, she’s an awesome human being too.” Petty has released three critically acclaimed pop/folk albums and is currently working on a new release. She has appeared at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and has shared the stage with artists like Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Darlene Love and Suzanne Vega.

Music education alumnus Alex Ruthmann (MM '02; PhD '06) has been selected a Laureate for the IRCAM 2019/2020 Artistic Research Residency Program in Paris, the first Laureate to focus on cultural engagement and learning. IRCAM, the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music directed by Frank Madlener, is one of the world’s largest public research centers dedicated to both musical expression and scientific research. Dr. Ruthmann said, “I first learned of the innovative work at IRCAM from Frank Zappa’s autobiography in high school, and then from Harry Sargous at Michigan who spent time there working with Pierre Boulez and IRCAM staff on creating a MIDI-fied oboe. That work was some of the earliest to inspire me to pursue a career in music technology.”

Cheyanne Coss

Soprano Cheyanne Coss (BM ‘14 ) is one of five resident artists of the 2018-19 Michigan Opera Theatre Studio. These young opera professionals fill essential roles in all main stage productions, and Cheyanne recently performed as the Dew Fairy in MOT’s production of Hansel & Gretel, which ran from April 6-14.

Hannah Bossner (BM '16, piano performance) will be attending the Eastman School of Music in fall 2019 for a master's degree in collaborative piano. This will be Hannah's second master’s degree; she received her first MM in piano performance from Bowling Green State University. While at OU, Hannah studied with I-Chen Yeh and was the winner of the first annual Keyboard Concerto Competition, as well as the recipient of the Outstanding Student in Piano Performance MaTilDa Award.

Andrew Barikmo (BFA ‘18) played the role of Templeton the rat in the Wild Swan Theater’s production of Charlotte’s Web, which ran from May 1-5 in Ann Arbor.

Taylor Hillary Boykins (BM '11) is one of the 18-19 national finalists for the American Prize in Voice (Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Award) for opera and operetta, professional division (women). The American Prize: Celebrating American Excellence in the Arts is a series of new, non-profit national competitions in the performing arts providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels.

Music education alum Chris Brody won a CARA award for Best Collaborative/Studio Project Song for his version of Brayton Bowman’s What’s Really Good? “At its surface level, What’s Really Good? is just fun to listen to and makes you move,” Brody said. “That was something I felt was missing from my world of a cappella — a song that felt solely focused on making people feel good and dance.” Brody, who graduated from OU in 2016, said the song was “a good reminder to me that the only person who truly knows what was good for me was me.” “At the end of the day, I made this song was for myself and to make other people happy,” he said. “So to know that it made enough people happy to win an award in an international category, up against groups such as Pentatonix, really left me speechless.”

Jackie Gubow, who graduated from OU in December 2014 and moved to New York in October 2015, recently landed a position at the Professional Artists talent agency, where she is now a talent agent licensed through the Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA. “Our office has over 30 years of experience, and clients in Broadway, Off-Broadway, National Tour, regional theatre, television and film projects,” Gubow said. “I am able to employ the music education and musical theatre degrees I earned at OU in assessing talent and submitting clients for projects. I enjoy using both the Type-A and creative sides of my brain and working with artists to help them on their career trajectories.”

Claire Little

Claire Little (BFA ‘19), a recipient of the 2019 Maggie Allesee Choreography Award, presented All the Things I Wish I'd Say…But Won't on April 16 in the Varner Studio Theatre. The event included eight new works and a guest piece by Carmen Craft. She is also part of the Pure Existence Dance Company out of Ann Arbor, which performed May 3-4 in Detroit.

Piano alumnus Rhys Burgess recently auditioned for a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in collaborative piano and was offered full tuition to the University of Maryland, Florida State University, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison before finally deciding to attend the University of Maryland to study with Rita Sloan. “We are so proud of him and I know a lot of faculty will be happy for his wonderful achievement, as well,” said Dr. Tian Tian, an assistant professor of piano at OU.

OU alum Jane Hines received the 2019-20 Fulbright Research/Study Award for Vienna. Jane’'s research, under the supervision of Kofi Agawu, explores the genre of the fantasia as it intersects with the concept of Phantasie across literature, the visual arts, philosophy, and aesthetics in the 19th century. Jane also plays harpsichord and founded the department ensemble Early Music Princeton, which she has directed since 2015.

OU alum Mark Hosseini (BM ‘16) will be an apprentice artist this summer with Des Moines Metro Opera, where he will be studying the role of Schaunard in Puccini’s La Bohème. “I’m very excited to be working with such a highly esteemed company,” Hosseini said. He is also currently wrapping up a nine-week tour with Des Moines Metro Opera’s outreach troupe, OPERA Iowa. “I’ve been performing the roles of Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Mr. Bigbad in the children’s opera Little Red’s Most Unusual Day, arranged by John Davies,” Housseini added. “Throughout the tour we traveled to schools, churches, and theaters all across the state of Iowa, and by the end of the tour we will have performed for over 20,000 people!” In addition to performing, Housseini and OPERA Iowa have been giving masterclasses in high schools, as well as workshops in elementary and middle school classrooms, where they teach students about opera.

Theatre alumna Alexis Clark (BA ‘18) will be at the Little Door Theatre in Warren, Mich. this summer, where she will be playing Lysistrata in Lysistrata. She will also be in Two Gentlemen of Verona and performing during the summer children’s series, also Little Door Theatre. Lysistrata runs June 13-23, Two Gentlemen of Verona runs Aug. 15-25, and the children’s series run through July with specific dates to be announced. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit

Alex Benoit & Karen Sheridan

Alex Benoit has been exploring a year of acting in Chicago. Karen Sheridan, professor of theatre at OU, recently visited him after his performance in Mamma Mia at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. Alex will also be playing Prince Charming in Into the Woods at Writers Theater in Glencoe, Ill. in August before he leaves for London and his masters program in classical acting at the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts.

Shelby Van Ophem, who graduated from Oakland University in April 2018, has been working for Field Entertainment, an entertainment company that produces shows such as Disney on Ice, Disney Live, and Ringling Brothers Circus. “I have been traveling the county as part of the Marvel Universe Live: Age of Heroes, a live action stunt show based on the Marvel Universe,” she said. “I handle all the creatures and large characters in the show such as Groot — who comes in at 9.5 feet tall — Hulk and Rocket Racoon.” Since joining Field Entertainment, Shelby has been a part of almost 250 shows in the eastern half of the U.S., and recently helped kick off the first part of an international tour with a two-week run in Mexico City, Mexico.

Conviviality, James Long’s (BM ‘15) trio, was a finalist in the prestigious 6th Annual Coltman Chamber Music Competition in Austin, Texas this past March. Comprised of euphonium, tuba and piano, Conviviality was the only brass group of four to be chosen to perform in the finals. The trio was selected from 10 semi-finalists that were invited to the competition from across the country. In addition, Conviviality has been invited to perform at the Women’s Brass Conference this June at Arizona State University.

OU alumna Krysty Swann, who recently won the Alumni Achievement in Music award at the 2019 MaTilDa Awards, has been cast as one of the Valkyries (Grimgerde) in the Lyric Opera production of the Ring Cycle in April and May of next year in Chicago. For more information, visit

Esau Pritchett (BA '99) was praised by the New York Times for his "commandingly outsize performance" in the Off-Broadway play Curse of the Starving Class by Sam Shepard. The production, which features Pritchett in the role of Ellis, runs through June 2 at the Pershing Square Signature Center in Manhattan.

Soprano Jocelyn Zelasko (BM ’03 and PhD in progress) performed Bob Becker’s Cryin’ Time — a contemplative and moody work accompanying voice with piano, marimba and vibraphone — with New Music Detroit on March 17 at The Cube in Detroit.

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