Music, Theatre and Dance News January 2017

Music, Theatre and Dance News January 2017
Tim Brown
Tim Brown (second from the right) at the Michigan District Met Auditions

In late October, voice major Tim Brown was recognized with an Encouragement Award by the Metropolitan Opera National Council at the Michigan District Auditions. Tim said, "I'm truly honored and can't wait to finish my degree in April and continue doing what I love to do."

Several students were successful at the November National Association of Teachers of Singing Michigan chapter audition, held at the University of Michigan. Jacob Surzyn placed first in his category, Senior Men. “Thank you Dr. (Drake) Dantzler for all of the support and training,” he wrote on social media, “and thank you Lois J. Kaarre for being a fantastic accompanist.” Shannon Watts took third place in the Senior Women category and Gillian Tackett placed third in the First Year College Women's division.

Joshua James, a Detroit area jazz musician since 1999 and an OU Ph.D. student, is the director of the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra. For the past two years he’s been collaborating with David Haskins, better known as David J, founder of the influential post-punk band Bauhaus. The two musicians met at the 2014 Theatre Bizarre Gala event when they performed a spontaneous rendition of the Bauhaus classic Bela Lugosi's Dead. “In this unique take on the song,” James said, “Bela Lugosi meets up with Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher for a delirious sojourn down in Chinatown.” On October 13, 2016 they debuted a vinyl album, Carpe Noctem. “The album is a haunting evocation of the shadow side of carnival, vaudeville and circus, and of the spirit of Detroit’s spectacular annual Theatre Bizarre event, which takes place at the vast and mysterious Masonic Temple,” said James. Listen to an interview with James and David J on WDET radio and watch a video of the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra playing their interpretation of Bela Lugosi’s Dead. More details are available on the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra website.

Current BFA Acting student Lucy Price exhibited her work at the pop-up art gallery MicroMacro Art Biome in Detroit last fall. The event was organized by theatre alumna G. Louise Cooper (BFA ‘14) and featured the work of 16 artists and artistic groups from seven different countries. Theatre professor Jeremy Barnett acted as project manager. Price is expanding her horizons; she spent the fall semester studying at the London Academy of Dramatic Art.

In December, euphonium performance major Ian Lester was named one of two winners of the 2017 U.S. Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Composition Competition for his piece Hades God of the Underworlds (Sonata for Tuba). Winning entries were selected by a committee of professional instrumentalists from The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” The sonata will be performed on February 3, 2017 as part of a recital during The United States Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Workshop at Brucker Hall on historic Fort Myer, Virginia. This performance will be webcast to a worldwide audience, and Ian will be given a professionally produced recording of his work. On the concert date, a link to the live stream of the webcast will be available. Lester has been studying composition privately with composer Terry Herald for two years. Herald, who teaches courses in the history of film music and in sound recording, in addition to accepting private composition students, said Lester is “very dedicated and prolific.” Lester is currently auditioning for grad schools, where he intends to double major in Euphonium Performance and Composition.

We also have faculty news for you. Theatre professor Anthony Guest was featured in a festive commercial for LaFontaine Ford of Lansing, along with his son Andrew. You can see the video on YouTube.

Take Root Dance Company co-director and co-founder, dance professor Ali Woerner, appeared in the November issue of Prosper, the official online magazine of Oakland County. She was interviewed for the magazine’s featured video and took the opportunity to talk about Take Root’s mission and the company’s dedication to both performance and community outreach, especially their Dance for Parkinson's Disease classes. Woerner was also featured in the article “Game Changers: Professionals Who Are Breaking New Ground” in the print edition of Prosper.

Woerner recently heard from dance alumna Tess Keesling (BFA ‘16) who just moved to Seattle and enlisted as a volunteer with an organization called Path with Art. “It's a group that gives people recovering from homelessness, addiction and other trauma access to performing arts classes, as well as free shows and exhibitions,” Keesling wrote. “I'm going to be a creative mentor for a music composition class and I'll be leading group excursions once a month to different shows. I'm so grateful that you and Dance for Parkinson's Disease helped me find this passion for volunteering and spreading joy through art.” Woerner is proud that a former student is using her training for an important cause, in addition to her career.

One of special lecturer Jennifer Kincer’s voice students has been in the news recently. Singer/songwriter Ali McManus, who is a freshman at OU, has been working with Kincer for five years. McManus has faced serious health challenges since birth, and has undergone numerous surgeries and spent many months in hospital, but throughout her life, music and songwriting has been a passion. She has given more than 100 performances and is much in demand at local festivals and other events. In an interview in the Detroit Free Press Kincer spoke about McManus. “Her voice is unique. It has a unique tone and timbre. Her songwriting is genuine, real, and from the heart.”

Younge world music concert
Students perform at November's world music concert with professors Mark Stone
(front row, second from the right) and Paschal Yao Younge (front row, 
far right). 
Photo courtesy of JL Boone Photography.

Professor Paschal Yao Younge of Ohio University was the guest musician at the recent World Music concert. OU music professor Mark Stone studied with Younge many years ago in Ghana. The two professors and a number of OU students performed on Fox 2 Detroit’s The Nine show, where they were introduced by Amy Andrews, who is an OU alumna.

Mark Stone was also featured in this year’s OU Research Magazine in an article which highlighted the idea that ancient musical instruments link cultures and countries. Instead of publishing papers, Stone publishes recordings of his performances, and the article discusses his most recent CD, Kakaire, as well as the performances and workshops he has given in the U.S. and overseas in the past year.

Also featured in the Fall 2016 OU Research Magazine is dance professor Elizabeth Kattner-Ulrich who received a University Research Committee Faculty Fellowship Award to study “Transnational Trends in Modern Dance: Mary Wigman, Hanya Holm and the Birth of a New Art Form.” Her study will explore the connections between modern dance in the early part of the twentieth century, and how the rise of National Socialism in Germany led to American dance distancing itself from its German roots.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra flutist Sharon Sparrow, who is an applied flute instructor at OU, recently published the book Six Weeks to Finals: the Complete System for Audition Success. The book won great acclaim at the National Flute Convention in San Diego last August. It’s available on Amazon.

John Rutherford, who teaches jazz trombone, is an incredibly busy freelance musician who has shared a stage with many famous names. He is one fifth of the Motor City Brass Quintet, acclaimed by Mark Stryker in the Detroit Free Press for their “creative vitality.” The ensemble has a wide-ranging repertoire which was on display last November when they performed at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, playing selections from music spanning four centuries, including compositions by Tielman Susato, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Victor Ewald, Aaron Copland and Billy Joel, as well as a few tunes from the Motown Songbook.

Jazz program coordinator Miles Brown celebrated three first round Grammy nominations. His album Middle Game earned a spot for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and he had an entry for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, as well as Best Small Ensemble Performance, with Alarm Will Sound for its album Modernists. You can listen to Middle Game at CDBaby.

Special lecturer in theatre Tom Mahard was cast in the new television comedy The Detroiters, but spent much of November and December on stage at Meadow Brook Theatre, reprising his role as Ebenezer Scrooge. This was his eighth year playing the lead, but over the past 34 years Tom has given more than 1,000 performances of A Christmas Carol playing several different roles. Also in the show this season were alumni Joshua Steckelberg playing Dick Wilkins and Aubrey Fink as Belle. Aubrey was also the choral conductor and dance captain. The production also used the skills of alumna Cáitlín Burke (choral arrangements), past theatre faculty Mike Duncan (sound design) and Terry Carpenter (director and stage manager), as well as OU theatre professor Lynnae Lehfeldt (dialect coach).

This past summer, theatre professor Jeremy Barnett designed the sets for two shows, Million Dollar Quartet and The Great American Trailer Park Musical, at the Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck.

Theatre lecturer Kitty Dubin is celebrating her twentieth anniversary teaching playwriting at OU this year, and she also had her most recent play, Rights of Passage, premiere at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre (JET) in October. “This production is really a group of one-act plays, equal parts comedy and drama, and each revolving around a Jewish rite of passage — from a bris to a shivah,” said Dubin in an interview with Suzanne Chessler that was published in the Detroit Jewish News. “There are five different rites of passage with six actors playing multiple roles, and the characters are different in each play. There are no bad guys or good guys. They are all people striving to do their best.” Dubin, who is a former psychological therapist, drew on her experiences of how people behave when they are forced to change the way they do things. You can listen to her talk about the play and her time at OU in an interview she gave to Erin Ben-Moche of WXOU.

Roberta (Bobbi) Lucas, who is both an instructor in the dance program, and a dance, and theatre and communications alumna (BA ‘89), also works with Living Arts in Detroit, a nonprofit which was given a five-year grant by United Way to use the performing arts to support school readiness in low income areas. Artists are trained to work with children and teachers. In the first four years the group offered 200 classroom residencies. Lucas has worked with the organization for eight years, serving in many capacities, including teaching artist, program developer, trainer and coach. She is also a former Wolf Trap artist, and for fifteen years she traveled across the country and overseas as a National Master Artist for the Wolf Trap Institute. She is now a Wolf Trap Teaching Artist and Affiliate Director of Detroit Wolf Trap.

In October, Lucas’s Living Arts group held its annual fall training at the Michigan Science Center. OU early childhood specialist Margaret Mudge worked with the teaching artists on techniques they could use to explore science concepts and processes through dance, music and drama. United Way Southeast Michigan is publishing a “Bib to Backpack” Learning Series of books about the early childhood programs they have supported under the banner “Stories of Innovation.” Lucas said the Living Artists Detroit Wolf Trap book was published in December 2016 and is available on Amazon

Dance lecturer Rebecca Crimmins opened a new dance studio in January - Rebecca Crimmins Dance - in Washington Township. The studio will be offering classes for all ages from age 2 to adult, and at varying levels in Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Lyrical, Contemporary, Dance Babies, Pre-K, Ballroom, Stretch, Conditioning and Barre Fitness. More information about the studio and the classes is available on the Rebecca Crimmins Dance Facebook page. Crimmins will continue to teach her classes at OU.

Department chair Jackie Wiggins’ book Teaching for Musical Understanding is in its third edition and is a standard textbook in the field of music education. It’s used around the world. The People’s Music Publishing House of Beijing has entered into an agreement with Oxford University Press to publish Wiggins’s book in Chinese. They will market and sell the music education textbook throughout Mainland China. Oxford plans to work with other international publishers as well, to be able to offer editions in languages other than English and Chinese. The People’s Music Publishing House of Beijing is the largest music publisher in China.

David DiChiera, founder and artistic director of Michigan Opera Theatre, announced he is retiring in July 2017. Dr. DiChiera is a former chair of the OU music program and was awarded the MaTilDa Distinguished Community Service Award in 2016. In 2001 the university awarded David DiChiera an honorary Doctor of Arts. We send him every good wish and thank him for his great service to the arts in Michigan.

Finally, if you were able to join us in September for “Remembering Tom,” our celebration of acting instructor Tom Suda’s life, thank you. It was an occasion none of us will ever forget - dramatic, funny and deeply moving. Rather like Tom. If you were not able to be there, you can watch a video of the event on YouTube.