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Theatre & Dance News & Notes

The School of Music’s 2011 production of Mozart’s opera Idomeneo won 1st Prize in Division 5 of the 2012 Opera Production Competition sponsored by the National Opera Association. Division 5 also has seen such consistent winners as Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Temple University, Southern Methodist University, University of North Texas and SUNY - Purchase. This is U of M’s second 1st-place win in this competition.

Legendary soprano Marguerite Piazza, School of Music supporter, passed away in August 2012. Marguerite was best known for her performances on Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar in the 1950s. She received the CCFA Distinguished Achievement Award in 1989.

School of Music donor and friend Richard Louis Lightman passed away in January. A civil rights advocate, Richard courageously integrated Malco’s movie theaters with the help of the NAACP at a time when businesses faced retaliation for doing so. He was also an Emeritae CCFA Advisory Board member. 

New Faculty

Kevin Erickson joined the School of Music as an assistant professor of music industry. Kevin received his BA in Entertainment and Media Management from Columbia College in Chicago, and is currently finishing an MBA at Norwich University in Vermont. In addition to teaching, Kevin will oversee Blue Tom records and assist with the management of Highwater Records publishing company.

Armand Hall joined the University of Memphis as an assistant professor and the associate director of bands. Professor Hall is completing his DMA in Wind Conducting at Michigan State University. He received a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Music Education from the University of Michigan. Armand will conduct Symphonic Band, the Mighty Sound of the South Marching Band, and teach courses in Music Education.

Robyn Jones was named assistant professor of Clarinet. Robyn holds a Bachelor’s of Music from Indiana University, a Master’s of Music from Florida State University, and a DMA from the University of Minnesota.

Laila Kteily-O’Sullivan joined the School of Music as an assistant professor of music theory. Laila earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. in Music Theory from the University of North Texas. Her duties at the University of Memphis will include leading the undergraduate music theory program and managing the graduate theory teaching assistants.

Albert Nguyen was named assistant professor and director of bands. Albert has worked with the University bands in various capacities over the past four years, and he will now conduct the University of Memphis Wind Ensemble, oversee other bands, and direct the graduate level instrumental conducting program.

Deanna Stark will serve as a visiting instructor in music education in the School of Music. Deanna received bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Memphis. She taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Memphis prior to this appointment.

Dan Kalantarian was appointed assistant professor and assistant director of bands for the School of Music. Dan served as the interim assistant director of bands during the 2011-1012 school year. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Music at UCLA, and is working toward a DMA in conducting at the University of Kansas.


Allen Rippe, assistant professor of saxophone, and Chris Beaty of East Texas A & M, performed the world premiere of “Tequila Logic” by Nick Gotham in July. The work for two alto saxophones was performed at the World Saxophone Congress at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Beaty was the first of Rippe’s students to earn a D.M.A. Later this year, the two will perform the work again in the United States.

Timothy Shiu, associate professor of violin, has been named the College of Communication and Fine Arts’ representative to the University Council for Graduate Studies. All graduate programs, curricular matters and policy changes initiated in the College go through the Council before being forwarded to the Provost, the President and the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Edited by Susan Owen-Leinert, associate professor of voice, and Michael Leinert, the 12 volume “Complete Lieder for Voice and Piano of Louis Spohr” has been published by Verlag Dohr and the Spohr Society of the U.S. A review in Neue Musik Zeitung describes the publication as “magnificent” and “rich with ideas,” and the preface and critical commentary are praised as “insightful.”

Lenny Schranze, associate professor of viola, was a featured artist on American Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. He coordinated and performed in a faculty/student group and played backup in Keillor’s famous “The Guy’s All Star Show Band.” According to Lenny, “It has been a long time dream of mine, and it was a complete blast!”

Leonardo Altino, associate professor of cello, recently released Poema, a CD that features the complete works for cello by Brazilian composer Marlos Nobre Pernambuco. It received an excellent review from Gramophone magazine. The recording was supported by Funcultura, FUNDARPE, State Government, GPAC and Arts Music.

David Evans, professor of ethnomusicology, traveled to Bahir Far, Ethiopia, where he made recordings of traditional music in Yeha, Tigray State (northern Ethiopia), and in Lalibela. Evans visited Ethiopia last year as a Fulbright Specialist.

Dr. Victor Santiago Asunción recently performed with his piano trio, the TransPacific Trio in Memphis, Seattle, Vancouver, Sydney and Perth. In addition, he was on the Faculty of the Australian Youth Orchestra Chamber Music Camp in Perth, Australia as well as a resident Artist/Performer. He also played Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini with the Manila Symphony Orchestra to critical acclaim, as well the Mozart Piano Concerto in D minor with the Virtuosi Festival Chamber Orchestra in Brazil. Other recent performances include the Dochnanyi Piano Quintet with the Serafin String Quartet, and concerto, solo and chamber music performances at the upcoming Virtuosi Festival in December. Victor will be performing and teaching in several Asian countries in January, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, 21 as well as playing recitals in the spring in France, Germany and the United States.


Jacquelyn Skoog, soprano, was one of 16 singers selected by audition to participate in the Tiroler Opern Programm. This program takes place in Maurach am Achensee, Austria where the participants are given daily instruction in voice, opera, dance and German as well as workshops in music business and marketing. Jacquelyn is a senior vocal performance major from the studio of Susan Owen-Leinert.

Sophomore tuba student Will Hammer placed 1st alternate in the Leonard Falcone International Student Tuba Competition.

Bethania Baray, soprano D.M.A. vocal performance major, was a conservatory counselor for the Opera Memphis Summer Conservatory. She taught voice lessons and directed opera scenes from Hänsel and Gretel, Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. Bethania studies with Susan Owen-Leinert.

Junior euphonium student Kevin McKenzie performed with the Phantom Regiment Drum & Bugle Corps this summer and placed third overall in the Drum Corps International World Championships.

Graduate percussion student Yuko Sato was awarded the Yamaha Corporation of America scholarship to attend the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Austin, Texas.

DMA tuba student Zack Corpus was appointed tuba instructor at the University of Arkansas- Monticello.

Amanda Boyd, soprano M.M. vocal performance major in her second year of study with Susan Owen-Leinert, was invited by Mignon Dunn to the Manhattan School of Music to participate in their summer vocal arts festival. Following that, she was invited to Opera Siena’s summer music festival in Siena, Italy where she performed “Susanna” in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and in several music theater concerts.

Four students won awards at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Auditions on October 27. Diego Froget (BM Vocal Performance) won 2nd Place amongst Freshman Men, Christopher Mitchell (BME Choral Vocal) won 2nd Place amongst Sophomore Men, Courtney Harrough (BM Vocal Performance) won 2nd Place for the Sophomore Women category, and Erin Kulinski (Music Business) won 3rd Place in the Musical Theatre Underclassmen division. This event is the biggest competition for collegiate vocal students in the state.


Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, “Mr. Won,” (B.M., vocal performance, ‘04) has won the Macy’s Magic of Teaching Award at the Florida Teacher of the Year Gala. The award is granted based on an outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service. Outside his classroom, Mr. Won created the “Class Voice Program.” He offers students private singing lessons and has helped his students secure more than $850,000 in scholarships.

School of music alumnus and local guitar player Geoff Albert (B.M., music theory, ’95) has opened Revolve Guitars and Music in Bartlett. Currently, the store carries new and used guitars, and he plans to add an inventory of band instruments next.

Valetta Brinson, soprano, gave a solo performance in “Voices of Haiti” at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “Voices of Haiti” is poet Kwame Dawes’s multimedia exploration of the earthquake through the lives and voices of Haitians confronting the ongoing consequences of this disaster, especially those living with HIV/AIDS.

Bassist Kevin Mauldin (B.M. ‘82) performed at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers, Fl during their “Music Walk” event. Kevin received a M.M. in instrumental performance from Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. He then won the position of principal bass in the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association, keeping his improvisational skills by mixing with the local jazz scene.

Natalie Bergeron, soprano, and former student of Susan Owen-Leinert, performed the leading role of Maddalena di Coigny in Umberto Giordano’s opera Andrea Chénier with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi in Italy last summer.

Jordan Caviezel (B.M. ’11) has become choral director at Oxford (MS) Middle School, teaching 6th - 8th graders. In addition to directing the choirs, Jordan is doing vocal coaching and serving as the music director of the annual musical theater production in the spring.

Dr. James Simmons (B.S. ’64) has been inducted into the Phi Beta Mu Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. James is president of Lamar University in Beaumont, TX, although he will be stepping down in January 2013. He was previously a woodwind instructor and assistant director of bands at Memphis State University.

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Last Updated: 8/26/13