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Seven students from the College of Fine Arts were recently selected as Spring 2020 scholars in the University of Utah's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

UROP gives undergraduate students and faculty mentors the opportunity to work together on research or creative projects. The program provides a stipend and educational programming for students who assist with a faculty member’s research or creative project or who carry out a project of their own under the supervision of a faculty member. Students may apply for UROP any semester and may be eligible for a one-semester renewal. UROP awardees are hired as temporary, part-time UROP Participants by the Office of Undergraduate Research and are paid $1,200 for 120 hours of research or creative work during the semester.

These incredible students, along with their dedicated faculty mentors, are making us proud.

Read about each of their projects:

Alan Chavez, Music
Recording the History of the University of Utah Department of Music
Faculty mentor: Elizabeth Craft

“My project this semester is to begin an oral history for the SoM Piano Pedagogy program. It was one of the first of its kind and has a unique influence on SLC and Utah. I will be interviewing past and present faculty and seeking information on the program’s founding.”

Nate Francis, Art
Queer Isolation
Faculty mentor: Jaclyn Wright

“As a photography student here on campus, I’ve been so honored to have the opportunity to conduct research related to imagery, identity, and loneliness and create imagery that contains my findings. I grew up in Provo, Utah, not far from the U of U campus. As a queer person, growing up in an LDS family and culture has not been an easy journey, and I know I’m not the only one who has experienced the loneliness that comes with growing up queer in Utah. My research is an exploration of Utah’s landscapes, the photographic studio, and my own identity. The work features many iconic Utah landscapes and elements that are used as visual analogies for desolation, weight, and solitude, but which appear from the surface to be beautiful and other worldly. The work also includes the use of the photographic studio, which is a sort of sanctuary and place of self-creation, and my own body in relation to all of the above.”

Ashley Goodwin, Theatre Teaching
The Not Broken Monologues
Faculty mentor: Alexandra Harbold

“My UROP project is called "The Not Broken Monologues", which is a performative theatre piece that I have written and am now working on producing this semester. As a member of the arts community with disabilities I have developed a passion for inclusion and advocacy, and I am a firm believer that there can be space for everyone within the arts. "The Not Broken Monologues" is a piece that embodies that idea, while telling a wide range of stories of the disabled experience and fostering a sense of community and support. With my own experiences and dozens of hours of one-on-one interviews as source material I hope to convey the message that we (people with disabilities) are not just our disabilities, and most importantly - we are not broken.”

Connor Johnson, Theatre
Of Ronald and Edith
Faculty mentor: Tim Slover

“My project is full production of a play called Ronald and Edith which I wrote and workshopped at the U of U in 2020. The play is about J.R.R Tolkien and his wife Edith, and it centers around a story that Tolkien wrote in his earlier years called Beren and Luthien. The performance is going to be outdoors, hopefully with a small, socially distanced audience in the beginning of May.” 

Matt Peterson, Art
Mokume allow compatibility
Faculty mentor: Paul Stout

“I am working on a Japanese metalworking technique called mokume gane. The process involves taking dissimilar non-ferrous metals, stacking and firing them, and then manipulating the resulting billet through forging and gouging, into a sheet of patterned metal. If you have ever seen damascus steel, or pattern welded steel, the patterns in the metal look similar. The process itself has been around for about 400 years, so what I am working on specifically is trying out some newer alloys of silver to see how well they work in the process itself. Making mokume is rather time consuming and challenging, but I think the results are worth it.” 

Duke Ross, Film & Media Arts
"Osaru-Chan" Short Film
Faculty mentor: Miriam Albert-Sobrino

“Osaru-Chan follows the story of two brothers who steal a valuable family heirloom from an elderly Japanese woman, and in the process, awaken her demigod son, who exacts prompt retribution. The film explores concepts of familial relations, Americana, and colonialism, and utilizes the visual style of high contrast black and white widescreen used in many of Akira Kurosawa’s early films. I thoroughly enjoy the East/West blending of cultures and film genres seen in some of Shinichiro Watanabe’s work (“Cowboy Bebop,” “Samurai Champloo,”) and I would love to see more of that in the American cinema. Additionally, due to the rising anti-Asian sentiment in the United States following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump Administration, I feel as though it’s essential to see more Asian people in the media. The project is currently in post-production and should have the picture locked within the next month or so.”

Paige Stephenson, Music
Power and Patronage: A Study of Female Leaders in Early European Courts
Faculty mentor: Jane Hatter

“While musicology as a discipline is beginning to recognize the key role of female musicians in all eras, there is still a tendency to evaluate their significance using the same criteria used to understand the musical work of men. In Early Modern Europe, women of various social levels had significantly different modes of accessing and participating in musical activities from their male counterparts. My research project explores females as patronesses of music in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. I am discovering how women used their role as a music patroness to further advance their personal goals and ideals.”

Visit UROP's website to find out upcoming deadlines for future creative and research projects! 

Published in Finer Points Blog

Brought to you by Create Success Interns Abby Davis, Connor Brown, Hannah Keating, Lia Wong, Matthew Rudolph, Sam Judd, and Zoe Wink.

Hello College of Fine Arts students!

As we make the transition back to online and hybrid classes, here is a reminder of some helpful tips to help manage your time and reduce your Zoom fatigue!

1. Create a schedule or agenda.

 Whether or not you have used a planner in the past, now is a great time to REALLY use it! This can be useful in seeing your important dates and deadlines in an orderly fashion.

2. Work on one project at a time.

 If looking at your deadlines all at once is too overwhelming, make a notecard list!

  • Write each assignment with its deadline on its own notecard, order the notecards by date, and start knocking out each assignment one at a time. 

3. Set boundaries.

 We know that a lot of your school time is happening at home, and Zoom/computer fatigue is a real thing. Try setting a boundary for yourself as to what times of the day you will dedicate to school. For instance, maybe you try and stop doing school work by a certain time or you dedicate specific times where you take breaks.

  • Try to come up with some activities you enjoy doing that do not involve staring at a screen. For instance: going on a walk, taking a dance break, playing around on an instrument you may have picked up, or doing some crafts.  

4. Start early.

 If you happen to find that you have been sitting on the couch watching Tik Toks or doing whatever else keeps you occupied for hours at home, it sounds like it’s a good time to get a jump on some homework! Getting a head start on assignments when you have some free time will save you lots of stress in the long run. Trust us!


5. Sleep.

This one is pretty self explanatory, but it’s one tip that should not be forgotten. A fresh mind always helps with creativity!

Remember: This is a time where we can use our innovative minds to find the things that work best for us. Stay positive and never stop creating! 

Published in Finer Points Blog
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The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), a national arts data and research organization, has collected and analyzed data from over 200,000 arts graduates from across North America since 2008. SNAAP data have helped change the national conversation on the value of an arts degree. The U College of Fine Arts regularly partners in SNAAP's efforts in surveying our own graduates and we are grateful to our alumni who have participated. Each survey gives us deeper insight into how best to serve our students. 

Recently, SNAAP released a special report examining what factors lead arts graduates to stay in the arts throughout their professional careers. The report clearly revealed that students are more likely to work professionally in the arts if they have created a network and completed an arts-based internship during their time in school. 

This is not news to us. We have long known the value of internships and professional networks and this data just further confirms our understanding of what students need to successfully transition in the arts! The College of Fine Arts continually invests in developing a strong internship program and providing opportunities and information to maximize professional success of our students, from experiential learning opportunities to building professional networks. Since 2012, the CFA has hired student interns to learn about various aspects of arts administration and strengthen their professional networks. And in 2013, interns assisted in the creation of our award-winning ArtsForce program. 

We encourage you to get to know your many professional resources.

 

Here are just a few of the ways CFA invests in student success and professional development:

 

Full-time CFA Internship Coordinator

In partnership with the CFA Undergraduate Student Affairs team and the University’s Internship Council, our full-time Internship Coordinator, Kate Wolsey, facilitates the development and expansion of internships, acts as the college’s primary contact for internship coordination, and assists in the coordination of the award-winning ArtsForce program. 

 

Career Treks to local and regional arts organizations

During the academic year, ArtsForce leads regular Career Treks to prominent local and regional arts organizations so students can meet arts professionals in their work environments, and experience firsthand the day-to-day operations and innerworkings of fine arts companies. 

 

Employment and internship opportunities  

Our Internship Coordinator regularly meets with employers to create opportunities and promote internships in the community. Open opportunities are shared with students through a weekly post on the ArtsForce Canvas community. All internships are vetted using the National Association of College and Employers (NACE) standards.

 

Helping students articulate the value of their degree

In the ArtsForce Canvas community, we regularly post relevant information that helps students articulate the value of their arts degree, become internship ready and learn how to network. Such topics include, how to conduct an informational interview, resources for improving your resumé and cover letter, ways to get involved in the art community on and off campus, and connecting students with mentors in their field. Check out all the past programs and events here! 

Informational Interviews with community professionals

“ArtsForce Asks” is a Finer Points blog series that highlights informational interviews conducted by ArtsForce interns with arts professionals. This series aims to provide CFA students with internship and career advice from the employer’s perspective, and illuminate the varied paths to success artists take.   


Annual Networking Event 

ArtsForce hosts an Annual Networking event that brings arts employers to campus, giving students a chance to network, receive professional guidance, ask questions, and connect with fellow CFA students across disciplines.

 

Student interns reflect and share their experiences  

Once students complete internships, we are eager to share their advice with their peers. Starting this fall, “Insights from an Intern,” a new Finer Points blog series, will highlight exceptional internship experiences of CFA students, as well as their advice for students seeking similar opportunities. Check out the first student profile here!

 

Published in Finer Points Blog

Research from two University of Utah College of Fine Arts undergraduate students was recently published in the university's 2020 Undergraduate Research Journal. The Undergraduate Research Journal collects and celebrates the contributions our undergraduate students from all over campus make to scholarship in their fields.

Sydney Porter Williams from the Department of Art & Art History focused her research on the outcomes and benefits of a collaborative mural project in Murray, while Amelie Bennett from the School of Dance examined the role of dance therapy in improving empathy and emotion recognition in non-clinical adults and children. 

We encourage you to learn more about these important student projects, as well as discover the work of many other undergraduate researchers from across campus disciplines! 

 

THE MURRAY MURALS PROJECT: CONNECTING LIVES ON CANVAS -- Sydney Porter Williams, Department of Art & Art History
Faculty Mentor: V. Kim Martinez

"The Murray Murals Project is a collaborative effort between University of Utah art students and thousands of Murray youth and community members. These groups worked collaboratively over the course of the fall 2018 semester to create community-engaged, portable murals for nine Murray elementary schools. These murals now hang in the halls of these schools, giving students ownership of their artwork and of their communities." 

HOW WE MOVE WHEN WE FEEL: KINESTHETIC EMPATHY THROUGH MIRROR NEURONS – Amelie Bennett, School of Dance
Faculty Mentor: Kate Mattingly

"This work examines the commonly accepted notion of dance/movement therapy that mirroring another person’s movement will increase both participants’ levels of empathy. Mirroring involves a participant creating expressive dance; in a therapeutic setting, the therapist mirrors their movements to establish a relationship and gain insight into their physical and emotional experience."

 

EXPLORE THE 2020 UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH JOURNAL

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Emeri Fetzer 

As members of the Michie Jazz Quintet, premier jazz chamber ensemble here at the University of Utah, reached their second and final year in their unique configuration, it seemed the right moment to mark their time spent playing together with something lasting, something tangible. 

Supported through an endowment generously made by the James R. and Nanette S. Michie Foundation, the group's five members had many wonderful opportunities to collaborate in a laboratory setting, and maintained a rigorous public performance schedule during the school year. As a result,  Anaïs Chantal Samuels (vocals), Evan Taylor (trumpet), Tony Elison (piano), Alicia Wrigley (bass, vocals), and Matt Wilson (drums) cultivated a unique and synergistic sound. 

“The thing that was the most powerful to me was to have a recurring group of people I love and trust and that we had the opportunity to have an ongoing journey over a long period of time...I really felt like I grew alongside Evan, Anaïs, Tony and Matt. I will miss that experience so much” 
- Alicia Wrigley 

 “As their coach this year, I encouraged them to document the sound and style of the group that they had forged together, as well as create recordings that can serve as samples for auditions, publicity, and for posterity," explained John Petrucelli, visiting assistant professor in the U School of Music.  

Before they all graduated (and before COVID-19 drastically changed their final semester), they came together to record. “My favorite part of recording the EP was being able to share that space with my friends during our final year at the University of Utah. We've all worked really hard to get to where we are musically and it was really nice to see that all come together and to have something documented that demonstrates our passion for music,” vocalist Anaïs Chantal Samuels reflected. 

As Petrucelli describes it, the Michie Quintet's EP is a study in contrast. "In the span of three compositions, the ensemble moves between multiple styles, meters, and soloists. Anais Chantal Samuels voice is featured on a wonderful old ballad entitled "Till There Was You," while Evan Taylor's arrangement of "Bloomdido" nods to the cutting edge contemporary jazz approach of Rudresh Mahanthappa and Adam O'Farrill. Alicia Wrigley and Matt Wilson have a wonderful rhythmic dialogue throughout "April in Paris," while Tony Elison's piano playing plays provocateur throughout the session," he said. 

“We had to set up a mad labyrinth of sound panels as we tried to minimize bleed between microphones. It felt like the adult version of building a blanket fort, and will be a mental image I’ll always remember,” described bass player Alicia Wrigley.

The experience not only resulted in a strong final product, it also taught them valuabe things about the music business. “I hope that our students have learned that at the heart of recording is the craft of negotiation. Between musicians, producers, composers, arrangers, studio engineers, photographers, videographers, we convene spontaneously and improvise the process as we go. Recordings highlight strengths and reveal weaknesses, leaving a remembrance of ourselves in a particular time, place and feeling, pointing to future musical ideas and passageways,” Petrucelli said.

Undoubtedly, the Michie Quintet shaped its five committed members beyond the classroom, bringing high level professional experience, and friendships to boot. 

“I can honestly say that being in this program has shown me how to act as a professional in music. I started this program in my second year and had no idea what I was doing or how to go about a career in music. From that I learned the business side of things which I now take on when working on gigs that I've booked outside of school,”  Samuels explained.

“Socially, I have to say that the Michie group has been the highlight of my college career. When I first joined this group, all of the members in the band were older than me and took me under their wings to show me all the things music has to offer and helped me build my confidence as a vocalist which was something I really struggled with. Two years ago before performances my stage fright would get the best of me and I really doubted myself but through time I was able to value myself.”

“The thing that was the most powerful to me was to have a recurring group of people I love and trust and that we had the opportunity to have an ongoing journey over a long period of time," Wrigley added. "So much of the work that we do is with pick-up groups—it both showcases our versatility and pays our bills. But playing with a recurring group, having a musical home to come back to and experiment in, that was special. I really felt like I grew alongside Evan, Anaïs, Tony and Matt. I will miss that experience so much” 

Check out "The Michie Sessions" here! 

Published in Finer Points Blog

The College of Fine Arts is delighted to present the 2020 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher award to Alicia Ross from the School of Dance.

In 2015, The Office of Undergraduate Research established the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award to recognize an outstanding undergraduate researcher from each college. Faculty mentors are invited to nominate students, and awardees are selected by committee. The criteria for the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award include: a record of sustained commitment to developing research skills and knowledge under the supervision of a faculty mentor, evidence of independent and critical thinking, active participation in research-related activities on campus, and positive contributions to the research culture of the department, college, and university.

Alicia's impressive accomplishments as an undergraduate researcher and student leader in the College of Fine Arts center around her commitment to her work as a movement researcher and performer.  In the last three years, Alicia has engaged in 14 research related activities, as a performer, collaborator, choreographer or participant.  These include her being selected to participate in work by internationally recognized artists Doug Varone and Anouk van Dijk.

“Alicia is the first undergraduate artist-scholar that I can remember who has made such a compelling case for movement research as a valid form of critical inquiry. Her proposal for the Outstanding Researcher Award articulated the multifaceted modalities that artists draw on at all times when creating and dancing in movement—physics, musicality, psychology, design, spatial-awareness, history, physicality, kinesiology— all at the neuromuscular level. Her work in the department has exemplied this multiplicity, as she has shone as a performer, maker of dances, and writer/scholar. It was a joy to see her synthesize all of this vast body-mind knowledge at receive this deserved award.”
-Satu Hummasti 
Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs and Associate Professor, School of Dance

 

In Her Own Words 

Name: Alicia Ross
Major: Modern Dance
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Three words that describe you: imaginative, passionate, intuitive 
Favorite CFA class or teacher: My favorite College of Fine Arts class is improvisation because I get to explore all kinds of movement and the infinite possibilities of the body.   
Most memorable moment at CFA: My most memorable moment here was performing "CLEANSLATE" by Satu Hummasti. It was a significant work that encouraged kindness and equality in today's world. 
One thing you learned at CFA: The most important thing I've learned at the College of Fine Arts is that I can make a difference as an artist. I have a powerful voice as a dancer and choreographer that can be used to enact change in society.  
What inspires you: I'm inspired by all of the courageous and graceful women in my life.
Summary of major accomplishments both on and off campus: On campus I have performed in works by Stephen Koester, Anouk van Dijk, Satu Hummasti, Eric Handman, and more. I have also choreographed and performed a solo entitled Introspection, and showcased two of my dance films in our Modern Student Concert. Off campus I have participated and performed in programs such as the Ririe Woodbury Summer Intensive and the Doug Varone Summer Workshop. Lastly, I look forward to continuing my off campus performance career after graduation in a local show at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.    
One sentence that describes your work: My work aims to convey the beauty, complexity, and intensity of the human experience through movement and emotion.

“Throughout my four years here I have been able to explore the potential of the body for creating art that is meaningful and alive. Studying the creative process with my professors has allowed me to make discoveries and figure out what it means to be a movement researcher and performer. Each professor has taught me a new way to study dance and produce material that conveys a message to the audience… Being able to physically create and feel movement that portrays intellectual thoughts and ideas is complex yet fulfilling. Through my corporeal research I have found a deep understanding and appreciation for the creative process and the expression of the dancing body within my discipline. The guidance I have received from my professors and mentors to develop that will definitely impact my future projects and long-term artistic career.”
-Alicia Ross, Class of 2020

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Edward Bateman 

This is a guest post by Edward Bateman, artist and Associate Professor in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Utah, and head of the Photography and Digital Imaging area.


Artists have always used the power of their work to rise the challenges of their times. Together with my Advanced Digital Imaging students, we doing something very different for the end of our semester… a creative response to our current pandemic situation. We are basing our group project on a work of classical Italian literature: "The Decameron" by Boccaccio that aptly reflects our circumstances: 

In Italy during the time of the Black Death (March 1348), a group of seven young women and three young men flee from plague-ridden Florence to shelter in a deserted villa in the countryside. To pass the evenings, each member of the group tells a story each night, resulting in ten nights of storytelling. Thus, by the end they have told 100 stories. Each of the ten characters is charged as King or Queen of the company for one of the ten days in turn. This charge extends to choosing the theme of the stories for that day.

We have been doing the same thing photographically – telling the stories of this time… and are creating a book to document what it is like to live in this pandemic crisis. Like the storytellers in "The Decameron," we are sharing our art. Twice a week we gather together on Zoom to look at our images, compare experiences, and get our next theme from the one designated as our leader for the next “day.”  

Their willingness to share their trials and also their optimism and creativity has been a genuine source of strength and hope for me at this time. Our book will go beyond this moment to show the complexities, feelings and responses that we as a group, sheltering from the plague, have experienced together.

For our new "Decameron," each student has given us a theme which will be a chapter in the book. Their choices have been remarkably challenging, and given us all much to consider as we go through this time of isolation. Out images have become a place to creatively embody our experiences.

  • Day 1 - At This Time
  • Day 2 - Collectively Disconnected
  • Day 3 - Routinely Interrupted
  • Day 4 - Photographs Not Seen
  • Day 5 - Silver Linings
  • Day 6 - Solace and Inspiration
  • Day 7 - Indoor-Outdoor
  • Day 8 - Collapsing
  • Day 9 - CHAOS! in the supermarket
  • Day 10 - Heroes 

We all have a need to share our stories and feel connected. Art is a way to create meaning, especially in times of uncertainty. Also, we are doing what photographers have always done – produce a lasting record documenting this moment in time. The eight of us (I am included at their invitation) have now completed our images – 80 of them! So along with a personal text from each, it is time to make our book.

I couldn’t be more proud of my students! Both in how they have faced the difficulties of these past weeks, but also in how they have creatively challenged themselves and produced art that far exceeded my expectations! These are my heroes: Will Betts, Sam Devine, Ethan Edwards, Brandi Gilbert, John Moffitt, Claire Palmer, and Heather Pierce. Their willingness to share their trials and also their optimism and creativity has been a genuine source of strength and hope for me at this time. Our book will go beyond this moment to show the complexities, feelings and responses that we as a group, sheltering from the plague, have experienced together.


The gallery below offers a sneak peek into the work of the Advanced Digital Imaging class!
Take a look. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Merinda Christensen 

The 7th Annual ArtsForce Networking Event that took place on March 7th displayed the strength and dynamic of the arts from both students and professionals. 

ArtsForce is a student-led organization under the supervision of CFA Internship Coordinator, Kate Wolsey, that strives to create opportunities that help students develop skills needed for professional growth during and after college. During this event, local artists from film, music, theatre, art, and dance came to speak to students across the College of Fine Arts about how to prepare for a successful and fulfilling career in the arts. 

“The biggest lesson I learned from this event is that community is important…Collaborating with people from other fields in your community might spark ideas that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was inspired to find ways that my art could enrich or help others.”
– Kira Sincock, Entertainment Arts and Engineering Major, Drawing Minor

This event started out with a panel of local art professionals (and College of Fine Arts alumni!) David HabbenKylie Howard, and Camille Washington. They discussed times when collaborating with another professional changed their work process, what they do every day that contributes to their success, and how the community has been important to them as they continue their career, including where students can look to build their own community. Their experiences and advice were insightful as they emphasized the importance of doing your best and recognizing where your art and skills can and will take you. The focus of the panelists was to address how to succeed and being true to your work even through the tough times you will experience as an artist. 

Important takeaways: 

  • Kylie Howard communicated to the students that it’s important to pick yourself up, even when it gets hard because you are valuable to your community and workforce. She also mentioned that you don’t have to figure it all out right now, discover your strengths and make it work for you! 
  • David Habben emphasized that there will be times where you are in a rut – times will be hard. But, to find a way to take a risk, even when things are hard, that is the best time to take those risks. 
  • Finally, Camille Washington wanted to present the importance of how valuable your skills are – stay engaged in what you’re interested in and always know you will be able to find a path to apply your knowledge and skills as you reach out and build the community you want to see.  

During the Networking Luncheon, which followed our panel, students had the opportunity to communicate and connect with local artist of different arts disciplines. Students gained support and guidance as they were able to articulate the value of their arts degree in a professional setting. Positive feedback highlighted the importance of this event and how it was beneficial to each student that came. 

“The Networking Event helped me build my networking skills…I have new contacts to help me start to build my career before I graduate. Something that used to be so  intimidating is more doable.” 
– Katie McLaughlin, Instrumental Music Education; Oboe Performance Major 

The 7th Annual Networking Event created opportunities and ideas for students preparing for a career in the arts. We want to thank the panel, local art professionals, University of Utah faculty, staff, and students for joining us this year. CFA Students, don’t forget to join ArtsForce for up-to-date information about internships and career related opportunities, ways to get more involved with the arts on and off campus, and more!

*Author Merinda Chrinstensen is an Instrumental Performance major in the School of Music, with an emphasis in harp. She is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

We are about to graduate a class of brilliant, creative and remarkably resilient students during a global pandemic. This is a first. And it’s not without sincere disappointment and loss. While this moment presents unique challenges, as artists, we are no strangers to creative thinking, and the leadership of the College of Fine Arts is undeterred in our drive to celebrate the momentous achievements of the graduating class of 2020!   

What will make these celebration powerful is if you participate — as students, faculty, family and friends.
We will be rolling out a full week of celebrations starting on 4/27 on our blog, our social media, and via email.  

To our graduating class, if you haven’t already, please send us a photo or video of your favorite moment, people, or place at the U.
Upload your memory to this UBox or send to this email address by Monday, 4/20 to be included in the virtual celebrations.
Click 'Join Folder' on the top menu bar to access the 'Upload' feature.
Please include a brief description of your memory when you upload your file. Descriptions can be added under “File Properties” section on the righthand side of the window once your file is uploaded.

You have been making us proud for years now, and we can’t wait to see how you continue to shine.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Anastasia Briana Drandakis

We don't know what life looks like on the other side of this, but we do know, specifically about the arts, is that the arts persist. 
-David Eggers, assistant professor 

David Eggers, experienced Broadway professional and new assistant professor of musical theatre at the University of Utah, had planned to spend the spring 2020 semester organizing the Senior Showcase and teaching acting scene work. However, when the U switched to online courses and all on-campus performances were canceled or postponed for the remainder of the semester, his priorities changed, just like many other College of Fine Arts educators. The following responses are his thoughts on the shift to online courses within his field, what he’s done to help his students get the most from their remaining courses, and how he’s balanced life for himself. In a time of change and uncertainty, he’s leaning on the arts.



When the transition to online courses happened, what were your first priorities?

My first priority when we shifted to online classes was really to figure out how I could pivot our focus with the senior class so that they would feel like they were still going to graduate in the spring, having gotten a lot of value out of their Studio 4 class. We were grieving the loss of the senior show, and I wondered if there could be any way we could preserve our work. Ultimately, I concluded that we wouldn’t be able to honor the fine work that we had done because it was all choreographed and staged. So really, my first focus was to try to figure out, “Okay if we can’t do that show, how can we cram in as much value as possible for these seniors in the ultimately 5 ½ weeks of classes left, so that they feel like they have grown and are even more prepared to leave the university setting and move out into the real world and the job world?


What was it like to grieve the loss of a show with your students? 

This is a new experience for all of us, but personally, I have been through something that this reminds me of. I have worked on shows in the past in the professional world, in New York City as a creative artist. One day, we were working on the show and preparing the staging and the choreography, and then the next hour, it was taken away because funding for the show disappeared. It was an immediate loss -- it upheaves your sense of security, because you’re suddenly facing something that’s out of your control, and everybody responds to that differently. For our seniors, some of them were quite devastated by that show, that they had already worked so many months on, to be taken away. Some of the others were more quickly able to decide that although it was sad and upsetting, it was ultimately the best option in order to stay safe. They were grateful for the work that we had already accomplished on the show, and they were already finding positive things that they had taken away from the experience. I felt a whole range of emotions for certain individuals in my class. For certain seniors, this was their big performance opportunity. We had worked so closely on crafting those performances, their characters, their vocal work, their staging, their acting, and we were looking forward to that next step in terms of crossing the finish line. The grief really is different, depending on who you talk to, but all of us, collectively, are facing a loss of normalcy that none of us could have foreseen. 


How were you best able to support the students during this time as their professor? 

We quickly pivoted to online teaching on Zoom, which gives us a chance to all see and hear each other, and I’ve only ever done live classes since we switched. Because of this sense of loss, I really wanted to keep communication open with everyone and give them a chance to express themselves. I literally say, “Okay how’s everyone doing? What’s going on?” Then I’ll try to dive deeper and see if there’s anything that’s been challenging someone or see if they need help and try to be a resource for them. If it’s something beyond what I’m qualified to support, then I connect them to resources from the U. I’ve also created dialogues outside of the online classes where I’ve posted links to resources from the U where they can get counseling, support, and can reach out to advisors, just so they know that they have these tools at their fingertips. Because some days are harder than others. I think that just having another person in your life who cares about you and supports you has been really valuable for my students. So, I’m trying to show up for them. Not just as a professor, but as a person offering support and being of service to them any way that I can. 

Now, when we’ve got both video screens open the whole-time side by side and they’re the only two things on my computer screen, I can see both of these young actors close up for the entire scene. It’s almost like putting their work under a microscope. Some of my actors are now revealing a deeper level of work, that I wasn’t able to necessarily see in the larger classroom environment. 

What was the shift in curriculum and how have the students received the most out of it?

Some things that have worked really well in the studio or classroom setting, just don’t work as well, even on a live video call. But some of the core basics of what I was trying to achieve as an acting teacher, I’m still able to achieve even in an online setting. We’re finding that with live video classes, other things that weren’t part of the classroom are now adding to our work. In the scene work that we’re doing with the sophomores, in the classroom, you weren’t able to always see both actors in the scene close up enough to see what was going on emotionally with each person.  Now, when we’ve got both video screens open the whole-time side by side and they’re the only two things on my computer screen, I can see both of these young actors close up for the entire scene. It’s almost like putting their work under a microscope. Some of my actors are now revealing a deeper level of work, that I wasn’t able to necessarily see in the larger classroom environment. With Zoom, my students figured out that they could change the background that is behind them. Some of them have been able to use new backgrounds to do their scene in an environment that totally changed their work, and it was magical. It was a different form of creativity, where they were actually able to show us what they envisioned that environment to look like, and that was exciting for us to see.


For the seniors, we ended up focusing on getting them ready for the real world. I come from the commercial theatre, New York City, Broadway, all of that, so I found resources and connections that could help them prepare and shed light on the profession that awaits them. I brought in several guest speakers to meet the students virtually, make connections and give insight into auditions, casting, what it means to be a good employee in a show, and what kinds of things directors and choreographers from Broadway today are really looking for. The students responded that this is the kind of stuff that they wanted, in addition to putting together a show. Now they’re able to ask professionals all these questions. It took away so much mystery for them, and shed light on what they need to focus on, how they can best represent themselves and how to start stepping into auditions.


The following list of topics were covered by the top tier guest artists for Eggers’ senior class:

Kathleen Marshall (Tony Award-winning Broadway choreographer & director) 

-Best practices for auditions and being a valued member of a show once cast

Michael Kirsten & Diane Riley (A-list agents in NYC with the agency Harden-Curtis-Kirsten-Riley (HCKR))
- Getting an agent, self-marketing, reels, and video submissions

Kate Reinders & Andrew Samonsky (Musical theatre actors with credits on Broadway, national tours, and TV & film)
-Making it in the business and the differences in all the various opportunities

Lorin Latarro (Broadway choreographer ofWaitress, Doubtfire and other high-profile shows)
-Auditioning for shows  and how to best present yourself

Kirstin Chavez (Accomplished singer and actor, known for her portrayal of Carmen)
-Managing finances for the artist

Michael Lavine (In-demand vocal coach in NYC for Broadway leading players)
-Working on material for auditions and performances


How would you say your life as a professor and a parent is being managed at this time, and do you have any supportive advice for fellow educators in that position?

We are all figuring this out together. I think one of the things that has helped me is to practice some patience and some self-kindness. I always try to practice self-care, and it involves a whole routine, but it’s even more important now that we take care of ourselves. Physical health, mental health, and all the individual tools that a person may use for each of those areas of health are extremely important. We also model that behavior. If you’re a parent, you can model that behavior for your children. If you’re a professor, you can model that behavior for your students. I shared a prototype of a journal that I do as part of my daily practice with my sophomores, and about 6-10 of them wanted to imitate it. Because I’m modeling behavior for these younger people, I’m offering up things that they can do to be productive and that they can do to support their own mental wellness. I also speak to how energy and enthusiasm is a choice, and I always remind my students (and myself) that what I bring to each moment of every day is up to me. 

Tips from Eggers' daily routine to support mental wellness include:

  • Do something physical every day.
  • Meditate every day, even if it’s only for five minutes.
  • Create a mission statement for yourself and your life that you write every day. 
  • Writing three promises to yourself that change every week that you promise to accomplish to contribute to your own sense of success and self-reliance.
  • Practice a random act of kindness at least once a week.

They’re not afraid to be who they are and bring what’s going on with them to the classroom. I feel like I’ve tried to foster a safe place for them so that they know that that’s okay. They are keeping an open mind. They are exploring with me these new ways of meeting, these new ways of communicating. These new ways of telling stories as actors, and we’ve found those silver linings. 

How do you feel your students are handling the current events? 

They’re showing up and I am super proud of them. The grief could be so extreme, the feeling of loss could be so extreme, the fear of the unknown could be so extreme that it could be debilitating. But they are all showing up, and they’re also showing up with these emotions. They’re not afraid to be who they are and bring what’s going on with them to the classroom. I feel like I’ve tried to foster a safe place for them so that they know that that’s okay. They are keeping an open mind. They are exploring with me these new ways of meeting, these new ways of communicating. These new ways of telling stories as actors, and we’ve found those silver linings. The cool things that are only available with a live online class that we didn’t have in the classroom. And they’re not blowing this off, they’re still showing up, being there for each other, turning in their assignments and they’re still applying themselves. The thing is, we don’t know when this will all come to an end, but we are all together just supporting each other through each day and each class, and making the best of it. 


What are your thoughts on the future of the arts? 

We don’t know what life looks like on the other side of this, but what we do know, specifically about the arts, is that the arts persist. The arts have been a pillar of society from time memorial. Look back at the Greeks, look back through the Middle Ages, look back through every time period of humanity and the arts remain a constant. And it will remain a constant through this time period as well. What we don’t know, which is both scary on one hand and exciting on the other, is how the arts will keep evolving through this. There will be new expressions of theatre and of storytelling that come out of this experience. There will be new plays, new films, new musicals that are written addressing this whole experience. We don’t know how we’ll tell those stories, necessarily, on the other side of this, because we don’t know exactly what and how our society will thrive on the other side, but we will find a way. Those art forms will reveal themselves as we move forward, and some of our colleagues will be the creators of those pieces of art and they will also be the leaders of those new forms of expression. 

So, the arts persist. That’s something that I feel needs to be shouted from the rooftops and everyone needs to remember that. We need to take confidence in that and be proud of our own position in this moment in humanity, in our history as a people. Another way to look at it, is not so much about being scared about what is no longer with us right now, but focusing on what could come out of this. I try to remind myself that, this wasn’t the moment we expected, but this could be the moment that we were born for. 

Published in Finer Points Blog
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