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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

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