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Each year, many fine arts students immerse themselves in exciting research, leaving a mark on their disciplines.
The College of Fine Arts is excited to celebrate the exciting work of two finalists for Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher 2022.

F22 Outstanding Seniors v210

Brynn Staker St. Clair collaborated with Dr. Elizabeth Craft in the musicology department in the U School of Music on her research on early American musical theatre. Staker catalogued and organized clips from Illinois newspapers that provided much-needed information on George M. Cohan and early American musical theater, as well as examined Utah newspapers from Cohan's time to better understand his national reach. She presented the research findings alongside Dr. Craft at "Fridays with Faculty." Staker was also employed by the University of Utah History Project, working to build a comprehensive history of the School of Music, spending signifiant library hours cataloguing programs and other historical university resources. 

In Their Own Words

"I began my research because I took a class from Dr. Elizabeth Craft. I discovered a fascination with American music. It’s always been my favorite to sing, as I consider myself a poetry nerd. Dr. Craft talked about the book she was writing, and that immediately caught my attention. I credit her with inspiring my interest in research. 

This semester I have expanded my research to focus on local performances. I have loved familiarizing myself with Utah performance history: the significant players, the vast appreciation, and the general response. I feel like this branch of my research has helped me connect very personally with the material. 

My research last semester was all about race in American musical theater. This was a fascinating project for me and allowed me to look more deeply at the prejudices embedded in the performances this country has come to love. It certainly taught me to look closer and to examine art through different perspectives."


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Serena Collins saw her original, full-length play entitled "Sympathizer" through all of its writing and production stages over the span of nearly two years and four academic semesters. Her research culminated in an off-campus production of the play, as well as a staged reading on campus as part of the Department of Theatre's New Plays Workshop, April 25-27 at PAB 115. 

"Sympathizer" centers around main character Calla, who finds herself in uncharted territory when her oldest and closest friend does something bad. With strong opinions on all sides, Calla tries to figure out what is right in the #metoo era. The script lives in the aftermath of sexual assault and begs the question, how do we begin to heal?

In Their Own Words

"One of my favorite discoveries came from an audience member at the production of "Sympathizer." They were a [sexual assault] survivor themselves and after the performance we had a long conversation about the difficulty of a survivor seeing their perpetrator go on to live a normal life. In that conversation, I realized an important nuance that the script was missing. I realized that, as important as it was to highlight empathy as an agent of change, it was equally important to validate the fact that no one owes a perpetrator a second chance. Full stop. That conversation added a whole scene to the current draft of the script!

When I started thinking about these issues, I was afraid to share my questions and thoughts with the people in my life because it was taboo to question the logic of my political group.  Questioning meant disloyalty—it was equated to being what my peer group called an “abuser sympathizer.” Now, I am less afraid of social repercussions because I feel so passionate about the conclusions that my research has brought me—human beings are complicated. Shame doesn’t work. Empathy does. 

Professors in the Actor Training Program would often ask us to identify our artistic voices by asking ourselves the question: 'as an artist, what do you need to say?' Through my research, I have found my artistic voice. What I believe I have to offer to the world is my passion about and belief in the power of empathy."

Published in Finer Points Blog

The College of Fine Arts is delighted to present the 2022 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher award to Comstock from the Department of Art & Art History.

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.

Comstock’s impressive accomplishments as an undergraduate researcher in the College of Fine Arts center around a commitment to creation of a body of work investigating applications of new materialism to contemporary ceramics.

In Comstock’s personal statement, they write about the impact research has had on their work as an artist, “As I was collecting my ideas and scholarly research in my thesis, every new piece I generated picked up a conceptual thread and grew upon it. I’ve found increased independence moving through my degree as a result, finding an ever-increasing clarity around a theoretical cache that all my work pulls from regardless of medium…. Everything has all become fodder within a holistic and immersive creative research process.”

Comstock presented their research titled “A Balmy Elsewhere: Manifesto for Restorative Materialism” at the 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium, and is submitting their Honors thesis in full to the Undergraduate Research Journal. Their work will also be exhibited Friday, April 22, 2022 at Studio Elevn in Salt Lake City. This summer, with support from the College of Fine Arts Dean’s Travel Fund, Comstock will present a performance piece in Berlin, Germany with artist collective Aktionskunst Park Gruppe.

In Their Own Words

Name: E.C. Comstock
Pronouns: Any Pronoun
Majors and minors: Art--Ceramics emphasis, Sculpture minor, Honors
Hometown: Boise, ID
Three words that describe you: amorphous, inquisitive, fraught
Most impactful class or professor: The most impactful class I had was Ceramic Surfaces, the level of experimentation Brian Snapp encouraged in Surfaces hugely expanded my practice and entirely shifted my approach to a far more holistic conception of form and surface. This class also introduced me to Skin: Surface, Substance + Design by Ellen Lupton which became a vital text in my thesis, and served as a formative period of bonding with my clay cohort.
A CFA moment you’ll never forget: I will never forget my first wood-firing, which was the first time I felt like I was part of something larger than myself in my program. The exchange and passing down of technical knowledge is so visible and tangible during the two-day long firing, and the sharing of food and music cements the community building that occurs while firing. 
What inspires you: I'm inspired by fringes and edges, the generative friction found when rich, differing substances meet one another or theoretical and practical approaches butt up. Bringing a lens of relational aesthetics to my everyday life has been a major source of inspiration, considering every action I make an art action and every material I handle a potential collaborator.
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus: Outstanding Sculpture Student nomination, International Sculpture Center; Eccles Scholar (received Eccles full tuition scholarship through Honors College); Emma Eccles Jones Fine Arts Housing Scholarship, exhibited in Paper and Clay juried exhibition at Utah State University, Statewide Annual at the Rio Gallery, Aktionskunst Park Gruppe in Berlin, Germany; received Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program funding and a Small Grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research. 

"As I was collecting my ideas and scholarly research in my thesis, every new piece I generated picked up a conceptual thread and grew upon it. I’ve found increased independence moving through my degree as a result, finding an ever-increasing clarity around a theoretical cache that all my work pulls from regardless of medium…. Everything has all become fodder within a holistic and immersive creative research process."

Published in Finer Points Blog

 The College of Fine Arts is delighted to present the 2022 Outstanding Seniors from each of our five academic units. These individuals were nominated for their academic achievements, artistic and scholarly accomplishments, and ongoing commitment to their craft. We are inspired by each of them, and look forward to witnessing the ways they continue to contribute to our community. We are honored to have shared their time here as students.

F22 Outstanding Seniors v22Alexandria Jensen
Department of Art & Art History

Pronouns: She/Her
Majored in: Art Teaching with K-12 Licensure
Hometown: Salt Lake City
Three words that describe you: Kind, Passionate, Creative
Most impactful class or professor: Beth Krensky really encouraged and inspired me throughout my time in the College of Fine Arts. The kindness and care that she radiates to all of her students is so important, and her passion for art education further reinforced my choice to be an art educator.
A CFA moment you’ll never forget: I really loved all of my studio courses throughout my time at the CFA. I was able to learn about and explore so many different mediums and develop a newfound passion for ceramics. I am really grateful to all my professors who encouraged me!
What inspires you: My students inspire me. Seeing them make discoveries and breakthroughs when exploring different artistic processes always inspires me to create and explore with my own artwork. 
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus: I have accepted a position as the ceramics teacher at a school in the community I have been working with youth in for five years.

F22 Outstanding Seniors v23
Fiona Thomas

School of Dance

Pronouns: she/her/hers
Majored in: BFA in Modern Dance, Minor in Entrepreneurship 
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Three words that describe you: passionate, curious, tenderhearted
Most impactful class or professor: It feels impossible to choose the most impactful class or professor because each one has been such a tremendous part of my journey. I will say that Contemporary Views was the first class that helped me acknowledge my fears and accomplishments simultaneously. Understanding my worth and passion as an artist is the most valuable thing I have gained as a student. 
A CFA moment you’ll never forget: When I sang for Satu and Daniel's piece in the Fall Show, called 'remember everything that spring can bring (2020 Ballads)'
What inspires you: Being around others that care deeply about something, and knowing that art can make change. 
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:

  • Volunteered with Healing in Motion Dance in 2018 and 2019
  • Taught creative dance to youth at the Utah Refugee Center at the Meadowbrook Campus site in 2019 and 2020
  • During Covid, Fiona was based in Seattle and taught a variety of classes remotely at All That Dance and at Olympic Hills, a local elementary school
  • Fiona has been a part of faculty works with Eric Handman and Daniel Clifton as well as Graduate Thesis works with Alexandra Barbier and Jessica Boone"
  • Created a collaborative work with Lia Wong to be premiered at the Spring Student Concert in February of 2020
  • Fiona has been in numerous works by fellow peers and classmates in Senior shows, Student Concerts, and Graduate shows
  • Served on student concert committee in 2020 and 2021
  • Choreographed and performed a solo this spring that her and Daniel Clifton co-created the music for, titled 'To wonder is to live. And I am the wolf'
  • This semester, Fiona is interning with Heartland, a collective directed by Molly Heller

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Yein Ji
Department of Film & Media Arts

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Majored in: Film & Media Arts BFA
Hometown: North Salt Lake
Three words that describe you: Dependable, Intuitive, Ambitious
Most impactful class or professor: Sonia & Miriam Albert-Sobrino. They are always full of energy and passion for filmmaking. They always make me laugh and they’re incredibly knowledgeable. Everyone in the film department knows how amazing these women are. They inspire me to work harder and create beautiful art.
A CFA moment you’ll never forget: The F&MAD Festival last spring. I got to watch and celebrate the films made by me and my talented friends. 
What inspires you: My family. They’ve always been supportive of everything I do. They’ve starred in some of my film projects and are always excited for my next creation. 
Summary of major accomplishments on or off-campus:

  • Vice President of Film Production Club
  • 2021 Queer Spectra Arts Festival Intern
  • 2 Semesters of Undergraduate Research
  • Pretty Girl film published in Undergraduate Literary Magazine
  • Cheers films showcased at Utah Arts Festival
  • Helped create 34 films
  • Directed 8 films

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Merinda Christensen
School of Music

Pronouns: she/her/hers
Majored in: Instrumental Performance - Harp
Hometown: West Bountiful, UT
Three words that describe you: Outgoing, Ambitious, Compassionate
Most impactful class or professor: Dr. Cathy Clayton. Cathy has been my private harp instructor over the last 4 years and welcomed me with open arms when I made my transfer from the University of Arizona to Utah. She has always been so supportive as I have found my career path and I’m grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend studying under her while here at the U. 
A CFA moment you’ll never forget: I had the most amazing opportunity to be an Emerging Leaders Intern for ArtsForce in the CFA that has really prepared and paved a path for me as I continue on with my career after graduation. The friendships and connections made while a part of ArtsForce is something I will always cherish after leaving the College of Fine Arts. 
What inspires you: I’m inspired by people that are passionate about what they do and work hard to accomplish their goals. 
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:

  • President for the School of Music Harp Ensemble: Harps at the U of U 2019 - 2022
  • ArtsForce intern for the CFA 2020 - 2021
  • Awarded Internship of the Year with ArtsForce from the Career and Professional Development Center 2021
  • First recipient of the Music Entrepreneurship Certificate from the University of Utah School of Music 2022
  • Marketing and Communications intern for UtahPresents at Kingsbury Hall 2021 - 2022
  • Event Chair and summer intern for Women’s Artistic Leadership Initiative 2020 - 2021
  • Crimson Mentor for transfer students at the University of Utah 2020 - 2021
  • Carmen Morton Christensen scholarship recipient 2018 - 2022
  • Program Assistant for THE BLOCKS: organization under the Downtown Alliance and SLC Chamber of Commerce, offered through my internship with ArtsForce
  • Director of Development for Opera Mississippi, offered through connections made while completing the Music Entrepreneurship Certificate

F22 Outstanding Seniors v26

Danny Borba
Department of Theatre​​

Pronouns: he/him/el
Majored in: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Emphasis: Actor Training Program; Minor: Ethnic Studies
Hometown: Orem, Ut
Three words that describe you: Respectful, Determined, Outgoing
Most impactful class or professor :  This one is a hard one! So I am mentioning a couple of things: 
Andra Harbold and her wisdom regarding directing has been something that continues to bring so much joy and light into my journey as an artist and a human.
Robert Scott Smith always pushes me to be better and innovate with the art.
Nathan Brian’s belief in me as a vocalist and an artist has helped me push through tough times.
Jerry Gardner has brought me peace and inspiration through Butoh and through my interactions with him.
Sarah Shippobotham amazes me continuously with the knowledge she imparts through Shakespeare or Dialects or text work. 
All of these professors and mentors (and plenty more) have pushed me to better, while also believed in me as an individual, and have encouraged me to make the theatre arts a place of inclusion and innovation. I will forever be grateful.
A CFA moment you’ll never forget: My first ArtsBash, about 4 years ago. It was the first time performing as a U of U students, and also the first time seeing how wonderfully diverse and big the College is!
What inspires you: In a specific example, Viola Davis’ journey as an artist and a human has always given comfort and inspiration. But I also want to think about my family and God. Their support and their own stories have been critical in my growth as an artist, but also as a human being. Without them, and I mean ALL of them, I would not be who I am today, or doing what I do.
Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus: Not going to lie, being a part of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series was pretty amazing, and being able to intern at Pioneer Theatre was a major goal accomplished, but one thing that stands out was being able to create a BIPOC community with my friends and establish that we belong here and aren’t going anywhere has been a very important thing for me. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

“Music is my one and only personality trait,” jokes University of Utah School of Music student Maren Hansen. Set to graduate this spring, Hansen is studying music education with a choral emphasis.

A pianist from a young age, she first found a love of singing when asked to accompany the choir at her high school. When the director encouraged her to audition, she discovered that being in the choir, rather than alongside it, really appealed to her.

Pursuing the arts in college wasn’t a no-brainer, however. Concerned that music wouldn’t be a viable career, she initially studied business. It didn’t pan out. After two semesters, she was no longer in school. 

Then, as she puts it, a “super lucky, accidental, fell-into-her-lap job” placed her as a substitute choir teacher at Summit Academy in Bluffdale. Music education was so compelling, she wanted to return for a degree. Dr. Barlow Bradford was what attracted her to the U School of Music.

“I really like when people discover their own abilities as a musician,” she said. “With junior high and high school students, that age is when they are starting to discover not just their voice as a musician but also as a human. It’s not always about the music. Sometimes it’s just like, ‘hey, you’re a person, your voice has power whether you are using it musically or not.’ To be part of that journey, to have influence on young people coming into themselves for the first time – it’s really powerful.”

Like many University of Utah students, scholarship support has made all the difference in Hansen’s story. 

“I didn’t always have scholarships. The first couple years of school I was paying out of pocket,” she explained. “The first scholarship came at a point when I was considering not finishing school. That semester I felt like I had an external reason – someone believes in me enough.” She went on: “It has enabled, allowed, encouraged me to be able to take myself seriously. [Music] is not something I am doing because I had enough money to pay for it. Someone else is expressing that it’s something worth pursuing, and something I deserve to pursue.”gala 20logo

This weekend, the U School of Music will celebrate students just like Maren and the generous community that supports them at the annual Camerata Awards.  

Established in 2001, the Camerata Awards celebrates musicians and patrons of the arts and their contributions to the University of Utah and the broader community.

Attendees leave inspired – by the stories of the passion, dedication, and talent of each year’s honorees, as well as the beautiful music of the student performers the event showcases. 

This year, the 21st Annual Camerata Awards will honor the M. Lynn Bennion Foundation and John Marlowe Nielsen for their extraordinary advocacy and support. 

M. Lynn Bennion Foundation

When beloved educator and school superintendent M. Lynn Bennion passed away in 1998, he established a foundation, naming his children Annette Clark, Carolyn Heaton, John Bennion, and Rebecca Glade as trustees. For the past 23 years, the Bennion siblings have funded more than 100 scholarships in education and music at the U and Westminster College. Doing so has brought them closer, while furthering their parent’s legacy.

John Marlowe Nielson (1908-2002)

Over a 55-year musical career, Marlowe – as he was known to most – conducted and taught thousands of Utah singers. From a humble Idaho upbringing, he graduated from the U and served on its faculty for 28 years. He turned the 30-member University Men’s Chorus into a showpiece. He established and conducted for 14 years The University Chorale – today the Utah Symphony Chorus. In retirement, he conducted the preeminent chamber choir Pro Musica of Utah for 24 years.

Join the School of Music for an unforgettable evening.


21st Camerata Awards Concert Gala
A Celebration of Music at the University of Utah

Saturday, March 26, 2022
Libby Gardner Concert Hall | 8 PM
Free and open to the public. No tickets required.

Published in Finer Points Blog
December 20 2021

We made our mark on 2021

It's the time of year for reflection, appreciation, and celebration of all that has been accomplished during the past year. 2021 was filled with highlights in the University of Utah College of Fine Arts and its five academic units. Between performances, exhibitions, guest artists, and special anniversaries, one thing is for sure – we made our mark. 

Let's take a look at the recent news and accolades! 

Department of Art & Art History

  • "Space Maker," a group exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, featured 33 faculty artists and was curated by alumna Nancy Rivera. 
  • Michelle Peterein (Assistant Professor in Graphic Design), Moses Williams (Assistant Professor in Sculpture Intermedia), and Meekyung MacMurdie (Assistant Professor in Art History) joined the faculty.
  • The Department hosted renowned visiting artists Rick Griffith, Amy Cutler, Maria Theresa Elves, and Del Harrow. 
  • Graphic Design students, led by faculty mentor Carol Sogard, hosted the Worn Again Clothing Exchange, encouraging all of campus to consider fast fashion, sustainability, and the global impacts of consumption. 
  • The Department hosted PaperWest – the 3rd National Works on Paper Juried Exhibition, showcasing contemporary works on paper by 63 artists from throughout the country.
  • Exhibitions in the Gittins Gallery, featuring student and faculty work, included: Sam Wilson's "Face It...I seem to be drawing a crowd," Sandy Brunvand's "It's Not Always Black and White," the Painting and Drawing Exhibition, Holiday Art Sale, and more. 

School of Dance 

  • In September, the College of Fine Arts celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance alongside many esteemed friends, including the Marriott family. 
  • The School welcomed new faculty members, Alexandra Barbier (Morales Fellow), Joselli Deans (Visiting Associate Professor), Cherylyn Lavagnino (Visiting Professor), and Monica Stephenson (Adjunct Assistant Professor). 
  • Students showcased their work in Fall Dance 1, Modern Student Concert, Fall Dance 2, Ballet Showcase, and the MFA candidates' production of "Coddiwomple."
  • The School of Dance hosted guest artists Dean Vollick, Ephrat Asherie, and Bashaun Williams. 

Department of Film & Media Arts

  • The Department of Film & Media Arts welcomed two new screenwriters to the faculty: Hubbel Palmer and Max Adams.
  • Students participated in the annual Pitch Competition, presenting not only ideas but also budgets, casting processes, and production plans. 
  • The second drive-in F&MAD Festival shared student films with a public audience who tuned in from their individual vehicles. 
  • Award-winning filmmaker and photographer Robert Machoian visited campus. 

School of Music 

  • Dozens of recitals were livestreamed via Live at Libby, the School's YouTube channel, showcasing the work of undergraduate and graduate musicians. 
  • The School of Music welcomed Dr. Rebekah Daniel as Visiting Director of Wind Ensemble, and Dr. Stephanie DeLuca as Assistant Director of Athletic Bands. 
  • Students had the opportunity to work with guest artists Vadim Guzman, Kyle Johnson, Boris Berman, Lauren Hunt, Tyler Nelson, Cecily Ward, and more. 
  • The new Electroacoustic Ensemble was formed. 
  • The School established a new Certificate of Entrepreneurship for Musicians, to prepare students with critical skills in finance, management, and entrepreneurship. 

Department of Theatre

College of Fine Arts

  • Arts Pass Dash gave University of Utah students the opportunity to learn about the arts on campus (and the Arts Pass program!) at 16 selected locations, where they could enter to win wonderful prizes! 
  • The annual CFA Gala 2021 showcased student work, celebrated scholarship recipients, honored Distinguished Alumni Tina Misaka, Tyler Nelson, and Lee Isaac Chung.  
  • ArtsForce provided opportunities for students to gain insight into the professional world: Career Treks, conversations with alumni on Instagram Live, interviews with professionals on ArtsForce Asks, and more!
  • The College welcomed 3 student representatives on the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee in an effort to further serve and provide important perspectives to the student population. 

Here's to a fantastic 2022!

Published in Finer Points Blog

The Dean's Office is excited to announce that applications for College of Fine Arts Scholarships for the 2022-2023 academic year are live! Apply now! 

Please find the online application, deadline, and scholarship criteria for each specific scholarship here. Recipients of each scholarship will be notified before May 2022. 

Funding your college with outside resources is one of the best ways to create the time and resources needed to be successful in College.  Start working on your scholarship applications early!  

Former Create Success Interns Abby Davis, Mason Henrie, Matthew Rudolph, and Lia Wong created this quick video to give you effective tips for navigating the scholarship application process.  Check it out!

You can find all of the College of Fine Arts College-wide Scholarships, including due dates and application links here: https://finearts.utah.edu/students/current-undergraduates/scholarships

Published in Finer Points Blog
Tagged under

By April Goddard

On the surface, the four children of Leroy and Naomi Robertson share little in common. With distinct personalities, temperaments, and goals, each pursued a unique life path.

But on one front they stand united: respect for their father, Utah composer and former U Department of Music chair Leroy Robertson (1896-1971). They also care deeply about preserving his musical legacy.

The Robertson siblings - Marian, Renee, Karen, and Jim - have over five decades invested countless hours and resources to build the Leroy Robertson Foundation, an endowment in the U School of Music.

Most recently, Karen, the third Robertson child, became the second to pledge a significant legacy gift to the Robertson Foundation.

“If I have the ability to help kids who are struggling to finish school with a scholarship, why wouldn’t I?” explained Karen (BS, ’62).

In 1970, family, colleagues, and friends sought to honor Robertson and continue his groundbreaking work to develop a world-class music department by establishing the Robertson Foundation endowment. Fifty years later, the next generation – the grandchildren of Leroy and Naomi – now lead the charge.

The Robertson Foundation has reached close to $500,000. In real terms, that means $18,000 a year for scholarships, prizes, fellowships, and performances. All four siblings, through ongoing gifts, the assignment of Robertson composition royalties, and a generous estate gift from the eldest sister, Marian, made this possible.

A renowned, award-winning Utah composer, Robertson served as Department of Music chair from 1948-1962. He ushered in its modern years by expanding the curriculum of study, instituting a doctoral program, and securing Gardner Hall as its home. Thanks to him, the Department of Music received accreditation by NASM in 1952.

“If I have the ability to help kids who are struggling to finish school with a scholarship, why wouldn’t I?”

Karen was 10 when Robertson came to the U. She remembers watching orchestra rehearsals in building 440, a former army barracks near today’s LDS Institute of Religion. She played double bass in performances with the Utah Symphony of his Book of Mormon Oratorio at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. An education major in college, she earned almost as many credits in music and art.

“My father was deeply religious, highly educated, and very devoted to his family and his work. Karen explained. “His impact on me was profound because of who he was.”

Both accomplished and goal-driven, Leroy and Naomi Robertson raised a family of high achievers. Karen found success as a musician, artist, business woman, community leader, and mother.

[My mom] had big dreams. It didn’t matter that she was a woman. Or that her culture told her not to,” said daughter Lynne Nilson. Both of Karen’s parents influenced the woman she became.

Karen’s legacy gift to the U comes from a place of love. For her father, for her family, for the next generation of musicians, and for the University where she spent so much of her formative years.

The College of Fine Arts, along with the University of Utah, is celebrating Legacy Giving in the month of October! 

Click here to learn more about legacy giving, and to discover remarkable stories of how donors have created lifetimes of impact across campus. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

If you are a student organization in the College of Fine Arts with an exciting proposal for a project that needs funding, now is your moment. 

The College of Fine Arts is accepting applications for the fall cycle of Fine Arts Fees Grants. 

Students must submit their applications by October 1st, 2021!

So here's the scoop: 

College of Fine Arts Sponsored Student Organizations at the University of Utah main campus who are recognized through the University’s Student Leadership & Involvement Office, may apply for a Fine Arts Fees Grant (FAF Grant) for noncredit activities that:

  • Enhance student learning and/or,
  • Enhance the student experience for the larger University community and/or,
  • Create, host, or attend fine arts events- or whatever you can envision while also following the University’s Campus COVID-19 response.

Steps for applying for a FAF Grant:

FAF Grants proposals for the first grant cycle must be turned into your Departmental FAF Grants Representative prior to or on October 1, 2021.  

Prior to submitting a Cycle One FAF Grant, make sure you are leading a Sponsored Student Organization by reviewing your student groups Campus Connect page. If you are not leading Sponsored Student Organization and you are interested in becoming sponsored by the College of Fine Arts, please email  for information on how to become a College of Fine Arts Sponsored Student Organization. 

Published in Finer Points Blog
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The Art of Giving celebrates remarkable stories from the College of Fine Arts donor community. 

In 1950 during his high school junior year, Ralph Gochnour’s band director took him and four other students on a six-hour round-trip from Burley, Idaho to Salt Lake to hear the Utah Symphony.

They left Burley around noon, drove to Salt Lake, had dinner, attended the concert, and drove back – returning at 2:30 a.m.

"I was totally taken by it,” Gochnour (’56, School of Music) said. "I fell in love with the flute and that changed everything." The experience spurred him to pursue a career in music.

Many College of Fine Arts students and alumni will relate to this moment – the spark that lit an all-consuming pursuit of a creative path.

Those that shape successful careers in the arts similarly credit dedicated mentors, generous financial help, and personal tenacity in helping them realize their aspirations.

Through his high school band program, Gochnour took private flute lessons from a retired professional flutist in the band room in the evening. After graduating, he attended Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York for his freshman year of college.

But the money he set aside from working after-school and on weekends ran out after one year, and Eastman raised tuition, making it difficult to return.

When he received a full scholarship from the University of Utah, he gladly transferred. Gochnour’s time at the University of Utah was rich thanks to outstanding faculty mentors and performance opportunities.

Gochnour marched and performed for three years under Director of Bands Ron Gregory, a prominent conductor from Ohio State who pioneered fast cadence marching bands in the West. Students came from all over to join one of the top collegiate marching bands in the country.

clip from University of Utah Marching Band promotional video 1949, courtesy of Ralph Gochnour

He studied composition with Department of Music chair and renowned Utah composer Leroy Robertson. He took theory from the brilliant pianist and composer Helen Folland – the first woman to receive a doctorate in music from Columbia, and private flute lessons with Eugene Foster, the principal flutist of the Utah Symphony.

And thanks to a full scholarship made possible by maestro Maurice Abravanel, he spent four summers attending the then fledgling and now renowned Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California.

He was active in the national band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi. As an undergraduate, he substituted with the Utah Symphony, which he joined after graduation in 1956 as second flutist.

At that time, the young Utah Symphony paid its members a base of $50 a week, barely enough to support one person, much less a family. To make ends meet, Gochnour also taught junior high and high school music for 16 years. "At one point, we had 35 members of the symphony who, like me, taught school." Ralph Gochnour photo

Between teaching full-time Monday through Friday, daily two-and-a-half hour Utah Symphony evening rehearsals and at least one concert on Saturdays (plus private lessons in between), music filled Gochnour’s days. Of a 43-year career with the Utah Symphony, he said, “it was my dream.” 

His advice to students who want to pursue music as a career?

“You have to have absolute love and dedication for what you're doing. That was what carried me through. I enjoyed every day that I played with the symphony, up to retirement."

Ralph and his wife Rosie, a pianist who helped him manage the Utah Symphony library for extra income while raising their eight children, have shown a remarkable commitment to paying it forward to the next generation of musicians. 

In 1997, the Gochnours established the Vic C. Oberhansley Scholarship Fund for marching band students who play trumpet. Vic, a close friend of Ralph's, played trumpet in the U’s marching and concert bands and graduated with a music degree. When he passed away, Vic left the Gochnour’s a bequest in his will.

They decided to give it to the U School of Music to start a scholarship in Vic’s honor.

In addition, for the last decade the Gochnours have funded an annual flute scholarship – the Ralph and Rosie Gochnour Flute Scholarship.

They feel fortunate to help the next generation of musicians also reach their dreams.

Published in Finer Points Blog

Experiential learning opportunities beyond the classroom help to prepare College of Fine Arts students for the professional world. The CFA Fund provides funding for these types of transformative experiences for students in Art & Art History, Dance, Film & Media Arts, Music, and Theatre: from internships within the college and with local organizations, to competitions, festivals, masterclasses, and more. It is often in these settings that students further refine professional skill sets outside their coursework and build their networks. 

Demonstrating a strong commitment to the success of emerging arts professionals, Merit Medical Systems, Inc. is matching gifts to the CFA Fund up to $7,500 this month. This generous gift opens doors for students, and encourages others in the community to fortify experiential learning in the College of Fine Arts with double the impact. 

One student from the School of Dance can already speak to the value of her Create Success internship in the CFA. 

Modern dance major Lia Wong not only manages a full course load plus rigorous rehearsals, she has also worked alongside the Academic Advising team for the past two years helping students in New Student and Transfer Orientations.

“I have been able to better my interpersonal, presentational, communication, and teamwork skills. As interns, we are involved in the creation of ideas on how to promote student success which forced me to be confident in my own thoughts, allowed me to learn how to jump in head first into a project with not much guidance, take risks, and be okay with trial and error,” she said. “I feel like I was able to get a better sense of my own degree, the possibilities I have within that degree, and how I can better articulate the value of my degree and the arts to others.” 

"From the time of its founding in 1987, Merit Medical Systems, Inc. has worked to build and strengthen the local community by supporting andDarla Gill FAAB 2019 resized donating to the arts and other cultural programs in our State. We recognize that a city with a vibrant artistic and cultural scene encourages a society of healthier, happier, more creative, and more diverse residents, and tends to attract a high level of talent to the region. We encourage our employees and others in the community to take advantage of and support the rich culture of art and education in Utah, and we appreciate being associated with the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts."
- Darla Gill
Co-Founder, Merit Medical Systems, Inc.
College of Fine Arts Advisory Board Member


Published in Finer Points Blog
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