Displaying items by tag: School of Music

November 06 2023

An extraordinary exchange

The WA! Four Corners Tour is a powerful exchange of culture and music, highlighting six extraordinary Japanese musicians in performances across the Mountain West. Supported by a grant from the Council of Dee Fellows at the University of Utah, and led by School of Music Professor Kirstin Chavez in partnership with Assistant Professor Ashton Lazarus from the Department of World Languages & Cultures in the College of Humanities, the tour will culminate this week with multiple interdisciplinary campus presentations and a special free, public concert in Thompson Chamber Music Hall on Nov 8 at 7:30p.  

The project has been a long-time coming –– a story of chance meetings, lasting connections, and a mutual passion for music as a universal language.  

The connection first began in 2004 when, singing the title role in “Carmen” (her signature role) in China, Kirstin Chavez met musician Yuka Munehisa through mutual friends, and they hit it off instantly.  

Years later in 2011, “Carmen” brought Chavez touring once more, this time to Tokyo. Yuka brought her mother, Kayoko, to the performance at the opera house.  Afterward, Kayoko brought Chavez home to her native state of Yamaguchi, where she has directed the Yamaguchi Music Academy for many years, training young Japanese children in music. While there, Chavez had the chance to perform for school children, an experience that she says changed her life.  

“It was one of the first opportunities for me to sing up close and personal,” she explained. “I did several of the pieces just walking in and amongst the children who were seated on the floor. I realized how powerful it was to sing close to people –– to not have the separation of being on stage where there's an orchestra in between us, and you're seated at the back of the house. When you don't have that distance, the effect is immediate and profound.”  

Plans for future collaboration were not far behind that Tokyo trip. 

“We long dreamed of my coming back to Japan, and we finally managed it with some grant support from the University of Utah for the summer of 2020,” Chavez recalled. Of course, plans in 2020 were postponed for several seasons. In summer of 2022, Chavez traveled back with her production “Carmen Inside Out.” She and her friends were sure to take the opportunity to include a tour of school performances in the region. During the trip, they started to think about a possible tour in the U.S. to share Japanese musical traditions in the same way Chavez had shared her craft with the local community.  

 At this point, Chavez brought Qiao Zheng Goh, a pianist from Malaysia who had toured with her, in on the planning. Zheng and her husband had recently relocated to Phoenix, AZ and had connections to the music community there. Along with Chavez connections to Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, they felt confident they could devise a tour that would feature singing, trumpet, piano, and koto – a 13-string traditional Japanese instrument.  

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The tour of school visits and performances across the four corners, including an engagement at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix, culminates this week at the University of Utah where the group will speak to all School of Music students, as well as students studying Japanese in the Department of World Languages & Cultures. They will then crown the trip with a concert Wednesday evening (Nov. 8).  

Included in the program is a special world premiere commissioned specifically for the occasion, written by a composer and long-time friend of Yuka, Yasuzumi Tokubi, based in Tokyo. The is composition in four movements, each based on a traditional Japanese folk song. Chavez invited 14 vocal performance students in the U School of Music to perform the piece alongside the touring group.

 I conducted three different rehearsals with them during their opera workshop class,” Chavez explained. “We've been working on learning how to sing in Japanese, something we are never called upon to do as classical musicians, which is very unfortunate because it's a beautiful language.”  

Fortunately, adjunct assistant professor Dr. Haruhito Miyagi was able to help Chavez and the students understand the deeper context of the language in order to better enter into the piece. Fittingly, Miyagi’s choral arrangement of the famous “Sakura, Sakura” will also make its world premiere in the program. 

For Chavez, the opportunity to share culture through music is core to deeply understanding humanity.

“Sharing with my students, and as many people as I possibly can, the value of other cultures, knowing them, being willing to see them, to listen, to imagine –– all of that is very important,” she said.  “But also, through the help of music, it becomes so much easier to bridge the gaps, I believe. Thankfully I have dear friends who think as I do. And they came all this way to help me show it.”  

WA! Four Corners Tour: Japanese Culture Meets the US Mountain West Concert
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2023, 7:30 – 8:30PM
Thompson Chamber Music Hall 

Published in Finer Points Blog

 The College of Fine Arts is delighted to present the 2023 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.


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Avery Greig
Department of Art & Art History 

Pronouns: She/They

Majored in: Art History Major with a Diversity Certificate and a Business Minor

Hometown: I was born in Detroit, Michigan but moved to Utah from Boston, Massachusetts which I consider my second home. 

Three words that describe you: Driven, Visionary, and Open-Minded

Most impactful class or professor: My most impactful professor at the U has been Professor Sarah Hollenberg! She is a wonderful professor who urges her students to think about varying perspectives — which has greatly impacted the way I think as an undergraduate student. I really enjoyed working with her when I was the President of the Art History Student Association (AHSA), of which she was our faculty advisor and truly helped me reach for cool opportunities and get out of my comfort zone. I loved taking her Museum Practices course in which every member of the class was assigned a museum job position and as a class we created our own museum together. I will never forget that. 

A CFA moment you’ll never forget: I will never forget taking group trips to the UMFA with the Art History Student Association! 

What inspires you: Inspiration surrounds me constantly! I find little bits of inspiration all around me. I am greatly inspired by visual art and music — if you see me walking on campus, I always have my earbuds in and my head in the sky, looking at trees and plants or the shapes of the buildings on campus. Music and visual art really inspire me in my writing in the Utah Daily Chronicle, often when I find myself stuck I will turn to various forms of art media to get my writing flow back. My brilliant mother, strong father, and hard-working brother all inspire me and support me to reach my goals each and everyday, and I am inspired greatly by my beautiful and creative friends who push me to reach for big and bright things. 

Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus: I was a pre-professional ballerina at the Boston Ballet when I was in high school, President of the Art History Student Association at the U and Arts Desk Editor at the Daily Utah Chronicle. In my time as AHSA president, I co-organized a successful three part professional lecture series centering on underrepresented voices in the art world, bringing in professionals to talk to university students. Last year, I was awarded 1st Place for Best Arts Writing for the University of Utah’s Student Media which was a big honor. I also held an internship with the Utah State Department of Arts and Museums where I worked directly with the state art archive. I am extremely honored to be named this year's Art and Art History Department Outstanding Senior.

Hopes and plans for the coming year: This coming year, I am hoping to transition into an archival-based job position while I start planning for graduate school! I am planning on pursuing a Masters in Library Sciences graduate degree. Additionally, I plan to travel around this summer, including a trip back home to Boston and to Florence, Italy!

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Megan Lynch 
School of Dance 

Pronouns: She/Her

Majored in: Ballet BFA, History BA

Hometown: Winona, Minnesota 

Three words that describe you: Dedicated, passionate, optimistic

Most impactful class or professor: It is difficult to narrow it down to one person, but I find that Pablo Piantino is woven throughout my entire four years in the School of Dance. He has simultaneously challenged and encouraged me to be my most authentic self, and exude excellence both on and off stage, inside and outside the classroom. I also find that Christopher Alloways-Ramsey, Justine Sheedy-Kramer, and Maggie Tesch, who have advocated for me and mentored me over the years are also essential to my success. 

A CFA moment you’ll never forget: During my first performance with the School of Dance, the entire cast I was performing with got a card and signed it to encourage me. It taught me the importance of creating a community that cares and supports each other, and how a small act of kindness and encouragement can make such a large impact. I still have the card to this day and make a point to do similar acts for my peers. 

What inspires you: I am inspired by kind and passionate people in any area of study, willing to share that passion with others. 

Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:

  • Merit Scholarship, Ballet Department
  • Service Scholarship, College of Fine Arts
  • Ungraduated Research Opportunity Program (UROP) scholar and grant recipient
  • Research Assistant, Professor ShawnaKim Lowey-Ball, History department
  • President of Character Dance Ensemble (2022-23), Vice President (2021-22), Member (2019-2023)
  • Vice President of Student Dance Exposure Committee (2021-2023)
  • Student Advisory Council (SAC) co-president, School of Dance, Ballet Department Representative
  • FAF grant council committee member
  • Performed in numerous mainstage performances with the School of Dance, including Kitri in "Don Quixote," Princess Florine in "Sleeping Beauty," and Alejandro Cerrudo's "Second To Last," as well as many other original works by faculty and guest artists.
  • Performed in, and choreographed for, peer-directed performances.
  • Studied during the summer months with the Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet School, Utah Ballet Summer Intensive, and International Summer Program in Incheon, South Korea 

Hopes and plans for the coming year: Dance professionally in a ballet company, and continue to foster a supportive community, wherever I am. 

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Cayden Turnbow
Department of Film & Media Arts

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Majored in: Film and Media Arts

Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT

Three words that describe you: Leader, Motivated, Creative

Most impactful class or professor: I've had the privilege of taking Paul Larsen's screenwriting class for the last couple of years and have learned so much about how to take and give criticism, how to create a compelling story with interesting characters, and how to maintain self-discipline when writing longer form scripts. Paul Larsen without a doubt has been one of the most impactful professors while I've been at the U and I'll be sad to say goodbye when I graduate.

A CFA moment you’ll never forget: When Lee Isaac Chung visited campus I went to almost every single one of the events he attended and took scrupulous notes. It was his advice that inspired certain aspects of my capstone. He encouraged me to take risks and keep chasing my goals even when times get tough.

What inspires you: I find that it's the people closest to me that inspire me the most.

Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus: I co-founded the Film Production Club and as its president produced and co-directed a short film titled "My Baby" which received a distribution award at the 2022 Spring Showcase. "Toothbrush" is another film that I directed that premiered alongside "My Baby" last year. I've received an Epics award through ADTHING (an advertising agency for which I am the current Video Director) for a commercial I made for Tacos Don Rafa. I've had the privilege of being an RA for the Fine Arts Floor, and a resident of the Fine Arts House. As an Emerging Leaders Intern, I helped organize the 9th annual ArtsForce Networking Event and had multiple articles published in the Finer Points Blog. Last summer I had an internship with Blank Space, a rewarding experience supported by the Utah Film Commission. Shortly after I joined Slamdance as an intern and worked up to managing the online festival in 2023.

Hopes and plans for the coming year: I hope to be able to continue to create, in whatever aspect that may be, as well as find a job that will be a stepping stone for my career in the film industry.

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Samuel Judd-Kim 
School of Music 

Pronouns: He/They

Majored in: HBA in Music and HBS in Philosophy

Hometown: Orem, Utah

Three words that describe you: Tenacious, authentic, disruptor

Most impactful class or professor: If I have to choose just one, it would be Dr. Pamela Jones, for picking up on and nurturing my enthusiasm for learning (both before and during the pandemic), mentoring me on the harpsichord, and directing me toward so many amazing opportunities! However, I would also like to recognize Dr. Ken Udy and Dr. Haruhito Miyagi for their generous support and wisdom.

A CFA moment you’ll never forget: Playing harpsichord continuo with the Utah Philharmonia on a few concerts; as a keyboardist, I always relish the chance to play with an orchestra. An honorable mention would be playing the Libby Gardner Concert Hall organ for the very first time.

What inspires you: All of the talented and visionary artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with; I’m incredibly lucky to have collaborated with so many driven musicians who motivate me to keep doing music.

Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus:

  • Two solo organ recitals at the Cathedral of the Madeleine (Salt Lake City) in 2020 and 2022.
  • Original senior honors thesis: “Queering the Pipe Organ,” a musicology paper supervised by Dr. Haruhito Miyagi.
  • Many joyous collaborative performances on harpsichord and organ, with amazing flautists, harpists, strings, chamber groups, and orchestras.
  • With the College of Fine Arts advising team, assisted incoming Fine Arts students as a Create Success Intern
  • Helped found the University of Utah Asian Collective, which is working with the Office of EDI to create an Asian Cultural Center on campus and advocates for Asian and Asian-American communities on campus.
  • Created workshops on sexual violence prevention for queer students, students in Greek life at the U, and high school students, both as an intern at the Rape Recovery Center and as student staff at the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention.

Hopes and plans for the coming year: Taking a gap year to explore how to apply the knowledge and skills I’ve learned in the School of Music in an impactful way in my communities. I hope to eventually attend graduate school and build on the research in queer musicology I engaged in for my honors thesis, while always keeping sight of the reasons I do music!

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Abish Noble
Department of Theatre

Pronouns: She/They

Majored in: Theatre, Performing Arts Design Program with emphasis in Set Design; minor in Japanese

Hometown: Yokota Air Base, Tokyo, Japan

Three words that describe you: Passionate, Detail-Oriented, Overachiever 

Most impactful class or professor: Scenography Lab where I was so excited to assist in building the sets and I realized that I wanted to work in the design part of the theatre world.

A CFA moment you’ll never forget: In scenography lab, I painted a mechanical snake to be used in our production of Men on Boats. That was when Halee offered me a work-study position, and how I could work directly in the shop.

What inspires you: The ability to create amazing things with amazing people.

Summary of major accomplishments on or off campus: Co-set designed the U’s first virtual production in 2020; The Night Witches. I also set designed Storm Still in 2021, and my work was featured in the CFA gala. I was the Scenic Charge Artist for Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience in 2021, and Liminal in 2022. I finished my college career with my set design of the new musical; In Pieces. I have also done some volunteer work off campus for the Utah Pride Festival. 

Hopes and plans for the coming year: I plan to continue to work in theatre here in Salt Lake, and hope to work full-time as a theatre technician. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Emeri Fetzer

Sally and Kenneth Burbidge never missed a Utah game. Donning their crimson, they’d show up come rain or shine, home or away. The truest of fans.

When halftime would arrive, many fans would take the moment to stretch their legs and grab a bite. Not Sally.

Sally adored the marching band above all other parts of the game. She’d savor every tune, cheering along with each note. Her enthusiasm was contagious. Family and friends knew they were not allowed to leave while the band was on the field. Through her, an entire circle of Utah marching band loyalists grew.

A quintessential Utah woman to her core, Sally always wanted the band to flourish, but they didn’t always have adequate resources. Back before the sharp appearance of today’s Marching Utes, the band wore uniforms that had, to Sally, a certain pirate-like quality: black bell bottoms, ruffled shirts, and feathered hats. She felt strongly that the uniforms didn’t adequately represent the band’s excellence. She phoned her friend Ted Capener to see what could be done. Capener asked her to put her money behind her vision. Of course, she stepped up to the plate to sponsor an upgrade.burbidge

It was not the first gift directed to her alma mater’s development, nor the last, by any means. But her connection to the band was special, and her commitment was tangible.

“Fairy Godmother” to the band ever since that moment, she would routinely show up to practice, children –– and later grandchildren –– in tow, bearing baskets full of cookies or doughnuts for band members. She’d show up to their summer retreats and hand out pins. She supported students with numerous scholarships. She led them in their signature U formation on the field. She knew them each by name, and they her. 

The band was one piece in a lifelong tapestry of Sally’s community service and philanthropy.

Her board and committee service included Ballet West, Kingsbury Hall, Libby Gardner Hall, U Alumni, Red Butte Gardens, University of Utah Board of Trustees, Fine Arts Advisory Board, and more. Along with her late husband Kenneth, Sally led the completion of the Kenneth P. Burbidge Jr. Family Athletics Academic Center and the establishment of the Kenneth P. Burbidge Presidential Endowed Chair in Pulmonary Medicine and Lung Transplantation. She was the recipient of many honors including the University of Utah Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Camerata Award in the School of Music.

Originally from Ogden, Sally met Kenneth at the U while studying education. She was a proud member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, while he was a Sigma Nu studying business. To them, family and service were paramount.

Their Utah pride was not lost on the next generation. Family photos were often taken in matching Utah red. Sometimes they wore shirts branded for the family’s most beloved causes, such as the Lung Transplant Center, where Kenneth was one of the earliest recipients. Deeply moved by his own struggle, Kenneth was determined the U would be equipped to lead in modern medicine. After his passing in 1998, Sally and her children saw to it that his dreams were achieved.

Later, in 2001, Sally married Burt Cassity and enjoyed over six years of travel, service, and happy memories with her and Burt’s family.

The week of Sally’s unexpected passing in 2007, she had helped organize a band reunion and was all set to march with them at the Homecoming game. When she went to the hospital for surgery, she reminded her family and doctors alike that she simply couldn’t be there long because she needed to go be with the band. The following week, dressed in their best uniforms as far as the eye could see, the Marching Utes delivered a final salute and tribute to Sally at her memorial.

Her family knew without a doubt their “gram gram,” would want them to continue to ensure that the future of the Marching Utes remained bright, bold, and full of pride. To honor her, the Burbidge family continues to spearhead funding efforts. In fact, just last month, they matched gifts in a campaign to support new instruments the band urgently needs.

sallymainSally Burbidge | Image courtesy Burbidge family

As each new generation of Marching Utes rushes into the rehearsal hall named in Sally’s honor, to begin a new season, they can recall the contributions and love that forever shifted their trajectory.

Today, Sally’s family still gathers to cheer on the Utes, come rain or shine, just as they always did. Alumni all –– including Sally’s three children, as well as her 15 grandchildren –– they represent an unparalleled legacy of love.

And you can bet they never miss the band.  

Published in Finer Points Blog
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Winter nights are made brighter with music. 

Luckily, the University of Utah School of Music's jam-packed concert calendar has something for everyone (nearly every night from Dec 5 thru 12)!

So, come in from the cold and share a moment with students across music disciplines. Each night offers a new opportunity to celebrate the season, and enjoy the talents of emerging artists. Take a peek! 

Monday, December 5 

Advanced String Quartets 
7:30 - 8:30p
Dumke Recital Hall

Tuesday, December 6

Jazz Combos
7:30 - 8:30p 
Fine Arts West

Wednesday, December 7

Utah Philharmonia
7:30 - 8:30p
Libby Gardner Concert Hall 

Thursday, December 8 

University Choirs
7:30 - 8:30p
Libby Gardner Concert Hall 

Friday, December 9

Composition Seminar and Composer Forum Concert
7:30 - 8:30p
David P. Gardner Hall

Saturday, December 10

Harp Ensemble
7:30 - 8:30p
Thompson Chamber Music Hall

Monday, December 12

Vocal Area Soloists with American West Symphony
7:30 - 8:30p
Libby Gardner Hall

All concerts presented through the Arts Pass program! Students get in free with their UCard.

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October 19 2022

Get spooky with U Music

Join the Utah Philharmonia this week for the 21st Annual Haunted Orchestra concert: "Fantastic Notes and Where to Find Them."

A fully costumed orchestra and stage will present spooky Halloween fare from the Harry Potter films, in addition to works by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more.

As always, there will be surprises and a chance for the audience, young and old, to show off their costumes. 

Don’t miss this magical concert, with two performances!

Fantastic Notes and Where to Find Them
Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m.
Free for U students through Arts Pass, just show your Ucard at the box office! 

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The Pakistani Students Association at the University of Utah (PSA) is teaming up with the U School of Music for an exciting performance that will truly be the first of its kind. 

Shazia Manzoor, world renowned Qawwali singer from Rawalpindi, Pakistan will perform in Libby Gardner Concert Hall on September 17th in an event that PSA’s leaders are hoping will bring a multi-generational audience together in celebration. 

“Shazia targets our parents’ generation but we have also heard her on the radio and TV – so it fit the best of both worlds,” explained PSA president Dua Azhar, a junior majoring in physics. “A lot of us are from the province of Pakistan called Punjab. Shazia’s music is primarily Punjabi folk music. That kind of music is fun for me to listen to, it gets me hyped up.”

Eman Mahmood, a sophomore studying psychology and the treasurer of PSA, shares her enthusiasm. “I’ve been really into Pakistani music lately. I like how she has different genres – some are more classical, some are soulful, and then she has more upbeat pop. I’m really into all different kinds of music, so I like that she has that variety.” 

"I am imagining groups of families laughing and chatting, and enjoying the music. I really hope that a lot of our community shows up."

Bringing an international guest to campus, let alone one with celebrity status, requires quite a bit of organizing: from navigating a 12-hour time difference, to coordinating the schedules of both Manzoor and the five musicians she will travel with. But the group explained that every challenge since they began last fall has been worth it, and has helped them grow. 

“When someone is a celebrity, it feels like we could never work with them,” Azhar said. “But they are just normal people. I feel like, ‘wow, we are really doing this.’” She went on to explain the partnerships that have made the event possible. “We really want to thank the Dee Foundation for providing a majority of the funding for this concert. We also have other amazing sponsors like Utah Humanities Group, Utah Division of Arts and Museums, as well as donations from Pakistani families in our community. We are happy they would support something that we as Pakistani students have never gotten here in Utah – and for everyone in general to gain a new cultural experience.”  

For Taimur Iftikhar, a senior studying economics and PSA’s international relations officer, Manzoor’s concert is a reminder of home. “I was born and raised in Pakistan and haven’t been able to go back since 2019. So, for me, it’s a lot more nostalgic,” he said. “When I was a kid, I listened to her a lot, so it has certain memories associated with it.”

This connection to culture is what excites the students most as they imagine how the night will go.

“I am imagining groups of families laughing and chatting, and enjoying the music,” Mahmood said. “I really hope that a lot of our community shows up. We really need something to bring us all together. Sometimes we can be divided, and this is a great way to bring us all together.”

Azhar added, “We are hoping that this event tells our community, we are one. And for others, whatever stereotypes you might have of Pakistani people are not necessarily true. The best way to come together is to celebrate through music.” 

Shazia Manzoor
Saturday, September 17 @ 7:30p
Libby Gardner Concert Hall 
Click here for tickets! 

Remember, U students get in for free through Arts Pass! Just use your UCard. 

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This summer, School of Music students traveled to the 2022 Saarburg Festival, where they performed demanding repertoire in a multitude of venues across Germany and Luxembourg.SoM chamber6

The six string students – Cameron Jeppson, Olivia Thompson, Hannah Foreman, Evan Petticord, Paul Petersen and Chase Radmall, represented the U and School of Music while collaborating with other students and faculty from around the world, including their very own professor, Hasse Borup, who was among the festival's invited faculty. 

The Saarburg Festival is conceived to "promote better understanding between various peoples of the world through the music-making." The fesitval website goes on to say: "It should stimulate musical and human exchange, provide a podium for the talented young musicians and music lovers, create a peaceful non-competitive environment, in which a desire to express oneself through the music would happily unfold." Participants had the opportunity to perform and work intensively with internationally experienced faculty and staff over the course of their two-week residency. 

Of the experience, student Paul Petersen said: "I have always loved the history and rich culture of Europe. That, combined with the opportunity to come and play with incredibly skilled students with different viewpoints than I was too good of an opportunity to pass up."

"My favorite moment was not musical, but historical," Petersen recounted. "There were World War II bullet holes pointed out to me next to a church. You could see the exact alley they likely came from as troops fought to take the city of Saarburg. It really made the history surrounding Germany all that more real to me. One thing I learned about myself as a musician is how differently I might approach certain pieces than others. I played in multiple quartets, and one thing held true for all. Each person needed to work on different aspects of the piece, whether technical, expressive, or to simply be more cohesive with the others. It opened my eyes even more to the reality that good quartet music is determined not as much by the notes, but by the direction and unified purpose of the players." 

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Dr. Kimberly Councill is proud to be the Director of the School of Music at The University of Utah. She most recently served as the Associate Dean of Faculty for the Arts and Humanities Division of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Professor of Music with an emphasis in Music Education at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  Dr. Councill was also an Associate Professor of Music and the Coordinator of Music Education at Susquehanna University; an Adjunct Professor of Clarinet at the University of North Carolina at Asheville; a band, choir, and general music teacher in the public schools of North Carolina; and a private and group music lesson instructor at The Ohio State School for the Blind. For over 15 years, Dr. Councill dedicated her time as a volunteer music teacher for central Pennsylvania preschoolers and kindergarteners, directed elementary and middle school music camps, and created "MUSE" (Musical Understanding in Special Education), a unique muscial outreach program for children with a variety of exceptional physical, emotional, behavioral, and intellectual needs. 

Dr. Councill’s research, which has been presented at state, regional and national conferences and published in the Journal of Research in Music Education, Update, Music Educators Journal, International Journal of Music Education, PMEA News, North Carolina Music Educator, and the Florida Music Educator’s Journal, is focused on undergraduate music education curriculum development and implementation; music teacher recruitment; the inclusion of special learners into the music classroom; and the skills, expectations, and requirements of successful student teaching and seminar experiences.  Dr. Councill remains active in numerous state and national music education organizations having served as a district president for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), the Eastern Division Representative for the Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE), and currently as a member of the editorial board for the Music Educators Journal.  She has also conducted numerous band and choral festivals during her time in Pennsylvania and has facilitated multiple student research projects comparing Australian and American music and special education systems in Western Australia. The work from one of these projects was presented at the International Society for Music Education (ISME) world conference in Glasgow, Scotland.  

Dr. Councill has received multiple awards for distinguished teaching and service to the music education profession including the Susquehanna University Distinguished Teaching Award, two Susquehanna University “Whatever It Takes” awards for her role as stage manager in the university’s 150th anniversary celebration at Carnegie Hall and for her service to students, and the District 8 PMEA Citation of Excellence Award for Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education.

"When I think about the honor of becoming the new Director of the School of Music at The University of Utah, I am most excited about the amazingly talented people that I will get to work with on a daily basis.  I am eager to get to know a new part of the country, spend time in the beautiful state of Utah, and live and learn in a wonderful community of music." 
-Kimberly Councill

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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.

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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."


F22 Outstanding Seniors v29

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 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

F22 Outstanding Seniors v24

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

F22 Outstanding Seniors v25

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