Many graduates from the WMU Music Theatre Performance (MTP) program have graced the stages of Broadway, Chicago, National Tours and major regional theatres. It is always exciting to graduate and to have your theatre dreams come true. In addition to these opportunities, many music theatre students have taken their talents to the high seas. Performing as a cast member on one of the numerous cruise line has become a very lucrative and exciting way for young music theatre graduates to see the world and jumpstart their careers. While life on a cruise ship may not be for everyone, it is certainly an experience worth exploring.
Since graduating from Western Michigan University's Department of Dance in 1994, Melanie George has forged a multifaceted career as a jazz dancer, choreographer, educator, scholar and advocate. From our Q&A conversation with Melanie, it is clear that these roles do not just overlap. Rather, they are deeply intertwined and synergistic. According to Melanie in her artist statement, "my scholarship purposely and strategically informs my choreography and pedagogy. I have great interest in upsetting traditional hierarchies in dance on the stage and the page."
For the past week, we have been lucky to have had Melanie back on campus bringing her wide-ranging expertise and perspective to our students. Last Friday, Melanie served as a celebrity judge for the annual Dancing with the WMU/Kazoo Stars competition and scholarship fundraiser, offering thoughtful praise, critique and commentary on the evening's performances. Over the past several days, Melanie has also worked in the studio, teaching jazz dance classes and staging new choreography on first-year students. And later this afternoon, in recognition of her years of research, education, innovation and excellence in the world of dance, Melanie will be presented with the 2017 College of Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award for the Department of Dance.
Get to know more about Distinguished Alumna Melanie George in her interview with the Fine Print:
Meet Palmer Jankens, a self-proclaimed entertainment sound nerd and this year's Distinguished Alumni Award honoree for the Department of Theatre. From designing for prestigious theatre companies and productions throughout Chicago to mixing shows around the world, Palmer has built a career doing what he loves. And by the sounds of it, the experiences he was afforded during his time in the Department of Theatre's design and technical production program had a lot to do with his success. Hear all about it here:
2017 School of Music Distinguished Alumnus Alex Jokipii has held the position of Principal Trumpet with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for nearly two decades. In addition, he has appeared as a soloist on countless occasions, and he has performed as a guest Principal Trumpet with numerous world-class symphonies and orchestras. But according to Alex, his success was far from instant.
In our interview with Alex, he touches on the struggles of totally reinventing the way he played trumpet when he arrived at WMU in 1988. He also talks about learning harsh lessons of time management and hard work, and he discusses how persistence played a part in breaking through as a professional (Mary Brodbeck, 2017 Frostic School of Art Distinguished Alumna, also asserts that persistence is the key to success as an artist. We're noticing a theme here...).
Learn what - and who - contributed to Alex's great success as a musician in his responses below.
Each fall, the Western Michigan University College of Fine Arts recognizes four alumni who have put their stamp on their field. 2017 Frostic School of Art Distinguished Alumna Mary Brodbeck has done just that. Mary's artwork, which employs traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking methods to transfer ink to paper, has received critical acclaim in both Japan and the United States. With a portfolio of celebrated work, a series of prints housed in the Detroit Institute of Arts' permanent collection, and an extensive career of teaching, visual storytelling and printmaking, Mary continues to share her art and expertise with the world. Today, Mary's sharing even more with us.
Read Mary's essay below to learn about not only the time-honored art of woodblock printing, but also about the turning points in Mary's career and the traits that allowed her to succeed.
Ask any young child what they want to be when they grow up, and ballerina often makes the list of ideal occupations. But how many of these dance dreams actually come true?
For Cecily Shives, a 2017 BFA graduate of the Department of Dance, the dream of becoming a ballerina has remained alive throughout her life. As a toddler, Cecily was already dancing around her family’s home in pointe shoes, and then in eighth grade, she was voted “most likely to become a ballerina” by her peers.
Well, her classmates had it right. This fall, Cecily will pirouette into the professional world as a company member with Ballet San Antonio.
Through a series of three installments, we’ll be profiling Cecily and the many steps – and turns, spins and leaps – she’s made in her journey to become a professional ballerina. We’ll open with the early days.
“It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” -Jean-Luc Godard
Inspired … how I always felt at Western Michigan University. Inspired by my professors, the guest choreographers, the repétitéurs, the alumni and my peers. Inspired by their stories and experiences. Inspired to find my own voice. Inspired to trust that voice. Inspired to train and chisel my body into a vessel for that voice. Inspired to get to the next level. Inspired to give back.
That inspiration reaffirmed me when I felt rejected, steadied me when I stumbled, and picked me up when I fell; all of which you will experience in the professional dance world. With every dismissal, you dig in and dig deeper, until finally, you get your shot. I am proud to say that this small town girl used that inspiration and her WMU education to get to the bright lights of the windy city as a company member of DanceWorks Chicago!
In a mere email exchange with WMU Art Education alumna September Buys (1999), it becomes instantly clear that she's passionate about her work. September's email sign-off, a quote from Bob Ross, says it all:
With awards and accolades including National Art Education Association (NAEA) National Middle Level Art Educator of the Year, Michigan Youth Arts Art Educator of the Year and Michigan Art Education Association Art Educator of the Year, September is no ordinary middle school art teacher.
"You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy."
Since Graduating from WMU in 1997 with a Bachelors of Music degree in music composition and music theory, 2016 School of Music distinguished alumnus honoree Dennis DeSantis has gone on to do big things in electronic music.