Featured profiles of the students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends who make up VCU Music. Sign up for our mailing list to get the latest department news and information on upcoming events from VCU Music.
Erik Schmidt, B.M. Performance, 2015 is a graduate assistant working on his Master’s Degree in Percussion Performance at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Alex Cahen, B.M. Education, 2014 graduated from VCU in 2014 and continues to share his passion for percussion and the marching arts with the next generation of percussionists. A former member of Jersey Surf World Class Drum & Bugle Corps and The George Mason University Indoor Drumline for several seasons Alex taught both groups for the 2015 and 2016 competitive seasons as head cymbal technician. Alex served as a member of the educational staff for Powhatan High School Bands and Ensembles from 2011-2016 where he worked extensively with the indoor drumline as instructor and designer. Alex recently accepted a position as Percussion Director at Fairfax HS in Fairfax, Va. where he will work with the marching ensembles as well as instruct percussion ensemble classes. In his free time, he continues to play in a heavy metal band that was formed during his time at VCU and performs all over the state of Virginia and New England areas.
David Chung, B.M. Education 2014 was hired as Band Director at Nottoway High School in Crewe, VA. Under David’s leadership, NHS earned Superior and Excellent ratings. David has also performed as a member of The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps, winning a DCI World Championship, and as a member of George Mason University’s Indoor Drumline. David recently accepted a position as Band Director at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Richmond, VA, and is currently the Front Ensemble Coordinator at Carolina Gold Drum and Bugle Corps.
Matthew Nichols, B.M. Performance, 2014 received a scholarship to pursue a Master’s of Music degree at the University of Miami, where he studied with Svet Stoyanov and Matthew Strauss of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. While in Miami, Matt has performed with the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the South Florida Orchestra, and the Florida Grand Opera. Matt was recently appointed Adjunct Professor of Percussion at Florida Atlantic University. He is planning to pursue doctoral work at the University of Miami, collaborating with the visual arts to create non-conventional glass instruments.
Justin McConchie, B.M. Performance, 2013 received his Master’s of Music in Percussion Performance from the University of Texas at Austin, and is now a successful freelance musician in the Greensboro, NC area, regularly engaged as an extra percussionist with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, Winston-Salem Symphony, North Carolina Brass Band, and the Piedmont Wind Symphony. Justin also teaches the Elon University drum line, and is on the Percussion and Drum Set faculty at the Music Academy of North Carolina.
Peter Soroka, B.M. Performance 2011, completed a Master’s degree in percussion performance at the University of North Texas. While at UNT, Peter was awarded a teaching fellowship to teach undergraduate lessons, the freshman percussion ensemble, beginning steel band, and percussion methods. After graduating from UNT, Peter returned to Richmond to teach the percussion programs at Colonial Heights High School and the University of Richmond. Currently, Peter is pursuing a Doctor of Music degree in percussion performance as a Graduate Assistant at The Florida State University where he teaches undergraduate lessons and percussion techniques. Also, he is developing his skills as an audio engineer/producer by assisting Dr. John Parks at Garnet House Studios. Peter serves as a committee member on the University Committee and liaison for the Music Technology Committee of the Percussive Arts Society. His website is www.petersoroka.com
Kevin Estes, B.M. Education 2009 won an undergraduate research grant with a multidisciplinary team of musicians, artists, and sculptors to construct a sculpture that acted as visual art and as a instrument. After graduating from VCU, Kevin earned a Master’s of Music from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Doctor of Music at The Ohio State University. Currently, Kevin is the Performing Arts Coordinator for The James Cancer Hospital where he coordinates artist and musician performances for cancer patients.
Andy Harnsberger, M.M. Performance, Praised by Percussive Notes Journal as “A Master of Musical Nuance”, Andy Harsberger enjoys a versatile career as a performer, composer, and educator. He has performed in musical venues across North America, South America, Australia, Japan, and Europe, and presents numerous solo recitals and clinics throughout the United States each year. He has been a featured artist at the Tamborimba Percussion Festival in Cali, Colombia and the Patagonia Percussion Festival in Argentina, and was on the artist/faculty for the Sulzbach-Rosenberg/Interharmony International Music Festival in Germany in 2014 and 2015. He has been a featured solo artist at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoleto Festival. He has also appeared as a guest clinician at many Percussive Arts Society Days of Percussion. His compact disc, “Vertigo,” has been recognized by the Percussive Arts Society as “a must purchase for anyone who collects important marimba recordings…His performance makes it clear that he is a master player, not only technically, but musically as well.” Dr. Harnsberger is in demand as a recitalist and clinician across the country and internationally, presenting clinics and masterclasses at as many as 40 universities per year. His compositions have been performed at PASIC and around the world and he is a multiple recipient of the ASCAP PLUS award for his contributions to American Concert Music. He has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Symphony and Richmond Ballet Orchestras, Key West Symphony Orchestra, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, Macon Symphony Orchestra, Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra, Hilton Head Symphony, Long Bay Symphony, Gainesville Symphony, and Carroll Symphony Orchestra as well as the contemporary music ensemble “Currents”, and has toured extensively as percussionist and xylophone soloist with The Jack Daniel’s Silver Cornet Band. He has also made several guest appearances on National Public Radio, both in interviews, and live performances to bring public awareness to the marimba as a solo instrument. Andy Harnsberger is Assistant Professor of Music and Percussion Coordinator at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. He earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Performance and Literature at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he also received the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. Andy is a performing artist and clinician for Malletech Instruments and Mallets, Remo Drum Heads, Sabian Cymbals, Ltd., and Grover Pro Percussion.
As part of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, VCU Music aims to raise $2.5 million to replace its aging piano inventory with new Steinway & Sons models — and achieve the distinction of becoming an “All-Steinway School.”
“We want to offer our students the best tools possible to help them hone their talents,” says Music Department Chairman Darryl Harper, adding that the pianos will help the Music Department to continue to attract top students and faculty.
“To be designated an All-Steinway School recognizes our commitment to provide music students with the best possible keyboard instruments to support their musical training while at VCU,” says VCUarts Interim Dean James Frazier. “The reputation of VCUarts continues to grow, and we are working to recruit the most talented and passionate young musicians. We owe it to these students to provide them with world-class instruments. It is on these instruments that they will study their craft as they prepare for their professional lives as musicians and teachers, and as VCU alumni, go on to enlighten and enrich our world.”
The Cartagena-based Fundación Tocando Puertas: para abrir futuros has initiated a student internship and has selected VCU Music student Alexandra Mattson as its first intern. Alexandra will be working on organizational, developmental, and public relations projects for the foundation, with its president Evelia Gonzalez Porto and her board of directors, until her graduation in May 2018. One of the projects that the foundation aims to support through her internship is the development of a deeper relationship between VCU and its global partners in Cartagena, specifically Comfenalco School, Nuevo Bosque School, Universidad de Bellas Artes, and the University of Cartagena. Congratulations, Alexandra!
VCU Music’s second round of the Lullaby Project celebrated 4 new lullabies. Many thanks to our partners: Carnegie Hall, VCUarts Research, VCU Centering Pregnancy, VCU Institute for Women’s Health, and In Your Ear Studio.
Participants Julia and Joe Rakestraw (couple to the right) created “Always It Is Well” with teaching artist Regan Sprenkle (to their left).
In 2007, after working at three universities over the span of 20 years, Tony Garcia realized if he added up every all-nighter he pulled scheduling student ensemble sessions, it would total more than two months…To replace the paper-based system of student schedule grids and contact information, Garcia drew up a flowchart of a proposed computer program to handle the tasks. Garcia had no success finding a computer science expert to create the program, until he met Krzysztof “Krys” Cios, Ph.D. Cios, a jazz fan himself and professor and chair of the VCU Department of Computer Science, thought he and his senior design class could help Garcia.Garcia had no success finding a computer science expert to create the program, until he met Krzysztof “Krys” Cios, Ph.D. Cios, a jazz fan himself and professor and chair of the VCU Department of Computer Science, thought he and his senior design class could help Garcia. Read the full article at VCU News…
John Bullard released a new CD to critical acclaim, Classical Banjo: The Perfect Southern Art. A feature article about Bullard recently appeared in Virginia Living magazine.
Steven Cunningham passed his comprehensive exams at University of Maryland and is now plunging into his dissertation.
Victor Haskins is Instructor of Jazz Trumpet at William & Mary.
Marcus Grant finished his Masters degree in Trumpet Performance at Indiana University this past May and has been appointed adjunct Applied Brass Teacher at Virginia Union University.
Since leaving the public school system, Maureen Mallory is the Assistant Program Director for The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Norfolk and is experiencing great success with their after school program. She writes to one of her former teachers here, “I am very proud to be a Ram and tell others about the wonderful experiences I had there. I appreciate all of the work and dedication you provided to me and the many other students whose lives you impact.”
Having recently earned her Master’s degree in Voice Performance from Arizona State university, Vanessa Naghdi began her first year of full-time singing which included roles in Arizona Opera’s Education Outreach program and in their production of Madama Butterfly.
Eleven VCU Music alumni sang in Henrico Theatre’s recent production of Noli me tangere and were recognized for their professionalism and strong preparation: Michele (Orr) Baez, Alan Chavez, Liz Carlton Dowdy, Chloe Fortin, Forrest Glass, Vicky Kinney, Fred Newhouse, Catherine Pelletier, Chase Peak, Emma Claire Polich, Nicole Savage.
Wells Hanley received an Adjunct Faculty Research grant from the School of the Arts in support of the upcoming release of his new album Outside Inside.
Cheryl Van Ornam performed an organ recital on the historic Flentrop Organ at Adolphus Busch Hall, one of Harvard University’s Art Museums. The program of Dutch music honored the native country of the builder (Dirk. A. Flentrop) and memorialized her own studies at the Haarlem Summer Organ Academy in the Netherlands.
Charles West published a new book, Woodwind Instruments (Meredith Music). This publication comes on the heels of his Woodwind Methods book last year.
In the summer of 2015, Dr. Terry Austin was invited to come to the Guang Dong University of Technology to serve as a guest conductor on campus. VCU Music faculty member Rex Richardson had previously played at the university, and had maintained a relationship with the band director, Ming Hui Liao. Western-style band music is still very new in China, and Liao knew he wanted his students to have the opportunity to work on their technique. He contacted Austin and asked him to come over and work with his students.
“I was there for a week, and I was stunned at the passion these students had for band music,” Austin noted. Read more »
Dr. Zheng led another successful Global Summer Institute of Music the first week in August at VCU. A group of more than 70 musicians, students and parents from around the globe spent an enriching week at VCU presenting concerts and being immersed in a variety of both artistically and culturally inspiring events such as lectures, masterclasses, workshops, English conversations, and excursions to the VMFA and the nation’s Capitol.
Horn student Gloria Ramirez played an outstanding mock audition with members of the USMC President’s Own Band horn section in May. The reviewing committee remarked at Gloria’s positive energy and level of preparation.
Richmond Music Teachers Association (RMTA) awarded Jordyn Burton an RMTA Collegiate scholarship in recognition of her strong work.
Supported by a Department of Music Student Research Grant, Emory Freeman attended the Buffet Clarinet Academy this past summer and writes about his experience at his blog.
Trevor White was profiled in the VCU News story “Rising Freshman Finds His Voice Through Vocal Arts Project.”
Stephanie Barrett is attending the Lynn Conservatory to pursue graduate work with David Cole.
Jack Flores received a full tuition + stipend Graduate Assistantship at Florida State University to pursue his graduate work with Greg Sauer.
Lanjiabao Ge accepted a full teaching assistantship and living stipend to attend the University of Miami Frost School of Music for fall 2016.
Malcolm Jones is attending San Jose State with a scholarship and a waiver of out-of-state tuition. He is studying vocal performance and choral conducting.
Hannah Standiford’s project, “Shadow Ballads,” was performed at the University of Richmond, and was profiled in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Eric Jacobs is tenured in the Seattle Symphony, and performed a series of concerts to bring music to those behind bars.
Rustin “Cetch” Waters has accepted the position of Band Director at Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach.
Anna Bishop is beginning her second season as a violinist with the Richmond Symphony.
Aaron Jones is attending graduate school at Arizona State University.