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VCU Music: Out Loud

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.


Fall 2013 Press and Media

VCUarts News: Assistant Professor Susanna Klein receives Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award

VCUarts News: Music Chair’s Album Makes “Best of 2013” List

VCUarts News: Assistant Professor in Music receives Sidney Swiggett Award

The Commonwealth Times: VCU Jazz quartet to perform at Nelson Mandela memorial (December 12, 2013)

Related: VCU News: VCU Jazz to perform at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service in Washington, D.C. (December 10, 2013), ester (VCUarts news site): VCU Jazz performs at Nelson Mandela Memorial Service, RVAnews: VCU Jazz to perform at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in D.C. (December 9, 2013)

The Commonwealth Times: VCU Music welcomes winter with ‘Holiday Gala’ (December 2, 2013)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Allan Blank, composer and retired VCU professor dies at 87 (November 17, 2013)

VCU News: Student hopes to mend musicians with research (November 7, 2013)

The Commonwealth Times: Flamenco thrives at VCU during fiesta event (November 5, 2013)

Related: Richmond Times-Dispatch: VCU festival explores flamenco guitar, singing, dancing (November 1, 2013), Richmond Magazine: Soul of Spain (October 30, 2013), VCU News: VCU celebrates return on the Flamenco Festival (October 30, 2013)

The Commonwealth Times: African jazz combo crosses international lines (November 2, 2013)

Related: The Commonwealth Times: South African students to visit for jazz performance (October 28, 2013)

Richmond Arts Review: Hear Ye (November 2, 2013)

Related: The Commonwealth Times: Music troupe bumpers Beethoven for Richmonders (October 28, 2013)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Pianist Pressler, at 89, exudes irrepressible enthusiasm (October 14, 2013)

Related: Letter V (The Virginia Classical Music Blog): Review: Menahem Pressler (October 14, 2013)

VCU Division of Community Engagement: VCU Jazz releases CD in collaboration with South African University (October 9, 2013)

CBS 6, WTVR.com: VCU Music professor helps police nab criminals (October 9, 2013)

The Commonwealth Times: Fall Jazz Festival enters it eleventh year (October 7, 2013)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Goochland student part of world champion drum corps (October 3, 2013)

The Commonwealth Times: Three-day festival to celebrate British composer (September 30, 2013)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Pianist’s recital offers melodic gold (September 30, 2013)

Related: Letter V (The Virginia Classical Music Blog): Review: Joyce Yang (September 29, 2013), Letter V (The Virginia Classical Music Blog): Review: Paley Festival (September 30, 2013)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Richmond festival celebrates music of Benjamin Britten (September 29, 2013)

Related: Faith in Richmond: VCU Music presents Britten 100 Festival (September 27, 2013)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Richmond artists kickstarting their projects on the web (September 15, 2013)

VCU News: Strings, brass, and keys (September 10, 2013)

Style Weekly: Joy to the World (August 27, 2013)


January-February 2014: Christopher Mastromarino

Christopher Mastromarino, affectionately called “Mr. M” by the students he is leading at Matoaca Middle School in Chesterfield County, is a current undergraduate student in the Music Education program.

His musical journey began with the same tools that many others may remember fondly. The familiar story involves a second-hand piano and childhood music lessons. “When I was young,” Mastromarino reflected, “my father bought me a full-size piano.” The piano, perhaps found with the help of the local newspaper’s classified section, didn’t make lessons any easier for Mastromarino. But Elton John tunes played by ear kept his interest in piano fresh.

A native of Sterling, VA, Mastromarino’s family moved to Arundel, MD during his teenage years. Mastromarino remembers that the school’s music program was a stark cry from what he was used to in Northern Virginia. In Virginia, he was a member of several choruses and ensembles throughout the years. His new environment in Maryland, though, didn’t have as many diverse musical opportunities. As a result, students like Mastromarino took on new roles and responsibilities, even assisting with ensembles and music courses.

Read more »


“A Dream Concert”: Rex and Friends at the RSO

YouTube video

February 8, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Richmond CenterStage: Carpenter Theatre


VCU alumni and professors are gearing up for an exciting night of jazz at Richmond CenterStage in February. The performance, headed by VCU Music associate professor and world-renowned trumpeter Rex Richardson, will pay homage to the likes of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Read more »


Courtesy The Commonwealth Times (Chris Conway)

Quick Q&A: Jon Murphy, Assistant Director,”Peppas”

By now you’ve probably heard of VCU Men’s Basketballs’ electrifying and fast-paced defensive style known as HAVOC. If so, then you’ve certainly heard the Peppas, VCU’s resident Athletic and Pep Band, known for its unapologetically intense musical antics during the games. Headed by director Ryan Kopasci, the Peppas are every bit a part of the action as the players on the court.

Jon Murphy, VCU Music student and newly appointed Assistant Director of the band, finds this to be their crowing achievement.

“We like to think of ourselves as ‘The Sixth Man,’” he stated. “We cheer loud. All of the time.”

Their presence has not gone unnoticed. A recent video of the band’s performance of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” during a home game against George Mason University has quickly gone viral. According to reports, the free-throw distraction attempt proved successful, as GMU only shot at 56 percent accuracy.

Read more »


Kudos: January – February 2014

During this January’s celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and National Mentoring Month, it is only natural to reflect on “service.” VCU Music works to serve the Richmond community and beyond.

Last month, the Department held its 27th Holiday Gala, an annual fundraising concert for Richmond’s Hospital Hospitality House. VCU Music faculty, staff, alumni, and community supporters lent their talents to present an event full of holiday cheer. The concert raised nearly $4,200 for the organization whose goal is to provide lodging and non-medical services to families and individuals in medical crisis.

In addition to our many entertainment events featuring guest artists, faculty, and students spanning classical to jazz music, the Department sponsors a number of educational events that not only engage students at VCU, but those throughout the Richmond community and beyond. From Greater Richmond Bands to Jazz Day and the many instrument-specific festivals, summer camps, and master classes the Department Presents, VCU Music helps aspiring musicians develop their craft. Click to read more on how the Department is serving (and being acknowledged for its service)in this month’s Kudos. Read more »


November 2013: Dr. Lisa Edwards-Burrs

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Not many musicians can say that they’ve performed the national anthem for the President of the United States. Nor can many musicians say that their composer brother-in-law invited them to sing on an original opera. In addition to her work as an educator, Soprano Edwards-Burrs is an accomplished performer. In articles and reviews, her voice has been praised for its “crystalline beauty,” regularly performing classical and sacred music, as well as her hallmark — opera.

Dr. Edwards-Burrs received a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Vocal Performance and a Master of Music (M.M.) in Vocal Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University. She earned her Doctorate of Music Arts (D.M.A.) in Vocal Performance from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. When asked about the experience of getting her doctorate, she relayed her experience of commuting from Richmond to D.C. several times a week for classes. Read more »


Junior Anna Moore with Ghanaian students.

September 2014: Anna Moore

As the VCU campus comes back to life with students returning, many of them will ask each other, “What did you do over the summer?”  Some will talk about summer school, beach trips or boring summer jobs. For Anna Moore, there’s an inspirational story to tell.

Moore, a junior majoring in music education, spent the month of June in the remote village of Asiafo Amanfro in eastern Ghana. As a volunteer with the Akaa Project, she taught music to over 100 students at the Asiafo Amanfro Community School.

The Akaa Project is a nonprofit that focuses on community development in eastern Ghana by promoting improved education and healthcare. Moore originally connected with the nonprofit’s founder, Lauren Grimanis, on a VCU study abroad trip to Ghana in the summer of 2012 to study tribal drumming, the African xylophone (gyil), dance and storytelling.

Since Moore had visited Ghana before, she had an idea what to expect.

“There is no running water, no electricity, and really poor cell service,” Moore said. “We collected rainwater for bathing, drank from water satchels, and used battery and solar-powered ‘torches’ after sunset.”

Read more »


VCU faculty | November 2013: Percussionist plays and an author of etudes.

In addition to commuting from Northern Virginia to work with students at VCU, William Messerschmidt, Instructor of Percussion, continues a full schedule of performances. Recently, he has performed with several groups, including with Cathedral Brass for the opening of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, with the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra on a program including Grieg and Stravinsky, and at Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Associate Professor of Trumpet, Rex Richardson, co-authored the Yamaha Etude and Exercise Book for Trumpet (The Secrets of Eight Master Artists and Teachers), a collection of practice philosophies, tips, and tricks designed to provide a fresh look on solo trumpet playing. The book is now available on Amazon.


VCU alumni | November 2013: After Midnight and Graduate Study.

Alvester Garnett (BA ‘93), recently performed for the President and First Lady at the White House as part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars in After Midnight, a Broadway musical that serves partly as a tribute to Duke Ellington and transcends the history Harlem’s Golden Age of jazz and reinvents it. Garnett is part of a handpicked 17-piece orchestra. The show boasts Grammy and Tony award winning artists and is already being considered the “most explosive new musical on Broadway” (The Examiner).  After Midnight officially opens on Broadway on November 3rd.

Keyara Fleece (BM ’13) was awarded a Graduate Assistantship at Old Dominion University and is pursuing her Master’s degree there.

Wallis Williams-Vore (BM ’00) recently received her Doctorate of Musical Arts in Clarinet Performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.


VCU students | November 2013: Virginia Young Artists competition kudos, VCU establishes MTNA.

Sophomore piano student, Lanjiabao Ge received second prize at the Music Teachers National Association Virginia Young Artists Competition at James Madison University in October.

The VCU Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Chapter, established this fall by Piano Area Coordinator Dr. Yin Zheng and current piano student (’14) Savannah Hatcher, has began to schedule and sponsor several local events including a Richmond Music Teachers Association (RMTA) mixer, professional lectures on funding and social media, as well as two observable sample lessons and discussions by RMTA members. The VCU Chapter will also be hosting Rock4Life, a Richmond based rock inspired orchestra and choir concert whose profits will be donated to music programs in the Greater Richmond Area, in Spring 2014.

Piano student and President of the VCU MTNA Collegiate Chapter Savannah Hatcher received a $2,000 scholarship from the Richmond Music Teachers Association chapter for her success in establishing the organization.