Spotlight: Terralynn Mikell, violin

When Terralynn Mikell decided to apply to VCUarts, she was only focused on violin playing as a career. Fast-forward four years, and she was named among 12 of the Most Talented Photographers in Richmond by The Hub. What happened? Instagram (where she has over 30,00 followers!) helped, but skill building and hustling was the key to building a great portfolio and reputation – all the while pursuing her music studies.  Terralynn had a flair for expressing herself very early on, but it’s taken many different forms. “My first artistic memory is from when I was very young, about 2 or 3 years old –…I walked up to the stage in my church, grabbed the microphone, and started singing.”  From there, she started singing in church and school choirs. When she was in the fourth grade, her elementary school orchestra in Maryland performed at an assembly. Her violin journey started because of a classy pair of boots (noticing the visual!).  “It was a really simple thing,” she recalled. “There was a girl with cool boots and she played the violin…and I thought I want to do that, too!” She started playing shortly thereafter and became very serious towards the end high school. Meanwhile, Terralynn took lots of pictures on her iPhone, just as a hobby and a way to relax.  When she came to VCU, something happened that would take her hobby into a more serious direction.

“It all started with the VCU Workshop – the media center in the library,” she recalls.

The Workshop provides hardware, software, spaces, and expertise to VCU students and faculty for creative work of all kinds. Instead of signing out books from this part of the library, students can sign out cameras, recording equipment, 3-D printers, studios and more. It’s a library for hands-on making and exploring emerging technologies. “All of a sudden I had access to high-end lens photography equipment, that changed everything. The staff there was so nice, they even showed me a few techniques along the way.” Friends who needed recital poster pictures started asking her to take photos. After posting some of her recital pictures, demand for her services grew, and photography turned into a real side-hustle. She got better and better, and more well known.

Terralynn’s goals of becoming a great violinist didn’t change, she just added another passion.  It turns out that when are really passionate about something, a critical mindset quickly accompanies that passion – that’s something that the process of being a musician and a photographer have in common. “At first, I wasn’t so critical of my own pictures, but now that I’ve grown, I’m a lot more judgmental about my own work. Now I notice the smallest flaw and it drives me absolutely crazy.”

Well, that critical eye has paid off. She has built up a large portfolio of gigs, including taking pictures for Ebony Magazine at Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water Festival 2019. At the same time, she has been playing church and wedding gigs on violin. She credits her friends at VCU with supporting and inspiring her along the way. First of all, she was surrounded by other artists. The VCU School of the Arts is not only one of the best, (consistently ranking in the top 10 of Art and Design Schools by U.S. News and World Report), but also one the biggest with 3000 arts majors.

So what’s next for Terralynn? “First, I’m taking a little break, just to chill.” After 4 years of pulling double duty and graduating cum laude in May, that’s well deserved!  But, then, as in all creative disciplines, it’s back on the horse. “I want to do both – music and photography – who knows where it will all lead me.”  If you want to see some of her pictures, you can follow Terralynn’s work on Instagram @ terra.xoxo or visit her website terralynnjoy.com.


New Rennolds Series Concert Added for 2019

The Mary Anne Rennolds Series has added an additional concert to the end of the 2018-19 season to replace September’s Attacca Quartet concert, which was canceled due to expected inclement weather. New tickets for this concert will be mailed to subscribers beginning in February. Information is below.

Lara St. John, violin & Matt Herskowitz, piano

Sunday, May 12, 2019 at 3 p.m.
Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall
W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts
Mary Anne Rennolds Concert Series

Click here for more information.

VCUarts Music at the 2018 VMEA Conference

VCUarts Music invites those attending the 2018 Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) Conference to join us for panels and performances presented by faculty and alumni. Schedule below:

Thursday Nov. 15


11:45 AM: VMEA Young Composers Recital
with VCUarts Music faculty and students

3 PM: Pop Songs with Ukulele + Orff Instruments
Samson Trinh, VCUarts Music alum + graduate student
John Gonzalez del Solar, VCUarts Music alum
Empire Room

3 PM: Sheet Music in the Digital Age
John Mlynczak, VCUarts Music alum
Chesapeake Room

4:15 PM: Phi Beta Mu Young Band Directors Forum
Terry Austin, VCUarts Music faculty – panelist
Towers Suite

6 PM: VCUarts Music Alumni Reception
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church – 7537 Sam Snead Hwy
Across from The Homestead


Friday, Nov. 16


1:45 PM: The Role of Differing Student Teaching Placements In Music Teacher Identity Development
Sandy Goldie, VCUarts Music faculty

2:30 PM: The First 10 Minutes: Utilizing a Well Planned Warm-up to Establish Focus, Fundamentals + Concepts
Tiffany Hitz, VCUarts Music alum – panelist
Grand Ballroom West

2:30 PM: Elements of Conducting
Daniel Myssyk, VCUarts Music faculty
Mt. Vernon/Stratford Room

8:15 PM: VCU Symphonic Wind Ensemble Performance
Terry Austin, VCUarts Music faculty – conductor
Tiffany Valvo, VCUarts Music faculty – clarinet soloist
Grand Ballroom West


Saturday, Nov. 17


8 AM: String Instruments – Purchasing, Maintenance, and Problem-Solving in the Orchestra Classroom
Sandy Goldie, VCUarts Music faculty
Mt. Vernon/Stratford Room

8 AM: Adaptive Music Enrichment for Self-Contained Special Dominion Education Students
Robin Yohe, VCUarts Music faculty + alum
Dominion Room

9:15 AM: The Band Director’s Guide to Teaching a Top-Notch Orchestra
Sandy Goldie
Mt. Vernon/Stratford Room

Cancellation: Attacca Quartet, Sept. 16

Dear Rennolds Series patrons,

Due to the expected inclement weather, Virginia Commonwealth University has made the decision to close from Thursday, September 13 through Sunday, September 16.

For this reason, we must cancel the Attacca Quartet concert scheduled for Sunday, September 16. We are understandably disappointed and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

We are exploring options for rescheduling at this time and will make an announcement on the VCU Department of Music website and via email as soon as we know more. Because the concert may still take place at a later date, we are not processing refunds for the time being.

If you have any questions or concerns, you may email musictix@vcu.edu or call 804-828-1169. We hope you stay safe during the storm.


VCU Music

The passing of retired professor Francile Bilyeu

We are saddened to announce the passing of another member of our vast VCU Music family. Francile Bilyeu, retired professor of flute, passed away at her home on July 29, 2018. Bilyeu taught at VCU for 34 years and retired in 2008. We will always remember her joyful enthusiasm, enduring kindness, dedication to her students, sense of humor, and her immense talent as a flutist and an educator. She will be greatly missed by all of her students, colleagues, friends and family.

Below is the obituary from Richmond Times-Dispatch, which includes details about a memorial service. A celebration of Francile’s life will also be held at VCU this fall, with details to be announced.

BILYEU, Francile Madeline, of Richmond, died at home on Sunday, July 29, 2018. She was preceded in death by her husband of 46 years, Landon A. Bilyeu; and infant daughter, Maura Elizabeth. She is survived by her daughters, Lana Bilyeu (Margaret Collins) and Janice Delong (Henry); grandchildren, Alan (Catherine Pelletier) and Marina Chavez, Fuller and Joanna Collins-Bilyeu and Madeline and Moira Delong; great-grandson, Landon; sister, Janice James; sister-in-law, Karen Bilyeu Smith; and brothers-in-law, Dennis, Jerry and Ron Bilyeu. Francile was a beloved faculty member of the VCU School of Music for 34 years. The family will receive friends 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, August 3, at Bliley’s-Central, 3801 Augusta Ave. A memorial service in celebration of Francile’s life will be held 1 p.m. Saturday, August 4, at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, 4207 Springhill Ave., Richmond, Va. 23225, with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in her memory to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church or a charity of your choice.


Terry Austin appointed Interim Chair of VCU Music

Terry Austin, Director of Bands and Professor of Instrumental Music Education, has been appointed the new Interim Chair of the VCU Department of Music.

Under his leadership as Director of Bands and Professor of Music, VCU’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble has earned a reputation for musical excellence and been invited to perform at many professional conferences including the American Bandmasters Association, MENC, the College Band Directors National Association, and the Virginia Music Educators Association. Terry was the recipient of the 2005 Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts Distinguished Achievement Award of Excellence. This academic year marks his 33rd at VCU.

“I am grateful for his commitment to our school and the music department, as well as his willingness to lead through this time of transition,” said Shawn Brixey, Dean of VCU’s School of the Arts. “His experience and commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service will serve us well.”

James Wiznerowicz, previous Interim Chair, has been promoted to Interim Senior Associate Dean in the School of the Arts.

The passing of Assistant Professor Rebecca Tyree

Letter from VCU Arts Dean, Shawn Brixey
May 25, 2018  

Dear faculty, staff and students,

It is with profound sadness that I share with you the tragic news of Rebecca Tyree’s death from a bicycle injury yesterday. She passed away at the hospital last evening in the presence of family and friends.

Faculty members are on campus today to meet with students, including the music department’s interim chair James Wiznerowicz and director of choral activities Erin Freeman.

Becky was a vital and beloved part of our VCUarts community. As assistant professor of choral music education and choral ensembles, she inspired the next generation of choral educators and believed in the transformative power of choral singing. She was deeply devoted to service learning through projects such as SPARC’s Live Art, which trains kids to sing, act, and dance, and the RVA Street Singers, which serves people affected by homelessness in the Richmond community.

Becky was extremely accomplished, dedicated, and decorated as a public school music educator with 25 years of experience prior to joining our faculty in 2000. That dedication continued with her work here, where she was profoundly committed to our music students and to the art of choral singing.

She was adored by her colleagues, students, friends, and family. Her unexpected death comes as a shock to us all.

Our thoughts are with her family. We will pass along information about arrangements when they are known.

With heartfelt sorrow,

Shawn Brixey
Dean | School of the Arts
Special Assistant to the Provost for the School of the Arts in Qatar
Professor | School of the Arts
Affiliate Professor | College of Engineering

A video of Professor Rebecca Tyree’s memorial service can be viewed here and is also available for download through the Second Presbyterian Church’s website.

Rebecca Tyree’s obituary from The Richmond Times Dispatch can be viewed here.

Congratulations VCU Music Graduates!

Congratulations to our VCU Music Graduates:

Daniel Adams
Jake Adams
Chris Baker
Taylor Bendus
Matthew Benson
John Bradberry
Georgia Cotter
Colton Dodd
Tristan Dougherty
Minh Vy Duong
Madison Erskine
Kirsten Ferguson
Quinton Folks
Cleandre Foster
Noah Fotis
Chet Frierson
Jason Garland
Alexis Gruber
Samantha Hoster
Jason Kincy
Sean King
Brian Larson
Michelle Lightfoot
Eric Liverman
Randall Mailand
Byron Maldonado
Alexandra Mattson
Phillip McIntosh
Aaron McNair
Ella Mort
Jeromy Myers
Alanna North
Tess Ottinger
Caleb Paxton
Taylor Ramirez
Cody Reifsteck
David Roberts
Ricardo Rodriguez
Alfred Crespo Santiago
Ryne Siesky
Ryan Stubbs
Nathaniel Talbert
Jason Tyler
Jaylen Veal
Peter Vincenti
Scott Waterland
Ashley Weitzel
Savannah Whittenburg
Hayleigh Wilson
Derneeshia Winston

We wish each of you all the best in your future endeavors! Stay in touch and keep VCU Music posted on your great accomplishments!

Congratulations to our 2018 Award Winners:

Outstanding Achievement in Performance
Caleb Paxton
Outstanding Service
Minh Vy Duong
Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship
Alexandra Mattson
Outstanding Achievement in Music Education
Kirsten Ferguson
Award of Excellence in Music
Jason Garland and Alexandra Mattson

From left: Dr. James Wiznerowicz, Caleb Paxton, Minh Vy Duong, Alexandra Mattson, Kirsten Ferguson

Professor Doug Richards Retires After 39 Years at VCU

Professor Doug Richards

After nearly 40 incredible years, professor Doug Richards is retiring from VCU.

Richards joined the VCU faculty in 1979, and founded its Jazz Studies program in 1980. He is regarded as one of the finest jazz composers in the world, as well as a legendary educator and band leader. Richards is the recipient of VCU’s 1997 Outstanding Teaching Award and numerous grants from VCU toward the creation of musical works.

The Classicalite referred to Richards as “one of the most respected composers/arrangers you’ve never heard of” in their review of his 2016 album, “It’s All in the GAME.”

During his time at VCU, Richards has had an incredible impact on the lives of students and faculty alike.

“Doug Richards is the greatest educator I have ever known. He wields passion, honesty, and knowledge like no other. I am a better musician and better person for having had the privilege of learning from this living legend,” stated Pete Anderson, one of Richard’s former students.

Richard’s former students have performed and recorded with many of the world’s leading jazz organizations including the Count Basie Orchestra, the Ray Charles Orchestra, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and the Village Vanguard Orchestra, as well as with groups led by such major figures as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Horace Silver, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Cyrus Chestnut, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, James Carter, the Brecker Brothers and many others.

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Saxophone Instructor Al Regni Retires from VCU

VCU Music’s saxophone instructor, Al Regni, is retiring after 16 years.

Since his start at VCU in 2002, Regni has graced the Department of Music with exceptional teaching and remarkable musical skill. He taught private lessons and led saxophone ensembles, performed as a soloist with the VCU Symphonic Wind Ensemble among other ensembles, and brought stellar performances by his quartet, The American Saxophone Quartet, to VCU.

Regni’s music career has been nothing short of incredible. He began playing the clarinet at age 9 and was introduced to the saxophone at the age of 12. By the time Regni was 16 years old he had performed with with the Rochester (New York) Philharmonic Orchestra, where he worked with renowned conductors, Erich Leinsdor and José Iturbi, launching the start of his career in music. Regni graduated from the Eastman School of Music and Manhattan School of Music, where he majored in clarinet.

In 1963 Regni was asked to become principal saxophonist of the highly esteemed New York Philharmonic, where he continued to perform until 2013. During those years he also served as the principal saxophonist for the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. Regni has appeared as solo saxophonist with the National Symphony, American Symphony, New York Philharmonic, The American Composer’s Orchestra and The Little Orchestra of New York under a number of luminary conductors including Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Leonard Slatkin, David Gilbert and Dennis Russell Davies.

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