Alumni News & Events

Alumni Kudos | Achievers and adventurers abroad

Alden Bean Blevins received the Phi Kappa Phi 2017 Love of Learning Award. One hundred of these awards are announced twice a year, and each carries a $500 scholarship for professional development.

Jared Broussard has accepted a full-time position as Lecturer in Trumpet at the University of Texas Rio Grand Valley.

Jonathan Forbes has accepted a high school music teacher position at Saigon South International School in Saigon, Vietnam. He will direct the band, orchestra, and jazz band, as well as teach IB Music.

Robert “Scot” Mitchell has accepted a full-time job at Forest Hills Elementary in Danville, Va. He’s will direct the fifth-grade band, chorus, and an Orff ensemble, and is also teaching general music.

No BS! Brass Band was named the top “Next local band that should be on late-night television” by Richmond Magazine as part of the 2017 Best & Worst poll.

Trey Pollard was featured in Style Weekly for his arrangements written for local musicians Matthew E. White, Natalie Prass, Tim Barry and Clair Morgan to perform with the Richmond Symphony.

Jon Schoepflin and Madeline Barker‘s chapter of Tri-M Music Honor Society at Elizabeth Davis Middle School in Chester, Va. was awarded 2017 Chapter of the Year by the National Association for Music Education.

Samson Trinh was featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch for his Hamilton-inspired concert at Dogwood Dell in June. Trinh transcribed and arranged all the parts to fit his 26-member orchestra.


Alumni Kudos | Gamelan and Bang on a Can

Hannah Standiford was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to further study keroncong music in Indonesia. She spent the 2014-15 school year studying gamelan and keroncong under the Darmasiswa scholarship after first participating in Gamelan Raga Kusuma, a community Balinese gamelan group based in Richmond. After returning to Richmond from Indonesia, Hannah founded Rumput, a folk group that mixes keroncong and Appalachian music. Learn more by watching her TEDxRVAWomen talk:

Natalie Quick, also a member of Rumput and Gamelan Raga Kusama, was awarded the Darmasiswa scholarship to study gamelan in Indonesia for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Michael Hearst was invited to give the keynote address at VCUarts commencement, and was profiled in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Richmond Magazine. Read his commencement speech transcript here.

Robert Andrew Scott was selected to participate in the 16th annual Bang on a Can Summer Festival at at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass. The selection process is extremely rigorous with fewer than ten composers awarded acceptance.

Chris Johnston has been working in the film industry as a music consultant. He hires musicians, writes/records music, trains actors to play instruments and researches period music and instruments for scenes. Some of his recent credits include HBO’s “John Adams” miniseries, Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (Look for Dr. West in the beginning of the movie!) and AMC’s “TURN: Washington’s Spies.” Johnston is also director of orchestras at Thomas Dale High School Center for the Arts.

Brianna Sklute earned a Master of Music in Conducting from University of Louisville and was named band director of Clover Hill High School.

Denver Walker earned a Master of Music from Shenandoah Conservatory of Music.

Jacob Devol was recognized by Patrick Henry High School as Beginning Teacher of the Year.

Kevin Estes became the new Personnel Manager of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra. He had most recently served as the Program Coordinator for the Performing Arts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, coordinating and expanding the live music and performing arts offerings within the hospital facilities.

Don’t see your name here? Need us to make a correction? Drop us a line at music@vcu.edu

Alumni Kudos | A new EP, on TV, and in AZ

Julia Lougheed is attending Arizona State university for a Master’s degree in clarinet performance. She recently commissioned and premiered a new work for clarinet and trombone.

For Spacebomb Records, Matthew E. White produced a new EP Black History featuring the Richmond-based ensemble Resound.

Alden Bean was recognized by her principal for exemplary teaching at Randolph Elementary School.

Trey Sorrells was recently named a D’Addario Woodwinds artist.

In January four alumni were featured on Conan O’Brien’s show with the group Foxygen: Trey Pollard, Cameron Ralston, Pinson Chanselle, Rob Quallich, and Reggie Chapman.

The Value of a VCU Music Degree

“Our graduates know how to frame problems, how to develop strategies to solve them, how to collaborate with others, how to teach themselves things they don’t know. These are the skills you learn at VCU Music. Our graduates are great adaptors; they are determined; they are optimistic; they are highly skilled; and they love their work.”

–Darryl Harper, VCU Music Department Chair

See this video from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP):

John Bullard

Alumni Kudos

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.



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.

VCU Jazz Alumni in Turkey

Alumnus/Prof. Taylor Barnett starts the summer off with a ten-day performance tour of Turkey sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, joining American and Turkish musicians in performances of traditional Turkish folk melodies, arranged to incorporate elements of American jazz improvisation. VCU Jazz Drum alumnus Emre Kartari wrote the grant that funded the trip. Sax alumnus Kevin Simpson was also a member of the ensemble.

Quick Q&A: Jose Simbulan, keyboardist for “Wicked” at Altria Theater

It’s that time again – Broadway’s most “popular” Broadway musical “Wicked” is headed to Richmond’s newly renovated Altria Theater. “Wicked” is the tale behind Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West, the witches of the mystical land of Oz. Apart from all of the majesty and ruby slippers on stage is the music behind the groundbreaking songs. For each stop on their tour, “Wicked” invites nine local musicians to play in their orchestra pit. Jose Simbulan, a 1992 VCU Music piano performance alumnus, is taking to the task for the musical’s stay in Richmond. Read more »

April 2014: Emerson and Kathy Hughes

While students at VCU Music, Emerson and Kathy Hughes’ musical friendship evolved into something more and the college sweethearts wed their senior year of college. Kathy served as accompanist for Emerson, a vocalist, and in spring 1965, the two Music Education majors graduated from VCU Music. In the past 50 years, the two have nurtured a family, a business, and their respective careers in and out of the music field. Post-graduation, the two began music education careers in Henrico County, but a new venture soon presented itself.

In 1972, after a talk with a friend and local veterinarian, the two set off like many enterprising entrepreneurs. Recognizing a need where other Richmond-area businesses were lacking, the two began Holiday Barn Pet Resorts. What began simply as a space for clients to leave their pets during vacations has now turned into a premier resort for pets. Holiday Barn has even received national notoriety from the Travel Channel as one of the “Top 10 Places to Pamper a Pooch.” Now, the couple’s quest for a family business has expanded to two locations with 125 employees and their son Michael (VCU c/o 1997, M.B.A.) at the helm. Read more »

November 2013: Dr. Lisa Edwards-Burrs


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 »