Bienen School of Music alumni hold positions as performers, administrators, and educators in leading arts and educational institutions throughout the world.

Spotlights

Mary Beth Peil ’62 is an actress and singer known for her work on Broadway, television, and film.

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Kate Lee ’17 is director of choirs at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois.

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Roderick Cox ’11 MMus is a Berlin-based American conductor.

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Bassist and composer Rufus Reid ’71 has been an active presence in the jazz world since the 1970s.

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Agnieszka Roginska ‘04 PhD is a professor of music technology at New York University.

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Matt Martin ‘07 currently serves as alderman of the 47th Ward in Chicago.

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Beth Kirkpatrick ‘03 is a multi-talented performer best known for her work on Broadway.

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Thomas Mesa ‘14 MMus is an award-winning cellist.

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Paula Grissom-Broughton ‘99 MMus is chair of the department of music at Spelman College.

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Mallory Thompson ‘79, ‘80 MMus is director of bands at the Bienen School of Music.

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Ian Derrer ‘01 MMus is general director and CEO of the Dallas Opera.

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Pianist Ralph Votapek ‘60 won the prestigious Naumburg Award and the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

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Rena Kraut ‘99 is founder and executive director of the Cuban American Youth Orchestra.

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Rodney Dorsey ‘92 MMus, ‘06 DMA is professor of music and chair of the department of bands at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

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Caitlin Finnie ’16 serves as the Christine Daaé alternate on the world tour of "The Phantom of the Opera."

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Elizabeth Bennett ‘04, director of orchestras at Buffalo Grove High School, was one of 10 finalists for the 2020 Music Educator Grammy Award

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Curtis Moore ‘95 is an Emmy nominated musician, composer, songwriter, and producer.

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Michelle Edgar ‘05 leads creative marketing campaigns for her roster of artists as VP of brand marketing for Epic Records.

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Kangmin Justin Kim ’11 was the first male singer to play the role of Cherubino in "Le nozze di Figaro" at London’s Royal Opera House.

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1940s

Betty Van Gorkom ‘42 celebrated her 100th birthday in October. She is a member of the Bienen School’s Music Advisory Board and a Northwestern University Life Trustee. 

Sheldon Harnick ’49, lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof, was featured in a PBS “Great Performances” documentary about the international Broadway blockbuster musical in November.

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1960s

Richard Alderson ‘69 MMus and Ann Alderson ‘78 DMus have written a comprehensive book on how to sing and teach voice, A New Handbook for Singers and Teachers, published by Oxford University Press in May 2020. Both former School of Music faculty members, Richard served on the faculty from 1970-2000 and Ann from 1978-1990.

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1970s

Nancy McGraw '70, received the 2020 Bistro Award’s Interpretive Artistry Award for her Johnny Mercer cabaret. She has appeared on Broadway and Off Broadway, and toured the country in musicals.

Joseph Celli '72 MMus, an oboist and composer, is heard on radio stations WPKN and WWUH in Connecticut and New York. His programs include Soundprint: Asia, featuring traditional music of the 42 countries of Asia, and My Other Music (MOM), an eclectic program ranging from American Zydeco to new jazz and experimental music. His Musicians Speak, a series of interviews and podcasts with new music innovators, is carried on multiple streaming services in addition to his website.

Dennis Dorwick ‘73 MMus continues to see a rise in views and downloads of his thesis "Telemann, The Faithful Music-Master: Telemann Performance and Reception in Australian Music Culture Since 1981," published by the University of Sydney in 2017. The publication explores the complex and changing reception of Georg Philipp Telemann’s music in Australia.

Chris Granias ‘76 MMus hosted the 4th Annual Kalo Taxidi “Good Journey” Concert on October 19 to support multiple sclerosis research. The virtual event included performances by Granias; the Chicago Bassoon Quartet, with Susan Nigro ‘73, ‘74 MMus, Elizabeth Heller ‘79 MMus, Dianne Ryan, Lynette Pralle; the Bruce A. Henry Band; bassist Phil Fried; Rev. Nicholas J. Greanias; and pianist Rebecca Heyn.

Patrick Dessent ‘77 recently published his third book, “Let’s Go Band: A Band Director’s Humorous Memoir,” as part of a musical trilogy. Like his first two books, “Memoirs of a Trumpet Teacher” and “Memoirs of a Trumpet Player,” this book is written using the pen name Sam Bennett. The book is a fictionalized collection of entertaining short stories from the many years that Dessent and his wife, flutist Karen Stringer Dessent ’77, served as band teachers. Both Patrick and Karen have enjoyed long careers as professional musicians and music teachers.

Howard Reich ‘77 retired from the Chicago Tribune after 43 years—37 of which he served as a full-time arts critic. Reich is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and author of six books. His latest project is the international release of For the Left Hand, a documentary inspired by his series on Chicago pianist Norman Malone. Reich is the recipient of an Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern. He presented the Bienen School’s convocation address in 2019. 

David Landis ’78 of San Francisco, is president of Landis Communications Inc. (LCI), an integrated marketing communications agency that celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020. To mark the milestone, LCI donated $300 each day in October to nonprofits in the Bay Area. Ragan’s Ace Awards named LCI “America’s #1 small PR firm” and the Public Relations Society of America San Francisco last year awarded the agency “Campaign of the Year,” as well as the honor of “Best Bay Area Agency.” In his spare time, Landis has volunteered for nearly 40 years with ODC, San Francisco’s premiere modern dance company, theatre, and school. Landis still plays the piano, mostly songs by Stephen Sondheim.

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1980s

Susan B. Nourse ‘82 and Jonathan Helton ‘84 MMus, ‘97 DMus collaborated on the book Frederick L. Hemke: In His Own Words, published in 2020 by the North American Saxophone Alliance. The book contains autobiographical essays depicting episodes in the life of the celebrated saxophonist and pedagogue, who served on Northwestern’s faculty from 1962 to 2012. Essays range from early childhood family and musical experience, education, teaching career, industry associations, and philosophical treatments on music performance and the future of the saxophone.

Brian Schmidt ’85, ‘88 MS is founder and executive director of GameSoundCon, the industry's largest professional conference on game music and sound design. The 2020 conference, held virtually in October, featured more than 100 speakers and panelists and drew an audience of over 1,100 composers, sound designers, and educators from around the world. Portions of the event were held in virtual reality. The conference also raised $20,000 for Education Through Music - Los Angeles, an organization that works with low-income and disadvantaged school districts to facilitate in-school music programs.

Baritone Stephen Powell ’86 received two Grammy nominations in 2020. His recording American Composers at Play: William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Lori Laitman, John Musto was nominated for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. He also received a nomination for Best Opera Recording as a principal soloist for Dello Joio: The Trial at Rouen with conductor Gil Rose, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Odyssey Opera Chorus, and soprano Heather Buck.

Susan Petrocci Stukus ’86 retired in April 2020 after 30 years of teaching elementary music education in Central New York, 23 of which were spent singing and dancing with children in grades 1-4. The most recent seven years she spent educating children in grades 4-8 while also directing the choirs of fourth-, fifth- and six-grade singers. She has plans to travel, sing to the babies in the local NICU, and volunteer at her local library as soon as it is safe to do so.

J. Christopher Thomas '87 MMus is in his tenth year as adjunct professor of percussion at Longwood University in Virginia and 29th year as director of percussion studies at Midlothian High School in Virginia. Last spring, he performed the world premiere of the Concertino Trio for clarinet, saxophone, and marimba by Gordon Ring with the Longwood Wind Symphony. Thomas works closely at Longwood with fellow Northwestern graduate Kevin Callihan ‘13 MMus, assistant professor of music.

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1990s

Joel Harrison ‘91 DMus retired as artistic director and president/CEO of the American Pianists Association (APA) after a nearly 21-year tenure. Harrison solidified APA’s reputation as the premier American organization to identify and cultivate the careers of young American classical and jazz pianists.

Patrick Rath ‘93 became president and CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund in October. He most recently served as executive development officer and system vice president at Advocate Aurora Health Foundations.

Curtis J. Moore '95 was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for "One Less Angel," featured on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. He is one half of the songwriting duo Mizer and Moore with Northwestern School of Communication alumnus Thomas Mizer ‘93.

Alexander Laing ‘96, principal clarinet of the Phoenix Symphony, was elected Vice Chair of the Gateways Music Festival board of directors. He has been involved in several projects recently, including teaching a class for the Juilliard School’s evening division called Advancing an Anti-Racist Orchestra Model. He is also teaching for the National Alliance for Audition Support and has served as a faculty member for the National Youth Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s YOLA National Institute. He moderated a panel as part of the League of American Orchestras Conference called “Outside the Box: An (Unconventional) Orchestra Musician's Perspective.”

Torrey Lawrence ‘96 ‘96 MMus was named provost and executive vice president at the University of Idaho. He was in the role on an interim basis beginning in April 2020 and previously served as the vice provost for faculty since 2018.

Betty Anne Younker ‘97 PhD, dean of Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music, was named to the New Year's Honour List by the Mayor of the city of London in Ontario, Canada. She was recognized for advocating for the equitable treatment of artists and for helping create new opportunities for the professional arts.

Jennifer Walshe ’98 MMus, ’02 DMus was elected to Aosdána in Ireland. Founded in 1981 Aosdána honors those who have made an outstanding contribution to the creative arts in Ireland. Membership is limited to 250 living artists working in architecture, choreography, music, literature, and visual art.

Castmates of The Phantom of the Opera world tour included (from left) Michael Gillis ‘99 as the Phantom, Caitlin Finnie ‘16 as Christine Daaé, and Matt Leisy ‘03 as Raoul. The tour continued despite the pandemic, with performances in Taiwan and South Korea before a scheduled closing in December.

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2000s

Third Coast Percussion—with alumni Sean Connors ’06 MMus, Robert Dillon ‘02, Peter Martin ’04 MMus, ’11 DMus, and David Skidmore ’05—received a Grammy nomination for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for Fields. Third Coast Percussion previously won a Grammy in 2017 for Steve Reich and was nominated in 2020 for Perpetulum.

Robert Boldin ‘01 MMus was promoted to director of artistic operations at Pittsburgh Opera, where he has served as artistic administrator since 2015.

Tony Alonso ’02 was nominated for a Latin Grammy for his album Caminemos con Jesús in the Best Christian Album Spanish language category. The collection of sacred music celebrates Alonso’s Cuban heritage and features performances by some of the finest Cuban-American musicians in the United States. Alonso currently serves as assistant professor of theology and culture and director of Catholic studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Scott Harrison ‘02 was named interim executive director and senior strategic facilitator at the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. He previously served as the interim executive director of the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra.

Sam Kaestner ‘02 MMus recently completed a Master of Science in Strategic Design and Management from Parsons School of Design, where he worked with a team to design a solution to drive climate action for the United Nations. After extensive user-centered design research, their solution was to engage children to drive climate action now and into the future. The UN adopted the idea as the children's component of the Act Now campaign, which launched on the UN website in November. The campaign, Climate Action Superheroes, will mobilize kids and parents around the world to take action on climate change and sustainability.

Soprano Kearstin Piper Brown ‘03 MMus was elected chair of the Gateways Music Festival board of directors, where she has served on the board since 2016. She performed in the opening concert of the 2020 virtual Gateways Music Festival. Brown has also recently performed as Euridice in Opera Williamsburg’s virtual production of Orfeo ed Euridice.

Pin Chen ‘03 conducted the all-Southern California middle school honor orchestra for the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, the largest professional organization of music teachers in the 11 southern counties of California. It serves more than 1,000 schools and 100,000 instrumental music students in the Southern California region. Chen is a past vice president of orchestra education for the association and is a regular clinician and festival adjudicator.

Cory Hills ‘03 was named an inaugural Gretsch Fellow in Children’s Music at the Fred Rogers Center. The fellowship supports research and best practices in music experiences for children. Hills will begin his one-year appointment in September 2021. He plans to create an anti-bullying music performance/assembly program for elementary schools, using research from the Fred Rogers Archive to explore different ways in which Rogers tackled difficult social concepts and topics with children.

Juliet Petrus ‘03 MMus was named a 2020 People-to-People honoree by the Confucius Institute U.S. Center in recognition of her essay “The International Language: Using Song to Connect China and the West.” She was honored at the center’s virtual gala in October. The essay focuses on Petrus’s successful career as an opera singer in China, where she has performed in more than 20 cities. She is also a welcomed lecturer and masterclass teacher across China, having worked with students at conservatories in Harbin, Shenyang, Beijing, Nanjing, Jinan, and Chengdu, among others. Petrus’s book with co-author Katherine Chu, Singing in Mandarin: A Guide to Chinese Lyric Diction and Vocal Repertoire was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2020.

Elizabeth Bennett ‘04 was named a semifinalist for the 2021 Music Educator Grammy Award. The award recognizes teachers who have made a significant and lasting contribution to music education and who demonstrate a commitment to maintaining music education in schools. Bennett was previously one of 10 finalists for the 2020 Music Educator Grammy Award. She serves as director of orchestras at Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois.

Michelle Edgar ‘05, vice president of brand marketing for Epic Records, was recently featured on the podcast "Elevate Your Brand," hosted by Laurel Mintz. Edgar is founder of The XX Project, a platform for leading women in business, as well as Music Unites, which funds sustainable music education programs in underserved public schools.

The Riot Ensemble, which includes artistic director Aaron Holloway-Nahum ‘05 and pianist Adam Swayne ‘06 DMus, received an Ernst von Siemens Ensemble Prize for 2020-21. The award provides long-term, individual support for the structural and artistic development of a young ensemble focused entirely on contemporary repertoire.

Alejandra Valarino Boyer ‘07 MMus was selected to participate in the Sphinx Organization’s Leaders in Excellence, Arts & Diversity (LEAD) program. The two-year leadership program provides mentorship and growth opportunities to minority arts leaders. Boyer is Seattle Opera’s director of programs and partnerships and is also the founder of BIPOC Arts, an online database that celebrates opera professionals of color.

Josephine Lee ’07 MMus, vocalist for Ted Hearne’s Place, received a nomination for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance with Steven Bradshaw, Sophia Byrd, Isaiah Robinson, Sol Ruiz, and Ayanna Woods. This is Lee’s first Grammy nomination.

Matt Martin ‘07 was recognized in Crain’s Chicago Business’ 40 Under 40 list for 2020. He serves as 47th Ward Alderman for the City of Chicago and previously worked as a civil rights lawyer at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Robin Giebelhausen ‘08 MMus was appointed assistant professor of music education in the School of Music at the University of Maryland College Park. She comes to UMD after seven years at the University of New Mexico. Giebelhausen joins the music education area with two other Bienen School of Music alumni: Ken Elpus ‘06 MMus, ‘11 PhD and Stephanie Prichard ‘09 MMus. 

Sarah Dinin ‘09 directs Dinin Arts Management & Consulting, a boutique agency currently based in Milwaukee. Dinin Arts's premiere management clients include violinists Arnaud Sussmann and Danbi Um, violist Paul Neubauer, pianists David Fung and Einav Yarden, composer Jonathan Leshnoff, the Amernet String Quartet, the Lysander Piano Trio, and the SPA Trio with soprano Susanna Phillips, violist Paul Neubauer, and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott.

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2010s

Roderick Cox ‘11 MMus had his debuts with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Orchestra in October, conducting Beethoven's Symphonies No. 4 and 6, as well as Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Behzod Abduraimov. Cox has recently been featured on the program Arts Engine with Aaron Dworkin, in Herbert magazine, and on the podcast A mic on the podium.

Pianist Yoshiko Arahata ‘13 MMus and mezzo-soprano Jessica Ann Best ‘08 MMus performed as part of the 2020 Rochester Fringe Festival, held virtually in September. Their program "Contemporary Musicians' Guide to Modern Love" featured art songs and musical scenes by living composers on the topic of modern dating and love, including "At the Statue of Venus" by Jake Heggie, "Cabaret Songs" selections from William Bolcom, and more. Unique to the all-virtual format of the festival, the show also integrated visual arts and multimedia storytelling. Arahata and Best are both based in Rochester and serve on the faculty at Nazareth College.

Lara Korneychuk ‘13, ‘13 CERT joined the artistic team of the San Diego Women’s Chorus in December as assistant to the artistic director.

Richard Narroway ‘13 was named winner of the Music Trust's 2020 Freedman Classical Fellowship. The award will enable Narroway to perform a post-COVID tour across Australia.

Erin Cameron ‘15 was named instructor of clarinet at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Véronique Filloux ‘15 performed in a fully-masked production of Così fan tutte in October with the Pittsburgh Opera, where she is a resident artist. “Filloux sang the soprano role of Despina delightfully, even in the passages requiring her to disguise her voice with a Papagena-like squeal,” according to a review from Pittsburgh on the Round.

Daniel Healy ‘16 PhD and Kimberly Lansinger Ankney ‘15 PhD co-authored the recently-published "Music Discovery: Improvisation for the Large Ensemble and Music Classroom" with Oxford University Press. Healy was also recently named chair-elect of the creativity special research interest group for the National Association for Music Education.

Cellist Brannon Cho ‘17 was awarded the $35,000 János Starker Foundation Award for 2020. The biennial prize is given to a cellist, age 30 or younger, who has already begun a significant career in music. Cho’s recent and upcoming solo performance highlights include debut recitals at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Kumho Art Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.

Geirþrúður Anna Guðmundsdóttir ‘17 was one of five finalists in the second-annual Lillian and Maurice Barbash J.S. Bach Competition. She was selected from a pool of more than 130 entrants from around the world. 

Susan Kang ‘17 was a quarterfinalist in the National Flute Association’s Young Artist Competition, held online in August. She was also invited to perform on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series when those concerts resume in Chicago.

Kate Lee ‘17, Director of Choirs at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, was named the Illinois State Board of Education’s 2021 Outstanding Early Career Educator of the year.

Cellist Drake Driscoll ‘18, is co-founder and executive director of The Vision Collective, which received the 2020 Robert Sherman Award for Music Education and Community Outreach. The collective builds meaningful relationships with and among refugees and new Americans by sharing and exchanging music between diverse communities. 

Hunter Hanson ‘18 was appointed adjunct instructor and administrator of screen scoring at New York University.

Drew Powell ‘18 MMus won second place in the National Flute Association’s 2020 Orchestral Audition and Masterclass Competition.

Alicia Russell ‘18 MMus was a winner of the 2020-21 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, Georgia District.

Chi-Yang John Wang ‘18 MMus was appointed principal horn of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.

Noelle Ike ‘19 started a position at Carnegie Hall as Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager. 

Michael Martin ’19 MMus spearheaded "Black Reflections," a three-part panel discussion on Black artistry in concert music hosted by Oberlin Conservatory and the New World Symphony. Conversations covered the historical and social context of Black musicians’ participation in concert music, the personal experiences of Black musicians, and reimagining a just and equitable future for Black artists in concert music.

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2020s

David Cao ‘20 is founder of Evanston Young Artists, which strives to make music accessible to children from low-income, underserved communities and communities of color. The organization received a 2020 Cultural Fund Grant from the Evanston Arts Council. 

Jonathan Kraft ‘20 MMus won a trombone position with the U.S. Army Ceremonial Band.

Andrew Morstein ‘20 MMus made his European debut with Theater an der Wien in Vienna as Andronico in Vivaldi’s Bajazet.

Julian Velasco ‘20 MMus won a 2020 Luminarts Fellowship in Classical Music.

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In Memoriam

All dates are 2020

1940s

Jeanette Ross ‘45 in Madison, Wisconsin on December 21
Wayne R. Bohrnstedt ’46, ’47 MMus in Riverside, California on August 6
Harriet Mueller Howard ‘46, ‘49 MMus in Santa Rosa, California on June 12
Mary Balloon Shull ‘46 in Springfield, Illinois on November 9
Barbara Anderson ‘48 in Anna, Illinois on December 15
Louise Nelson ‘49 MMus in Crane, Texas on August 17
Hollis Oseas ’49 in Cincinnati on December 9
Wilson E. Stone ’49 in East Hampton, New York on November 2

1950s

Ruth E. Knudson ’50 in Michigan City, Indiana on September 3
H. John Lennon ‘51, ‘56 MMus in Scarborough, Maine on September 18
Kathleen Rouillard ‘51 in La Mesa, California on October 10
Allen J. Sever ‘51 in Minneapolis on September 29
Ruth Tengwall Wall ‘51, ‘53 MMus in Hanover Park, Illinois on July 27
Jean I. Burnham ‘52 MMus in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 6
Nancy Jeans Maxson ’52 in Pittsburgh on November 25
Mary Beth Hansen Birch ‘53 in Kalamazoo, Michigan on October 28
Donald S. Condon ‘53 in West Palm Beach, Floria on June 13
Robert E. Pennington ‘53, ‘55 MMus, ‘67 DMus in Vienna, Virginia on September 29
Theodore C. Stewart ’53 in Washington, Iowa on August 3
Norma Jean Lamb ‘55 MMus in Buffalo, New York on August 22
Sherley M. Craig ‘56 in Pittsburgh on September 7
Leo C. Ellison ‘56 MMus in Duluth, Minnesota on October 26
Virginia M. Hilton ’56 on in Evanston, Illinois August 5 
Carolyn Burroughs Tower ‘56 in North Andover, Massachusetts on May 3
Barbara A. Asmus ‘57 MMus in La Jolla, California on June 28
Leslie W. Guinn ‘57 in Ann Arbor, Michigan on December 12
Mary Lou Kleist ‘58 in Sterling Heights, Michigan on August 4
Moonyeen C. Albrecht ‘59 MMus, ‘70 MMus in Mount Pleasant, Michigan on October 9

1960s

Harold A. Rutz ’60 MMus in Austin, Texas on November 1
Stephen E. Funk ’62 in Salem, Oregon on October 17
Richard Garner Cox ‘63 DMus in Greensboro, North Carolina on December 25
Joanne Arlene Lindstrom ‘63, ‘64 MMus in Tallahassee, Florida on November 2
Benn Gibson ‘64 MMus ‘73 DMus* in Winfield, Kansas on July 29
Rita Black ‘66 MMus in Brevard, North Carolina on December 15
Ann Elizabeth Swope ‘69 MMus in Louisville, Kentucky on October 25

1970s

Kathryn Smith Bowers ‘70 in Boulder, Colorado on June 30
Robert Fred Kern MMus ’72 in Dallas on August 14
Gretchen Koch ‘72 MMus in Saint Joseph, Michigan on December 31
Barry Michael Williams ‘78 MMus in Rock Hill, South Carolina on September 3

1980s

Bruce A. Egre ’82 in Cleveland on September 23
Maurice A. Wright ‘89 in Topeka, Kansas on September 29

Obituaries 

William Porter (1932-2020)
Thomas Kasdorf (1934-2020)

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