Alexandra Schenck Accepted to Merola Opera Program

Alumna Alexandra Schenck was accepted into the 2016 class of the elite Merola Opera Program with San Francisco Opera. Merola includes fully staged operas with orchestra, a scenes concert and the Merola Grand Finale, which showcases all the participants in a gala concert on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House. Merola pays all tuition, housing and travel expenses for each of its participants and also grants them a living stipend during their intensive training in San Francisco.

All graduates are eligible for Career Grants for five years after their Merola summer. These grants, for everything from audition travel to headshots to vocal coaching, help the young artists make the transition to the professional opera world.

Joe Sanders Works with 20th Century Fox’s Recordist

Alumnus Joe Sanders, as one of eight Society of Composers and Lyricists composer interns, worked with John Rodd, music recording engineer for film, TV, and video games who has worked on projects such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Breaking Bad, as well as with Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rodd is the orchestral scoring recordist at 20th Century Fox’s legendary Newman Scoring Stage.

Nathan Stark in Hawaii and Cincinnati

Alumnus Nathan Stark will be singing Rocco in Beethoven’s “Fidelio” at the Cincinnati Opera next Summer. He is recording an album of Strauss, Brahms, & Wagner lieder with Cincinnati Opera singers.

Most recently he has been performing the role of Bottom on A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Hawaii Hawaii Opera Theatre. While preparing for his role Nathan Stark was interviewed by Hawaii Public Radio’s Gene Schiller.

Beth Peregrine to Ravinia Festival

Alumna Beth Peregrine will perform Tan Dun’s “Water Passion after St. Matthew” with 32 singers of the Los Angeles Master Chorale at the Ravinia Festival this June. Ravinia, North America’s oldest music festival, stands today as its most musically diverse, presenting over 140 different events throughout the summer. These concerts run the gamut from Yo-Yo Ma to John Legend to the annual summer residency of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Mandy Smith Lands Job at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Alumna Mandy Smith (MA Musicology, ABD Case Western Reserve) has landed what she describes as her dream job. She wrote: “I’m the new Education Instructor at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. My main duties include booking and teaching in their K-12 Rockin’ the Schools program, which offers free, onsite, interdisciplinary classes that exceed Ohio educational standards. I also get to make class content, create online videos and lesson plans for our Digital Classroom, and do lots of other exciting rock education activities. The department is very vibrant–six out of eight of us are musicologists, so I’m in good company.”


Congratulations to PST (Pacific Standard Time) who gave an outstanding performance at JEN (Jazz Education Network) in Louisville. They were given the honor of performing with Kurt Elling.

Elling recorded a demo in the early 1990s and was signed by Blue Note Records, releasing a total of six albums with the label. He has been nominated for ten Grammy Awards, winning Best Vocal Jazz Album for Dedicated to You (2009) on the Concord Jazz label. Elling often leads the DownBeat critics poll, and he was awarded the Prix Billie Holiday from the Académie du Jazz. (text from Wikipedia)


Joshua Simonds brings Youth Orchestra to Chicago Bulls

Alumnus Joshua Simonds, Executive Director of the Chicago Youth Symphony, worked with the Chicago Bulls to bring their two art forms together for the Bulls’ Holiday Card. The youth symphony members surrounded the basketball court as the players scrimmaged. You can see a behind-the-scenes video here:

After nine seasons as General Manager of CYSO (2003-2012), Mr. Simonds became Executive Director of the DC Youth Orchestra Program only to return to Chicago in June 2013 as Executive Director of CYSO.

During his tenure, CYSO has expanded its programs, built strong relationships with world-class composers resulting in numerous world and local premieres, and initiated groundbreaking artistic collaborations, including performances with Ben Folds, My Morning Jacket, Blue Man Group, My Brightest Diamond, and multiple performances at the legendary rock festival Lollapalooza. In addition to artistic achievements, Mr. Simonds has been instrumental in overseeing CYSO’s rebranding efforts, growth of the Board of Directors, re-establishing an international touring program, and increased support on a national and local level.

Mr. Simonds currently sits on the Youth Orchestra Division Board of the League of American Orchestras, is a member of Ingenuity’s Advocacy Advisory Panel, and teaches a course at DePaul University on Performing Arts Management. (courtesy of

Alumni work with the Street Symphony

Alex Ross, critic for the New Yorker, named The Street Symphony’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah” as one of the 10 “notable” concerts of 2015 in the US.

Alumna Zanaida Robles conducted the performance, and alumnus Leeav Sofer prepared the choir. Alex Ross wrote, “About a hundred homeless people listened intently, and burst into applause at the end. The experience left me with a clash of emotions: joy, shame, sorrow, wonder. I do not know what it meant to those who mattered.”

The performance was on Skid Row, at The Midnight Mission.  Residents of the Skid Row community in our audience will be invited to sing alongside the newly formed Street Symphony Chamber Singers, comprised of members of the LA Master Chorale. They also partnered with the Urban Voices Project, a Skid Row singing project, as well as the City of Angels Community Choirs.

View a short preview video of a rehearsal which shows Zanaida Robles conducting and Leeav Sofer on keyboard.