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Feb. 12, UNC Greensboro and the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program received an extraordinary visitor: 14-time Grammy winner, and illustrious visionary in the jazz fusion world for nearly six decades, Herbie Hancock.
UNCG alumnus Chris Chalk ’01 stars in the hit show “Gotham,” and has been featured in “Homeland” and “Underground.”
He has starred in Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ruined,” and the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “Fences” alongside Viola Davis and Denzel Washington.
He was featured in the Oscar Best Picture film “Twelve Years a Slave.”
This week, Chalk returned to his alma mater to mentor students.
He has been visiting UNCG Theatre classes and speaking with students since Monday.
He has come back to UNCG as often as he can, since graduating in 2001, to visit former professors and spend time with Spartan theatre students, sharing hard-won advice and inspiring them to aim high. UNCG Theatre professor Jim Wren, who introduced him and was his professor two decades ago, noted how valuable a chance to learn from Chalk was for the current students.
At Wednesday’s Q&A session for all theatre students, Chalk encouraged – even challenged – them to ask questions.
The first question was specific: The best way to get an agent? Chalk noted “The rules are shifting,” and gave some pointers about choosing one.
The next question was about how students can prepare for the future. “Think like a professional now,” when you’re a student, he implored. Consider taking a business class at the Bryan School. Take advantage of your many opportunities here as a student. Prepare yourself in every way.
About casting calls? “Be prepared.”
About the hardest roles he’s played? The Pulitzer-winning play “Ruined” was about “pretty tough stuff,” he explained. His role was tough for him, emotionally. Also, “‘Twelve Years a Slave’ was really, really hard. Not on-set – Steve McQueen runs a fantastic set, all the actors were so kind – but a lot of nightmares, a lot of nightmares. That’s why I chose to do ‘Gotham’ when I did … I wanted to do something that was less hard on my spirit.”
A typical shoot day for “Gotham?” He wakes up at 4 a.m., he’s picked up at 5. The workday ends at 6-8 p.m., sometimes. He described the typical day: the hair, make-up, and wardrobe. Rehearsals. Blocking. The call sheet with schedules. The shooting of scenes. (The fight scenes take more time.)
He peppered his answers with great, real-world advice.
Be prepared, he told them. For example, there’s no excuse to not have your lines memorized.
Work on your brand – through social media, your appearance, in every way. Self-care is important. Think of how you present yourself. “Every day, I’m advertising my business.”
Right now, learn skills and get certifications that will help you land part-time jobs and pay the bills, as you work as an actor.
One student asked about UNCG Theatre’s Showcase in New York City each April – the best way to use it to your advantage. Chalk reminisced on his going to Showcase when he was a student. He went three years. He reminded the theatre students they had his contact information. And there are many other UNCG arts alumni in New York and LA. Reach out to some of them, he said. Ask advice. They will respond.
Being an actor is hard work, and the hours are long. “The feeling becomes normal. … It’s only hard if you don’t love it.”
Chalk can be seen in the upcoming “Red Sea Diving Resort” alongside Chris Evans and in Ava Duvernay’s upcoming Netflix mini-series “Central Park Five.” His directorial feature debut, “Farewell,” will be seen later this year. For UNCG, he narrated this UNCG anthem video and the 125th anniversary video.
See related story from an earlier visit to UNCG, in 2015: https://newsandfeatures.uncg.edu/chris-chalk-gotham/
Story by Mike Harris, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
The Final Round of the 2019 Student Artist Competition was held Tuesday, January 29. The competition provides an annual forum for exceptional student performers to audition for the opportunity to appear in concert with the UNCG Symphony Orchestra. Auditions are held in two stages: a preliminary round administered by each area of the performance department (keyboard, voice, woodwind, brass/percussion, and strings) and a final round administered by the conducting and ensembles area.
Congratulations to Lilla Keith, soprano, a student of Dr. Carla LeFevre and Akiko Yamazaki, piano, a student of Dr. John Salmon, who were chosen from a pool of 14 talented finalists. Lilla and Akiko will perform with the Symphony Orchestra on a concert to be determined in the Spring or Fall. Visit music.uncg.edu for complete information on our many performances throughout the year.
Lilla Keith, soprano
Student of Dr. Carla LeFevre
Lilla Keith is a Soprano from Campobello, SC. She received her BM in Vocal Performance from Furman University where she performed the leading role Josephine in the production HMS Pinafore. Lilla also performed with Furman’s symphony orchestra as the soprano soloist for Mozart’s Coronation Mass. She studied abroad through the Accademia Dell’arte in Arezzo, Italy, performing many solo recitals and showcases. She has participated in prestigious summer programs including Chicago Summer Opera. There, she performed Lady Billows in their production of Albert Herring. She sang the leading roles in their opera scenes productions: Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Female Chorus in the Rape of Lucretia, Angelica in Suor Angelica and First lady in Die Zauberflöte. Following Chicago, Lilla furthered her studies as a studio participant in CoOPERAtive Summer program in Princeton, NJ. Currently, Lilla is obtaining her Masters in Music at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro studying with Dr. Carla LeFevre. This spring Lilla will be performing as Alice Ford in the UNCG Opera Theatre production of Verdi’s Falstaff. She will also be making her Greensboro Opera debut as Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel.
Akiko Yamazaki, piano
Student of Dr. John Salmon
Pianist Akiko Yamazaki has performed extensively as soloist and chamber musician in venues including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She made her orchestral debut with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra as a recipient of the Benjamin Kilgore Gibbs award in 2004. She has appeared as a guest artist at universities including Utah State University, and University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated with the members of the North Carolina Symphony and the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At A Symposium for 21st Century Musicians, she gave the world premiere performance of Matthew Orlovich’s Dawn Rhapsody with violinist Karen Galvin. As a pedagogue, she is active as a presenter, adjudicator, and master class clinician.
Akiko is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, under the tutelage of John Salmon for piano, and Andrew Willis for harpsichord and fortepiano. Her study is generously supported by the Excellence Fellowship. Her doctoral dissertation “Pedagogical and Performance Guide of Lera Auerbach’s Images from Childhood, Op. 52” combines her passion for teaching with interests in women composers, contemporary works, and Russian music. She holds a MM from Northwestern University and a BM with highest distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her primary teachers include James Giles and Mayron Tsong. She has been on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill International Chamber Music Workshop, and UNCG Summer Music Camp.
“KATS: The Meerkat Musical” and “Indiana Bones and the Kingdom of the Camarasaur” are examples of presentations at Greensboro’s Science Center, where actors educate and entertain a vital audience: children. Michelle Mason ’18 contributes to our community by using her acting skills to connect with kids.
UNCG’s School of Theatre has long valued young audiences. The North Carolina Theatre for Young People (NCTYP) productions are a signature piece of the MFA Theatre for Youth program and represent the importance UNCG places on the arts as a pivotal community connection. For decades, families have made the NCTYP performances a part of growing up in Greensboro.
How do college actors accumulate their tools for the craft of acting? A variety of teaching methods and performance opportunities, integrated with guidance and supervision by world-class faculty provided Mason with chances to hone her skills. A scholarship from the International Honors College Travel Fund helped her broaden her vision of the world through study abroad, piquing her imagination and artistic growth, exposing her to global perspectives and performance approaches. Associate Professor Michael Flannery describes Mason’s experience at UNCG:
“Michelle Mason participated in every part of UNCG Theatre during her four years here. She was in main stage shows, studio shows, theatre for young audience tours, directing class scenes and students’ workshops. Her broad experience here is what we hope for every one of our students.”
Mason took advantage of opportunities to apply her actor training at the Greensboro Science Center and was also recently hired by “Reserving Royalty,” a birthday event company in which characters interact with children.
UNCG provides a myriad of opportunities for cultural enrichment as an active partner contributing to the vibrancy of the larger community. With the state’s largest College of Visual and Performing Arts and 75 percent of alumni remaining in-state, UNCG arts graduates significantly impact the quality of life in North Carolina communities. Students are transformed by their college experience and become active contributors in our schools, studios, museums, cultural centers and recreational facilities.
According to the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, youth involved with theatre are less likely to drop out of school and more likely to score well on standardized tests. Youth with disabilities can improve their academic performance and communication skills through theatre. Interest in the arts can begin at home, at school or at a science center. A make-believe interaction with a birthday event character may ignite the spark of imagination that results in lifelong creativity.
With the support of caring faculty and international insight, Mason brings fairy dust to encourage our youngest citizens to engage and empathize – inspiration for tomorrow’s vibrant communities.
Story by Zoe Dillard, Donor Relations
The UNCG School of Music is pleased to announce the appointment of pianist Annie Jeng to the School of Music faculty as Assistant Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy.
Annie Jeng enjoys a diverse career as an internationally active performer, educator, and arts entrepreneur. She has performed widely in such settings as the Brancaleoni International Music Festival in Italy, the Gijón International Piano Festival in Spain, the Kennedy Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Interlochen Arts Academy, and has upcoming performances in Qingdao, China this summer. As a passionate champion of contemporary music, she has collaborated with ensembles such as Yarn/Wire, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Roomful of Teeth. A Presser scholar, Annie has presented at Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) conferences at the national and collegiate level, and has previously taught at Schoolcraft College Piano Academy, The Faber Institute, and University of South Florida.
Annie’s essential goal as an artist is to make communities richer and more meaningful through the arts. To this end, Annie strives to make music accessible to audiences of all backgrounds by expanding and rethinking the traditional recital format to include interdisciplinary and interactive elements, all with the aim of encouraging audiences to engage with the artistic experience. Her most recent project, “Music by the Barrel,” was a concert series at the Ann Arbor Distilling Company in Ann Arbor. She also leads music workshops through the Prison Creative Arts Project at University of Michigan.
Much of Annie’s research is devoted to contemporary music and studying the pedagogical capabilities of contemporary piano techniques. In 2018, Annie received the Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship from the University of Michigan to create a pedagogical resource called Circles and Lines that will feature newly commissioned works by female composers that introduce unconventional piano techniques to intermediate pianists. She is also the founder and member of the piano and percussion duo, Back Pocket Duo, with Colin McCall. Their current tour titled “The Empathy Project” is an interactive performance that explores the connections between art and empathy with the hope of every audience member finding a stronger sense of empathetic connection with others in their individual worlds. Committed to supporting musicians in finding their unique career path, she also works as a Programming Assistant at University of Michigan’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership (EXCEL) Lab.
Annie received her MM in Piano Performance from the University of Michigan and her BM in Piano Performance with a minor in Public Health from New York University. She will receive her DMA in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Michigan in 2019. Her teachers include Logan Skelton, José Ramón Mendez, Miyoko Lotto, Anne-Marie McDermott, Faye Bonner, and John Ellis.