Distinguished alumni

Each year, the College of Visual and Performing Arts honors a select group of alumni for their achievements in artistic performance, research and education. Our Distinguished Alumni Award recipients represent how far a degree in Arts, Theatre, Music or Dance can take you. We’re excited to welcome these Distinguished Alumni back to campus, celebrate their success, and have the opportunity to learn from their experiences and inspire future greatness.

Meet some of our Distinguished Alumni Award recipients.

This month, the College of Visual and Performing Arts awarded its highest honor to five alumni who exemplify excellence in their fields, recognizing them for their achievements in artistry and education.

Kyle Webster BFA ’99 (Art); Tiffany Rhynard BA ’98 (Dance); Vanessa Cornett-Murtada DMA ’04 and Jonathan Green DMA ’92 (Music) and Joe Forbes BFA ’76( Theatre) were named CVPA ‘s 2018 Distinguished Alumni on November 8th at a dinner and awards presentation in the new dance studio in the Mary Channing Coleman Building on the UNC Greensboro campus.

Kyle Webster, BFA ’99
School of Art

Kyle WebsterKyle T. Webster is an international award-winning illustrator, living in North Carolina, who has drawn for The New Yorker, TIME, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal,

The Atlantic, Entertainment Weekly, Scholastic, ADOBE, Nike, IDEO, and many other distinguished editorial, advertising, publishing and institutional clients.
His illustration work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, Communications Arts, and American Illustration. In 2009 and 2010, Kyle created two top 50 iPhone games.

He is known throughout the world as the founder of KyleBrush.com, the brand behind the world’s best-selling Photoshop brushes for professional illustrators, animators, and designers. His brushes were the first to be officially licensed by Adobe for inclusion in the Adobe library of tools for Photoshop and Photoshop Sketch (iPad). Kyle also currently teaches Life Drawing, Portraiture, and Digital Painting at the UNC School of the Arts.

Listen to Kyle Webster's acceptance speech

Tiffany Rhynard, BA ’98
School of Dance

Tiffany RhynardTiffany Rhynard is an artist, dancer, and filmmaker compelled to make work that examines the consequences of human behavior in an effort to spark a conversation about current social justice issues. Her dance films have screened at festivals nationwide including ScreenDance Miami where she was awarded the First Prize for Invisible Queens(2015) and the jury prize for Black Stains (2018). Rhynard’s award winning documentary, Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America, received a 2018 Television Academy Honor for its airing on LogoTV in partnership by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Forbidden was awarded the first ever Social Justice Film Award from the Southern Poverty Law Center, received the Freedom Award from Outfest Film Festival, and was featured on American Airlines as part of their summer 2017 Pride campaign for LGBTQ advocacy.
A cross-disciplinary artist, Rhynard has worked with esteemed collaborators including choreographer Christal Brown, internationally renowned composer Lei Liang, real-time digital media artist Marlon Barrios Solano, mezzo-soprano Sahoko Sato Timpone, and is she currently working with filmmaker and choreographer Millicent Johnnie on a new film. As a performer, she has danced for choreographers including Gerri Houlihan, Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians, and Chavasse Dance and Performance Group.
Rhynard holds a B.A. in Dance from UNC Greensboro, and an M.F.A. in Choreography
from The Ohio State University. She has taught at colleges and universities throughout the country including SUNY Potsdam, Middlebury College, and University of Florida, and currently teaches Dance and Technology in the School of Dance at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Listen to Tiffany Rhynard's acceptance speech

Vanessa Cornett, DMA ’04
School of Music

Vanessa CornettVanessa Cornett-Murtada is the Director of Keyboard Studies and Associate Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis-St. Paul. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in piano performance, piano pedagogy, piano literature, and directed research. A founding member of the St. Thomas Project for Mindfulness and Contemplation, she also teaches honors seminars and faculty development workshops on mindfulness. She is a scholar of performance psychology, contemplative practices in higher education, and performance anxiety management for musicians.

Dr. Cornett is author of the forthcoming book The Mindful Musician: Mental Skills for Peak Performance (Oxford University Press, spring 2019). The former Senior Editor of Clavier Companion, she now oversees the magazine’s regular column, “Healthy Playing, Healthy Teaching.” She has publishedin the Journal of Transformative Education, MTNA eJournal, College Music Symposium, American Music Teacher, Canadian Music Teacher, and three chapters in the textbook Creative Piano Teaching (4th edition). She earned the Editor’s Choice Award for her co-authored paper on music and the mind in the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education.

An international clinician, she has offered masterclasses, student seminars, lectures, and teacher training workshops in South Africa, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Europe, and across the U.S. She has served as a keynote speaker for the National Group Piano and Piano Pedagogy Forum, the MTNA International Wellness Symposium, and for several state music teacher conferences. She has also presented at the World Piano Conference, International Society of Music Education World Congress, International Conference on Spirituality and Music Education, and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Her professional service is dedicated to the mental health of performing artists. She serves on the CMS Committee for Musicians’ Health, the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy Committee on Wellness for the Pianist, and as the chair of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association Wellness Committee. She was appointed to the NASM Psychological Health Task Force by the Performing Arts Medicine Association.

Dr. Cornett earned her DMA in piano performance from UNCG, and a B.M. in piano performance and M.M. in piano pedagogy from West Virginia University. While in Greensboro, she taught at UNCG, North Carolina A&T State University, and the Music Academy of North Carolina. She still misses the dogwoods, magnolias, and Cheerwine.

Listen to Vanessa Cornett's acceptance speech

Jonathan D. Green, DMA ’92
School of Music

Jonathan Green

Jonathan D. Green, is a native of upstate New York. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 1985 studying voice with David Evans. He received a Master of Music from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1987 as an Ornest Fellow studying voice with Jon Humphrey and Dorothy Ornest and composition with Robert Stern and Salvatore Macchia. He participated in a summer programs at Oxford University’s Trinity College and the Music School of Chautauqua Institution. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1992 where he was a University Excellence Fellow. At UNCG, he studied conducting with Bill Carroll, Richard Cox, and Robert Gutter and composition with Eddie Bass.

Prior to being named President at Susquehanna, he served as provost and dean of the faculty at Illinois Wesleyan University for six years and prior to that he spent 15 years at Sweet Briar College inVA, the last eight years of that service as Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Affairs.At Sweet Briar, he received the Excellence in Teaching award, and at Illinois Wesleyan he was namedthe first recipient of the Outstanding Advisor Award.

Green is an award-winning composer of over 150 musical works and the author of seven reference books.

Listen to Jonathan D. Green's acceptance speech

Joseph Forbes, BFA ’76
School of Theatre

Joseph Forbes

Joseph Forbes grew up in rural Virginia. He attended Chowan College where he earned an Associates Degree in Journalism. He then studied at the University of North Carolina Greensboro where he earned a BFA in Scene Design. Upon moving to New York, he attended Lester Polakov’s Studio and Forum on Stage Design. He became a member of United Scenic Artists Local 829 in 1979.

Forbes has had a long career as a professional Scenic Artist working in New York on projects rangingfrom theatre, ballet, film, television, to theme parks, restaurant interiors and permanent displays.

Joe started at Nolan’s Scenery Studio, painting on many of the iconic productions of that era; Annie,Cats, A Chorus Line and Evita. His credits in film are Ghost Busters, Crocodile Dundee, The Money Pit, and The Old Gringo (starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda). In 1994, Forbes founded Scenic Art Studios, which has become the premier scene painting studio for Broadway shows. The company has painted over 300 Broadway productions, including many Tony award winning shows such asCarousel, Once on This Island, SpongeBob and The Band’s Visit.

Joe is not only the founder of SAS, but the hands-on Charge Artist that pushes his team to set the bar higher. Passionate about what he does, and more to the point, about passing that information on, Forbes continually strives to make a better product, passing the craft down to future generations. Many of the innovations that have come from SAS are shared with others in our industry to raise the standards industry wide.

Joe founded the Studio and Forum of Scenic Art in 2004 a non-for-profit school. Joe modelled theSchool after the legendary Polakov Studio (formally known as The Studio and Forum of Stage Design) which was run by the designer and teacher Lester Polakov from 1958-1993. Working closely with the students is important to Joe – not only critiquing their work, but teaching them how to think about their skills, from going over story and plot points, the physical space they have to work with and more. Joe has had the pleasure of seeing many of his students go on to have outstanding

careers. He also teaches Scene Painting and Rendering at SUNY Purchase College in Purchase, New York where a former student of his had the honor of designing the set for Springsteen: On Broadway.

“Paying it forward” is a quote Joe follows and he “pays it forward” every chance he gets, including but not limited to donating backdrops to a company called Unshattered, a social enterpriseemploying women who are winning their fight against addiction. They make handbags and accessories out of repurposed materials. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration; three traits thatJoe shows every day.

Listen to Joseph Forbes' acceptance speech


Carla Gannis  BA Art ’92
Hugh Hysell BFA Acting ’88
David Kish MM Music Education ’02, DMA Instrumental Conducting ’03
Connie McKoy MM Music Education’89, PhD  Music Education ’98
Doug Risner ’88, MFA Dance ’90, PhD Curriculum and Teaching ’01


Dr. Candace Bailey MM Piano Performance’85
Bonnie Becker BFA Design and Theatre Technology ‘76
John Cipolla DMA Clarinet Performance ‘02
Janet Galván BM Music Education ’73, MM Music Education ’74, PhD ‘87
Lee Hall BFA Painting ‘55
Ann Law MA Dance Education ‘07


Barbara L. Geer, MM Music Education ‘88
Dr. Michael Hall, DMA Music Performance ‘00
Susan E. Mickey, BFA Acting ‘77
John Shepard, BM Theory and Composition ‘71
Dr. Jan Van Dyke, EdD, Curriculum & Educational Foundations ‘89 and Department of Dance Professor Emerita, ‘13


Christal Brown, BFA Dance ‘01
Dr. Anna Harwell Celenza, BA Music Studies ‘89
Chris Chalk, BFA Acting ’01
Dr. Donald Hamman, PhD Music Education ’80
Laura Poe, BM Music Education ’01, MM Performance ’04