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.
Susan E. Mickey, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama ‘77
Susan Mickey is an accomplished costume designer with a career in theatre, film and television. Her first professional costume design was Cymbeline in 1979 for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. She is the winner of a Carbonell Award for Don’t Stop The Carnival, two Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best Costume Design for School For Lies and The Madness of George III, and recently the winner of the Michael Merritt Award for Lifetime Achievement in Collaboration.
Susan’s costumes have graced the stage in almost every major regional theatre in America. She has collaborated on over 35 world premieres, with teams as diverse as Kenny Leon and Pearl Cleage; Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett; and Jimmy Buffet and Herman Wouk. Susan has enjoyed extended design relationships with The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Huntington Theatre in Boston, and The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, but her most lengthy artistic collaboration was with the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, where she designed over 58 productions spanning 30 years. Her work in television and lm includes Miss Evers’ Boys for HBO and Mama Flora’s Family for CBS. She is the author of several books on sewing and home décor.
Since 2004, Susan has been a part of the design faculty of the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas, where she is the Senior Associate Chair and the Head of the Production Division. She is a Regents Teaching Excellence Award winner and holder of the Susan Menafee Ragan professorship in Fine Arts. Most recently, she designed the costumes for the season-opening production of The Marriage of Figaro for Lyric Opera Chicago.
John Shepard, Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition ‘71
In October 2008, John Shepard assumed the position of Head of the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library at the University of California, Berkeley. From August 2004 to September 2008, he was the Music & Performing Arts Librarian on the Library faculty at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Shepard was a member of the staff of the Music Division of the Research Libraries of the New York Public Library from March 1972 to August 2004: from January 1981 as a librarian, and from June 1986 as the Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts.
Shepard has a Bachelor of Music degree (Theory & Composition) from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (1971), a Master of Science in Library Service from Columbia University (1981), and has pursued graduate studies in musicology at New York University (1984-89). Shepard currently serves on the Council of the American Musicological Society, and has served on the boards of directors of the Music Library Association (MLA; 1994-96, and currently for the 2014-16 term) and of the U.S. Branch of the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML; 1990-93 and 2008-11); from 2006 to 2008, he was Chair of IAML’s Archives and Music Documentation Centres branch.
Shepard has presented papers at MLA and IAML conferences (1993, 2002, 2006, and 2013) and his feature articles have appeared in the MLA’s journal Notes (1984, 2000, and 2006), along with numerous reviews of books and score editions (1979-2000). He wrote numerous articles for The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (1986) and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992). His article on a case study of the pedagogy of dance archives appeared in IAML’s journal Fontes Artis Musicae in the April/June 2011 issue.
By his own account, the greatest thrill of John Shepard’s career was serving as ad hoc curator of Igor Stravinsky’s papers when they were deposited at the New York Public Library from February to September 1983.
Dr. Michael Hall, Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Performance ‘00
Michael Hall has performed and taught across Europe, Asia and the United States. Described by the New Music Connoisseur as “utterly masterful” and Chamber Music Today as having “superb technique,” he recently made his Chicago Orchestra Hall solo debut and concluded a recital tour to Vienna, Austria and Udine and Tolmezzo, Italy.
Hall has been a featured performer at the Thailand International Composition Festival in Bangkok, the Positano Chamber Music Festival in Italy, the Vianden International Chamber Music Festival in Luxembourg, and the Composer’s Concordance Series in New York City. Twice Hall has presented world premieres at International Viola Congresses in Minneapolis and Reykjavik, Iceland, performed at the 2014 Primrose International Festival in Los Angeles, and performed to critical acclaim the North American premiere of Chen Yi’s Xian Shi the first viola concerto written by a Chinese composer, with the Chicago Composers Orchestra, and earlier with the Chiang Mai Philharmonic in Thailand. Hall has been featured in performance on Thailand’s PBS-TV, NPR’s “Live From Studio A”, and WFMT’s new music program, “Relevant Tones.” Hall regularly performs with the Chicago Philharmonic, Joffrey Ballet, Ravinia Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Baroque on Beaver Island Music Festival, and the Chicago Composers Orchestras.
Hall teaches at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, and has served on the faculties of Illinois Wesleyan University, Chicago Academy for the Arts, Guilford College, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and taught at the University of Chicago. Additionally, Hall is the Director of Education for the Bandung Philharmonic in Indonesia, and serves on the Board of the American Viola Society. Hall received his Doctorate degree from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Masters degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Bachelors degree at Ball State University.
Hall plays a viola made by Ferruccio Varagnolo. He has two daughters, has logged over 3,000 miles hiking through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and other mountain chains throughout the world, loves dark chocolate, is an avid amateur photographer, recently completed the Chicago Marathon, and is married to the most inspiring 5th grade teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.
Barbara L. Geer, Master of Music in Music Education ‘88
Barbara L. Geer is a retired music educator/consultant from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System. She has taught elementary, middle, and high school vocal, instrumental, and general music. She was choral director and Fine Arts Chair at East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, North Carolina, for 22 years. In addition to her instructional duties, she has served as a supervisor of the Forsyth County secondary band, choral, and orchestra programs, and has provided extensive mentorship for collegiates and new teachers locally and nationally. She retired as Minister of Music at Kernersville First Baptist Church in January 2013, where she worked with the Chancel Choir, Handbell Choir and Youth Choir, and was responsible for the vocal and instrumental church programs. This is a position she held for 30 years. Upon retiring, Joseph Martin (noted sacred composer) wrote an anthem for Barbara which was performed at her retirement ceremony. In addition, she serves on the Deacon Board at First Baptist. Prior to that, Barbara worked with church music programs at First Presbyterian Church in Red Springs, NC, Snyder Memorial and First Baptist Churches in Fayetteville, NC, First Baptist Church in Aberdeen, NC, and Kernersville Moravian Church.
Ms. Geer received the BME degree from St. Andrews Presbyterian College (now University) in Laurinburg, NC and the MM degree from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has a distinguished record of state, division and national music leadership experience, having served as president of both the North Carolina Music Educators Association and the Southern Division of MENC. She is currently the Past President of NAfME: The National Association for Music Education, formerly MENC: The National Association for Music Education. Her term began in 2008 and concluded in 2010 as active president ,with another two years serving on the National Executive Board. While on the MENC National Executive Board, she served as a member of the Finance Committee, National Executive Committee, National Convention Task Force, Vision 20/20 Symposium, and planning committees for national conferences in Washington, DC, Nashville, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. She has also served as a member of the Lowell Mason Fellows selection committee and the National Anthem Project committee.
Ms. Geer received the Kentucky Colonel Award in 2000 and 2002, and was voted North Carolina Choral Teacher of the Year in 2002. In 2005, she was selected as a Lowell Mason Fellow in MENC: The National Association for Music Education. She also received the Samuel Talmadge Ragan Award for contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina in 2008. In 2010, she was inducted into the North Carolina Music Educators Association Hall of Fame, and in 2011 was recognized as a North Carolina Woman of Influence by the Delta Kappa Gamma Sorority International. In 2014, she was selected as a member of the North Carolina Music Educators Association High School Choral Music Hall of Fame. Additionally, she has adjudicated and conducted choirs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia and Washington State, and currently chairs the NC Professional Development In-Service Conference, as well as district vocal MPA ensemble and large choral festivals held at Wake Forest University.
Dr. Jan Van Dyke, Ed.D, Curriculum & Educational Foundations ‘89 and Department of Dance Professor Emerita, ‘13
Over the span of her career, Jan Van Dyke (1941-2015) has been nationally recognized as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, as well as a leader in the dance communities she was part of, most notably Washington, DC and Greensboro, NC. She also taught and performed throughout the United States and in various European countries, including Italy and Portugal.
After receiving an M.A. in Dance Education from George Washington University in 1966, Dr. Van Dyke studied with Merce Cunningham and at the Martha Graham School in New York. She returned to Washington, DC in 1972 and established her own dance studio, Dance Place, which became the leader in modern dance training and performance in DC. Her company, Jan Van Dyke and Dancers, toured extensively throughout the United States during this time. In the late 1980s, Van Dyke enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and was awarded an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Educational Foundations in 1989. She is Professor Emerita in the Dance Department at UNCG, where she served as Head from 2006-2011. Additionally, she founded the nonprofit organization Dance Project, Inc., based in Greensboro, NC, which runs the NC Dance Festival, Van Dyke Dance Group, and The School at City Arts.
Dr. Van Dyke’s work has received grants from the DC Council for the Arts and Humanities, the California Council for the Arts, and the National Endowments for the Arts. In addition, Van Dyke is the recipient of a NC Choreography Fellowship, and was a 1993 Fulbright Scholar. In 2001, she was honored with the North Carolina Dance Alliance Annual Award for contributions to the development of dance in the state. An acclaimed teacher, Dance Teacher Magazine gave her the 2008 Dance Teacher Award for Higher Education. In 2010, UNCG honored her with the Gladys Strawn Bullard Award for leadership and service. The United Arts Council of Greensboro presented her with the Betty Cone Medal of Arts Award in 2011. The North Carolina Dance Festival will celebrate its 25th season of performances in Jan’s honor. The Van Dyke Dance Group will continue as a repertory company of Van Dyke’s works. The Van Dyke Performance Space in the Cultural Arts Center in downtown Greensboro opened in November 2016.
Christal Brown, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance ‘01
Christal Brown is the Founder of INSPIRIT, Project: BECOMING, the creator of the Liquid Strength training module for dance and the Chair of Dance at Middlebury College. Brown obtained her BFA in Dance with a minor in Business from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her MFA in New Media Art and Performance from Long Island University. Brown is a native of Kinston, North Carolina, where she remembers cleaning up on Saturday mornings as a child to the music of the Chi-Lites, Marvin Gaye, and Shirley Caesar. These rituals innately produced a strong desire in her to make all work melodic, sensual, meaningful and set to music.
Brown has danced since she was released from the confines of piano lessons at age 9. By navigating her way through narrow corridors of segregated understandings onto the stages of beautiful theaters, community centers, churches, classrooms, and cultural epiphanies, Brown has found the true meaning of grace. Her path of self-discovery has been influenced by trailblazers such as Chuck Davis, Bill T. Jones, Andrea E. Woods, Liz Lerman, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Through these conduits of movement matter she was given the opportunity, permission, and responsibility to move and move others. She is a mover, a warrior of change and transformation, living out experiences her double-amputee father recounted from his war-ridden dreams. The melodies in her body are melancholic and brought to life through the music; seen rather than heard through her choreography. Brown combines her athleticism, creativity, love for people, and passion for teaching to create works that redefine the art of dance and the structure of the field.
Dr. Anna Harwell Celenza, Bachelor of Arts in Music Studies ‘89
Dr. Anna Harwell Celenza is the Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music at Georgetown University and the author of several scholarly books, including Music as Cultural Mission: Explorations of Jesuit Practices in Italy and North America (2014) and Hans Christian Andersen and Music: The Nightingale Revealed (2005). Her work has also appeared in The Hopkins Review, Musical Quarterly, Nineteenth-Century Music, Notes, The Cambridge Companion to Liszt (2005), and Franz Liszt and His World (2006) and The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington (2014).
In addition to her scholarly work, Dr. Celenza has authored a series of award-winning children’s books with Charlesbridge Publishing: The Farewell Symphony (2000), Pictures at an Exhibition (2003), The Heroic Symphony (2004), Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2005), Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (2006), Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (2011), Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (2012), Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre (2013) and a 14-part syndicated series on Louis Armstrong for the NC Press Foundation. Her work has been featured on nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, including NPR’s “Todd Mundt Show”, BBC’s “Music Makers” and “Proms Broadcasts”, and C-Span’s “Book-TV”. Anna also served as a writer and guest commentator for Michigan Public Radio and NPR’s “Performance Today.”
Chris Chalk, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting ‘01
Chris Chalk most recently played “Gary Cooper” in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama “The Newsroom”, opposite Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. He can also be seen in USA Network’s drama series “Complications”, alongside Jason O’Mara and Jessica Szor. Chalk also plays the role of “Lucius Fox” on Fox’s hit series “Gotham.”Chris Chalk most recently played “Gary Cooper” in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama “The Newsroom”, opposite Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. He can also be seen in USA Network’s drama series “Complications”, alongside Jason O’Mara and Jessica Szor. Chalk also plays the role of “Lucius Fox” on Fox’s hit series “Gotham.” In 2014, Chalk starred opposite Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez in “Lila and Eve” playing the role of “Alonzo.” Charles Stone III directed the film, which centers on two parents who plot revenge for the death of their children. The film premiered at Sundance to rave reviews. He was last seen starring in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years A Slave”, opposite Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Chalk plays “Clemens Ray”, a fellow kidnapped slave who is brought to the South along with “Solomon” (Ejiofor). Chris played the role of “Tom Walker” on Showtime’s Emmy-winning Series “Homeland”. He also guest-starred in hit series such as CBS’ “Unforgettable”, FX’s “Justified”, “Persons of Interest”, “Nurse Jackie”, “Law & Order: SVU”, “The Good Wife”, “Rescue Me”, and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”. In 2010, Chalk received the “Recognition for Outstanding Broadway Debut” at the 66th Annual Theatre Awards and was awarded a Drama Desk Awards “Best Featured Actor” nomination for his portrayal of “Cory” in August Wilson’s “Fences”. Chris starred opposite Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in the Tony Award-winning Broadway show. Chalk’s previous stage work includes Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Ruined”, “Unconditional” (LAByrinth Theatre Company, The Public Theater), “Defiance” (Manhattan Theatre Club City Center), “The Overwhelming” (Roundabout), and most recently played a death-row inmate in Nathan Louis Jackson’s “When I Come to Die” (Lincoln Center), directed by Tony Award-nominated Thomas Kail. Previously, Chris starred in Focus Features’ “Being Flynn”, playing “Ivan” opposite Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore, and has appeared in a variety of films such as the hit film based on the Broadway musical “Rent”, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”, “The Architect”, and “Then She Found Me”.
Dr. Donald Hamman, Doctor of Education in Music Education ‘80
Dr. Donald Hamann, professor of music education and director of the Institute for Innovation in String Music Teaching, teaches string pedagogy and graduate research, teacher education, and statistics. He has presented workshops and clinics across the United States for the American String Teachers Association, the Music Educators National Conference, and the National School Orchestra Association. Hamann, who has published extensively in national and international string, education, and research journals, is editor and founder of the newly created Journal of String Research. Dr. Hamann currently serves on the JRME National Editorial Board and is President of the Arizona AMEA with NSOA. His recently published book Strategies for Teaching Strings is published with the Oxford University Press.Dr. Donald Hamann, professor of music education and director of the Institute for Innovation in String Music Teaching, teaches string pedagogy and graduate research, teacher education, and statistics. He has presented workshops and clinics across the United States for the American String Teachers Association, the Music Educators National Conference, and the National School Orchestra Association. Hamann, who has published extensively in national and international string, education, and research journals, is editor and founder of the newly created Journal of String Research. Dr. Hamann currently serves on the JRME National Editorial Board and is President of the Arizona AMEA with NSOA. His recently published book Strategies for Teaching Strings is published with the Oxford University Press. Earning his degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Hamann most recently taught at Kent State. He previously taught in the Eanes Independent School District, Austin, Texas, where he created their orchestral program, and at the University of Northern Colorado, where he founded the UNC String Project.
Laura Poe, Master in Music Performance ‘04, Bachelor of Music in Music Education ‘01
Korean-American pianist Laura Poe is a highly sought-after artist and collaborator who enjoys an exciting career as a pianist, opera coach and conductor. Based in Duesseldorf, Germany, Ms. Poe has been a member of the music staff at the Deutsche Opera am Rhein since 2011. For the 2015-16 season, Ms. Poe joined the music staff at San Francisco Opera. She worked at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2014-15 season as an Associate Conductor for John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer. In 2010, Ms. Poe served as a repetiteur and coach for the Junges Ensemble at the Semperoper Dresden, where she made her professional conducting debut conducting 19 performances of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. The production was later invited to the Lucerne Music Festival for an additional two performances. Ms. Poe was also an Associate Vocal Coach at The Juilliard School, and served on the staff of AIMS in Graz, Si parla, si canta in Urbania, Italy, and the Aspen Music Festival.
A graduate of The Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Ms. Poe has trained under the tutelage of world-class musicians, conductors and directors, including Sir Thomas Allen, Marco Armiliato, John Fisher, Reri Grist, Håkan Hagegård, Thomas Hampson, James Levine, Malcolm Martineau, Ken Noda, Felicity Palmer, Renata Scotto, Diane Soviero, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Benita Valente, José van Dam, and Stephen Wadsworth. Ms. Poe has collaborated with some of today’s greatest singers, including soprano Deborah Voigt, with whom she performed a broadcast on New York’s classical radio station WQXR. Ms. Poe was also featured in the BBC 2 documentary What Makes a Great Soprano with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. In 2009, she was a third prizewinner at the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition in London with soprano Erin Morley. As an experienced violinist, flautist and horn player, Ms. Poe is a frequent performer with instrumentalists and singers. She is an official accompanist to several instrumental and vocal competitions, and is also an experienced soloist and chamber musician.
Ms. Poe has been heard in concert at numerous festivals throughout the United States, including the Music Academy of the West, Ravinia Steans Institute, Bard Summerscape, Glimmerglass Opera, in New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Museum of Modern Art, Europe, and Trinidad and Tobago. Ms. Poe’s academic accomplishments include a Graduate Diploma in Collaborative Piano from The Juilliard School in New York City, and a Masters in Accompanying and Chamber Music from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was awarded the Thomas J. Stone Award for Excellence in Performance. A dedicated teacher, Laura holds a Bachelor’s degree in Instrumental Music Education from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
A running enthusiast, Ms. Poe loves to travel, get lost, and race in marathons.