Music Department Alumni
Ohio Wesleyan Music Department Alumni
Share Their Stories of Success
Abigail Nims '01, B.M., Voice Performance
My four years at Ohio Wesleyan were integral to my development as an artist. The individual attention from the dedicated faculty, the performing opportunities, the small class sizes, and the liberal arts atmosphere allowed me to learn about music as well as about other subjects in a supportive and yet always challenging environment, which prepared me well for a career as a professional musician.
After finishing a Bachelor of Music degree in voice performance at OWU, I received a Master of Music degree from Westminster Choir College and an Artist Diploma from Yale School of Music. I am now a professional mezzo soprano residing in New York City and performing both nationally and internationally. Recent and upcoming performances include solo appearances with the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Wexford (Ireland) Festival Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Teatro Municipal (Chile), Santa Fe Opera, and Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.
Ohio Wesleyan allowed me to fully realize my passion for music and also to develop the skills and discipline I would need in order to be successful in the field. The music department allows students to focus on developing their unique musicianship without having the distraction of constant competition which one often encounters at conservatories. Additionally, the performing opportunities offered to undergraduate students at OWU far surpass those found at many other institutions. I performed roles in several operas and sang with orchestras – opportunities which many singers do not have until they attend graduate school or later. I owe much to the education I received at Ohio Wesleyan and strongly believe that I probably would not be the artist I am today, nor would I be as successful in the music business, had I not attended this university.
Dr. Mark Alan Wade ’99, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
In short, my music education at Ohio Wesleyan University prepared me to teach and perform. After teaching four years of public school, I completed my M.M. and D.M.A. in Trumpet Performance at The Ohio State University. In hindsight, I was very thankful that my most difficult undergraduate classes (music history and music theory) were small in enrollment and had a lot of personal interaction with the actual professors- not a graduate teaching assistant. As a result, testing out of theory and history in graduate school was easy and saved me time and money!
Likewise as a performer, I was well prepared. The variety of performance opportunities at OWU was very surprising for a small liberal arts school. As a music education major I was able to perform in: orchestra, wind ensemble, brass quintet, jazz band, opera pit orchestra, and the athletic band. That simply would not have happened at a larger school. As a result of the diversity of my OWU music experiences, in graduate school I simultaneously won the principal trumpet position in the top orchestra & wind ensemble, the lead trumpet spot in the top jazz band, the Graduate Teaching Assistantship in the trumpet studio, and the coveted DMA concerto contest, where I appeared as a soloist with the symphony.
Perhaps the best testimony of the transformative power of an OWU education is that I hold an identical position at Denison University as my role model, mentor and friend, Dr. Griffin. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor of Music and teach the trumpet studio, Music Theory and direct the Wind Ensemble. By speaking so highly of my alma mater, it may seem that I have a conflict of interests now that I teach at a sister university, but I would not have the career I now enjoy without my start at OWU.
Karla McClain '99, B.M., Choral Music Education
Something else I appreciated about my undergraduate education experience was that we were given a broad knowledge of all philosophies. My current district is Kodaly-based, and I felt comfortable because although I was not Kodaly trained, I understood the basic principles and knew how to expand my knowledge. I also feel that no matter what pedagogy a district is using, a good teacher should adapt their teaching to best fit the learning needs of their students. So if I have a student who needs a more kinesthetic approach, I knew from my broad background what kinds of activities might help that student.
Not only did the practical experiences as a musician and educator help prepare me to teach, but the rigorous coursework in theory and history helped me as a graduate student. I had no problem with the level of writing and research required of me at the graduate level because of the high expectations of our faculty. Again, the small size of our school not only made professors accessible, but assured that we were pushed to a higher level. Faculty went out of their way to ensure our success.
On a personal note, the feeling of community in our department is something that has also lasted with me. Many of my closest friends, even all these years later, are people that I spent many hours at Sanborn Hall with. Of all the schools I looked at, the lasting impression OWU had on me besides the quality of the music program, was how friendly and kind the students were. I felt at home from the moment I stepped in Sanborn Hall.
My start at OWU led me to teach in 2 outstanding school districts with nationally known programs, presenting at a national conference, and singing in professional choirs…. where will it take you?
Tony Nims '00, B.M., Choral Music Education
Since graduating I earned a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from Westminster Choir College and have been a high school choral director for nine years, the last five in my present position at Lakota West High School in Cincinnati. My choirs have consistently earned superior ratings at District and State OMEA adjudicated events at the AA level, and they have performed many major works such as the Bach Magnificat, the Haydn Creation, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. We have also performed with the Cincinnati Pops and twice at “Feast of Carols,” the holiday concert of University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music.
The knowledgeable and personable faculty at OWU helped to cultivate in me a passion for great music as well as a standard of excellence, both of which I have carried with me into all of my professional endeavors.Duane Prill '89, B.M., Instrumental Performance
I graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1989 from Ohio Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Organ Performance. My organ studies were with Professor Robert Griffith, voice/accompanying studies were with Professors Robert and Marilyn Nims, and piano studies were with Professor Robert Lawrence. My time at OWU was lifechanging. The un-paralleled teaching/mentoring attention I received prepared me for a world of opportunities after leaving Ohio Wesleyan. I continued on as a scholarship student and obtained my Master of Music degree in Organ Performance from The Eastman School of Music where I studied with the late Professor Russell Saunders. Post Graduate studies were with Professor David Craighead. Since completing my formal education, I have worked to synthesize church music and the voicing of pipe organs into one harmonious career.
I currently serve as Principal Organist for the 2500 member congregation of Asbury First United Methodist Church, Rochester, NY, a position I have held since 1996. This year I celebrate my 32nd year as a church musician; a labor of love that has allowed me thousands of performance opportunities. I have accompanied every major choral/vocal ensemble in my region including the Rochester Oratorio Society, Madrigalia, and the Concentus Women’s Chorus. My church music career has allowed me to play with incredible orchestras and be the featured performer at concerts throughout each year. I have performed throughout the United States, in France, and Italy.
In addition to enjoying an active church music career, I am Tonal Director for Parsons Pipe Organ Builders, Canandaigua, NY, where I am responsible for scaling, voicing, and tonal finishing their instruments. I recently celebrated my 20th year in this position. Currently a colleague member of the American Institute of Organbuilders, I have served as vice-president of that organization. I also served as Dean and Sub Dean of the Rochester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and am a member of the Organ Historical Society. My compact disc entitled, “Celebrate!”, music for two trumpets and organ, was recorded at the University of Rochester Interfaith Chapel where I was Chapel Organist and staff member for seven years.
It was my life-long dream to live on a lake, and in 2001 I realized this dream by moving to the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. Two years ago, I obtained my Realtors License so that during the summer months, I can assist others in realizing their dream of lakefront living. I make my home on Lamoka Lake with my partner of 20 years, Ken Saltzman.
Sarah Fish '95, B.M., Instrumental Performance
Sarah Fish earned a Bachelor of Music from Ohio Wesleyan University (’95) and a Master of Music from the University of Minnesota (’98), where she was a fellow with the graduate woodwind quintet. Sarah is principal bassoon with the Boulder, Colorado Concert Band, teaches private bassoon lessons, and is a practicing piano accompanist. As a bassoonist, she has performed as soloist with the Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra and has also performed with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra. Sarah works as a Sr. Software Quality Assurance Engineer for CA Technologies and lives near Boulder, Colorado with her husband, Ben Johnson (M.M.E, University of Colorado, ’98).
Becky Hinkle '01, B.M., Voice Performance
Abram Wilson '95, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
I studied classical trumpet with Dr. Larry Griffin and at 22, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education, qualifying me to teach both choral and instrumental music from kindergarten to college aged students. I went on to study at the Eastman Conservatory in Rochester, New York where I attained a masters degree, studying jazz performance and composition with Ralph Alessi, Mike Cain, and Fred Sturm, and classical trumpet with Barbara Butler. It was also during this time I became closely involved with Young Audiences, an organization which brought professional artists to schools to perform and conduct workshops for children. I soon found myself performing for groups of up to 250, dealing with subjects like jazz history, groove, music theory, improvisation, and music composition. These workshops proved to be amazingly successful in Rochester, Cleveland and New York and inspired a number of students to pursue careers in music.
Coming to London in 2002, I quickly made links to some of the best artists here and, before long, was booked to appear as part of the Julian Joseph Big Band. A chance meeting with the directors of Dune Records at a jam session at London’s Jazz Café set the wheels in motion for me to start working as a regular member of various Dune artists’ bands leading to my signing to the label in late-2003. I currently tour with my bands and fellow Dune recording artists: Soweto Kinch on the 2003 Mercury/ MOBO Award winning album, “Conversations With The Unseen; with 2002 Mercury/MOBO Award winner, Denys Baptiste on “Let Freedom Ring!” with soul-jazz vocalist, Juliet Roberts; and the award-winning jazz/ska big band, Jazz Jamaica All Stars.
As a singer/songwriter my voice has enabled me to cover all styles of music, from jazz scat to rap, from ballads to boogaloo, RnB to hip hop, reggae and ska to soul. As a composer, I have a broad range of skills, able to write for string orchestra and big band, as well as small ensembles. In addition, I work with the hip/RnB/soul production team, Seulja, where I am responsible for vocal and instrumental arranging.
David Crawford '00, B.M., Voice Performance
Matthew Moehle '00, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
I am a Clinical Instructor of Education in the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, and Special Education at Morehead State University. I use a variety of strengths-based approaches in my work to help foster improvement and innovation in teaching and education. I work mostly with individual teachers and teacher education students to use strengths-based approaches to develop and personalize instructional strategies, create positive learning environments, uncover and build upon inherent strengths of students, teachers, and schools to increase learning, incorporate multiple stakeholders into child development and education processes, and to address many other areas of teaching and learning. As a researcher, I use strengths-based strategies to explore formal and informal learning experiences that inspire and foster individuals' lifelong learning and leisure. A father of two young children, I use strengths-based approaches not only in the schools, but also at home to create a strengths-based family. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Dr. Ansyn Banks '98, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
My experiences at OWU were enriching, fulfilling and invaluable to my career. OWU’s music education curriculum left no stone unturned and it provided me with all the necessary tools to become an effective educator.
As a student there, I performed in the Wind Ensemble, Brass Quintet, Pep Band, Jazz Ensemble, and the Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra (C.O.S.O.). These playing experiences deepened my understanding of musical styles, and molded me into the versatile musician I am today.
After completing my Bachelor’s of Music degree in Music Education, I continued my studies and received two degrees from Indiana University. (M.M. - Jazz Studies, D.M. - Brass Pedagogy). I joined the Uof L Jazz faculty in 2006. In addition to teaching Jazz trumpet, I teach jazz styles and analysis, jazz improvisation, and I direct UofL’s jazz combo program.
I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Dick Oatts, Harry Pickens, Chuck Marohnic, Hank Marr, Gene Walker, Jimmy Heath, and many other jazz artists. I adjudicate and perform at various H.S. jazz festivals, and teach at Jamey Aebersold’s summer workshops. During my tenure in Indiana, I frequently performed with the Buselli-Wallerab Jazz Orchestra, and the Steve Allee Big Band. I enjoy performing R&B music and have played with The Mighty Dells, The Temptations, The Temptations Review, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, and other R&B artists.
My current career is quite versatile and I am pleased to say that OWU had a lot to do with it.
Dr. Ansyn Banks (class of 1998)
Kevin S. Foster '97, B.M., Choral Music Education
Today I am connecting with choirs around the world with the music that I write. One of the most consistent bits of feedback I get from other directors and students after appearing as a guest conducting/clinician is how “real” and “down to Earth” I seem to be, with a genuine connection to the students...I guess that is not surprising given the mentors I had at OWU. For me, it was vital to be in a place where I could get the guidance and genuine care that has enabled me to fully develop my artistic gifts.
Qiana McNary '07, B.M., Voice Performance
While at OWU, I not only learned music and all of it's fundamentals, but inherited the positive characteristics and integrity of being a successful operatic singer. I valued my professors and their wealth of knowledge they imparted to me.
At OWU I studied with Marilyn Nims. She molded my raw talent voice into a voice of gold. I tip my hat to Dr. Larry Griffin for keeping me grounded and focused while studying music. Having support and encouragement goes a long way, and I know I would have never received that had I not gone to OWU.
During my educational experience at OWU, I was involved in the operas, set design, choir, The Park Avenue Jazz Band, Mu Phi Epsilon, and was a soloist with the OWU Chamber Orchestra. The opportunities I received at OWU have further propelled me into my music career.
I graduated in May 2010 from Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts with my Master of Music in Vocal Performance. As I transitioned into graduate school I had the pleasure of studying with Judith Haddon. I am currently singing with the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago, just completed a premier Hip-Hop opera with Hoperaworld productions, and performing all around Chicago as a soloist and recitalist. OWU Music Department set the foundation for my success in music.
Jennifer Blair '00, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
After earning a Bachelor of Music from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2000, I joined the Westerville City School District, where I have taught secondary concert, marching, and jazz bands, music theory, and general music, as well as elementary vocal and general music. Given our state's tough economy and competitive job market for new educators, I credit the success of my immediate employment in a highly-rated school district to the distinction of completing my teacher training and degree at Ohio Wesleyan. When I chose to continue my music education studies by earning a Master of Arts at The Ohio State University, the training I had received during my time at OWU left me more than thoroughly prepared to handle the demands and expectations of a graduate program at a large university.
In addition to a successful public teaching career, I served as a research assistant for Integrity Press and co-edited William Rehrig's The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music, 2nd ed., with band historian Paul Bierley, which is available on CD-ROM from Walking Frog Records. I have also maintained an active musical career in the Central Ohio area, offering private and group woodwind instruction, as well as performing with local bands, such as the Heisey Wind Ensemble and the Westerville Concert Band. I am a member of the Ohio Music Education Association, Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Kappa Lambda, and Mu Phi Epsilon.
A few words couldn’t suffice to summarize my experiences in music at Ohio Wesleyan, and they go even less far in repaying the debt I owe her faculty, but they hopefully will be a start in that direction.
From the very first day—the theory placement exam, even!—OWU’s music majors are a family. Like all good families, we support, challenge, laugh, cry, bicker, bond, and succeed with one another. And the faculty is a key part of the familial atmosphere at OWU as well. Here professors are not merely concerned with forging talented musicians from potential ones, but with helping you grow as a person: In loco parentis, I can almost hear my Classics professor saying…
And I think it’s this well-adjusted family that fuels the success we experienced there and since. When you know you are valued and supported, you are able to turn your energies toward pushing yourself, finding new challenges, and taking artistic leaps. When you lack that support, much of your attention is focused simply on developing it. Because I had the support of my ‘family’, I was able to pursue solo piano and accompanying, voice and chorus, jazz band and organ and opera, in roughly equal measure. I wasn’t just writing papers about madrigals; I was singing them as well (or vice versa).
Thus the OWU music family prepared me extremely well for one of the finest music schools in the country. It would be very hard to utter a disparaging word about a wonderful place that gave me a graduate fellowship to study musicology, but this institution was a different place for its undergrads, really a trade school aimed at survival of the fittest. There are found walls between departments and genres; I found myself teaching others what I had only learned a couple years previously (and then from a Ph.D in the subject). In graduate school, and even more since, I have come to hold my OWU experience dearly.
Now I hold the title of Pastoral Musician in the excellent music department of a huge Catholic parish in Naples, Florida. I sing, play organ, piano, guitar, whatever the occasion requires. I am fortunate to serve the musical needs of thousands in worship every weekend. I am blessed to provide music for couples as they wed, and equally blessed to play for the Masses of those who have just passed on to the other side of life, as it were. In all that I do I call upon skills learned in Sanborn Hall, whether it’s looking at a piece and immediately reading it in another key, or directing ensembles of all shapes and sizes. Most of all, though, I strive to create and recreate that familial atmosphere of which I am still so grateful to have been a part, at the one and only Ohio Wesleyan University.
Zachary Baker '09, B.M., Instrumental Music Education I graduated from OWU in 2009 with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Education and currently teach band full-time in Wisconsin Dells, WI. There were many fun times that my classmates and I enjoyed in Sanborn Hall. The camaraderie shared by the students in the music department not only makes you feel welcome, but also helps push you to greater lengths academically and musically. Professors like Dr. Larry Griffin taught me what it means to act like and to be a professional. I was pushed to new limits, and because of that I feel confident in my skills in musical performance, teaching, and professionally.
Susan Bunsold Wilson '98, B.M., Voice Performance
What I remember most about the department as a whole was that it was a very warm and nurturing atmosphere. I felt that at anytime I could talk with a professor about a problem or concern. Some of my favorite times at OWU were my piano lessons with Mrs. Hopper. She was an amazing teacher and more importantly, a mentor. She had genuine love and concern for the musical education of her students, not just the majors but ALL her students. She saw potential in everyone.
As a student at OWU, I was interested in not only vocal performance, but also music education and theater. In 5 years, I was able to earn a vocal performance degree as well as teacher certification. When I left OWU, I felt extremely prepared for my first teaching job and confident in my vocal skills. I feel that the choral concerts, tours, recitals and opera workshop performances that OWU provided were vital in developing me into a well-rounded musician.
Min-Min Tay '96, B.M., Instrumental Performance
I have good memories of my days at OWU as a piano major. Everyone was very warm and inviting. The music department was close-knit family, where all professors and students know one another and greeted each other along the corridors. Having wonderful and encouraging professors have helped me to develop my interest and skills and allowed me many opportunities to perform.
I have taught music in schools and performed in a few charity concerts back in Singapore. I now run my own music studio and hiring 2 assistant teachers to help me. Thinking of Sanborn hall brings back warm memories and the Music Department is wonderful in nurturing young and budding musicians.
Amy Bergandine '07, B.M., Choral Music Education
I am currently in my third year of teaching middle school choral and general music in Frankfort, Indiana. I am incorporating everything I learned at OWU to good use, and I continue to learn and grow as an educator and musician. The best opportunity I have enjoyed after graduation was touring China in June of 2010 as a member of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. Singing at the Great Wall of China in Beijing, and performing at the World Expo in Shanghai were amazing opportunities. My experiences at OWU prepared me for this once in a lifetime experience that truly enriched my life. I cannot think of a better place to have studied music, and I am extremely grateful for my Ohio Wesleyan University education.
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