Category Archives: Music Department

UM-Flint Summer Vocal Academy Auditions Start May 21st for 5th-12th Grade Students

Students in grades 5-8 and 9-12 will soon have a chance to audition for the 2015 Summer Vocal Academy of Music, held at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Continuing a tradition of over thirty years, the UM-Flint Summer Vocal Academy of Music welcomes middle and high school students who have musical potential and a love for singing. Academy students are offered the opportunity to participate in music classes that develop musical abilities and artistic potential for vocal performance and other creative arts. The curriculum of classes will enrich the students’ understanding of music as an art. Students will learn, create, and perform on stage under the direction of experienced UM-Flint music professors, Department of Music alumni, and Guest Conductors.

The Academy offers two camps: the Junior Academy for grades 5-8, held July 6-17, and the Senior Academy for grades 9-12, held July 20-31. Classes are held in the friendly environment of the UM-Flint campus, Monday through Friday, 8:30am-2:45pm for the duration of each program.

This year’s Academy curriculum includes Choir, Men’s and Women’s Ensemble, Music Investigation, Theory Composition, Vocal Technique, Percussion Ensemble, Dance and Movement, and Art Class. The 2015 conducting faculty includes Garth Starr of Davison Community Schools for the Junior Academy and Dr. Joshua May and Dr. Gabriela Hristova, both of UM-Flint, for the Senior Academy.

A final concert for each Academy will be held on the last day of camp at 7 pm in the UM-Flint Theatre.

Says Senior Academy Conductor, Dr. Joshua May, “Our program provides students with a unique musical experience that helps them develop their skills as performing artists. They work one-on-one with faculty to explore music through many lenses, which include art, dance, theory, and vocal ensembles. We help nurture and develop these talented young singers in a variety of vocal styles, so that they are able to share their passion for music in our summer performances! We create a fun-filled learning environment for students to share an unforgettable summer experience making music together!”

Audition dates are Thursdays, May 21 and 28, 6pm; Fridays, May 22 and 29, 6pm; and Saturdays, May 30 and June 6, 11am. Auditions will be held on the UM-Flint campus. Please call to reserve an audition spot: (810) 762-3377. The audition process includes students singing the first verse of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (the student will be accompanied by a piano); a test of voice range, sense of rhythm, and the ability to match pitch; and a basic theory test.

Scholarship funds are available for Flint and Genesee county students on a first come first serve base by June 1st. To be considered for a scholarship, students must audition and enroll by June 1. After June 1, students will still be able to audition (by appointment) and enroll to Academy, however, no scholarship awards will be available at this point.

For more information, visit or call the UM-Flint Music Department office at (810) 762-3377.


Advising on Secondary TCP Changes: March 30-April 2

The Secondary Teacher Certificate Program at UM-Flint is undergoing changes that will be effective in Fall 2015. The new model will better prepare our students to be high school teachers. All who are currently enrolled in a Secondary Teacher Certificate Program or considering teaching high school students should attend one of four upcoming advising sessions:

 • Monday, March 30th, 4pm-5pm 

• Tuesday, March 31st, 11am-12pm 

• Wednesday, April 1st, 11am-12pm

• Thursday, April 2nd, 4pm-5pm

Sessions will be held in the Center for Educator Prep in 410 French Hall. Each session will contain the same content. Multiple program advisors will be on hand to present information and answer questions. The changes will affect students who are already enrolled in a Secondary TCP.

For more information, visit or call 810.762.3257.


Get to Know Joshua May, D.M.A., of the Music Department!

Joshua May, D.M.A., is a Lecturer I in the UM-Flint Music Department. He will be presenting research at the Voice Educator’s Symposium at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, on February 20 & 21, 2015. His research centers on the connection of historical bel canto technique development for training young tenor voices through the use of Mozart’s concert aria repertoire.

Joshua May Music Dept.

Name: Joshua May, D.M.A.
Title: Lecturer I
Department: Music

Dr. Joshua May teaches applied voice and vocal arts courses in the Department of Music at the University of Michigan-Flint. Prior to his appointment at UM-Flint, Dr. May served on the faculty of the Community School of the Arts at the University of Connecticut. As an educator, he has served as a master clinician for solo voice and choral workshop series. In addition, he has presented research and workshops on vocal health and pedagogy. Dr. May was selected for the 2014 National Association of Teachers of Singing Intern Program. As an advocate for community engagement, he has coordinated and directed the opera outreach programs at the University of Connecticut and the University of Michigan-Flint. Dr. May’s research projects currently include teaching applications and the presentation of vocal formants and the male passaggio for undergraduate development, Mozart’s tenor concert repertoire for historical performance applications to help train maturing voice, and the LGBT song and aria project for a historical presentation of the music and poetry of 20th century composers next fall. Dr. May was selected to present his research on Mozart and the tenor voice at the New Voice Educators’ Symposium at Indiana University-Bloomington on February 20-21, 2015. These concert arias offer a variety of exciting challenges for the young tenor in recital to the professional artist on the concert stage. These beautiful concert arias offer valuable technical vocal training tools for studio teachers to help their students prepare for future operatic literature.

Dr. May is a lyric tenor with an active performing career in opera, oratorio, and art song. He has performed a variety of vocal repertoire and premiered works at such prestigious festivals and programs as the Atlantic Music Festival, Harrower Opera Workshop, Intermezzo Opera Festival, Halifax Summer Opera Festival, Tyrolean Opera Program, Contemporary Americana Festival, Opera in the Ozarks Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival. He has recently performed with such companies as Hartford Opera Theatre, Boston Metro Opera, Metro West Opera, Boston Opera Collaborative, and Opera Providence. Recent operatic engagements include: “Rinuccio” in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi as a guest artist at the Flint Institute of Music, “Ferrando” in Mozart’s Così fan tutte and “Il Duca di Matova” in Verdi’s Rigoletto, “Prince Paul” in La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, and the premier of Philip Martin’s The Family Plan as “Pietro” with both the Hartford Opera Theater and as a guest artist in performance at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT, “Male Chorus” in The Rape of Lucretia and “Samuel Parris” in The Crucible. Dr. May has been praised for his dynamic performances of the Mozart operatic repertoire, including “Tamino” in Die Zauberflöte, “Ferrando” in Così fan tutte, and “Don Ottavio” in Don Giovanni. If you would like to listen to recent recordings or find out more information about his upcoming performance schedule, you may visit his website at

D.M.A. Voice Performance University of Connecticut 2014
M.M. Vocal Pedagogy New England Conservatory of Music 2010
M.M. Vocal Performance New England Conservatory of Music 2009
B.A. French Grand Valley State University 2007
B.M. Vocal Performance University of Florida 2003

Classes I teach:
MUS 151-MUS 452 Applied Voice
MUS 100 Introduction to Music
MUS 366 Diction for Singers
MUS 230/430 Opera Workshop
MUS 210/410 Interim Chorale Director (Fall 2014)
UM-Flint Summer Vocal Academy Conductor

National Association of Teachers of Singing
Phi Mu Alpha
Pi Delta Phi
Omicron Delta Kappa
Order of Omega

How I fell in love with my field:
I have been blessed with the opportunity to share the stage with many wonderful musical artists. I found my love for performing as an undergraduate student at the University of Florida in both my applied voice studio and the opera workshop. I was able to learn how to make a character come to life, while using all of the wonderful bel canto training that my teacher helped me find in my applied voice lessons. My teachers were able to show me the depth of the art form of singing, which included chamber works, art songs in recital, or operatic performances. It inspired a passion in me to perform, teach, research, and give back to my community through my music.

What I hope for my time at UM-Flint:
I hope to bring opera to our community! The opera outreach ensemble will bring opera into our elementary schools this semester with children’s opera, “ The Three Little Pigs.” I want to encourage a new generation of audience members in our community to be able to enjoy the beauty of the arts. The opera workshop will be performing with the orchestra this semester to help bridge the gap from student to professional development for our singers. I believe this will help provide an artistic opportunity for students and the UM-Flint community to come together to experience a truly unique art form.

What I hope for students in my field:
We have gifted students in our music department, and I want to be able to offer them the artistic guidance that my mentors provided me with along the way toward my professional career. In addition, I want to be able to help the next generation of singers find the technical and artistic development to pursue their dreams. I am preparing them for a career filled with beautiful music. It takes great technical practice and discipline to prepare for auditions, competitions, recitals, and concerts. I believe that music is a universal language, and I hope that my students will learn how to express themselves in their own unique voices. Singing brings out a wealth of colorful emotions through story telling in music. I am so happy to get to share in the growth of their artistry in our work together.

Three things you should know about me:
1. I am originally from Grand Haven, MI. I love the beach, and it is nice to be close to my home town and family in the great state of Michigan!

2. I am a tenor, which is the best voice type to be by far! I love making music, whether it be classical music, musical theatre, or jazz. It is a wonderful experience to bring music to an audience! I believe everyone should give it a try!

3. I love cooking, baking, and all of the delicious culinary arts! I think that food and music really go hand in hand. I am always up to try a new dish on the weekends, bake a pie, or go out to a new spot to see what a chef is up to in town.

Giving BlueDay – Tuesday, December 2nd

BLUEDAY_smallOn Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014, the University of Michigan is asking you to turn Giving Tuesday into Giving BlueDay – a day of online giving to the funds of U of M, including UM-Flint. The College of Arts & Sciences is encouraging donors to pick a specific fund and the amount that is right for them – even $5 donations mean a lot to our departments!

Following are links to our department and program funds, some of them discuss the specific needs your gifts will go to fill. For those that do not have a specific purpose listed, donations will go into their general gift fund and can be used as the department chooses. We hope you can help us make this a successful day of giving, and make a difference for our students!

AFRICANA STUDIES: Funds received will help establish a scholarship that supports Africana Studies Majors and Minors and honors former Chancellor Charlie Nelms who “intensified the university’s emphasis on student success, setting ambitious goals for increasing student retention and graduation rates.”


BIOLOGY: We have an ongoing need for undergraduate/graduate research support as well as scholarship support. Donations to the following funds will make a positive impact on the academic and career success of Biology students: William R. Murchie Science Fund, Eugene Studier Memorial Research Scholarship Fund, and the Holly Sucic Memorial Scholarship Fund.

CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY: The Chemistry & Biochemistry Department would like to put funds towards the purchase of equipment that will enhance and expand students’ learning opportunities. We hope to both enrich their time at UM-Flint and better prepare them for real-world experiences!





ECONOMICS: Funds given will be used to fund the Economics Club Scholarship that is given every semester to an Economics major to pay towards any aspect of their schooling, including tuition, books, and fees. Help us continue to provide this support to our club and students!


ENGLISH: We want to reinstate the English Department’s Visiting Writer Series, which was a victim of budget cuts. The series will bring nationally and internationally renowned authors to UM-Flint to meet with classes and the community. Help us bring back this meaningful tradition!

FOREIGN LANGUAGES & LITERATURES: We ask that gifts be made to the Monica Karnes Memorial Scholarship Fund. This fund was established in 1985 by students in the UM-Flint Chapter of the Phi Sigma Iota Int’l Foreign Language Honors Society to “benefit students who share Monica’s hopes, her dreams, and her spirit.”



MUSIC: Funds donated to the Music Department during GivingBlue Day will be used towards the purchase of a concert grand piano. This instrument will benefit solo performers, as well as vocal and instrumental performances of many musical genres–and the audiences who listen to them!

PHILOSOPHY DEPT.’s CANDACE BOLTER SCHOLARSHIP FUND: We are just $3,000 away from having our Candace Bolter Scholarship reach endowment status. Once endowed, the scholarship will always be available to help fund future Philosophy students. Help us to help others study Philosophy!





THEATRE & DANCE: Students of the Theatre and Dance Department have a variety of high impact travel opportunities available, but often need help in funding their trips. Donations made to the Theatre & Dance Department will be used to diversify the avenues of support available to their students.

VISUAL ARTS: Funds will go to print-making equipment for our new concentration, funding student travel to museums and architectural tours, a vent for the wood shop, and torches to teach flame-working. Help us expand our students’ learning experience by giving to Visual Arts!

WOMEN’S & GENDER STUDIES: The WGS would like donations intended for them to be made to the Women’s Education Center Critical Difference Fund. This small grant is intended to help students who are facing emergency situations stay in school. The grant assists some of our most at risk students, many of whom are returning women and first-generation college students. DONATIONS MADE TO THIS FUND ON GIVING BLUEDAY WILL BE MATCHED UP TO $200!

If you do not see a fund you’d like to give to on the above list, browse all the options, including Research, Scholarships, and more, within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Whether you give or not, please share this blog’s link on your social media feeds to spread the word about Giving BlueDay!

UM-Flint Wind Symphony Begins ‘Horns in the Attic’

Contact: Chris Heidenreich, Assistant Professor of Music, University of Michigan-Flint (810) 424-5315 or

The University of Michigan – Flint Wind Symphony is sponsoring a community service project seeking gently used wind instruments for use in two Flint area schools. The project is titled “Horns in the Attic,” and the band members are seeking to help create an inventory of wind instruments for the Beecher Community High School and the St. Pius X Catholic Elementary School. These instruments include flutes, clarinets, oboes, saxophones, trumpets, French horns, trombones, baritones or tubas. Cash contributions will be used to provide repair supplies or materials needed to restore the instruments to playing condition.

The collection of instruments will begin on Thursday, October 16, at the UM-F Department of Music’s Collage Concert, and conclude at the Wind Symphony concert on Thursday, November 20. Donated instruments will be collected by members of the band, catalogued and repaired before the distribution to the schools. Member of the Wind Symphony are available to pick-up donated instruments in and around the Flint area.

Chris Heidenreich, conductor of the UM-Flint Wind Symphony, stated the following: “I began by thinking about ways in which the Wind Symphony members could give back to the community. We could help out with a clean-up in the community that would certainly benefit everyone, but I wanted to create a project that would help other musicians. I have seen other communities sponsor instrument drives, and I thought this might be a perfect way to marry community service with music. I had not realized how great the need is in both Beecher and at St. Pius until I spoke with the directors involved. Now, I think that myself and the members of the band realize what a difference a project like this can make to the instrumental musicians of these schools.”

A fund will be established for any individuals or corporations that wish to contribute to the project exclusively for the repair of instruments. Students will provide the labor on minor repairs which could include cleaning, sanitizing, pad repair, rod adjustment, replace of cork bumpers or water keys, replace valve springs, and minor dent work. Any left over funds will be used to provide materials such as reeds, valve oil, cork grease or other maintenance items for student use. Questions and potential donors should contact Chris Heidenreich at (810) 424-5315 or

To learn more about the UM-Flint Music Department, visit their website.

History and Music Students Find New Knowledge with Nagata Shachu

HIS_Mus_drums On Friday, October 10th, the Toronto-based group Nagata Shachu will be performing at the UM-Flint Theatre. This group has toured worldwide, with performances in their native Canada, the United States, and Italy.

According to the UM-Flint History Department: “While rooted in the folk drumming traditions of Japan, this ensemble’s principal aim is to rejuvenate this ancient art form by producing innovative and exciting music that seeks to create a new voice for the taiko. . .Their playing is the combination of unbounded spirit and passion with the highest levels of musicianship and discipline. The result is an unforgettable experience that is both powerful in expression and heartfelt in its sincerity. Featuring an arsenal of taiko, bamboo flutes, the three-stringed shamisen, and an array of gongs, cymbals, shakers, and wood blocks, Nagata Shachu will take you on a musical journey beyond all borders.”

The group is being brought to campus by the History Department as part of a series of events related to their Wyatt Exploration Program. Each year, the Wyatt program focuses on a specific cultural or historical theme or topic. A department expert will plan and organize the events for the year. “Featuring affiliated course offerings, special extra-curricular events on campus, and a competition to participate in a university-funded student travel expedition, the Wyatt Exploration Program will enrich and deepen our understanding of the world and its history.” The 2014-2015 Wyatt Program is “Japan: Its History and People.” Other campus activities this year include a lecture series and a film series. History students involved in the Wyatt Program will be on hand for the October 10th Nagata Shachu performance, helping to facilitate a smooth production.

Nagata Shachu will not just be providing an amazing musical experience for audience members, or deepened cultural understanding for the Wyatt participants. UM-Flint Music Department students will be attending a workshop with the performers on Friday afternoon, learning more about the instruments that will be played on stage. When asked about this unique opportunity for his students, Music Department chair Brian DiBlassio said, “Taiko drumming is a deeply artistic and cultural form of music. By participating in the workshop given by Nagata Shucha before the concert, select UM-Flint students will have the rare opportunity to experience a taste of this authentic tradition firsthand. The Department of Music is grateful to share in this event made possible by the Department of History.”

The Nagata Shachu performance is open to the public. Tickets are $5 and available through the History Department Office (260 French Hall) and at the time of the event. Doors to the UM-Flint Theatre open at 6:30pm, the performance starts at 7pm. For more information, contact the History Department at 810-762-3366, email, or visit their website.


UM-Flint Music Student’s Band Signed by Shorebird

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UM-Flint music student Taylor VonBrockdorff is a prolific performer who, in addition to his school studies, has recorded on several albums in the past year and played in different music groups around the state.

He has also one of four members in the band Building Birds, an alternative rock group started in the spring of 2014 and described as being “reminiscent of early U2, Radiohead, and Coldplay interwoven with My Bloody Valentine and Jeff Buckley, [offering] a sound that extends beyond a single genre.” ( The band was recently signed by Shorebird, a record label based in Rhode Island.

According to VonBrockdorff, “The plan is to have our album ‘Swirling Among the Stars’ released by late this fall or early winter. The album was written by [band members] Ashley Peacock and Johnny Mason. Todd Gilbert was added to the drums just before I joined. They came to me after seeing me play at a venue in Flint and asked me to be in their band. My job was to write guitar parts that fit their music style. They liked me so much they decided to keep me (haha).”

When asked about the part his experiences and education in the Music Department at UM-Flint have played in his musical success, he said, “By studying at the university I learned so much about music then I ever could have asked for. I learned about melody and harmony and how different parts of music come together to create an entire work of art. These things alone have greatly benefited me in the music business.”

VonBrockdorff is also looking to the future, both professionally and musically: “Since I became a music major many doors have opened up for me. I began teaching music (guitar specifically) to students of all ages. After teaching for a while I now know how difficult it can be as a teacher and have much more respect for them. I feel like that experience has also made me a better student. . . I hope to have a career in music whether it involves teaching, performing, or as a studio musician.”

Building Birds’ next confirmed show is at The Pike Room (Crofoot) in Pontiac, Mich., on November 14th. For other shows and band information, visit their page on the Shorebird website, at, or on Facebook and Twitter (@buildingbirds).

To learn more about the Department of Music at UM-Flint, visit

Pictured above, left to right: Johnny Mason, Ashley Peacock, Taylor VonBrockdorff, Todd Gilbert



UM-Flint Students Play Mariachi

This spring, UM-Flint Music Department Chair Brian DiBlassio, presented a unique opportunity to some of his students: to expand their repertoires by learning to play mariachi music. The offer arose out of a need for music to complement the existing dance programs of El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, a local non-profit group focused on teaching traditional Mexican culture and arts.

Their experiences so far have been much more than learning a new style of play. They have been learning new instruments, new ways to interact with their audience, and also to teach mariachi to others. They have performed in schools, at the grand opening of the Flint Farmer’s Market, and at the Flint Hispanic Tech Center. At the end of June they traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to participate in a conference workshop on mariachi for music educators.

Sue Quintanilla, Director of the group, is passionate about ensuring that Hispanic culture is represented in positive and accessible ways, “Without programs such as ours, Hispanic youth are overlooked and their vibrant, cultural heritage is ignored. When youth are taught methods for positive expression through the arts, and shown that their heritage has value, their self-esteem is elevated. The results are positive role models and active citizens of our community.”

Nathan Cross, one of the UM-Flint students, is excited about the experience. Beyond the fun of playing new music, he discussed the value of learning teaching and rehearsal skills, gaining cultural knowledge, and getting to better know his fellow musicians. When asked to discuss the experience, he said, “I learn more about mariachi music at every rehearsal. With classical music, there is a certain formality and etiquette when attending a performance. Mariachi music is much more relaxed and personal. Our audience typically sings and dances along with us. This style of music also embodies the community and that is what is wonderful about it.” He found particular value in attending the Las Vegas conference. “We learned beginning methods for playing every instrument in the typical mariachi ensemble. The instructors worked closely with each participant to ensure we were playing in the traditional style and using the proper technique. I took this opportunity to talk to other educators who attended the conference. There were teachers from all around the US, so this was an excellent chance to start building a network.”

Another of the students, Kaleigh Taylor, describes being both surprised and intrigued at the possibility of playing in a mariachi ensemble. “Never in a million years I would have expected to, but it has turned out to be a wonderful decision. Having been a classical musician for the past 13 years of my life, mariachi has added a whole new dimension to my musical world. It has taught me to come out of my ‘musical shell’ a bit.” She also found the Las Vegas trip to be “an amazing experience all around.” All participants of the conference experimented with several instruments, learning the basics of each. “I, myself, chose guitar and vihuela (a small, stringed instrument similar to guitar that’s indigenous to Mexico). I had so much fun learning the vihuela that I came home with one! There was just something about it that clicked and I decided to buy one and start learning it. The instructors were all outstanding musicians and it was evident their love for mariachi. Watching all of them perform together really inspired me and I’m thankful that I was given the opportunity to become involved in all of this.” In addition to her new instrument, Kaleigh has gained lesson students and is also assisting in teaching a beginner mariachi ensemble.

Desmond Sheppard echoed his classmates’ feelings on the value of learning mariachi and the experience of the educators’ conference. He has also found great pleasure in the outreach opportunities he’s been afforded, “At present I teach guitarron, piano, and ensemble work for El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil. The ability to demonstrate not only the joy of music (which is so evident whenever the kids grab their instruments and play through a song or an exercise that they’ve really worked at) but also the culture of a people who are ever more becoming a large part of the modern face of the US is, well, amazing to me.” The lessons learned at the conference are already paying off when it comes to his teaching, “The seminar in Vegas, if nothing else… empowered me to improve my own skills for the sake of the students that I teach and for the appropriate representation of the culture that the music comes from.”

Even as the students are grateful for the experience of expanding their musical, teaching, and outreach horizons, Sue Quintanilla is equally grateful for their participation, which has allowed her programs to expand. Through their efforts and the financial support of the Ruth Mott Foundation and the Stella & Frederick Loeb Charitable Trust, El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil will continue to teach cultural awareness and enrich lives across the state.

For more information on El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, visit their website. To learn about the Music Department of UM-Flint, visit