Music’s 2020 award winners
College faculty and students earn honors.
When Michael Callahan heard his name announced during the College of Music virtual commencement presentation, he was completely surprised. The associate professor of music theory and chair of the Music Theory area was one of eight people the college managed to surprise during commencement even though it was presented in video form for the first time.
“I was touched when I heard my name announced,” Callahan said afterward. “I’m glad I watched the video as soon as it went live, since many of my colleagues and students texted and emailed me their congratulations right away. At least I knew what they were talking about!”
The Dortha J. and John D. Withrow Excellence in Teaching Award that Callahan won is given annually, on the basis of peer review, to exceptional members of the College of Music faculty who have rendered distinguished service to the university and to students through excellence in instruction, performance, and scholarly activities.
“I’m very grateful to have been recognized, particularly given the caliber of teachers whose company I keep as faculty colleagues in the College of Music,” Callahan said.
The award was first presented in the 2008-09 academic year. Callahan now joins past Withrow winners David Rayl, Philip Sinder, Richard Fracker, Michael Largey, Charles Ruggiero, Jack Budrow, Richard Sherman, John Madden, Joseph Lulloff, Cynthia Taggart, Melanie Helton, Sandra Snow, Deborah Moriarty, Marcie Ray, Patrick Johnson, Michael Kroth, and Diego Rivera.
Commencement was also a time to recognize outstanding work by faculty and students devoted to strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion. University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass and Jazz Studies Chair Rodney Whitaker announced Excellence in Diversity Awards for:
- Piano faculty Deborah Moriarty and Derek Polischuk for co-creating Celebrating the Spectrum, an annual “Festival of Music and Life” that gives qualified, advanced pre-college students on the autism spectrum a preview of a life in music;
- Musicologist Marcie Ray for her research and courses that investigate issues of gender, class, and sexuality, and examine how music intersects with these issues as well as race, ethnicity, religious identity, and deaf and disability studies;
- DMA candidate Kendra Wheeler and master’s student Kakia Gkoudina for co-creating a platform for organizations that are run by and/or fight for underrepresented and people of color in the arts;
- And to undergraduate student Liany Mateo who, as a female role model in the male-dominated field of jazz, received the only bass soloist award during the 2020 Jack Rudin Inaugural Collegiate Jazz Competition in New York and served as a mentor for CMS-Detroit’s 2019 Women of Jazz: Empowering the Next Generation.
In addition, student Eric Locker was recognized for earning the MSU Board of Trustees Award for being among the highest grade point average earners in the entire university, and Hannah Boissonneault was honored with the College of Music Outstanding Senior Award.
“Hannah is an extraordinarily creative and hardworking composer and performer, and she has been a vibrant member of the composition program at MSU,” said Professor of Bassoon and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Operations Michael Kroth in his announcement. “Hannah has an engaging musical voice, lying at the intersection of her background as a bassist and collaborative composer in rock and indie bands as well as her study of classical and jazz music in the College of Music.”
Following the debut of the commencement video, Callahan reflected on the range of scholarly work, teaching, and performance regularly on display in the College of Music and pinpointed why there is success across such a broad range.
“You’d have a hard time finding a place on the MSU campus where more different kinds of teaching happen in a single building – not just teachers’ different personal styles, but very different formats necessitated by the wide variety of learning that takes place in our college, from private lessons, to large ensembles, to small seminars, to large required classes,” he said.
“Cutting across this variety, however, is a shared commitment to students’ success. Our faculty really cares about students and knows that raising their sights through high standards of excellence simply doesn’t work without also supporting them both in and outside the classroom.”