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SMTD Welcomes New Faculty

 09/09/2014

The 2014-15 academic year brings a celebrated group of artists and pedagogues to the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance as the School's newest faculty members. SMTD is delighted to welcome Danielle Belen (violin), Jason DeBord (musical theatre), Joseph Gascho (harpsichord), Benny Green (jazz piano), Timothy McAllister (saxophone), Kola Owolabi (organ), and Courtney Snyder (conducting). Short biographies and links to their SMTD web pages are below. We wish them all great success in their U-M careers!

Danielle Belen joins the Department of Strings as associate professor and full-time violin faculty. A seasoned pedagogue, Belen has made a name for herself with a strong studio of young artists. As part of the violin faculty at the Colburn School, her students have won national and international competitions including the Stulberg and Klein competitions, as well as being accepted into major conservatoires and universities across the country. The winner of the 2008 Sphinx Competition, Belen has appeared as a soloist with major symphonies across the United States including the Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Nashville, and San Francisco Symphonies; the Boston Pops; and the Florida and Cleveland Orchestras. She has taught master classes and led community engagements across the country in conjunction with her professional performance appearances.

Jason DeBord joins the Department of Musical Theatre as an assistant professor. A highly sought-after audition pianist and clinician, DeBord was the music director, arranger and orchestrator of the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway musical Fat Camp. Other Broadway productions he has participated in as a conductor and keyboardist include Shrek-The Musical, Rock of Ages, Legally Blonde, All Shook Up, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Rent. DeBord has made numerous appearances at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops accompanying Marin Mazzie, Jason Daniely, Emily Skinner, and Christine Baranski among others. He has also been on the road with the national tours of A Chorus Line, Rent, and Urinetown-the Musical.

Conductor and harpsichordist, Joseph Gascho joins the Department of Organ & Harpsichord as assistant professor of harpsichord. Gascho has built a multifaceted musical career performing as a soloist and collaborative artist; conducting opera, orchestra, and choir; editing and arranging scores; teaching and lecturing; and most recently as a producer and editor. He has won numerous grants and prizes, including first prize in the Jurow International Harpsichord Competition. In 2012, Gascho released his debut solo CD, a recording of his own harpsichord transcriptions. Along with recorder player Justin Godoy, he directs the chamber group Harmonious Blacksmith. Other performing highlights include concerts with the National Symphony at Carnegie Hall; the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra; the Tallis Scholars and the Folger Consort; the Washington Bach Consort; and at Intersections: A New America Arts Festival. Gascho has conducted numerous operas, and studied with Jim Ross in the conducting seminar at the University of Maryland. He is the co-director and conductor, with Richard Scerbo, of the National Institutes of Health Community Orchestra. After studying at the Peabody Institute and the University of Maryland, Gascho taught at George Washington University, American University, and Oberlin Conservatory's Baroque Performance Institute.

Jazz pianist Benny Green joins the Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation as assistant professor. Over the last 20 years, Green has been invited to lead innumerable lectures, residencies, workshops, and classes where he has fulfilled a personal and professional objective: to share his expansive knowledge and experience with students around the world. Among the many notable institutions where  he regularly lectures are the Juilliard School, the Berkeley College of Music, the Brubeck Institute, Snow College, Stanford University, and Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Green has been hailed as the most exciting hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to ever emerge from Art Blakely's Jazz Messengers. He has released 13 albums as a leader or co-leader during his prolific career, with his most recent release being Magic Beans (2013).

Tim McAllister joins the Department of Winds & Percussion as associate professor of saxophone. Soprano chair of the renowned PRISM Quartet and internationally acclaimed soloist, McAllister's career has taken him throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, China, Mexico, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, garnering prizes at many prestigious national and international competitions. McAllister received a doctor of musical arts and degrees in music education, conducting, and performance from U-M where he studied saxophone with his mentor and predecessor Donald Sinta, and conducting with H. Robert Reynolds. He is the only saxophonist to ever receive SMTD's most distinguished performance award, the Albert A. Stanley Medal.

Kola Owolabi joins the Department of Organ & Harpsichord as associate professor of organ. A native of Toronto, Canada, Owolabi was previously the university organist and assistant professor of music at Syracuse University, where he taught courses in organ, improvisation, continuo playing, and music theory, and played for weekly chapel services and special events. He is also currently the sub dean for the Syracuse Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Owolabi holds degrees in organ performance and choral conducting from McGill University, Montreal, Yale University, and Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.  As a recitalist, he has performed across Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Jamaica, appearing most recently at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City, Methuen Memorial Music Hall in Massachusetts, Spelman College in Atlanta, and Cornell University.

Courtney Snyder joins the Department of Conducting as assistant professor. As assistant director of bands at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Snyder oversaw all aspects of University Athletic Bands, including directing the "Marching Mavs" Marching Band. She also directed the University Band, was the associate conductor for the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, taught conducting and music education courses, and provided individual conducting instruction to both undergraduate and graduate students. Snyder holds a master's degree in conducting from Baylor University, a bachelor's degree in music education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she studied with Jack Stamp, and a doctorate in conducting at U-M where she studied with Michael Haithcock. She is published in Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Vol. 3, has attended numerous conducting workshops, and is a member of College Band Directors National Association and World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles. 

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