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Emerging Artist Award

The Emerging Artist Awards recognize SMTD graduates from within the past 15 years who have made a significant contribution to their artistic field. Winners from each of three categories (music, theatre, and dance) are awarded annually.

2016 Emerging Artist Award Recipients

Matthew Ernst (BM '04, trumpet)

Matthew Ernst





A native of Massillon, OH, Matthew Ernst joined the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as Principal Trumpet in 2014. Prior to his appointment with the CSO, he served as Acting Principal Trumpet with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and as Associate Principal Trumpet in the Louisiana Philharmonic. A dedicated educator, Matthew has also held teaching positions at the University of Virginia, the University of New Orleans, and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. After pursing his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan, where he studied with William Campbell, he received two Master of Music degrees from Southern Methodist University—the first in trumpet performance, studying with Tom Booth of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the second in conducting. In addition to his degree work, he also was  a fellow at Tanglewood Music Center and attended the Pacific Music Festival and Brevard Music Center. Matthew resides in Cincinnati with his wife, Janna, a vocal coach and accompanist, and their two, young daughters, Madeleine and Margaret.


Stephen Sposito (BFA '07, theatre)

Stephen Sposito










Stephen Sposito is a theatre director based in New York City. Currently, he serves asthe Associate Director for The Book of Mormon where he oversees the Broadway Company in addition to the first and second National Tours. Directing credits include the current International Tour of Shrek the Musical, the National Tour of Shrek the Musical, The American Theatre Wing Gala, and The Obie Awards. Associate Director credits include the Broadway and National Touring companies of Wicked, the Broadway company of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Scarlett Johansson; How to Succeed in Business... starring Daniel Radcliffe, Nick Jonas, and Darren Criss; Promises, Promises starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth, Scandalous and Shrek the Musical. He is a member of The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.


Lou Henry Hoover, a.k.a. Ricki Mason (BFA '02 dance)

Lou Henry Hoover








Lou Henry Hoover (aka Ricki Mason) is a drag/dance/boylesque artist and sometimes faux queen that makes his living hoofing, choreographing, and teaching dance. He has been described as a purveyor of “hilarious dance magic,” and “a treasure beyond measure, a genius, a jewel, a muse” (The Seattle Stranger).  Lou’s performance career is multifaceted: he is often seen gracing the stage as a solo artist or with his showbiz-couple-better-half wife Kitten LaRue. Kitten N’ Lou are eminent headlining performers on the international burlesque circuit, were crowned Most Comedic by The Burlesque Hall of Fame, and recently premiered their first evening length duet show at Perth Fringe Festival.  Lou is also one third of the production team DeLouRue Presents with Kitten LaRue and Ben DeLaCreme. Alongside those two collaborators, Lou Henry Hoover was named a 2014 Artist of the Year by City Arts Magazine. Lou is a co-host plus principal showboy of the internationally celebrated burlesque troupe The Atomic Bombshells, and has secured his place in Seattle drag history as one half of The Cherdonna and Lou Show, and as a founding member of Dance Belt USA. Lou’s work has been supported by The Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, 4Culture, Artist Trust, The Bossak Heilbron Charitable Grant Foundation, has received residencies from Open Flight, Studio Current, and Century Ballroom, and was recognized by Seattle Magazine as a 2010 Spotlight Award Winner for his work with Cherdonna Shinatra. Lou’s choreography has been presented by such entities as ACT Theater, Bumbershoot, On the Boards, The Triple Door, Velocity Dance Center, Northwest Film Forum, and Century Ballroom. Favorite commissions include The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard, a music video for Stranger Genius Award winning band The Intelligence, and stage choreography for New Orleans Bounce artists Nicky Da B and The “Team Nicky” Bounce All-Stars. Lou has taught extensively at Velocity Dance Center and Century Ballroom, in addition to workshops, conferences, and studios across the United States and Europe. Lou made his television debut as a fancy lady dancing with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett in their PBS Great Peformances Series live concert “Cheek to Cheek.” Lou is also proud to have been the first drag king to compete for the title "Best in Boylesque" at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas.


Past Recipients

Juliana Athayde
Nadine Balbeisi
Nicholas Blaemire
Julie Blume
Jesse Blumberg
Zachary Booth
Rodney A. Brown
Xan Burley
Esther Chae
Sam Davis
Michael Fabiano
Hunter Foster
Xiang Gao
Damon Gupton
Kelly Hirina
Rachel Hoffman
Christopher Jamros
Celia Keenan-Bolger
Jeremy Kittell
Ben Klein
Rachel Laritz
Dominique Morisseau
Sean Panikkar
Michael Spencer Phillips
Matthew Rose
Daniel Bernard Roumain
Miriam Shor
Alex Springer
Leyya Tawil
Julie Tice
James Wolk

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower