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In this spring edition of the TTU Arts newsletter, we're thrilled to offer you a curated selection of our most captivating stories, providing a window into the vibrant world of our J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts (TCVPA) community.

Discover the latest updates from our esteemed faculty, celebrate the impactful contributions of our generous donors, immerse yourself in the captivating realms of our schools, and stay connected with the ever-evolving journeys of our respected alumni.

As mentioned in the fall issue of TTU Arts, we're proud to announce the finalization of our newly defined values culture. At the end of this issue, you'll find these core values, which serve as guiding principles for upholding the integrity and excellence of TCVPA. As a values culture organization, it's our aim to provide a framework for decision-making and foster a sense of purpose that enables us to achieve greater things together.

Dr. Martin Camacho, Dean, J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts



Bridging Toga Mura and Lubbock Through the Suzuki Method

Suzuki Company of Toga in Japan
Suzuki Company of Toga in Japan, Photo by Chris Staley

Dr. Chris Staley is currently training with the Suzuki Company of Toga. He writes, “While it's cherry blossom season throughout Japan, here in the remote village of Toga-mura nestled in the Japanese Alps, the snow is still piled high. We're training twice a day, attending the Company's rehearsals, and holding discussions about the Suzuki Method's evolution.  It's equally demanding as it is rewarding. I'm here with a cohort of 25 other artists from around the world – actors, directors, dancers, and scholars – and we collectively speak over a dozen languages. It's always a humbling experience to share this space, time, sweat, and breath with people from such a variety of story-telling traditions and cultures. I cannot wait to get back into the Maedgen and share more of these lessons with our acting students.” 

Everything is Collective: Expected Image at Utah Museum of Contemporary Art

Everything is Collective Exhibit
Photo as seen in cityweekly.net

Artists collaborate on how we understand the landscape through institutional images.

Displayed prominently at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is an exhibition titled “Expected Image,” curated by the artistic collective Everything Is Collective. This group comprises Zachary Norman, a marketer and graphic designer at UMOCA, Aaron Hegert, an assistant professor of photography at Texas Tech University School of Art, and Jason Lukas, based in Chicago.

Their collaboration delves into the workings of the Bureau of Land Management's Visual Resource Management system, which determines the scenic value of America's public lands. Through their project, these three photographers aim to unravel how their art form intersects with and influences this bureaucratic process, shaping our collective expectations of landscapes.

According to Norman, while the exact genesis of the Expected Image project eludes him, it springs from a shared curiosity among the group members about the diverse applications of photography.

The exhibit comprises materials ranging from official documents sourced from the BLM to the photographers' own images. Through this amalgamation, viewers are invited to contemplate the intersections between the realms of fine art and governmental documentation. The exhibition challenges viewers to reconsider their perceptions of visual landscapes.

Dr. Angela Mariani Smith Receives CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching

Angela Mariani Smith
Dr. Angela Mariani Smith

Professor of Musicology, Dr. Angela Mariani Smith, received the Medieval Academy of America's 2024 CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The CARA Excellence in Teaching award “recognizes medievalists who are outstanding teachers who have contributed to the profession by inspiring students at the undergraduate or graduate levels or by creating innovative and influential textbooks or other materials for teaching medieval subjects.”

In 2018, Dr. Mariani Smith was named a TTU Integrated Scholar, an award that recognized faculty who “generate synergy” between the three areas of teaching, research, and service.

Dr. Peter Martens Named Chair of New Interdisciplinary Arts Department

Peter Martens
Dr. Peter Martens

Dr. Peter Martens serves as the inaugural chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts, coming to that position having served as Associate Director in the School of Music, Associate Dean in the Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts, and Co-Acting Dean of the TCVPA. Dr. Martens has taught for many years in the Fine Arts Doctoral Program curriculum, and his own research combines methodologies from multiple disciplines.

He is active in the National Organization for Arts in Health, and is the point person for several inter- and cross-disciplinary initiatives on the TTU campus. 

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Texas Tech School of Art alumna sets up endowment.

Erin Mayes and Kate Collins
Pictured left to right: Erin Mayes and Kate Collins

Kate Collins and her business partner Erin Mayes are paving the way for future graphic designers and having fun along the way. 

By Lucy Greenberg

Texas Tech University alumna Kate Collins and her business partner Erin Mayes have established an endowment for graphic design students in the School of Art.

“When people hear the word ‘endowment' they think we gave a huge sum of money,” Collins said. “The endowment is $25,000 but we knew that money would go further at Texas Tech than anywhere else.”

Collins and Mayes are the owners of EmDash, an awardwinning design consultancy located in Austin, Texas. They have worked on projects for Caltech, Denison University, National Geographic, Purdue University, Texas Monthly Custom Publishing, the Texas Observer, William & Mary University and many other brands. Their work has received awards from the Society of Publication Designers, Print, CASE, Alt Weeklies, AI-AP and the Society of Illustrators.

In 2013, their design of an album cover was nominated for a Grammy. Their business might be small, but their accomplishments are anything but.

>> Read the Full Story on Texas Tech Now 

Alcalde Cover
“Alcalde Denim Jacket Cover,” Alcalde, Nov/Dec 2018
(Photo by Texas Tech Alumnus, Matt Wright-Steel) 

The Key Magazine Cover with Meghan Markle

“The Key Magazine with Meghan Markle,” The Key,
Summer 2018 (Illustration by Tim O'Brien)


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James Avery Gift Gives Texas Tech Competitive Edge

The Texas-based jeweler presented the historic gift to the jewelry and metalsmithing program.

By Lucy Greenberg

There are plenty of programs and facilities that draw students to Texas Tech University. One of these is tucked into the north side of campus, nestled behind trees and recognizable by sculptures and outdoor kilns. It's the School of Art's 3D Annex, which houses jewelry, ceramic and sculpture programs. For jewelry makers, the annex boasts a state-of-the-art space that's the thing of dreams. One of the finest facilities in the Southwest, students from around the country are drawn to Texas Tech because of the studio and faculty. 

In 2023, the jewelry design and metalsmithing program received a gift from James Avery Artisan Jewelry that made its already appealing program shine even brighter. The well-known jewelers headquartered in Texas presented Texas Tech with a historic gift of more than 30,000 precious stones and gems. Students' eyes grew wide as they took in the beauty of each unique and brilliant stone. One of those students was Christopher Liu, a fourth-year with a genius for taking seemingly unconnected materials and turning them into something beautiful. 

Robly Glover, professor of jewelry design and metalsmithing, remembers the first time he met Liu. Liu was visiting campus with his high school jewelry teacher, John Garrett, a Texas Tech alumnus. “Most students do not come in with as much experience as Chris did,” Glover said. Because Liu was being mentored by an alumnus of the program, he had a competitive advantage. “I'm realistic about guiding talent that already exists,” Glover said. “I can't make a student smart, and I can't make a student figure out something they don't want to figure out. I'm here as a guide.”

>> Read the Full Story on Texas Tech Now 

Chris Liu with James Avery GiftPhoto by: Justin Rex

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Sphera Quartet, Finalists in the MTNA Chamber Music Competition

One of Texas Tech University's School of Music undergraduate saxophone quartets, the Sphera Quartet, is named a finalist in the MTNA Chamber Music Competition!

By Anna K.

The Music Teachers National Association holds a competition for young musicians every year, beginning in a preliminary round in cities across the nation before a final round at the conference's site. This year, the Sphera Quartet is one of the final seven chamber wind ensembles selected to perform at the MTNA National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, in midMarch.

The Sphera Quartet features:

  • Blaine Majors on Soprano Saxophone; Senior in Music Education; Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Roger Dominguez on Alto Saxophone; Junior in Music Education; Yoakum, Texas
  • Tristan Wright on Tenor Saxophone; Sophomore in Psychology; Lubbock, Texas
  • Zachary Brown on Baritone Saxophone; Sophomore in General Studies; Round Rock, Texas

These students grew up learning and performing in public school bands and played in saxophone quartets during high school. In our interview with Blaine Majors, he shared with us that his quartet participated in competitions during his high school years, and it was something he wanted to continue in college.

When we asked where the meaning of their name came from, Blaine Majors shared, “Sphera means ‘the whole world or globe.' We like to think of it as a group on the horizon of being widely known. A Texas Tech saxophone group has not made a competition since 2019, when the Aruna Quartet won the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. We hope to be the next Texas Tech Saxophone group that succeeds years of greatness.” 

Texas Tech Professor of Saxophone David Dees, the group's teacher and coach, carefully chose the members of the Sphera Quartet who want to do whatever it takes to give themselves the best chance to succeed. Because they are determined to do well, the quartet practices their music 7-9 hours a week. Due to the differences in each member's schedule, a lot of the chamber music practice is on one's own. However, these students work diligently on their own so that when they meet for group practice and weekly coachings, they are ready to take things to the next level of artistry.

The Sphera Quartet will be performing a variety of works for the competition, including: Cape Cod Chips by Hiromi Uehara; Memory from Nepomuk's Dances by Marcelo Zarvos; Polar Vortex by Chris Evan Hass; Variations Saxophoniques by Fernande Decruck

Congratulations to the Sphera Quartet and Professor Dees on this outstanding accomplishment! We wish the group the best of luck in Atlanta.

Sphera Quartet
Pictured from left to right: Tristan Wright, Roger Dominguez, Zachary Brown, & Blaine Majors 

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Texas Tech Trumpet Studio Wins National Title

By Lucy Greenberg

Texas Tech University's trumpet studio placed first at the National Trumpet Competition for the first time in school history. The trumpet studio is one of many instrumental and vocal studios in the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts' (TCVPA) School of Music.  

The large ensemble finalists performed (March 11) with results announced the following day. University of Colorado – Boulder followed Texas Tech in second place, with University of Houston placing third.  

“This award is a testament to the talent and hard work of our students, as well as the quality of our faculty,” said TCVPA Dean Martin Camacho. “This well-deserved prize places the School of Music among the elite schools in the field.”  

Leading the trumpet studio to victory were Associate Professor of Trumpet & Jazz Studies Kevin Whalen and Visiting Assistant Professor of Trumpet Julia Bell.  

“While the ensemble was formed by players from the Texas Tech trumpet studio who study with Dr. Andrew Stetson, Dr. Julia Bell, and me, the group was primarily student-driven,” Whalen said. “Undergraduate and graduate students collaborated for over seven months to bring the work to life; the students selected the ensemble personnel, refined the arrangement, rehearsed the group multiple times a week and coached themselves toward an artistic achievement that would ultimately win first place at the National Trumpet Competition.”

Upon arriving at Texas A&M – Kingsville, students moved through preliminary, quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds over the course of four days. Visiting judges represented Boston University, the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra, Indiana University, the St. Louis Symphony and numerous other institutions.  

Texas Tech's trumpet studio first competed in the National Trumpet Competition 10 years ago. In the decade since, the studio focused on building a culture of teamwork and the mindset of community to eventually take home a national title.  

“As a new faculty member at Texas Tech, the spirit and camaraderie in the trumpet studio and the work ethic and determination of our trumpet ensembles have been inspiring,” Bell said. 

Trumpet Studio

“From 7 a.m. rehearsals, to countless mock performances, these students worked tirelessly to create a product of the highest possible quality.”

Texas Tech student composer and trumpet player Andrew Schofield provided an ambitious arrangement of Igor Stravinsky's “Rite of Spring” which the studio played in competition.

“Taking such a large, dense piece and creating a sketch that resembles the original takes a greater knowledge of the instrument, for which I am very thankful to all my teachers over the past 10 years who have given me the knowledge and passion to pursue a career in music,” Schofield said. “I owe all this success to the students who tirelessly worked the past seven months to perfect the vision I had when I wrote this piece. Their determination is truly inspiring.”


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A Growing Partnership with Türkiye's Bilkent University

By Cory Norman

For five theatre students and their professor, Thanksgiving 2023 is not one they will soon forget. Instead of spending the holiday with their families, they were made to feel at home more than 6,000 miles away in Ankara, Türkiye, celebrating the American dinner tradition as guests of their newly formed friends from Bilkent University.

At the invitation of Jason Hale, Chair of the Department of Performing Arts at Bilkent University, the group from Texas Tech spent 10 days participating in an Ancient Greek Mask Workshop with second-year theatre students from Bilkent led by Polish theatre artist Arkadiusz “Aro” Klucznik from the Wrocław National Academy of the Theater Arts Department of Puppetry. Their work culminated in a trip to Izmir, Türkiye, visiting the ancient sites of Ephesus, Miletus, The Temple of Apollo at Didyma, and the well-preserved theatre at Priene where they performed a scene from Antigone.

“This is a unique program that we've been happy to initiate not only for our students at Bilkent but also for our guest actors from the US, enabling them to learn about the birth of theater and experience it in the actual ruins of Ancient Greek and Hellenic sites,” said Hale.

The partnership with Bilkent University was formed soon after Texas Tech's School of Theatre & Dance was invited to join the International Theatre Institute's ITI/UNESCO Network for Higher Education in the Performing Arts—only the second university in the United States to be granted membership.

Each summer, theatre students from Bilkent are invited to participate in the Marfa Intensive, Texas Tech's two-week summer devising intensive held in Marfa, Texas. Students from Tech's Theatre and Dance program are, in turn, invited in the fall semester to participate in the Ancient Greek Mask Workshop.

Dr. Bill Gelber, professor of theatre at Texas Tech who works with masks and Greek drama in his period styles course, was fascinated by Klucznik, the masks he created—designed specifically for travel and to be hand-held—and the unfamiliar stylistic movement that matched the design of the masks: “The masks could be manipulated both to hide actor's faces behind the those of the characters and also to reveal the actors unadorned during more intimate moments.”

No prior knowledge of mask work was required to participate in the workshop.  Rebecca Johnson, a fine arts doctoral student, had previously only worked with traditional face masks: “I was learning a whole new vocabulary. While some of the rules were the same as traditional face masks, the hand mask was more unforgiving in that it highlighted what was ‘wrong' more often.”

JD Myers, who graduated from the MFA program this past December, is grateful for the experience and the positive effect it will have on his academic career: “Interacting with artifacts of early Christian Orthodoxy, the remnants of ancient civilizations, and performances like the Sufi whirling dervish show will provide fodder for my academic endeavors for years to come.” 

Turkey Mask Workshop

Turkey Mask Workshop Group Photo

More than just the Mask Workshop, students also participated in voice and dance classes at Bilkent, even squeezing in a singing masterclass. “This oncein-a-lifetime opportunity was such an incredible learning experience for both the American and Turkish students,” said senior BFA Musical Theatre student Samara Shavrick.  

“Since we were learning together, we found greater connections across cultures and languages,” Johnson agreed.

The collaborative exchange between the two universities also included faculty. Dr. Gelber presented a lecture to Bilkent performing arts students entitled “Creating Theatre through Brechtian Methods,” based on his book, Engaging with Brecht: Making Theatre in the 21st Century, published last year. It reciprocated the “Techniques of Viola Spolin” workshop that Professor Hale led for Texas Tech students during the Marfa Intensive in July.

It wasn't all work for the visitors.  Aside from spending downtime with the Turkish students who guided the group around the capital city of Ankara exploring landmarks and tasting new cuisine, the group also spent a day in Cappadocia, surveying its unique landscape from high up in a hot air balloon.

This was the second group from the School of Theatre & Dance to participate in the Ancient Greek Mask Workshop, and how fitting that it takes place over the Thanksgiving holiday—a time where people come together to show their gratitude and share what they have with others.

“I will keep in touch with the friends I made for the rest of my life,” said Shavrick. “Students should consider going if they want exposure to new art forms, new friends, new cultures, and new places.”

“I will miss the people and the community we built,” added Johnson. “Also, the peanut butter. Türkiye has amazing peanut butter.”


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TCVPA Core Values


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Jaston Williams ‘71
Wrote a new musical with Joe Sears and Allen Robertson, The Nerve of Minerva, which was performed in a one-week immersive workshop last May at Austin's ZACH Theatre. The cast included some of the best actor/singers in Austin, some with Broadway credits, and included students from ZACH's Theatre School. Response was overwhelmingly positive, and the writers were inspired to add new material which will be developed this summer during Texas Tech's WildWind Performance Lab. 

Ian F. Thomas '06 MFA Ceramics
Became Chair of the Art Department at Allegheny College, Meadville, PA in spring 2024 after being promoted to Associate Professor of Art in fall 2023.

Amanda Ramirez ‘12 BA Dance
Was announced as a 2024 Chicago Cultural Center Dance Artist Resident. She has been working professionally in Chicago for several years. Her IG is @amramire. 

Leobardo Guerrero ‘14 PhD in Fine Arts
Collaborates with the Guadalupe-Parkway Neighborhood Centers teaching group piano to the children who attend the center after school.

Corey Devon Godfrey ‘16 BM Music Education
Featured in Voyage Minnesota article as a Rising Star. Was a guest artist for Gospel Explosion, a performance that featured a multi-age Gospel Honor Choir.

Austin James Harleson ‘18 MFA Performance & Pedagogy
Is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre at Reinhardt University. He recently directed Big Fish with The Focal Center and Bellisimo Theatre Company in Georgia.

Patrick Quarm ‘18 MFA Painting 
Has been awarded a highly competitive residency at Artpace in San Antonio.

Dori Bosnyak ‘19 MFA Arts Admin
Is the Lead Administrator to the Presidential Lecture and Performance Series at Texas Tech University. Her next concert is on April 18, 2024 at 7:00pm in the Allen Theatre - a blues concert with singer-songwriter Angela Strehli

Patrick Quarm Headshot
Picture of Patrick Quarm in front of his artwork.

Lauren Carlton ‘19 MFA Performance & Pedagogy
Is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Central Arkansas. She's currently directing a production of Head Over Heels for UCA's 2023-2024 season, and directing a summer production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown with UCA Summer Theatre. 

Sahar Fattahi ‘19 MFA Painting 
Has been named Program Coordinator of the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women at the University of Toledo. 

Charles L. Hughes ‘22 MFA Playwriting
Is an Instructor of English at Hardin-Simmons University and will teach a course in playwriting this coming fall.

Keandra Hunt ‘22 BFA Acting
Is the Community and Youth Program Coordinator at Creative Strategies for Change in Denver, Colorado. They just wrapped touring as a performer with Bright Star Touring Theatre

Lauren Robinson ‘22 BFA Musical Theatre
Made Off-Broadway debut in the new musical Holy Rollers at The Players Theatre in New York City.

Marie Smithwick ‘22 DMA Voice Performance
Directing Eastern New Mexico University's musical production, Once Upon a Mattress, in the spring of 2024.

Rebecca Taylor ‘22 MFA Performance & Pedagogy
Is the Recruitment Coordinator & Special Projects Administrator at Ball State University. She also co-teaches the Theatre & Dance Practicum course for first-year students.

Kerstin Vaughn ‘22 MFA Performance & Pedagogy
Is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre & Dance at The College of Wooster in Ohio. She will be directing a mainstage show at the Obsidian Theatre Festival in Detroit this summer. 

Melanie Frasca ‘23 MFA Performance & Pedagogy
Has served as a freelance intimacy choreographer for several productions. She recently performed in Meadow Brook Theatre's A Little More Alive in Rochester, Michigan.

Bailey Patterson ‘23 MFA Performance & Pedagogy
Is an Instructor of Communication and Creative Arts at Laramie County Community College. She is currently in rehearsal for the Wyoming premiere of Burst by Rachel Bublitz at Relative Theatrics in Laramie, WY.

Hunter Wilson ‘23 BFA Acting 
Is playing Semyon Semyonovich Medvedenk in Theatre Three's upcoming production of The Seagull in Dallas. The show runs April 4-April 28, 2024.

Submit your alumni updates at: vpa.ttu.edu/alumni

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