College of Music in the News

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UNT alumni nominated for Grammy Awards

DENTON (UNT), Texas –Nominations for the 61st annual Recording Academy Grammy Awards were announced on Dec. 7. Once again, University of North Texas faculty and alumni are part of projects that have received nominations in seven categories.

Since the 1960s, UNT College of Music alumni, faculty and staff have worked on projects nominated for Grammy Awards as well as Grammy-winning projects. Our One O’Clock Lab Band students, composers and arrangers have garnered seven nominations of their own over the years.

College of Music alumni, faculty and staff collaborated in the following nominated projects:

  • Mike Williams (trumpet) for “All About That Basie,” by The Count Basie Orchestra, nominated in the following category:
    • Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
  • Jeff Driskill (saxophone), Jack Wengrosky (trumpet), Derek Pyle (trombone) and Brian McKee (bassoon) for “American Dreamers:  Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom” by the John Daversa Big Band, nominated in the following category:
    • Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
  • Ben Kono (woodwinds) “All Can Work,” by the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, nominated in the following category:
    • Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
  • Michael Mayes (baritone) for “Heggie: Great Scott,” by Jake Heggie, composer; Terrence McNally, librettist; performed by the Dallas Orchestra (including 11 UNT alumni and 6 UNT faculty) and Dallas Opera Chorus (including 18 UNT alumni); conducted by Patrick Summers nominated in the following category:
    • Best Contemporary classical Composition

UNT alumna Maren Morris, is up for five awards:

  • Maren Morris for “The Middle,” nominated in the following categories:
    • Record of the Year
    • Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
  • Maren Morris for “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” nominated in the following category:
    • Best Country Solo Performance
  • Maren Morris for “Dear Hate,” nominated in the following categories:
    • Best Country Duo/Group Performance
    • Best Country Song

Grammy winners will be announced at the Feb. 10 awards ceremony in New York. In 2018, UNT alumni Edward Stephan and Frank Greene were part of projects that earned three Grammy Awards.

Gunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield portrait

UNT Alumna Gunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield to perform in Bush State Funeral

WASHINGTONGunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield, a graduate of the University of North Texas will participate in former President George H. W. Bush’s State Funeral as a vocalist with “The President’s Own” United States Marine Chamber Orchestra. The funeral is to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Washington National Cathedral.

President Bush’s State Funeral marks the 14th such event for which “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band or Marine Chamber Orchestra has performed. “The President’s Own” was present for the State Funerals of the following former Presidents: Gerald Ford in 2007, Ronald Reagan in 2004, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1969, Herbert Hoover in 1964, John F. Kennedy in 1963, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, William Howard Taft in 1930, William McKinley in 1901, Ulysses S. Grant in 1885, James Garfield in 1881, Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Zachary Taylor in 1850, and John Quincy Adams in 1848.

“We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every President we serve, but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging,” said Marine Band Director Col. Jason K. Fettig. “He never missed an opportunity to connect with those around him and thank them for their contributions, and the men and women in the band who got to know President Bush both during his administration and in the many years beyond will always remember his ever-present appreciation and admiration for all those who served our nation alongside him.”

For more information, contact the Marine Band Office of Communication at (202) 433-5812 or visit

UNT College of Music representatives with Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno and Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic representatives

UNT College of Music Signs Student Exchange Agreements with Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno and Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic

At the third International Festival of Czech Music, the University of North Texas signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno and the Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic. Partnerships among UNT and these two distinguished Czech universities have existed on for some time, but the formalizing of understandings is new and important. Dean John W. Richmond of the UNT College of Music observed that, "These partnerships create important opportunties for faculty and students alike. The initial momentum for these relationships was made possible, in large measure, through the generous support of the Czech Educational Foundation of Texas. We simply could not be more grateful to them for their enthusiasm, encouragement, and generosity."

Next steps in this partnership are likely to focus on opera, chamber music, music education, and composition for media.

Poster for Rhythms of the Arab World

UNT hosts guest artists from Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture and presents Rhythms of the Arab World as part of a cultural and Arabic language enrichment program

What: The University of North Texas College of Music; College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences; Department of World Languages, Literatures & Cultures and Arabic program present “Rhythms of the Arab World,” a concert that culminates a larger project offering students hands-on, authentic experiences of Arab music.


When: 3:30 p.m. Dec. 2 (Sunday)


Where: Recital Hall in the College of Music Building, 415 Avenue C, in Denton.


Cost: Free


Parking: Guests can receive free event parking by contacting Ayesha Bakali at


Background: Sunday’s concert is part of a larger project to introduce Arabic music to UNT classrooms, particularly Arabic language and music classes. Musicians from Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture ensemble have visited Arabic language and music classrooms throughout the semester to offer workshops and introduce students to Darbouke (an Arab percussion instrument) and the Oud (the Arab lute). Al-Bustan, Arabic for “The Garden,” is an organization dedicated to presenting and teaching Arab culture through the arts and language.

Sunday’s concert will feature internationally acclaimed and award winning Arab musicians Hafez Kotain and Issam Rafea. Students from the UNT Arabic language program and ethnomusicology program will join the musicians for a percussion medley. The performance also will feature dabke (Levantine Folkloric dance), a solo performance of an Arab-Andalusian 12th-century song by doctoral musicology student, Júlia Coelho, and improvisation with doctoral enthnomusicology student, Yuxin Mei, on Pipa (Chinese lute).

The project is made possible by a Charn Uswachoke International Development Fund Grant and a grant from the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation.

Poster for UNT International Festival of Czech music, featuring conductor and opera singer

UNT College of Music hosts International Festival of Czech Music celebrating the centennial anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia

What: The University of North Texas College of Music hosts the third International Festival of Czech Music. The program includes an academic conference, concerts, multimedia performances and lectures open to the public. For a full list of events visit


When: Nov. 27 (Tuesday) – Dec. 1 (Saturday)


Where: For conference, performance and lecture times/locations on the UNT campus visit  A post-festival tour of five Texas-Czech communities featuring scenes from Leoš Janáček's Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen) will take place Dec. 2 (Sunday) – Dec. 8 (Saturday). For a complete list of locations and ticket information visit


Cost: Events are free of charge unless noted:


Parking: For the most up-to-date information on directions to the College of Music and the Murchison Performing Arts Center, construction, and parking, please click here.


Background: The University of North Texas College of Music hosts its third International Festival of Czech Music. This year, the festival helps commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia following the end of World War I. The keynote work of the festival is the Leoš Janáček opera Příhody lišky Bystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen) directed by Jonathan Eaton, The Margot and Bill Winspear Chair in Opera Studies. The production features UNT opera singers and orchestra under the direction of Maestro David Itkin and includes the talents of children from the Dallas Czech School who portray the opera’s little foxes.


Other festival performance highlights include a production of Vít Zouhar’s “Coronide: A Serious (and yet delightfully comic) Opera about Love and Unverified Information,” the Dvořák “Piano Concerto” featuring internationally renowned Czech pianist Sára Medková, and the multimedia performance “Tastes: A Sound and Video Performance Recalling the Smells and Tastes of the Tea Ceremony in Shanghai.”


The conference will feature a day of composition and multimedia sessions featuring speakers and discussion about topics such as: Adaptive sound design in video games, game programming research and education at the Laboratory for Recreational Computing, and “The Sounds in the Machine: ‘Metroid’s’ Cybernetic Soundscape.” A second day of sessions will focus on general academic and music topics including the conference’s keynote speakers: Jaroslav Miller, rector of Palacký University, who will discuss “The Events of 1918 and the Formation of Czechoslovakia;” and Jaroslav Křivánek, pastor of the Hussite Church, who will present “The Formation of Czechoslovak Hussite Church after 1918.”


The UNT International Festival of Czech Music is co-sponsored by the Janáček Academy of Music and Palacký University Olomouc.


About the UNT College of Music

The College of Music is one of the nation’s largest and most respected comprehensive music schools. It offers fully accredited degrees from the bachelor to doctoral levels and is home to the world’s first jazz studies degree program. Faculty include internationally acclaimed artists and scholars in composition, conducting, ethnomusicology, music education, music entrepreneurship, music history, music theory, performance and performance and performing arts health. The college presents more than 1,100 concerts and recitals annually. UNT music alumni can be found around the globe in impressive, award-winning careers across a wide-range of music professions. Visit the College of Music online calendar at and connect with the College of Music on Facebook at, and on Twitter at @UNTCoM


Jazz Singers - "A Thousand Nights" CD Cover

Jazz Singers release new CD

JAZZ SINGERS NEW CD DROPS: The UNT Jazz Singers newest recording, A Thousand Nights, is released to the public

"A Thousand Nights is the fourth album recorded by UNT Jazz Singers since I began teaching at UNT in Fall 2011, and I was aiming for it to showcase the diverse musical spectrum to which I strive to expose the students for their enjoyment and growth.  For the first time, we asked our guest artists-in-residence who came to UNT during the spring of 2017 and 2018  if they would be willing to be on our album, and we’re honored and delighted that all three of them said “Yes”!  The way that these beautiful artists gave of themselves both musically and personally during the time they were at UNT will leave an indelible mark on all of our lives, and we are confident that you too will feel the joy and passion of their music-making.  In addition to the three guest artist tracks, of course, there are eight others, and I’m most proud of the fact that over half of the music was arranged by our students!" – Jennifer Barnes


Handel's Messiah - December 3rd Poster. Text on light background

University of North Texas A Cappella Choir to Partner with FWSO for Handel’s Messiah

FORT WORTH, TX—November 5, 2018 — The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is delighted to announce an exciting new partnership with the University of North Texas A Cappella Choir. The first performance in this partnership will be the annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah under the baton of FWSO Associate Conductor Alejandro Gómez Guillén on Monday December 3, 2018 at Bass Performance Hall.

This group of exceptional young performers is part of an illustrious history of choral excellence including an international tour and various performances at national choral conferences. The new partnership will highlight the extraordinary level of musicianship achieved at the collegiate level in the North Texas region.

“We in the University of North Texas College of Music could not be more thrilled with the partnership that is emerging this year with our distinguished colleagues at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra,” stated John W. Richmond, Ph. D, Professor and Dean of the College of Music. “This inaugural collaboration of Handel’s Messiah is the first of what we hope will be many wonderful partnerships in the years ahead stretching across the gamut of our shared musical interests. We are so grateful to live among such gifted partners.”

“The University of North Texas A Cappella Choir is thrilled to collaborate with Maestro Alejandro Gómez Guillén and the Fort Worth Symphony for the December 2018 production of Handel’s much-loved Messiah.  The 50-voice chorus and UNT soloists will share this masterwork in an exuberant and historically-informed performance,” said Allen Hightower, DMA, Professor and Director of Choral Studies, and Director of the A Cappella Choir.  “We are so pleased to strengthen the relationship between the UNT College of Music and one of Fort Worth’s great artistic treasures, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.”

There will be a single performance of this program at Bass Performance Hall on Monday, December 3, 2018 at 7:30 PM. Tickets range from $27.50 – $82.50 and can be purchased by calling the FWSO Ticket Office at 817-665-6000 or by visiting

About Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is deeply committed to uniting its community through performance, education, and outreach, reaching an audience of more than 200,000 annually. Since its beginnings in 1912, the FWSO has been an essential thread in the city’s cultural fabric and the very foundation of Fort Worth’s performing arts. Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, now in his 19th season at the artistic helm of the FWSO, has led the orchestra into the 21st century to new levels of excellence. Under his leadership, the FWSO has performed at Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras. Throughout his tenure, the FWSO has released 13 recordings – with several being world premiere releases – garnering international acclaim. Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the FWSO have embraced creative collaborations through residencies, partnerships, and commissions. As the principal resident company of the acoustically superb Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, the Orchestra performs a full season of concerts featuring internationally-acclaimed guest artists and works by living composers. The Orchestra performs and partners with the Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth Opera, The Cliburn, and Performing Arts Fort Worth. Each summer at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, the FWSO presents Concerts In The Garden – a series of family-friendly concerts that has become a city-wide tradition. Additionally, the orchestra hosts an annual Festival of Orchestras, providing an opportunity for non-professional orchestras across the state of Texas to perform in Bass Performance Hall. The FWSO keeps exceptional musical experiences at the heart of its community. After all—life is better with music!

Connect with Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

UNT Music Video honoring Mahatma Gandhi

UNT College of Music releases an original arrangement and music video honoring Mahatma Gandhi

View music video here.


DENTON (UNT), Texas - At the request of the Consul General of India in Houston, TX, the University of North Texas College of Music has produced and released an original arrangement and music video to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.

“Gandhi has influenced and inspired the world through his example of peace and nonviolence,” said UNT President Neal Smatresk. “This has been a tremendous opportunity for our UNT College of Music students to be part of the global celebration of his legacy.”

The Consul General of India, Anupam Ray, asked if the UNT College of Music could create an original arrangement of one of Gandhi’s favorite Indian devotional hymns as part of the anniversary celebration. The College had less than four weeks to write, record and produce the piece, maintaining its original melody and text while adding the unique signature sound of the College of Music.

The request came in August, 2018 before the start of the fall semester.

 “I knew that if anyone could make this happen, it was the outstanding faculty and students at our College of Music,” said John W. Richmond, dean of the College of Music.

Richmond recruited Rosana Eckert, principal lecturer in jazz studies and Vivek Virani, assistant professor of ethnomusicology, to coordinate student vocalists and instrumentalists for the production.

Virani is a cultural researcher with performance and teaching experience in North Indian devotional music and regularly performs spiritual songs in a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. As a child, he grew up singing and hearing the hymn chosen for the project.

“This was an incredible opportunity to reimagine this song in a uniquely UNT jazz-style arrangement,” Virani said. “It was very touching to me because it connected my cultural and religious upbringing with the work I do here at the College of Music.”

Eckert teaches vocal jazz and songwriting and is also internationally recognized as a live and studio vocalist, songwriter and arranger.

“The students and I learned so much throughout this process,” Eckert said. “We learned about a different language, different musical instruments, a different singing style, and a different performance tradition. We learned more about Gandhi and his philosophy, and we learned about working together to blend cultures.”

The hymn is based on a 15th-century poem by Narsi Mehta who is one of many religious devotional Bhakti poet-saints whose poetry was written in the language of the common people of the region, Gujarati. Gandhi was born and raised in Gujarat, India and the hymn was one of many he heard growing up. The hymn’s chorus, “A true person of God understands the suffering of the downtrodden,” undoubtedly resonated with Gandhi’s deep-felt beliefs and the hymn became one of his favorites. He used it often in public gatherings and political rallies and it has been associated with him ever since.

Eckert and Virani worked together to create an arrangement that is true to the hymn’s cultural style, while adding elements that make it unique to the jazz style of the College of Music.

Manjira (finger symbols) and the tabla (North Indian drum) are essential to the piece’s identity as an Indian devotional piece. Piano and double bass add a full sense of the jazz sound and a cajón (Peruvian box-shaped drum) compliments the rhythm of the tabla. Soloists in flute and violin provide a rich tonal quality that endures in an Indian style.

Eckert and Virani worked together to arrange the piece. Virani provided a melodic and rhythmic arrangement of the song and instrumental solos and Eckert re-harmonized and arranged the piece for the vocalists. The project was particularly challenging since neither Virani nor Eckert nor any of the students speak Gujarati.

“I got a translation of each line of text,” Eckert said. “Even though Dr. Virani does not speak Gujarati, he grew up with the hymn and had performed the piece before. I listened and recorded him as he sang, learning the diction line-by-line.”

Eckert and Virani rehearsed their arrangement several times with 11 College of Music vocal jazz students, including one full rehearsal with the instrumentalists. Eckert secured a studio, Luminous Sound, owned by College of Music alumnus Paul Loomis, for one eight-hour session. Working with Grammy-award-winning engineer Tre Nagella, the instrumentalists were recorded first, followed by the instrumental interludes and then the vocalists.

College of Music videographer Jordan Bailey recorded the session that was to become the music video. The vocal tracks were sent to College of Music alumnus Zach Yaholkovsky for some preliminary vocal edits to help Nagella meet the quick deadline, and the project was mixed by Nagella the next evening to complete the project on time.

 “This remarkable collaboration made something happen that no one could have imagined individually,” Richmond said. “Not only was a wonderful piece of music forged, but wonderful friendships, as well.”

The original arrangement can be streamed or downloaded from numerous platforms including:

Music Video:


Original Arrangement:


Apple Music


CD baby

Jackie Gao, headshot

Alumni Spotlight: Jackie Gao

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Jackie Gao (DMA, violin) was an associate producer on the documentary series "Treasures of The Earth" that won the Gold World Medal of The New York Festivals Best TV and Films 2018. This documentary series, filmed in multiple countries, has three episodes: Gems, Metals and Power. It was produced by NOVA and broadcast on PBS at the end of 2016.

"It will take us on a journey deep inside Earth to uncover the mysteries of how these treasures were created, and to explore how they have allowed humankind to progress and build our great civilizations." NOVA official webpage.


UNT Opera students rehearsing "The Cunning Little Vixen" in the Lyric Theater

UNT College of Music presents the delightful Czech opera, “The Cunning Little Vixen”

What: The University of North Texas College of Music presents the Czech opera “The Cunning Little Vixen” performed in English with the UNT Symphony Orchestra.

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 9, & 10 (Thursday, Friday & Saturday), 3:00 p.m. Nov. 11 (Sunday), with an additional performance at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 (Saturday) for the UNT International Festival of Czech Music. An “In-the-Know” pre-performance talk will be held at 6:45 p.m. before each performance.

Where: Lyric Theater in the Murchison Performing Arts Center, 2100 N Interstate 35, in Denton.

Cost: $35 / $25 / $15 for adults, $5 for students with additional discounts available for senior citizens 55+, children, UNT faculty/staff/retirees, groups of 10+. For tickets visit or call 940-369-7802.

Parking: Free parking spaces will be set aside in Fouts Field for patrons attending performances at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. View the UNT parking map here.

More information: For a complete list of UNT College of Music events, including faculty and student recitals, visit the College of Music online calendar at and connect with the College of Music on Facebook at and on Twitter at @UNTCoM.

Background: Leoš Janáček composed “The Cunning Little Vixen” in 1924.

“This is one of the most delightful operas ever written - a charming, funny, touching story about love and life cycles, based on a popular Czech cartoon series - a sort of ‘Charlie Brown’ of Czech opera,” said Jonathan Eaton,  UNT College of Music Margot and Bill Winspear Chair in Opera Studies.

The opera charts the adventures of a charming, feisty, cunning little vixen and contrasts the fierce vitality and exuberance of the animal world with the human world. It's a perfect evening for newcomers to opera and cognoscenti alike.

collabfest poster

Collaborative pianists to gather at UNT for 2018 CollabFest

DENTON (UNT), Texas - Collaborative pianists are getting their moment in the spotlight at the University of North Texas College of Music’s third annual CollabFest – the first conference of its type in the nation.

“Collaborative pianists are trained as partners. It’s about being present in a moment; intuiting, responding and dancing together with other artists real time – heart to heart,” said Elvia Puccinelli, associate professor of collaborative piano and vocal coaching. “We have the opportunity to work in all areas of classical music, though rarely do we have the opportunity to interact over an extended period with other collaborative pianists. That is one of the primary goals of CollabFest – to serve as a professional conference specifically dedicated to collaborative pianists.”

CollabFest is part of CollabWeek at UNT, which features a variety of events, including free, evening public performances Oct. 18 (Thursday) – 20 (Saturday). CollabFest itself is a paid conference Oct. 18 (Thursday) – 20 (Saturday), featuring sessions and masterclasses presented by guest artists and UNT faculty members from around the country as an opportunity to be reenergized, inspired artistically, rejuvenated and challenged.

“We are so excited to have the amazing Margo Garrett as our master clinician and keynote speaker this year. I have such deep respect for her personally and professionally. Though I never formally studied with her beyond several masterclasses early in my training– which were transformative, by the way -  she is a major influence in my life, as I know she is and has been for so many musicians. This is the wonder of Margo Garrett!” Puccinelli said.

Garrett is a devoted teacher who recently retired from heading the collaborative piano department at The Juilliard School. She has served as co-director of the Tanglewood Music Center vocal fellowship program and is the recipient of many awards and honors including the American Society of Composers and Publishers “Most Creative Programming Award.”

American art song composer, Juliana Hall, a highly-regarded composer of vocal music, will serve as the conference’s composer-in-residence. Following her Master of Music in Composition degree from Yale, Hall went on to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.  One of the most prolific art song composers of our time, her works have been heard in 29 countries on six continents.

The free, public Thursday evening performance features the world premiere of “Cameos,” a setting of poems about American female visual artists by UNT Chair of Vocal Studies, Molly Filmore, who, with Puccinelli, will premiere the work. Friday’s public recital features students from around the country and Saturday’s recital features the CollabFest faculty.

Celebrating a “big birthday” of their mentor Alan Smith in 2015, Puccinelli and Lisa Sylvester, associate professor of practice at the University of Southern California, developed the concept of this event. Smith will be the master clinician for CollabFest 2019.

 “2018 is the third year we have organized this event at UNT and it continues to grow. The number of colleagues around the country who reach out in interest about this is a sign to me that this is the right time and that we have struck a need in our pianist community,” Puccinelli said. “Being able to make music with another person is a thrill and an honor, and being in a room full of beautiful pianist souls who feel the same way is priceless.” 

For a full list of events and recitals, please visit CollabFest 2018.

Dennis Fisher

The UNT Symphonic Band brings North Texas a celebration of Russian Culture

DENTON (UNT), Texas — The University of North Texas College of Music will celebrate the music of Russian composers, some very familiar and some who are not typically featured in popular concert repertoire.

The concert will be performed by the UNT Symphonic Band, conducted by professor of music and associate director of wind studies, Dennis Fisher. A faculty member since 1982, Fisher is known for his extensive national and international experience as a conductor, arranger, clinician and consultant and has served as the principal guest conductor of the Volga Band, in Saratov, Russia since 2006.

“It is exciting to do an entire concert featuring Russian composers,” Fisher said. “To prepare, we brought in the composer and resident conductor of the Volga Band, Dennis Mariev, via Skype so that the students had the opportunity to collaborate with a Russian composer and experience the country’s culture.”

 Mariev composed one of the pieces for the concert, Symphony No. 1, that will have its U.S. premier on Thursday.

“With more than 75 percent of the students performing with the Symphonic Band for the first time,  I’m very proud of how they have grown in our short time together on this extremely demanding program,” Fisher said. “Attendees are sure to enjoy their exciting and exhilarating first concert of the season.”

For those who are unable to attend the concert in person, be sure to join us via live stream.

View original press release

Ruth Mertens photo op with Dean Richmond and Professor Haefner

2018-19 Presser Undergraduate Scholar

Ruth Mertens, a harp music performance student from Natchitoches, Louisiana, has been named the University of North Texas College of Music’s 2018-19 Presser Scholar and recipient of a $4,000 Presser scholarship. Dean of the College of Music, John Richmond and Director of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Harp, Jaymee Haefner presented Ruth with her award.

The Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award is presented annually to a student entering his or her senior year who has shown extraordinary musical and academic accomplishments. The Presser award is considered the most prestigious undergraduate award in music at UNT and is provided by the Presser Foundation that awards annual scholarships, grants and funds for the furthering of music education and music in America.

"I am so excited and surprised,” Mertens said. “UNT has such an outstanding music school and so many of my fellow musicians are worthy of this award. It was an honor just to be nominated."

The winner is nominated and selected by UNT music faculty. The scholarship has been awarded annually for more than six decades.

Haefner, who nominated Mertens for the scholarship, said, "In every opportunity, Ruth represents the best of the UNT College of Music and does so with poise and humility. Currently in her junior year, Ruth is preparing and performing repertoire which would be challenging for some doctoral students. In the summer of 2017, Ruth accompanied the UNT HarpBeats in their Hong Kong performance for the World Harp Congress which featured one of her arrangements. This past summer, she performed  with the other members of our harp studio at Lyon and Healy Hall for the Summer Concert Series in Chicago. She is an exemplary student with many bright opportunities ahead and I’ve been so honored to work with her." Mertens said she credits Haefner for putting opportunities in her path to help her grow both as a musician and a scholar and that the scholarship will open doors for her to pursue a postgraduate degree."

Summer MMEd program graduates

Summer MMEd program has first graduates

The University of North Texas College of Music division of music education celebrated the first graduates of its master of music education summer program. The program was started in 2016 to accommodate teachers who want to continue their music teaching job while attending graduate school.

“We have a large music-education faculty of highly accomplished, broadly published, deeply devoted teachers and researchers who are working across many of the most urgent, complex and important issues in the profession,” said John Richmond, dean of the College of Music.

The UNT summer program combines practical skill development with an in-depth education that includes an expansion of critical thinking and a nuanced understanding of large issues affecting education.

“The UNT College of Music faculty is unsurpassed in experience and expertise,” said Sean Powell, chair of the division of music education. “Our program is 100 percent face-to-face. We take great pride in creating a close-knit community of learners.”

One of the program’s first graduates, Allison Murray, a music teacher in Carrollton, received her bachelor’s degree from UNT and was excited to be able to pursue a graduate degree in the summer program.

“I decided to pursue my master’s because I wanted to continue being a life-long learner and be a better teacher for my students,” she said. “I believe every student should have the opportunity to experience something bigger than themselves, to come together with a group of people and learn how to express themselves through music.”

Kelsey Nussbaum, a music teacher from Austin, found refuge in public school music education programs when she was growing up. She became a music teacher to provide a similar experience for students in public school orchestra programs.

“I have always planned on pursuing further education, but was not yet ready to leave my teaching position in Austin,” she said. “When I heard about the new summer master’s program at UNT, it seemed like the perfect fit. I knew about the school’s excellent reputation and the recent expansion within the music education department, so there was a lot of positive energy surrounding the program.”

Davy Mooney with Guitar

UNT jazz professor Davy Mooney and drummer Ko Omura bring strong musical chemistry to new album release, “Benign Strangers”

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Assistant professor of jazz guitar at the University of North Texas, Davy Mooney and Tokyo-born drummer, Ko Omura have released their first album entitled “Benign Strangers.”

“The album’s title describes our creative experience,” said Mooney. “Ko had never met the rest of the band. He flew in from Tokyo and met everybody for the first time at the recording studio. It’s remarkable that people from far off places and different walks of life can have an immediate, dramatic impact on each other after meeting just once.”

Mooney and Omura toured together previously in Japan and recognized their strong musical chemistry. The two decided to collaborate on an album, each contributing five compositions. In January, Mooney and Omura joined John Ellis: saxophones and clarinets; Glenn Saleski: piano; and Matt Clohesy: bass to record the album in New York.

Mooney, a UNT College of Music alumnus, stays on top of the New York and international jazz scene, recording and touring when he is not teaching. He says that being a professional musician and a teacher is a perfect fit that benefits both him and his students.

“I am fortunate to get to collaborate with students who are incredibly innovative and performing at a really high level,” said Mooney. “It’s exciting to work with them and share what I’ve learned while on tour and in the recording studio.”

Mooney has recorded eight CDs as a leader and many others as a sideman. “Benign Strangers,” “Hope of Home” and “Perrier St.” are released on Sunnyside Records. Mooney has also self-published two novels, “Annalee” and “Hometown Heroes.”

Martin Godoy Headshot

UNT Flutist Martin Godoy wins Myrna Brown Flute Competition

DENTON (UNT), Texas - The University of North Texas College of Music announced that Martin Godoy, a doctor of musical arts student, won first prize in the Texas Flute Society’s 32nd annual Myrna Brown Artist Competition. The event, held each year in Denton, is widely recognized as one of the highest level international flute competitions and has no age limit. Godoy receives a cash prize and is invited to appear as a guest artist at the 2019 Texas Flute Festival.

Godoy’s success is sweeter because of his personal journey. Godoy is a Dallas native and a first generation college student.

“For me, going to college meant making a name for my family and to show that anything is possible,” said Godoy. “‘I’m so proud of you, Mijo,’ and ‘that’s my boy,’ are expressions I often hear from my proud parents. I like to think that I take a bit of each of them with me as I achieve my dreams in music.”

Godoy explains that he had incredible encouragement from teachers, counselors and family. In elementary school, music was his favorite class. His music teacher recommended that he audition for the All-City Boys Choir and he was accepted. In middle school, he joined the band and fell in love with the flute. From there, he excelled through all-city, region, region orchestra and state bands.

 “Thank goodness for high school counselors.” Godoy said. “I honestly do not know where I would be right now had it not been for college. I have met so many people and have developed a wide variety of interests. My world is bigger and dreams bigger as a result.”

Godoy’s talent and drive landed him at the UNT College of Music where he found inspiration, friendship, guidance and a hunger for success.

“Winning a top tier competition like the Myrna Brown Flute Competition is a stellar achievement for any flute student, to win it as a first generation college student is all the more remarkable, as often students like Martin have not had flute lessons until they enter college,” said Terri Sundberg, professor of flute at the UNT College of Music. “He is incredibly gifted and has worked to support himself and pay tuition and expenses to earn three degrees by teaching flute and directing the Color Guard at Colleyville High School. He has blossomed into one of the top flutists in the country and is an example of what is possible with talent, drive and determination.”

Close up view of trumpet players performing in UNT ensemble

UNT to host largest trumpet competition in the nation

DENTON (UNT), Texas - In March, the finest trumpet players from all over the nation will converge on the University of North Texas for the 26th annual National Trumpet Competition, the largest of its kind. Competitors will vie for thousands of dollars in prize money and have opportunities to network with other top talent.

“It’s truly a trumpet-centric event and one that brings together the brightest and best for healthy competition, networking and instruction,” said Jason Bergman, assistant professor of trumpet and host of the event. “UNT has a rich history of excellence in our trumpet studio that spans more than 60 years. We are embarking on a new period of excellence and bringing the trumpet world to UNT for this competition can serve as an impactful coming out party for our students.”

This year, 600 participants were selected to compete, including 17 UNT trumpet students.

“That’s the largest number we’ve ever had and is a testament to the hard work our students are doing,” Bergman said. “I think it’s fantastic that UNT students can compete in the premiere trumpet competition in the world at their home university. It’s sort of like competing in a hometown Super Bowl.”

The event also will feature guest artists who will perform with the Grammy-nominated One O’Clock Lab Band and the North Texas Wind Symphony.

The event will be held March 8-10 (Thursday-Saturday) in various locations across campus. View the schedule here for event times and locations. The public is invited to free concerts featuring world-renowned guest artists.

One O’Clock Lab Band concert, 8:30 p.m. March 9 (Friday) features:

Frank Greene

Grammy-winning trumpeter and UNT alumnus Frank Greene is one of the most in-demand lead trumpet players in New York. He has performed as the lead trumpet in the CBS Orchestra for The Late Show, as well as with other big-named ensembles including the Christian McBride Big Band and The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.

Carey Deadman

UNT alumnus Carey Deadman is a freelance trumpet player who remains one of the busiest studio and theater musicians in the Chicago music scene. He also is in great demand as an arranger, orchestrator, producer and teacher.

Scott Belck

Scott Belck, UNT alumnus, currently serves as the director of Jazz and Commercial Music and professor of Music at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where he directs the CCM Jazz Orchestra and teaches applied jazz trumpet. He currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra.


UNT Wind Symphony at 2 p.m. March 10 (Saturday) features:

Ryan Anthony

Virtuoso trumpeter Ryan Anthony, noted for his varied career as a soloist, educator, chamber musician and orchestral player. Having departed the world-renowned ensemble Canadian Brass nearly ten years ago, Anthony quickly became one of the most sought after trumpet players in America both as soloist and an orchestral player.

Craig Morris

Trumpeter Craig Morris emerged onto the international classical music scene by winning the prestigious position of Principal Trumpet in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, assuming that post from the legendary Adolph “Bud” Herseth in 2001. A desire to more fully focus on his own artistic projects, however, led Morris to leave his position with the CSO and pursue a career as a soloist and chamber musician. 

All of the guest artists, as well as the Dallas Symphony trumpet section, will present master classes for participants. Finals will be held March 10 and will culminate in a 9 p.m. awards ceremony.