2020 EXCEL 5-Year Retrospective

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The University of Michigan’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership (EXCEL) Lab is the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s homebase for professional development programming— from training to funding, and beyond. Our offerings are uniquely situated at the core of the SMTD educational experience, while also serving as part of U-M’s larger, topranked entrepreneurial network. Now entering our sixth year, EXCEL continues to empower students to develop professional and entrepreneurial skills following two guiding principles:   •  We provide key, personalized resources to help students turn their ideas into action, and launch professional lives that are sustainable, fulfilling, and   impactful.  •  We broaden the spotlight on success by amplifying compelling performing arts stories that exemplify innovative thinking, a commitment to social good, and the broadest potential for artists to serve as leaders throughout society.

“ Developing the skills to imagine, test, and

realize artistic ideas that will catalyze systemic change has never been more important for performing artists. EXCEL is committed to that call to action, and challenges our students to claim their full potential towards realizing a more fruitful, sustainable, and just arts ecosystem.”

Jonathan Kuuskoski Director, EXCEL Lab; Chair, Department of Entrepreneurship & Leadership


Composer Nico Muhly participates in an EXCEL Talk with students in fall 2019.

EXCEL was founded in 2015 with initial support from a grant through the Transforming Learning for a Third Century Initiative. Originally situated as a non-academic office, EXCEL grew out of the SMTD’s desire to enhance student and alumni career services, and its enduring commitment to elevating opportunities for experiential learning across the School. In the first year, EXCEL piloted programming that would become our core offerings, including:  •  A suite of mini-courses that provided deep-dives into principles of arts entrepreneurship, financial management, marketing, legal   essentials, and personal career planning.

The Princeton Review has ranked U-M’s entrepreneurship network among the nation’s best for five consecutive years


Awarded for students for projects, ventures, and internships

•  The EXCELerator Fellowship program—an incubator that supported   12 student-driven entrepreneurial projects with mentorship and upwards of $22,000 in total funding.   In just a few months, the fellows created prototypes, launched an arts festival and they were selected   for the optiMize Social Innovation Challenge and the Ann Arbor SPARK Entrepreneur Boot Camp.



EXCEL’s growth would not have been possible without the generous support of the Weiser Family. Their establishment of the $1 million Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund has sustained much of the Lab’s activities over its first five years—and beyond—including workshops, guest entrepreneur residencies; funding support for hundreds of projects, internships, and ventures; and immersions to major cultural centers. The activities supported by the Fund amplify the talent and training of our students through project-based, entrepreneurial ventures and direct interaction with successful graduates who have used their expertise to forge viable, alternative, and ground-breaking careers.

“ The School of Music, Theatre & Dance prepares

students well for lifelong employment or avocation in the performing arts. EXCEL supports graduating students as they take their talents and skills into real life, helping them learn to create their own opportunities, find mentors to nudge doors open, and design a strong, appropriate career plan. We’re grateful that other donors believe in EXCEL’s value for SMTD graduates. We’re delighted to celebrate five years of EXCEL, knowing how many students have built strong artistic lives through this investment.”

Eileen Weiser (MM ’75, piano performance)


George Bacon Laurie Baefsky-Martin and Joel Martin Constance Barron and John Miller Melanie Bean David Beck and Shirley CoeBeck Kari Becker Lawrence Bell Lynda Berg Joshua and Lynne Berrett Ericka and Peter Bigelow Suzette Bouchard-Isackson and Richard Isackson Sherri Brown Wayne Brown and Brenda Kee Julia Broxholm and E. Fred Ormand Paul and Susan Burnett Dennis and Sarah Callahan Mark Clague and Laura Jackson Aaron Dworkin and Afa Sadykhly Dworkin Marissa Finer Lori Flynn Alexander Fox Joseph Galema John and Kathleen Gatti Jerry and Mary Gray Susan Harris Laura and Jeffrey Hoffman James and Johnna Holloway Richard Isackson and Suzette Bouchard-Isackson Andrew and Karen Isble Donald and Murside Jean Caroline Kagan Steve Kagan and Ann Marie Lipinski Mark and Carol Kaplan Ellen and Michael Kettler Caleb and Gretchen King Claudia Koitch

Wesley and Kathleen Kumagai Jeffrey and Theresa Kurz Jonathan Kuuskoski and Paola Savvidou Stephen Lancaster and Kevin Vaughn Wendy and Theodore Lawrence David Leichtman and Laura McGinn Leva Lessure Ann Marie Lipinski and Steve Kagan Christopher and Lynne Markiewicz Katherine and Michael McBride Laura McGinn and David Leichtman Robert Miller Joanna Miller Donald and Antoinette Morelock David Newman Rebecca Pagels and Oscar Ybarra Jeremy and Kathryn Peters Nicholas Phan Jim and Karen Porter Noah Reitman Kathleen Roberts Maureen Schafer and David Klerkx Ken and Caryl Smith Cheryl Soper Ann Marie Stanley and Daniel Isbell Peggy Stevens Alveris Van Fleet Corson Jim and Tracy Vergiels Susan and D. Roger Waller Taras and Joanna Wayner Eileen and Ronald Weiser Oscar Ybarra and Rebecca Pagels Andrew and Barbara Yokom Diane Zola





Former Dean Aaron Dworkin (far left), Jonathan Kuuskoski (2nd from left), and Mark Clague (far right) with inaugural EXCEL Prize recipients Melissa Coppola (MM ’16, DMA ’21, center) and Rosalind Hartigan (2nd from right)

EXCEL’s launch and initial growth was thanks to the vision of SMTD’s academic leadership. In 2015, outgoing Dean Christopher Kendall approved the search for SMTD’s first-ever career services staff member while incoming Dean Aaron Dworkin imagined positioning entrepreneurship, leadership, and advocacy training at the heart of the SMTD educational experience. Senior Associate Dean Melody Racine was an integral steward of the development of EXCEL’s initial programming and advocated for important operational resources to meet the high level of demand expressed for EXCEL by students and alumni. Mark Clague’s leadership as the inaugural director, built off of more than a decade of his own efforts to strengthen student-led entrepreneurship, transformed EXCEL from an idea into a full-fledged program with robust offerings for students and alumni.

“The inspiration to create EXCEL was the demand “Integrating arts leadership and


from students for practical business training with arts at its core. Actors, dancers, and musicians alike needed skills that would amplify their talents by giving them the confidence, vision, and tools necessary to invent opportunity and forge their own success.”

entrepreneurship skills into the learning experience at SMTD fulfills our responsibility to prepare students for the world that awaits them after graduation. EXCEL empowers them to develop sustainable careers surrounding their art-making.”

Mark Clague Assoc. Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Aaron Dworkin Professor of Arts Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Over the course of EXCEL’s first five years, the Lab has grown to offer some of the most comprehensive arts leadership programming available anywhere. Across the next section, 50 students share their insights about EXCEL and how utilizing its programs has enriched their educational experience at SMTD. These stories highlight EXCEL’s core offerings, which include: FUNDING (P. 6)

Whatever their dream, EXCEL helps students put their ideas into action. We provide $100,000 in annual funding support annually to current U-M students as they launch projects, ventures, and internships. All of our funding programs prioritize social impact as part of the award criteria, and we have supported dozens of projects that advance DEI and other social justice-centered goals.


With partners from the University Musical Society to The Metropolitan Opera, there are countless ways students can develop essential hands-on arts leadership experience during their time at Michigan. All of EXCEL’s internship programs include funding support.


EXCEL offers unlimited access to career coaching from a seasoned team of staff and peer mentors who provide hundreds of free one-on-one sessions each year. Coaching topics include navigating the job search, preparing professional materials for application, development of artistic projects, and more.

EVENTS (P. 20)

From Q&As featuring arts professionals to virtual symposia and career expos, EXCEL offers dozens of co-curricular opportunities each year where students can learn directly from experts, connect with new peers, and unlock social impact best practices.


EXCEL offers more than 20 courses that traverse a variety of arts management, leadership, and entrepreneurship topics. The Performing Arts Management and Entrepreneurship minor and the Graduate Certificate in Arts Entrepreneurship and Leadership provide opportunities for students to formalize and deepen their EXCEL-related studies while expanding their career options.


From New York to Detroit, Chicago to London, EXCEL takes students on annual immersions beyond campus to explore leading performing arts organizations. Trips are heavily subsidized to minimize student costs , and they provide exclusive access behind the scenes of leading institutions. By visiting companies and organizations such as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Disney Theatrical, Martha Graham Dance, various Broadway theatres, and more, students cultivate a rich network of arts professionals who will become integral to their postgraduation careers. smtd.umich.edu/EXCEL


SA’ OAXACA - THE OAXACA STRINGS INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL Gwendolyn Matias-Ryan SP ’19 Alongside the Amatista Quartet, Gwendolyn launched and directed SA’OAXACA, the Oaxaca Strings International Music Festival in June 2019. She also established a Suzuki strings program and is currently working on launching a chamber music season in Oaxaca, Mexico where she resides.

“The mentorship we received during our Performing Arts EXCELerator Grant preparation was nothing short of awe-inspiring and extremely motivating. In a few short months, we saw our project go from something on the page to something living and breathing, and it could not have happened without all of the guidance, mentorships, coachings, discussions and organization that was provided for us.”



RUNYONLAND PRODUCTIONS Thomas Laub BFA ’19 Thomas Laub is a producer based in New York City and the founder of live entertainment company Runyonland Productions, which helps storytellers nationwide share their work with larger audiences by providing increased funding and production assistance.

“ I would not be where I am today without the empowering support of EXCEL, period. The

EXCELerator helped turn my late-night musing about a production company into a full-fledged live entertainment company that has produced two Broadway shows within a year and a half of inception, and has four more on the docket for when the current crisis recedes.”



Gala Flagello MM ’19, DMA ’22

“From funding for collaborative projects (“Educational

New Music for Developing Voices,” 2018; “The Contemporary Solo Horn,” 2019) to catalyzing crucial relationships with arts leaders, EXCEL resources have furthered my professional growth as both a composer and arts administrator in a myriad of ways.”

Conner Singh VanderBeek PhD ’22

“EXCEL allowed me to raise the bar on projects that I was

already planning on doing. The video filming and editing work I have done­­—thanks to the boost EXCEL gave me has more than paid off, both in professional, paid contexts, and in my artistic work.”

Catherine Grace Moore BM ’22

“EXCEL’s career mentorship and resume building has


helped me secure internships at organizations like the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, University Musical Society, and Arts Alliance of Washtenaw County. After my original summer internship fell through due to COVID-19, EXCEL helped me find a remote opportunity and granted me a stipend to support my work. This funding allowed me to stay in my field and continue growing my skills in the arts.”

STUDENT STORIES  • FUNDING Sherry Lin MFA ’20 David Newman BFA ’18 “I was lucky enough to engage with EXCEL in a variety of programs, from a class on website building and video editing for artists, to some of those morning talks over coffee and bagels with industry professionals and organizations, to receiving an Enterprise Award for a short film I was producing, and so much more. EXCEL was exceedingly helpful to me during college, seeming to find positive ways into my experience at every turn.”

“With the support of the EXCEL Enterprise Fund, I partnered with 2XS Dance Company, a student-run organization on campus, to better understand the challenges hip hop dancers have in developing healthy eating habits. Some of the challenges reported by the dancers included transportation and limited access to grocery stores, time management, and financial difficulties. Through EXCEL funding, we provided healthy snacks for the dancers during their intensive training week.”

Noah Fishman MM ’20 “EXCEL blurred the line between conservatory life and a career in music. Leaving undergrad, my sense of how to translate my artistic/academic experience into a viable career was a complete mystery. Now, through events, sessions, classes, and online resources, EXCEL has showed me new ways of valuing my role as an artist.”

Adrianna Lynn Tam DMA ’19 “Applying for the EXCEL Enterprise Fund was my very first foray into grant writing. With the help of SMTD alumna and “Out of the Blue” co-founder, Rikki Morrow-Spitzer, I got my first taste of professional and collaborative entrepreneurial writing. Successfully receiving the grant opened a door I’d once thought unapproachable.”




Front Porch is a mixed quartet that invites audiences to engage personally with the voices of their close friends, reimagining the classical concert experience with warmth and love at its foundation. Their uncommon instrumentation—violin, bassoon, piano, and percussion—makes them equally at home with composers, folk artists, opera singers, and everyone in between.


Virago is a new voice in classical music. Marked by intense chemistry and resistance to creative norms, Virago melds free improvisation and contemporary chamber music into a contagious headspace of out-of-the-box expression. This unusually instrumented quintet improvises through collaborations with composers, audience members, visual artists, and musicians across genres, marking the path for the future of chamber music. Virago has performed at festivals, concert halls, local businesses and public spaces across Michigan. Passionate about the impact of free improvisation on personal and creative growth, Virago facilitates free improvisation workshops for K-12 students.



Third Place [MusicFest] is an annual festival in Ann Arbor, MI that brings together artists and businesses from the region to celebrate the power of the third place. A third place is not your home or place of employment, but rather a neutral, communitycentered environment. Through eight concerts over the course of four days, and partnering with six local businesses, Third Place [MusicFest] fosters a thriving and accessible community between performing artists, local businesses, and Ann Arbor residents.


LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC INITIATIVE Maria Fernanda Castillo DMA ’20  •  Régulo Stabilito MM ’19, DMA ’22 In 2018, Régulo Stabilito and fellow student Maria Castillo launched the Latin American Music Initiative (LAMI), a project aimed at fostering a community of musicians interested in the study, understanding, and promotion of Latin American music around the globe. They have utilized EXCEL’s offerings to grow LAMI, attending a number of the lab’s courses and participating in workshops. Over the last three years, the pair earned an EXCEL Enterprise Award to support their initial LAMI project, they were awarded a 2019 EXCELerator Fellowship which offered extensive mentorship and seed funding, and they received the $10,000 EXCEL Prize in 2020. They will use this most recent funding to launch LAMI’s first festival, I LAMI Festival: From Latin America to the World.

“EXCEL has been an

enormous stimulus in the growth of my professional career as conductor-entrepreneur.” Régulo Stabilito

“With help from EXCEL,

you will find all of the support and guidance you need to make your dreams as artists and entrepreneurs come true.” Maria Fernanda Castillo



Carlos Funn MFA ’18

Westley Montgomery BMA ’17, MM ’19

“I was able to build relationships and gather more information on running a for-profit arts event. moving24fps.com with fellow grad Marcus White.”

“Our production of The Difficulty of Crossing a Field directly led to one of my first professional opportunities when I was able to reprise my role in the work with the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings. The project also helped me to expand my idea of what opera—and performance more generally—is, and what it can accomplish.”

Isabel Olson BTA ’20

Madison Montambault BM ’17, MM ’19

“With EXCEL support, I was a Literary Intern at the O’Neill Theatre Center the summer of 2018. In 2019, EXCEL and the UMS 21st Century Artist Internship, enabled me to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland to assist U.K. artist Javaad Alipoor’s production of RICH KIDS at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.”

“We are extremely thankful for the EXCEL award that we received because it allowed for us to make strides in multiple areas, such as creating an inclusive public soundscape, collaboration amongst departments and establishing a modern voice expressed through opera in our community.”


Larissa Marten BFA ’17 “It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like now had I not received funding to perform my thesis while at Michigan.”

Jean Carlo Urena Gonzalez MM ’20, DMA ’23 “EXCEL was a big support in the creation of my project ‘Connecting with the Roots,’ the resources they provide not just to me, but to all SMTD students is a big reason why so many projects happen during students’ time in U-M. This project that brings composers from my home country the Dominican Republic, to commission percussion solo pieces, will be a big step in my career since this will be my first CD album as a professional musician in which I worked with the composers in the developing of the music.”

Emma Lambert BFA ’20 “EXCEL gave me the opportunity to have my first internship and allowed me to see what an arts administration role looks like within a dance company.”

Shuying Li MM ’15, DMA ’18 “The financial sponsorship was always a big help. But we found that the skills we acquired from EXCEL in program development, evaluation, and networking were far much more valuable and sustainable.”

Amy Petrongelli DMA ’16

“Because of EXCEL, I find myself making time in voice lessons to talk about the broader career picture with my own students now at my current institution. I pursue opportunities that I may not have thought I would have had the skill set to do without the lessons learned via my interactions with EXCEL.”


•  EXCEL 2019–20







392 49 189 19 AVG. CLASS EVENTS







Information: 1 Stamps Art & Design: 1 Ross Business: 1 Art & Design + SMTD: 2 Engineering: 4 LSA: 27 SMTD: 137 14
















STUDENT STORIES  • INTERNSHIIPS Hailey Cohen MM ’21 Hailey Cohen completed her undergraduate studies at U-M where she received her BM in voice performance. For the past year she has continued her studies at U-M as a candidate for an MM, studying with Dr. Caroline Helton. Along with operatic repertoire, Cohen has a love for contemporary music. In summer 2019, she interned as a production assistant for the innovative Resonant Bodies Festival and aided its mission to support the growth and evolution of contemporary vocal music. She works with Opera MODO as a part of its marketing and development team where she continues to support making opera accessible in the greater Detroit area. She previously worked for LoftOpera in Brooklyn, and is excited to be back in Brooklyn (virtually) this summer working with the development team at National Sawdust.

“ Through the EXCEL Internship Grants program I have been able

to receive funding for my internship opportuntiies the past two summers. I met the CEO of one of the companies I interned for (Lucy Dhegrae, Resonant Bodies Festival) at an EXCEL activity. I also was able to participate in the NYC immersion which helped inspire me to apply for my internship this past summer at National Sawdust.”


“The resources that EXCEL offered gave me a

chance to become a multi-dimensional artist, and gave me the skills to be successful as a leader in any field. I am still working with the artist that I interned with as a 21st Century Artist intern which has allowed me to be a part of projects that involve Broadway, and major film projects.”

Aviva Klein BM ’20

“Working for EXCEL and taking part in planning


Zion Jackson BMA ’20

events, piloting initiatives, and brainstorming all manner of things helped me strengthen many tools that will serve me no matter the path I follow.”

Zachary Siegel BM ’20

“EXCEL directly impacted my professional growth by creating an internship position for me with SMTD’s Development Office, and by sponsoring a summer internship with Opera Philadelphia.”

Cecilia Hiros BM ’21

“The Dean’s Liaison* program is a life-changing

opportunity for students that have any interest in the academic and management careers in music.”

*Dozens of students secure paid internships with arts organizations each year, and may also intern with SMTD’s own offices through the selective Dean’s Liaisons program.

STUDENT STORIES  • COACHING Annie Jeng DMA ’19 Dr. Annie Jeng is a pianist, educator, and gogetter who believes in making communities richer and more meaningful through the arts. Her research includes using contemporary music as a pedagogical tool and promoting inclusion in the piano repertoire through her recent project, A Seat at the Piano. Annie is currently Assistant Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy at University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“ There are numerous ways EXCEL

resources positively impacted me, but the mentorship is what really shaped my professional growth and development. The EXCEL staff and team consistently lifted me up and provided me with helpful guidance, especially when I was applying for University positions. I was extremely fortunate to secure a tenuretrack job during the final year of my doctorate and I truly owe a lot of that success to EXCEL.”


“Had it not been for EXCEL’s financial and mentoring

support, I wouldn’t have been daring and able to complete a project like En Español, which has been a staple of my career as a performer, curator and educator. I am still building part of my career on the niche of promoting, premiering, and teaching music and musicians from the ‘Hispanosphere.’”

Katrina Fasulo BMA ’19


César Cañón MM ’15, DMA ’18

“I attended a master’s program in arts leadership

following my time at U-M and felt very strongly primed for success because of my experiences within EXCEL. The field of arts management in academia is very new, and I feel so privileged to have had a head start including real-world experiences before even leaving my undergrad coursework.”

Cassidy Goldblatt BM ’16

“I can’t thank EXCEL enough for providing a launching

pad for me to explore artistic entrepreneurship—a concept new to me in undergrad, but one which would come to dominate nearly all the work I’ve since done in the music world.”

Hanna Rumora BM ’18, MM ’20

“With EXCEL’s support, I have been able to delve into

new music in ways that would’ve otherwise been impossible. Through working with EXCEL, Converge Quartet was able to pinpoint specific goals and areas for improvement related to new music at SMTD.” smtd.umich.edu/EXCEL

STUDENT STORIES  • EVENTS BethAnne Kunert SP ’19 BethAnne Kunert is a saxophonist, improviser, music educator, and arts administrator. She currently serves as Development Officer for Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings and the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. BethAnne frequently performs across the state of Michigan with Virago, a Detroit-based contemporary music ensemble which melds improvisation with composition. BethAnne also maintains a private studio of elementary through high school age saxophone students.

“I attended EXCEL’s Career Expo in

2018 where I met a representative from Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. I interned for the Festival that summer with support from the EXCEL Internship Fund, and was later offered a full-time position in fund development for the organization.”


Cameron Wilson seeks to understand very different worldly perspectives and tell stories of shared human understanding through performance. He aspires to this goal through his work as a percussionist, improviser, and composer. Cameron is a founding member of slapslap, America’s favorite post-war bassoon rock band comprised of two electric bassoonists and two drummers.


Cameron Wilson BM ’22

“During the pandemic, EXCEL

launched an in-depth virtual series called Virtual Visionaries, in which many different conversations were had with very well-established artists. I learned so much from these sessions about the deeper purposes of making music, how to create my own path in music, and more.”

Virtual Visionaries 20

Guests over 10 weeks


Participants from across the United States smtd.umich.edu/EXCEL


Tyler Berns BM ’21 Tyler Berns is an American arts leader, collaborator, and aspiring music industry professional currently working for Primo Artists, a boutique music agency in New York. Striving towards a comprehensive knowledge of the music industry, Tyler has worked with an international touring ensemble, a leading University concert presenter, and a Washington, D.C.based national cultural center.

“I was introduced to the world of arts management

through Ken Fischer’s EXCEL mini-course. I met my first boss at an EXCEL Talk in November 2017 (The Knights). Two of my strongest advocates and recommenders for my 2019 Kennedy Center internship are EXCEL faculty (Aaron Dworkin and Ken Fischer). I met my current boss in May 2020 on Zoom during Aaron Dworkin’s Arts Leadership Forum EXCEL Class (Charlotte Lee, Primo Artists). All of my summer internships have been graciously supported by EXCEL grants. I’ve made invaluable connections and learned an abundance of information, in countless EXCEL classes and presentations, from a wide-array of industry leaders from organizations such as the NY Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, Askonas Holt, and Detroit Public Television. Based on my experience, this is exactly what EXCEL is all about—providing direct, personalized, and meaningful resources for all students to succeed in achieving their career goals.”



Teagan Lianna Faran BM ’18 A native of Buffalo, NY, Teagan Faran is a multidisciplinary musician focused on enacting social change through the arts. ​As a soloist, Faran has performed internationally, including appearances with the Buffalo Philharmonic and the University of Vermont Symphony. In December 2019, she released her solo album, “Little Things.” Faran was a 2019 Fulbright fellow in Buenos Aires as well as a Turn The Spotlight Fellow. She is currently attending the Manhattan School of Music, pursuing a Masters in Contemporary Performance.

“The two resources that I still feel resonating in my

life are the EXCELerator Fellowship and the NY Phil teaching artist intensive. The intensive sparked a creative pedagogical light in me that led me to pursue more teaching artist training and has become the largest source of my income—and my happiness—during COVID times! ”


Students enrolled in courses annually Our graduates have gone on to work in many leading arts organizations, including Carnegie Hall, Disney Theatrical, Midori & Friends, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Ballet, and more.

” smtd.umich.edu/EXCEL


Martha Guth DMA ’16 “Essentially, EXCEL got us going, gave us the tools we needed when we needed them, offered us mentorship and our first resources in order to make sure that we were getting things going in the right way. Now four years into this venture, our nonprofit has premiered more than 200 songs, our regional songSLAMS, many different song cycles in NYC through our yearly festival, championed scholars and artists on our online magazine, and we reach song audiences with partnerships in 13 cities and four countries—and growing!”

Joe Broom BM ’19 (far right) “Every EXCEL course expanded my view of what my reach can be as an artist—on stage and in the community. And, more than expanding my view, the courses added skills to help me execute that larger vision of my artistic place and purpose. EXCEL Funding allowed Chamber Unique to create a partnership with Crescendo Detroit serving Detroit youth. That partnership still exists and is expanding to include distance learning through individual lessons and master classes in the challenging environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”


“The skills I gleaned from EXCEL certainly

translate into my professional work life and work-life balance. Several EXCEL-sponsored classes highlighted the importance of balancing your artistic life with other work. The skills taught in various EXCEL entrepreneurship courses have empowered me to live out my portfolio-career every day.”


Hannah Baiardi BFA ’18

Taylor Isberg BM ’21

“The EXCEL courses not only provided the

opportunity to learn from music professionals who know how to find success in our current industry, but they also offered some of the most practical/applicable knowledge I gained while at U-M. For example, I learned how to write a grant and develop a business plan for a chamber ensemble, things which I had absolutely NO idea how to do prior to taking those classes.”

Kristina Zlatareva BM ’17, MM ’20

“EXCEL has propelled my career as a young

professional to new levels. The opportunities provided for me have allowed me to expand my network and to meet some of the top executives in the arena of the performing arts.”



Mohan Ritsema BFA ’20

Amy Wensley BFA ’18

“Getting to experience a Broadway pit orchestra firsthand made me realize that I really want that kind of work to be a part of my career.”

“Meeting SMTD alumnus Sam Livingston and listening to him speak about his positive experiences working at Carnegie Hall on the EXCEL NYC Immersion inspired me to want to work at the Hall! Through the networking connections that EXCEL provided me with, I was able to attain an interview, and was overjoyed when I got the job!”

Marina Sakellakis BM ’20

Forrest Howell DMA ’22

“Take advantage of everything EXCEL has to offer! It will help you become a well-rounded musician, and provide you with skills that you can use in any professional field.”

“In response to what I learned in the CoLab Immersion, I have already begun several interdisciplinary performance projects. I am hopeful that these projects will expand the scope of topics that can be addressed effectively through the performing arts. Now, I have more confidence to develop these projects, having had opportunities to learn and experiment with peers and mentors during CoLab­—and it’s all thanks to the initiative and support from EXCEL.”

STUDENT STORIES  • IMMERSIONS Stephanie Guralnick BA ’21

Kamyron Williams MM ’18, SM ’20

“If you want to do something (be it an internship, or a project that’s a little off-beat, or a new class or focus) there is someone here who will be able to help you. EXCEL has helped me fund internships, given me resume and portfolio advice, and pointed me in the way of grants for passion projects I wanted to pursue!”

“The EXCEL office has always been a space where I knew I could get honest help with anything. Dropping in to review resumes, cover letters, grant writing help, book/ resources materials—even if I didn’t make an appointment!”

Dana Pierangeli BTA ’21 “The BTA Immersion to Chicago introduced us to many different career paths this degree offers, which opened up exciting new possibilities. I learned about the theatre industry and what it takes to make strides in the theatre production field specifically.”

Maxwell Moore BM ’21

“Everything I know about arts administration I learned from EXCEL. From the opportunity to act as the Wellness Initiative Dean’s Liaison, to the NYC immersion, and even my internship with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, I owe it all to the incredible resources EXCEL has to offer.”


•  2020 AND BEYOND

RESPONDING TO 2020 2020 brought with it a confluence of crises that have already led to seismic shifts in the performing arts. In the first few months of the year, EXCEL quickly moved programs online, assessed operational priorities, and committed to focusing our work on programming that directly addresses the call for racial justice, along with practical strategies for adapting to the strains of a global pandemic. One of the ways EXCEL accomplished this was through the creation of Virtual Visionaries, a 10-week guest lecture series that took place in summer 2020. EXCEL assembled a coalition of eight peer programs to launch the series, which brought together hundreds of students and professionals from across the performing arts for weekly virtual discussions. A diverse group of leaders at various stages of their careers engaged in open conversations about how they are navigating the challenges of today, centered around the themes of advancing communitybuilding, racial justice, and economic equity. Each week the guest speakers also authored a blog post which set the stage for their live Q&A discussions.

MOVING FORWARD: THE NEXT FIVE YEARS OF EXCEL EXCEL has quickly established itself as a leader among performing arts professional development programs, serving more than a thousand students annually through a diverse array of programming rooted in the principles of collaboration, responsive design, and service leadership. Our dynamic leadership team—comprising faculty, staff, and students—continually assesses our effectiveness and maps out new programming possibilities to keep EXCEL at the forefront of our field. As we move into the future, EXCEL is committed to three strategic priorities that will expand our impact. We will:   •  Foster community in online environments by elevating a diverse array of student stories   and exploring new programming formats that will better serve an increasingly virtual world.   •  Elevate anti-racist agendas through strategic partnerships with other U-M units and peer institutions, developing best practices to situate social and racial justice at the heart of our training programs.   •  Deepen our offerings by intentionally sequencing courses, workshops, and experiential learning opportunities to enrich the potential for budding arts leaders to catalyze change. 28

“Since its inception, EXCEL has

been an integral part of the student experience at SMTD, and the foundation of our commitment to prepare students to thrive in a rapidly changing world. EXCEL’s role has never been more important, as we reckon with the impact of the pandemic on the performing arts. I am proud of the work EXCEL does to equip our students to create their unique place in the professional world.” David Gier, Dean

EXCEL’s impact would not have been possible without the creative, resilient, and collaborative team of faculty, students, and staff who have imagined, designed, and implemented our programming over the last five years, including: STAFF: Jonathan Kuuskoski (Director) Caitlin Taylor (Career Services Coordinator) STUDENT STAFF: David Alvarez*, Hannah Baiardi*, Annie Chen*, Melissa Coppola, Kayla Fiore, Gala Flagello, Anita Ho*, Annie Jeng*, Aviva Klein*, BethAnne Kunert*, Karen Ludwig, Michele Ripka*, and Samantha Williams FACULTY: Mark Clague, Aaron Dworkin, Jonathan Kuuskoski, and Greg Poggi*

FACULTY AFFILIATES: Matt Albert, Amy Chavasse, Antonio C. Cuyler, Christianne Myers, Tiffany Ng, Melody Racine*, and Nancy Uffner INSTRUCTORS: Marc Arthur, Susan Badger Booth*, Sara Billmann, Matthew Dear, Afa Dworkin*, Ken Fischer, Andrew Kuster, Kari Landry, Jay LeBoeuf, Jeremy Peters*, Carrie Throm, Brandon Weiner*, and Eric Woodhams *Individual who previously contributed to EXCEL offerings between 2015–20.



The information listed in this brochure is accurate as of January 1, 2021. Visit smtd.umich.edu/EXCEL for the most up-to-date information about SMTD’s EXCEL Program. The Regents of the University of Michigan: Jordan B. Acker (Huntington Woods), Michael J. Behm (Grand Blanc), Mark J. Bernstein (Ann Arbor), Paul W. Brown (Ann Arbor), Sarah Hubbard (Okemos), Denise Ilitch (Bingham Farms), Ron Weiser (Ann Arbor), Katherine E. White (Ann Arbor), Mark S. Schlissel (ex officio) © 2021-22 Regents of the University of Michigan A Non-discriminatory, Affirmative Action Employer

PHOTO CREDITS: Unless otherwise attributed, photographs by Colin McCall or no attribution needed. pg. 2 Michigan Photography, Scott Soderberg (Eileen Wiser); pg. 4 Peter Smith Photography; pg. 6 Natali Herrera-Pacheco (Gwendolyn Matias-Ryan); pg. 7 Kyle Prue (Thomas Laub); pg. 8 Danielle Gonzalez (Gala Flagello), Conner VanderBeek (Conner VanderBeek), Maya Elena (Catherine Moore); pg. 9 Lillian Cole (David Newman), Kirk Donaldson (Sherry Lin), Clem Britt (Adrianna Tam), Jamie Oshima (Noah Fishman); pg. 10 Jill Steinberg (Front Porch), Fundamental Sound Co. (Virago), Wesley Hornpetire (Third Place); pg. 11 Danielle Gonzalez (LAMI); pg. 12 Carlos Funn (Carlos Funn), Cole Abod (Isabel Olson), Colter Schoenfish (Westley Montgomery), Kenzie King (Madison Montambault); pg. 13 Jean Carlos (Jean Carlos), John Campbell (Emma Lambert), Barry DeBois (Larissa Marten), Zhen Qin (Shuying Li), Luna Dulce Photography (Amy Petrongelli); pg. 16 Maya Elena Photography (Hailey Cohen); pg. 17 Kyle Prue (Zion Jackson), Eliana Barwinski (Aviva Klein), Jacob Taitel (Zachary Siegel), Pell Photography (Cecilia Hiros); pg. 18 Mary Rose (Annie Jeng); pg. 19 Mariangela Quiroga (César Cañón), Megan Wheeler (Katrina Fasulo), Cassidy Goldblatt (Cassidy Goldblatt), Hannah Rumora (Hanna Rumora); pg. 20 Haruki Hakoyama (BethAnne Kunert); pg. 21 Daniel Byrd (Cameron Williams); pg. 22 Nostrat Tarighi (Tyler Berns); pg. 23 Tim Edwards (Teagan Farran); pg. 24 Karjaka Studios (Martha Guth), Joe Broom (Joe Broom); pg. 25 Javier Rojas (Hannah Baiardi), Stefani Feldman (Taylor Isberg), Natali Herrera-Pacheco (Kristina Zlatareva); pg. 26 Jeff Dun (Mohan Ritsema), Beth Joy (Amy Wensley), Hannah Brauer (Marina Sakellakis), Forrest Howell (Forrest Howell); pg. 26 Kyle Prue (Stephanie Guralnick), Tom Couture (Kamyron Williams), Ally Rzesa (Dana Pierangeli), Max Moore (Max Moore); pg. 29 Peter Smith Photography (David Gier).