State of the Arts

NKU School of the Arts - April 19, 2021

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2021-2022 Theatre & Dance Season Updates

NKU School of the Arts has cancelled the 2021 Commonwealth Theatre Company’s summer dinner season. SOTA is taking the proactive measure to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the NKU campus and community members. NKU continues to follow the CDC and Kentucky current health guidelines for facial coverings. SOTA is hopeful to start in-person productions for the 2021-2022 academic season, following all state guidelines that are subject to change. Learn more about our planned 2021-2022 academic season productions.

"One Voice" Philharmonic Orchestra & Choirs

The NKU Philharmonic Orchestra & NKU Choirs will be presenting a live, outdoor concert at the P&G Pavilion at Yeatman's Cove, with two performances on April 22 & 23 at 6 p.m. This concert will feature the music of John Williams, the Wailin' Jennys, and more. Performers include two "on the rise" student artists and winners of the 2021 NKU Philharmonic Concerto Competition, Maddie Pittman (violin) and James Tober (clarinet). Safety protocols will be in place to ensure that this is a safe and comfortable environment for everyone. Listen to Amy Gillingham Culligan, Director of Orchestras, on WGUC's Cincinnati Spotlight Intermission.

Art Prep launching Summer 2021

NKU Art Preparatory will be launching in Summer 2021, offering virtual workshops for all ages. Art Prep believes that the arts are the bridge to imaginative and real worlds that can expand thinking across cultures, help students learn how to solve problems and further develop talent in our region. Art Prep provides community and continuing education programs of the highest quality to students of all ages and abilities and strives to enrich the culture of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky regions through engaging artistic experiences and outreach initiatives.

Summer Dance Institute

The inaugural Summer Dance Institute will take place Aug. 5-7 on NKU's campus. The program is for participants between the ages of 14 and 23, where they can experience immersive dance major courses. The program leads are faculty members, including Tracey Bonner, Jacqui Haas, and Teresa VanDenend Sorge.

The Golden Ticket

What's it like to be a Top 12 finalist on American Idol? NKU Magazine caught up with Alyssa Wray to learn more about her journey on the show! Read her story here.

SOTA Saturday - Graduating Seniors

Mark your calendar for the next SOTA Saturday! May 1 will be our Graduating Seniors Edition. Zoom in to hear from some of SOTA's graduating seniors as they reflect on their time with us and plan for the future!

Music students accepted into graduate programs

Congratulations to Gita Srinivasan, who will be attending Illinois State University in the fall to pursue a Master of Music degree in cello performance. She has been awarded a full-tuition graduate assistantship as well as an additional music merit scholarship. Gita will have the opportunity to teach in the ISU String Project and serve as a private instructor through the Community School for the Arts.


Congratulations to Madison Herzner, who will be attending The University of Akron in the fall to pursue a Master of Music degree in wind conducting. She has accepted a conducting graduate assistantship and cannot wait to conduct and play in full ensembles again.

Students participate in NATS Singing Auditions

Congratulations to all NKU SOTA participants in the Mid-South Region National Association of Teachers of Singing Student Auditions! 33 SOTA students participated from the Theatre and Dance Program, Music Program, and Music Preparatory Division from the studios of Joy Burdette, Ellen Graham, Xan Jeffery, Catherine Keen, Rita Larkin, Kimberly Lazzeri, Kelly MacKenzie-Thurley, and Joshua Steele. Of the 33 participants, two placed in the top three of their categories and six placed in the top five of their categories, making them eligible to compete in the National Student Auditions (NSA).


  • From the studio of Joy Burdette: Sharon Down (1st place Adult Intermediate), Calia Burdette (top 5 High School Treble)
  • From the studio of Xan Jeffery: Linnzie Hays (top 5 Upper College MT Treble)
  • From the studios of Catherine Keen and Joshua Steele: Jackson Hurt (1st place Upper College MT TBB)
  • From the studio of Rita Larkin: Alex Pletikapich (top 5 Lower College MT TBB), Mark Schutzman – incoming NKU student (top 5 High School MT TBB), Richard (Tre) Taylor (top 5 Lower College MT TBB), Joshua Van Nort (top 5 Upper College MT TBB)

Visual Arts students exhibit at "Empowered"

Congratulations to visual arts students Sydney Bryan, Jazmina Robinhawk and Amber Vickers, who each had 3 works of art selected for an exhibition at Miami University, Middletown entitled "Empowered: What If Women Ruled The World?" 16 Artists were selected and the exhibition will consist of 23 works in total. The exhibition is on view now through May 24.

SOTA alumni updates

Isaiah Reaves (BFA Playwrighting, 2020), studying for a master's of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa, will have his play "I Shall Not Be Moved" streaming on-demand with Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. Read more about the play.


Congratulations to Tamaiya Wilson (BM Performance - Violin, 2019) for receiving an IDEA School Founding Teacher Fellowship. She’ll be headed to Texas for training.


Devan Horton (BFA Painting, 2016) has work in an exhibition entitled "Out of Darkness" at Pyramid Hill in Hamilton, OH. The exhibition is currently on view through May 23.


Sherman Parnell (BFA Drawing, 2019), working for ArtWorks, just finished a mural for Thermo Fisher Scientific in March.


Oen Hammonds (BFA Graphic Design, 1999) was a featured speaker at the State of Black Design Conference at Texas State University, April 9-10, 2021. He was part of an amazing group of speakers and panelists and spoke on "Embracing your otherness: Bringing your past weirdness to your present success."


Ryan Greis (BFA Graphic Design, 1996) is Founder and Lead Instructor at Drawn Studio in St. Louis, MO. He earned his MBA from Lindenwood University in St. Louis in 2012. This past year, In 2020, he brought to light the disappearance of a 120-year-old Duveneck painting and was able to track it down.

Faculty & Staff News

John Zappa (Music) was named the Michael C.C. Adams and Susan S. Adams Outstanding Non-Tenure Track Faculty Member. He has been an instructor at NKU since 2006 in the jazz studies area. During the past 15 years, he has stepped in and stepped up to every challenge, every situation, and every need he has encountered, never more so than throughout the past 9 months. John subverted the limitations imposed by the pandemic to find creative and innovative ways to expand students’ skillsets with virtual lessons, Zoom-ing in professionals from the Jazz world into his classes, leading students to learn new recording skills, and sharing student work wherever possible.


Katherine Colborn (Visual Arts) was awarded the Part-Time Faculty Excellence in Instruction Award. Katherine has been a vital contributor to our drawing area and foundations program since the fall of 2019. Katherine has an extensive regional and national exhibition record that is highly valued in the arts; as their experience and passion for artmaking are brought back into the classroom. Katherine’s work explores issues of stillness and sanctuary with compelling visuals that awake the senses. Her strong conceptual underpinnings and amazing craft not only are evident in their own practice but strategies that are developed in our students as well.


Joan Brummer (Music Advisor) and Candice van Loveren Geis (Visual Arts Advisor) presentation proposal "No Student Is an Island in a Career Based Living and Learning Community" was accepted for the NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising Conference in Cincinnati happening Oct. 6-9.


Rick Endres (SOTA Events and Publicity Manager) was nominated and recognized as a part of NKU's Norse Uppreciation. Rick has found so many ways to be so effective in the remote environment. He has approached the past 9 months as an opportunity. He has continuously brought forth new ideas and new processes to make his job more effectively, and in doing so, has made SOTA more effective. The pandemic has hit the visual and performing arts especially hard as we have given up audiences and many of our in-person operations. Rick has remained responsive and effective in getting our online productions, performances, and exhibitions online and disseminated to as broad an audience as possible.

101 Stories: NKU School of the Arts

Since 2004, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s STAR Program has taken place on the campus of the Northern Kentucky University School of the Arts (SOTA). TCT is celebrating its 101st season honoring those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout their century-long journey.

Behind the Scenes photos

Photos from around campus

Have Something Newsworthy?

We would love to hear from you! Send your stories and updates to Rick Endres, SOTA Publicity Manager, at endresr1@nku.edu. If you graduated from any SOTA program, submit an Alumni Update, and you may be featured on our website and other publications!