All posts by timbrew2015

EXCELcast: Project Trio

Project Trio is an eclectic group from Brooklyn, NY, whose music defies genres and expectations. In this EXCELcast with Jonathan Kuuskoski, the group discusses tactics on establishing a unique performing business, the “cosmic whole note,” and some important aspects of their work as a group.

The Trio also discusses how they were founded. “We all had an eclectic taste in musical styles that we like to listen to,” mentions Peter Seymour, group member, “We take from rock, hip hop, and the methods that bands use to come together to learn how to run our business.”

Listen to this EXCELcast for more great advice and to get to know the amazing Project Trio.

EXCELcast: Christopher Koelsch

In this EXCELcast Christopher Koelsch, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Opera, talks about his own position as well as transitioning from a performing arts student into an entrepreneurial role.

Jonathan Kuuskoski, Director of EXCEL, discusses ideas and themes with Koelsch such as: going into such an important and powerful position, making a change within an organization, dealing with discipline in entrepreneurship, and simple first steps to make progress in the arts from day one of studies.

Check out this great EXCELcast, which gives fascinating tips to aspiring artists and entrepreneurs alike!

EXCELcast: Paolo Debuque

Follow Melissa Coppola and Paolo Debuque in a conversation about the Meridian Vocal Ensemble. This EXCELcast features some of Paolo’s thoughts and inspiration for creating the ensemble, as well as in what direction it is heading.

Debuque explains how he and his co-founders wanted to bring choral music to local audiences and create a real community for collaborators and artists. The ensemble today is between 8–12 singers who want to re-shape the vocal cannon for the 20th century.

Find out more about this incredible ensemble, how it was formed, and some of Debuque’s thoughts on forming this ensemble.

EXCELcast: Yarn/Wire

Yarn/Wire is a percussion and piano quartet, and one of the laureates of the MPrize. In this EXCELcast, they talk about their origins as an ensemble, as well as the many important aspects that go into sustaining a career in new music.

Some other important themes brought up in this EXCELcast include: how to engage with an audience or use space, what to do when you don’t know what should happen next in the ensemble’s career, when to discuss ensemble aesthetics as a group, and creating a career with momentum by turning short-term savings into long-term investments.

Take a look at this interesting and informative EXCELcast, hosted by Jonathan Kuuskoski.

EXCELcast: Britt Baron

In this EXCELcast, EXCEL director Jonathan Kuuskoski interviews with Britt Baron, SMTD Alumna and cast member of the Netflix series: GLOW (Glowing Ladies Of Wrestling). Baron discusses the process she went through in order to get through the audition and in the series. She also gives great tips to those who are interested in auditioning for larger roles in film or theatre.

Some other themes of this EXCELcast include: learning to adapt to such an iconic theatrical role, getting over any fears in acting, the auditioning process, and her own life story: how she got to where she is now.

Check out this EXCELcast for even more great tips and stories from Britt Baron!

Theresa Walle: Music as Communication


Theresa Walle is a fourth-year student at the University of Michigan. She is pursuing a BM in Vocal Performance, a BA in Communication Studies, and a minor in German Studies. Walle is the Editor of Sigma Alpha Iota–Alpha Chapter, an intern at St. Mary Student Parish, and the latest recipient of the MET Internship offered through EXCEL. Walle is interested in expanding her personal and professional efforts in Voice Performance and Communications to work within the religious community on various impactful social projects.

Since early childhood, Theresa Walle has been an avid singer, a multi-talented musician, and a passionate writer. Coming from Troy, Michigan, Theresa is part of a long line of Michigan Wolverines, “My four older siblings, my mom, both of my grandfathers, my uncles, and my cousin all attended U of M.” It’s no surprise that Theresa herself would eventually become part of this legacy, but her vital decision to attend U of M comes from a much deeper motivation than just the family’s legacy. With her many interests, Theresa is able to pursue the perfect academic career path for her: combining interests in music to gain a BM in Vocal Performance while simultaneously exercising her passion of writing with a BA in Communication Studies. Attending U of M also allowed the space for her to expand an interest in German language and culture, such that she also declared a minor in German Studies.

While Theresa has been singing since early childhood, her decision to pursue the art came later in 2013, when she toured Germany with the Blue Lake International Choir Ensemble. “[It] ignited my desire to audition as a vocalist for music school,” explains Walle. “I attended summer vocal artist programs at DePaw University and Westminster Choir College the following two summers.” Besides the many programs that Walle pursued, she also received top ratings at the MSVMA Solo & Ensemble both as a soloist and in her school’s honor choir.


With such a talented and extensive journey leading up to her current path as a vocalist, Walle expresses how she was still passionate about writing, particularly in journalism. “[My] school’s student-run newspaper, Newsprint, is one of the top student newspapers in the state. I was Editor-in-Chief my senior year, [ …] where I oversaw all aspects of the monthly paper and maintained a monthly editorial column. It was from this strong journalism background that drove me to pursue a degree in Communication Studies.” In her Communications Studies degree, Walle describes some of the interesting courses, such as “Media and the Body,” “Internet Law,” and “Media Industries.”

Achieving two degrees in two very different fields is not an easy task. It comes with its own ups and downs, but overall the University of Michigan allows the flexibility for students to become whoever they want to be, and to focus on areas that can be combined into a multi-faceted career. “There are certainly difficulties to balancing a dual degree,” says Walle, “but they’ve become a normal part of my life now. Particularly challenging is navigating the numerous requirements of each degree when courses overlap.” Accomplishing two separate degrees and a minor includes taking a bit of extra time; in Walle’s case, a fifth year. This extra time can be vital, though, as it opens up the opportunity for students to take advantage of on-campus resources for their own personal projects or a stronger focus on academia.

This fall Walle is embarking on an independent study with Dr. Piper from the vocal faculty, exploring themes of Catholicism in vocal repertoire. “Staying at the University a fifth year allows me time for more opportunities that I wouldn’t be able to take part in if I had to leave at the end of this year,” Walle describes. “I’m happy to be taking a fifth year to graduate, or else I would have no time outside of taking only the mandatory classes I need for graduation.”

Theresa highly encourages students to take the extra time they need to complete their degree(s). “We have the benefit of attending not only one of the top music schools in the country, but also one of the top universities,” Walle says, “There is no better time than now to utilize fully the resources this University has to offer.” Part of going to a diverse and exceptional school like U of M is making sure to take the time that is necessary to develop an individualized journey for a multi-talented, multi-faceted career. Branching out of our comfort zones and fields is part of what makes the undergraduate experience a life-long highlight. Walle describes, “I highly encourage all students to explore classes outside of their degree program. It is easy to stay at the music school and focus solely on my craft, but my LSA classes keep me connected to the ‘real world’ and help me look at the music industry through a more critical lense.”


One of the highlight activities that Walle has taken advantage of so far in her undergraduate career is the Metropolitan Opera Internship, offered through the SMTD’s EXCEL and cooperated with an EXCEL alumna. “I first heard about the MET internship my freshman year,” Walle explains, “I remember calling my mom in the dining hall, excited and amazed at the prospect of such a prestigious internship available to me.” She continues to describe how she finally decided to go “out on a limb” in her junior year and apply for the internship. After some collaboration with members of the EXCEL team and an interview process, she received the Internship and a stipend through EXCEL. She was also granted a scholarship through the Communications Department. “With this funding, I was able to afford housing, food, and transportation in New York for the summer,” Theresa describes.

Walle also expanded a bit more on her personal experiences with EXCEL. She describes its important to her as a student in both the SMTD, and the LSA. “EXCEL has proved to be a strong asset to me throughout my time at U of M. I highly recommend students to take advantage of the support EXCEL has to offer, whether that be résumé help or reviewing an application before submitting,” said Walle.

Whether you need privatized help with an application or you want to get advice on how to nail an interview, EXCEL is at your disposal. In Walle’s case, EXCEL was able to offer resources that expanded beyond the SMTD and was able to take her other degrees and interests into account. “I had a blast in New York, honestly the best summer of my life,” describes Walle. She expands on the many opportunities she had outside of just working in the MET office; opportunities that dig deeper into what she wants for her personal, academic, and professional life. EXCEL also offers many other opportunities besides the MET Internship. The resources available can help further than just academic or professional goals, they can also impact your personal growth and interests.

—Timothy Brewer

EXCELcast: Aaron Dworkin

In this EXCELcast, Aaron Dworkin—former Dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance—discusses his 2017-2018 courses offered at the University. Aaron Dworkin is the founder of the Sphinx Organization, an incredible organization dedicated to promoting diversity in the Arts.

Dworkin explains the difficulties and effort that he went through in order to form the Sphinx organization, and both discuss the opportunities that can be found through the University and EXCEL today. Dworkin’s class on Creative Entrepreneurship highlights how to think like an entrepreneur, establishing a mindset in order to turn ideas into stable enterprises, and much more.

His second class—Arts Leadership Forum—brought in well-known artists and entrepreneurs to talk to students about getting past those initial barriers in starting an organization. Dworkin expands on the opportunities that students can look for today in pursuing entrepreneurship through the arts, and he furthermore gives inspiring advice to those who wish to follow through with ideas they might have for the future of the Arts.

EXCELcast: International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an ensemble that is “transforming the way music is created and experienced.” In this EXCELcast, follow Jonathan Kuuskoski as he asks ICE members Ross Karre and Claire Chase about their experiences forming the group and running it at an international level.

Some highlights of this EXCELcast include: defining cultural advocacy vs cultural entrepreneurship, international collaboration, the term “sustainability,” and some fantastic tips on running your own unique, collaborative arts ensemble or collective.

To find out more about the ensemble and to get helpful tips for your own ensemble or artistic journey, check out the EXCELcast video!

Grace Bydalek: Musical Theatre & Magazines


Grace had many dreams as a child. And just as her dreams were diverse and ever-changing back then, her dreams continue to change to this day. “I hoped to be a pediatrician, and then a vet, and then a forensic investigator, and then a journalist, and then a wedding planner. I don’t think that childhood Grace could’ve predicted where she is now,” Grace explained. And just as her dreams continue to develop in different ways, so does her unique and diverse involvement at the University of Michigan.

Focusing now on Musical Theatre, Grace is a senior here in the SMTD and involves herself in many other areas such as Arts Administration, Creative Production, and writing. She also has a Creative Writing Minor through the College of LSA, and worked as a Pomegranate Arts Intern.

Grace was granted the 21st Century Internship, meaning she had the opportunity to work with Pomegranate Arts, ultimately working with artists like Laurie Anderson, Batsheva Dance Company, and Taylor Mac. As Grace described, “The 21st Century Artists Internship was one of the defining opportunities of my life. I was able to live in New York City for a couple months, which in and of itself is a great blessing for up and coming artists.” She portrayed the very active and demanding tasks of the internship, such as running from the Pomegranate Arts offices on 28th and Broadway, to Smash Studios for a recording session with Taylor Mac, to the Yale University campus for the Festival of Arts and Ideas. But part of the reward was of course finding inspirational figures who had built the production company from the ground up. “It was so heartening to work under two badass women, Linda Brumbach and Alisa Regas,” Grace explained. Besides the inspirational experience, Grace came to learn much more from the internship as well. “You can succeed, financially and artistically, by making art that you believe in,” she says. “This internship taught me how to recognize artistic brilliance—by trusting my own visceral reactions to the pieces that I see. These revelations were validated through the words of Jack O’Brien, Jeffrey Seller, and Stephen Schwartz.”


One particular project of Grace’s that stands out is her Solos Literary Magazine. The magazine was started with help from the SMTD’s EXCEL funding, and was able to provide a space for students in the SMTD to share their writing. “I saw a deficit in our community of publications like Solos; a marketing tool,” Grace expressed. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the unity of an institution behind the hustle and bustle of people’s individual lives. However, as Grace also explains, “[A publication like Solos is] a magazine and website with the mission of promoting school-wide unity, showcasing the work of writers and artists within the SMTD in a format not currently available, creating meaningful relationships through readings and other magazine events, and expanding the breadth of collaboration that is possible.”

The magazine was made to be a community-focused project, as Grace put it. Unfortunately, other interests had come to the fore this year for Grace, and the Solos Team didn’t have time to continue the magazine. “However, I think that we all learned a great deal about collaboration, leadership, and entrepreneurship through our endeavors,” Grace described.


In her many experiences with entrepreneurship and Arts Management, Grace also tackles the more complex questions and issues with defining the conglomeration of entrepreneurship and artistry, “…one of the big questions that I have been asking myself while doing this project and also in looking at other researchers’ work is: can the artist be separated from entrepreneurship? Or does an artist need to be an entrepreneur to be successful?” Her answer to this question focuses on the artist’s individual needs: it depends on what an artist would like to be accomplished in his/her art.

Grace sees herself as an entrepreneur, especially as she describes how important it is to her that she continue to have a final say in all creative decisions. “If I have a project that I need to find funding for, I know how to find the funding and write the grant applications. This administrative work is something that we must accept, and embrace, in order to do what we love,” she explains. As being an entrepreneur can be a vital aspect of being an artist, Grace claims that organization, creative thinking, humility, gratitude, leadership, and kindness are just a few of the important aspects of what make up a good artistic entrepreneur.


Even though Grace admits that she still has a lot to learn about being an entrepreneur, she still strives to be an involved and active part of the musical and non-musical communities. Her Senior Showcase is coming up soon in the next month, and she will then move to New York to pursue musical theatre full time. Her one piece of advice to students inspiring to do the impossible is to reach out. “We in SMTD are gifted with a beautiful, brilliant community. Those things that are impossible for you are second nature to someone in your sphere. All things are possible through collaboration, and recognizing the brilliance of those around you,” Grace describes.

Grace Bydalek is a recent alumna from the University of Michigan. Her degree focus was on musical theatre and she was constantly involved with other facets of the arts. She will be giving her Senior Showcase soon, and moving to New York after graduation to pursue a full-time career in musical theatre. By working with Pomegranate Arts in New York City, creating her own literary magazine, and constantly submerging herself  in new and exciting opportunities, Grace tries to encompass all of the exciting artistic and entrepreneurial things she does into her overall academic and professional experience.

—Timothy Brewer