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Springing Forward with Guest Artists

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March 15, 2021

Spring is almost here. We just set our clocks forward an hour and throughout this semester students will have plenty of master classes to anticipate with an incredible variety of guest artists from disciplines. Keep reading to hear about the talented musicians, educators, and composers!


Members of the PLU Orchestra will have an interesting session with Christian Howes, a violinist, composer, and educator. Mr. Howes will share improvisation methods with our students in a live, play along session and also discuss entrepreneurship. Another special session for Orchestra students will be with Drs. Kimcherie Lloyd and Marguerite Richardson, who will discuss musical career paths in academia.

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PLU Percussion students will have three classes this semester to work on their playing. Damien Petitjean will share what it’s like to play percussion in Paris. Micah Lewis is a percussionist in the US Navy’s Fleet Forces Band and his session will be about his experiences playing around the world. Additionally, US-born, Tokyo-based Christopher Hardy, an expert in hand drums, will discuss his music and his career in Tokyo.

Trumpet students will have a fantastic opportunity to work with Manu Mellaerts, professor of trumpet at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Belgium. Our PLU Professor of Trumpet and Music History, Dr. Zachary Lyman, said, “I am extremely excited to welcome Manu Mellaerts to PLU and to have him work with our brass students in a virtual masterclass. Manu was one of the instructors I met during my sabbatical travels across Europe in the Fall of 2019 and I was absolutely blown away by his teaching and playing. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students to work (from 5000 miles away!) with one of Europe’s finest brass pedagogues!”

Opportunities for students in the Wind Ensemble continue with master classes lead by Otis Murphy and Francine Peterson. Mrs. Peterson is our own PLU Affiliate Artist for Bassoon but in her master class, she will share important tips our students will need to know about professional rehearsal and performance etiquette. Dr. Otis Murphy, a classical saxophonist, will be a special treat for our saxophone students.


An area of study that can serve any music student or performer is called body mapping. Helping people to understand their body can prevent injuries and enhance performances. Dr. Andrée Martin from Columbus State University will give an introductory class on the topic.

Our music students will also have opportunities to dive into lessons about composition and conducting with John Mackey and Eugene Corporon. Composer John Mackey’s presentation is aptly titled “Anything Goes” and with his earliest music composed with video game music software, he definitely has expertise to share. Professor Eugene Corporon will use his many years of experience conducting to lead students on an exploration of what it means to be a musician in the 21st century.

Next up are two master classes specifically for our Guitar students. International recording and performing artist Gohar Vardanyan was a featured guest performer and teacher at the 2017 PLU Guitar Festival, and participants are still talking about her Technique class and amazing performance. We are lucky to have her back to visit us virtually. In fall 2020 Christopher Mallet joined us as a panelist in a roundtable discussion on Racial Equity in the Classical Guitar World and now he’s back for a hands-on guitar technique workshop this spring. Christopher has performed around the world as a soloist and as half of Duo Noire and is highly sought after as a teacher.

There will be many opportunities for Music Education students to hear from professionals currently teaching or serving as school administrators. Jill Burch from Dessie Evans Elementary in Puyallup will cover classroom management in the elementary music room, incorporating traditional methods and electronic resources, and how to choose literature for elementary choirs. Nicole Laborte, who spoke with our students last semester, will return to discuss teaching strategies and tools for teaching virtually. Guy Kovacs, principal at Kalles Junior High School in Puyallup, will speak on how to find teaching jobs and ace an interview. He has been recognized as Middle School Principal of the Year and is loved by his students and staff. PLU alumna Helene Beck will present on teaching elementary general music virtually. She currently teaches at Camelot Elementary in Auburn.


The University Jazz Ensemble will have plenty of online master classes to sink their teeth into. First up is jazz flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny who will present an improvisation masterclass “The Juicy Notes: Improvising with Guide Tones.” Celebrated for his warm tone, soaring lyricism and masterful technique, Matheny has been lauded as “one of the most emotionally expressive improvisers of his generation” (International Review of Music). Next, students will study with Saxophonist and Composer Kirsten Edkins. She will share her knowledge on instrumental techniques, large ensemble performance, and practice routines. Colorado-based composer and trombonist Paul McKee is a master trombonist, and educator. In this masterclass, McKee will talk about jazz trombone techniques and improvisation, as well as his experiences as a professional musician. Briana Harris is a musician, artist manager, and entrepreneur with a focus on empowering creatives to do their best work. In this masterclass, Briana will offer advice on how students can better prepare for a career in music.