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Fall 2015 graduates make their mark on the ASU School of Music

Jenny Ostrowski

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

December 14, 2015

As the semester comes to a close, it is time to highlight a handful of remarkable students who will graduate at fall commencement with degrees from the ASU School of Music. These six noteworthy artist-scholars are some of the most successful in the School of Music, and they have stories to share about their time spent completing their programs at ASU and exciting plans for the future.

Jennifer Ostrowski
Jennifer Ostrowski, a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy student, deserves recognition not only because of her excellent academic record, with the highest GPA in the School of Music, but also because of her influential honors thesis.

“Jenny’s project involved creating a handbook of world music cultural activities to bring people together to learn dances, rhythms and songs, in order to increase cultural competence and decrease bias,” says Robin Rio, associate professor of music therapy. “This book is a tool for people who work with communities where language and culture are barriers, like for educators, social workers and hospital employees.”

Ostrowski’s final practicum involves working with adults with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. For these adults, she plays piano and sings, develops interactive, memory stimulating interventions using music and movement, and provides a trusting, supportive environment to nurture relationships among group members. Ostrowski also recently accepted a six-month internship at Season’s Hospice and Palliative Care in Phoenix, which will provide her with full-time work experience, under the supervision of a board-certified music therapist.

“The opportunities I’ve had within the music therapy department to prepare me for internship seem quite limitless — from coursework, to volunteer work, to student organization leadership,” says Ostrowski. “Additionally, the School of Music’s vast resources allow students to pursue other areas of interest. My time spent in the secondary organ studio and in jazz improvisation studies has improved my musicianship in ways beyond the typical coursework of music therapy undergraduates.”

Thomas Breadon, Jr.
A Doctor of Musical Arts in Bassoon Performance student, Thomas Breadon is a busy teacher, bassoonist and composer. He teaches jazz history, music theory and applied bassoon lessons at Glendale Community College, as well as group bassoon lessons at Rosie’s House, a nonprofit children’s music academy. Breadon also just recently finished the defense of his doctoral dissertation, “The Pedagogical Use of Improvisation in Western Art Music,” in which he discusses the scientific reasons for including improvisation in practicing, teaching and performing.

“As a bassoonist, improvisation was something completely foreign to me,” says Breadon. “It wasn't until I began to study jazz on the bassoon that I realized what a useful tool improvisation can be in technique building and in the comprehension of theory and composition. I then began to question why improvisation has been almost completely filtered out of our Western Art tradition. This became the basis of my project, and a continuing source of inspiration in my educational career.”

After graduation, Breadon will continue to perform with the Mill Ave Chamber Players, a Phoenix-based woodwind quintet that seeks to strengthen communities through quality chamber music performances. “Thomas has also been performing in a number of nontraditional settings for the bassoon,” says Albie Micklich, associate professor of bassoon. “In December and January, he will be performing on electric bassoon in an improvised collaboration with Molly W. Schenck, Master of Fine Arts in Dance student in the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre, for the Tempe Festival of the Arts and Tiny Dances 2016.”

Breadon is preparing for a premiere of his composition based on Aesop’s Fables with the Mill Ave Chamber Players in March, and for the release of two of his works, “Lyddimy” and “Impressions,” in the spring catalog of Imagine Music Publishing.

“While at ASU, I received an unbelievable amount of support and guidance from many of my teachers, most especially my private bassoon professor, Dr. Micklich,” says Breadon. “The environment of the School of Music not only challenged me to examine and improve upon my playing and knowledge base, but encouraged me to explore my unique attributes as a musician and academic.”

Alex Wier
Alex Wier, a DMA in Percussion Performance student, recently finished his doctoral research project, which involved commissioning three composers to write new pieces for solo percussion with live electronics. “I became interested in electronic techniques in live performance during my time at ASU and wanted to help create new works that would explore new techniques and approaches,” says Wier.

Wier has moved to Chicago and plans to freelance there by teaching and performing. He will also continue to pursue opportunities for recitals and clinics at schools and venues around the country, as well as doing some composing and collaborating with composers on new works.

“Alex’s musical life has taken him across the country and lead to many performance opportunities,” says J.B. Smith, professor of music and coordinator of percussion studies. “He’s an energetic individual who is passionate about music education and comfortable with a range of musical styles, including popular music, complex contemporary music, African and Latin styles and orchestral repertoire. I know that this enthusiasm and versatility will take him far.”

Victoria Johnson
Victoria Johnson, a Master in Music History and Literature student, has a thesis that focuses on Cold War music studies in Czechoslovakia. It delves into the political and musical situation of Czechoslovakia, particularly during the period known as “Normalization,” from 1969 to 1989, and investigates the challenges of two Czechoslovakian artists during this time.

“I became interested in this area after visiting the Czech Republic in the summer of 2011, and after taking a Russian music history course on the Soviet period,” says Johnson. “As this is an under-researched area in English-language scholarship, my next step after graduation is to learn Czech so I can continue pursuing my research interest.”

Johnson has had many new opportunities during her time at ASU, including presenting a paper at a regional chapter meeting of the American Musicological Society, and meeting Czech-born composer Petr Kotík in New York through a School of Music grant.

“Victoria Johnson has been an exceptional Masters student in musicology: a critical thinker, avid researcher, and beautiful writer with a great gift in languages,” says Sabine Feisst, professor of musicology. “I have worked with Vicki as her graduate advisor since fall 2013, and, as her instructor and mentor, it is very gratifying to see how students like Victoria get inspiration from my teaching and thrive on the professional stage.”

Shane and Shawn Maule
Both double majoring with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science, twins Shane and Shawn Maule share many of the same interests.

“While the two are on parallel paths at ASU with the same double major and classes, their musical voices are distinctly different, and you really hear that in their compositions,” says Michael Kocour, associate professor and director of jazz studies. “Shawn and Shane were tremendous assets to the jazz program both as performers and composers. I enjoyed working with both of them and I have tremendous respect for their work ethic.”

After graduation, Shane and Shawn both plan to work for a semester, and then will begin attending dental school in fall 2016.

“Managing the coursework of both of my majors has prepared me for the time management skills I will need in dental school,” says Shane. “As I leave ASU, I realize I will miss the jazz community most. It was really great being surrounded by individuals who had the same passion as you and who could keep you accountable.”

“More than anything, I will miss being surrounded by so many people who are all driven by one thing: music,” says Shawn. “Studying jazz performance at ASU taught me the importance of being a lifelong learner. While my primary occupation will not be a career in music, I will certainly continue to play music for the rest of my life.” 

Public Contact: 
Heather Beaman
School of Music Communications Liaison