Music professor releases 2 albums of original compositions

May 9, 2022

Brian DeMaris, associate professor and artistic director of the Music Theatre and Opera program in Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, is a recognized conductor, pianist and composer. This year, with the release of two albums of original compositions, he adds solo recording artist to his title.

“In addition to teaching, I try to make sure I am continuing to work and grow as a complete artist and exploring all the parts of myself that bring me fulfillment,” DeMaris said. “When one area challenges me, I can always find creative inspiration or solace in another area, as I am most fulfilled by balancing and doing them all.” Portrait of ASU Associate Professor Brian DeMaris. ASU Associate Professor Brian DeMaris. Download Full Image

DeMaris said he composes whenever he has the time, and COVID-19 plus a sabbatical prompted him to record his complete works.

As part of his sabbatical project, DeMaris intended to record all his song compositions. As it turned out, those ended up on his second album, “Gratitude - Songs for Voice and Piano.” The improvisations on his first solo album, “Journey - Improvisations for Solo Piano,” were not originally part of the plan.

“‘Journey’ was created entirely by chance,” DeMaris said. “This album is a reflection of my own journey, and artistic evidence that we never know where life will take us. Everything is improvisation.”

DeMaris describes “Journey,” which was released in December 2021, as a “musical and visual travelogue of the past 15 years, a journey from East to West.”

DeMaris began the project in November 2020 when, during a lack of creative output brought on by the pandemic, he sat down at the piano aiming to rediscover the moments he spent as a youth sitting at the piano and improvising.

By February 2021, he had recorded over 100 completely spontaneous improvisations, saving each one with a photo randomly chosen from past travels. In summer 2021, he selected 16 pieces, arranged them in the order the photos were taken, named them and ended up with “Journey.”

“Journey” takes you from the ancient city of Jerusalem to the Gulf of Alaska and the wonders of the Grand Canyon.

DeMaris describes his second album, "Gratitude," which was released May 1, as “all the songs I have written over the past 20 years, performed by friends, colleagues and former students.”

The inspiration for “Gratitude,” he said, was simply to catalog his work after 20 years of composing on the side of his performing and teaching career. The title is inspired by DeMaris’ feelings for all the artists who helped bring this music to life, he said, and represents the approach he took toward creating opportunities for himself and others over the past two difficult years of COVID-19.

Some pieces were finished and performed two decades ago, some were initially created years ago and finished during his sabbatical, and some were written during his sabbatical.

Recent Grammy winner Zachary James opens the album with bass vocals on “Ithaka.” Next are six pieces based on the works of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay that DeMaris composed in his early 20s. The "Sephora Songs" were collected and conceived over a period of a few years and completed during his sabbatical. Also completed during his sabbatical are the "MacArthur Songs," the second of which was started in his youth. "The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” based on the novel by Oscar Wilde, is an as-of-yet-unfinished musical written with author and lyricist Daniel Jurman for Ephrata Playhouse in the Park, where DeMaris received his theatrical upbringing. The final three pieces are products of the improvisations for solo piano from “Journey” that turned into compositions.

A self-described classical pianist, DeMaris played recitals, competitions and musical theater throughout high school and college. In college, he discovered opera.

“Opera blended together everything I love: classical music, theater, collaboration, languages and also the visual elements,” DeMaris said. “After learning the repertoire and craft at the piano, I eventually started conducting and music directing, and eventually producing. Conducting, coaching and collaboration go hand in hand with teaching, so all have been part of my daily life from the very beginning. Composing, even if infrequent, really informs all of my work and provides an outlet where I can create my own music.”

DeMaris also serves as the principal conductor of the Anchorage Opera in Alaska.

DeMaris’ albums are available on Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and YouTube platforms.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


Communication professor honored with teaching award

May 9, 2022

Laura Guerrero, professor of interpersonal communication in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, has received the 2022 Teaching Award from the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR). This award recognizes excellence in teaching in the field of personal relationships at the undergraduate and/or graduate levels.

IARR is an interdisciplinary organization dedicated to advancing the scientific study of personal and social relationships, and encourages collaboration among students, new scholars and experienced scholars.  Portrait of ASU Professor Laura Guerrero. Laura Guerrero, professor of interpersonal communication in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Download Full Image

Guerrero was nominated by two colleagues — Associate Professor Amira de la Garza and Assistant Professor Joris Van Ouytsel at the Hugh Downs School — as well as Samantha Shebib, a Hugh Downs School undergraduate alumna, now an assistant professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and Anya Hommadova, one of Guerrero’s many former doctoral advisees, currently an assistant professor at Sam Houston State University.

De la Garza said that "Dr. Guerrero has been described by her past students as incredibly caring and assisting them to hone their research and investigation skills towards creating powerful programs of research that sustain their careers."

Shebib says Guerrero has always been a source of support, offering her expertise and advice whenever needed.

“But most importantly, Dr. Guerrero believed in me before I even believed in myself. I would not be where I am today without her — and there’s zero exaggeration in that sentiment,” she said. 

Van Ouytsel stated that her courses are highly relevant to students’ lives while also extremely rigorous.  

“This holds for her graduate seminars as well,” he said. “Projects coming out of Laura’s seminar often end up turning into conference papers, publications or dissertations. She often tells me that she sees her seminars as ‘think tanks’ where new ideas about relationship research and theory are born. Several graduate students told me that they consider themselves interpersonal scholars because of her seminars.” 

Guerrero has also co-authored three different textbooks on interpersonal communication. “Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships,” on which Guerrero is the lead author with co-authors Peter Andersen and Walid Afifi, is in its sixth edition and is one of SAGE Publication’s best-selling textbooks. This book is used in both undergraduate and graduate relationship courses at universities around the country, across various disciplines. 

She is also co-author on a textbook on Nonverbal Communication with Judee Burg“Interpersonal Encounters: Connecting through Communication,” a book Guerrero coauthored with ASU alumna Bree McEwan.

“Interpersonal Encounters: Connecting through Communication,” a textbook Guerrero recently co-authored with ASU alumna Bree McEwan.

She is also a co-author of a textbook on nonverbal communication with Judee Burgoon and Valerie Manusov, and the lead author of the recently published “Interpersonal Encounters: Connecting Through Communication,” co-authored with ASU alumna Bree McEwan. This new book is focused on introducing students to the ways communication affects their everyday lives, as well as improving their communication skills to foster better personal and professional relationships.  

“My goal in writing textbooks is to make material relevant and to provide students with solid research-based commentary about how they can be better communicators and have healthier relationships,” Guerrero said.

In addition to her classroom teaching and textbook writing, Guerrero is a popular mentor for graduate students. She has worked with a consistent stream of undergraduate honors students and research assistants, chairing or co-chairing 18 PhD students’ dissertations, and has served on another 18 PhD committees.

“I can't tell you how honored I am to receive this award from an important and prestigious organization like IARR, which represents the very best scholarship on relationships across many different disciplines,” Guerrero said. “I have been a fan of IARR since its inception. It also means a lot to me to have colleagues and former students who took the time to nominate me."

“Professor Guerrero is one of our most beloved teachers and active mentors,” said Sarah Tracy, professor and interim director of the Hugh Downs School. “Over the course of her career, she has positively impacted thousands of students, whether that be in the classroom, in the research lab or in co-authoring research publications. What is more, she has served in school leadership positions that directly support successful undergraduate education and champion student diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging.”

The IARR awards ceremony will take place this summer at a virtual conference.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication