School of Music, Dance and Theatre presents concerto, composition competition winners

November 29, 2022

Each year, the Arizona State University School of Music, Dance and Theatre holds concerto and composition competitions with the aim of providing its top performers and composers the rare and coveted opportunity to perform or have their work performed by a large ensemble. The winners are presented in a concert season beginning Dec. 1, with concert programs built around the winning selections.

“Performing a concerto is a high distinction and honor as there are very few such opportunities for developing artists, and the competition for those opportunities is very high,” said Jeffery Meyer, associate professor and director of orchestras. ASU symphony performing on stage. The ASU Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy the School of Music, Dance and Theatre Download Full Image

The winners of the 2022 ASU Concerto Competition are Leon Jin, bassoon; Angelita Ponce, percussion; and Tzu-I Yang, double bass. Jin and Yang will perform on Dec. 1, and Ponce will perform on Feb. 14, 2023.

Double bassist Yang, born in Tainan City, Taiwan, is a Doctor of Musical Arts student of renowned bassist and pedagogue Catalin Rotaru, who is also a professor at ASU. She graduated from Taipei National University of the Arts with a Bachelor of Music in performance and holds a Master of Music from ASU.

Bassoonist Jin is currently studying with Professor Albie Micklich and will complete his Doctor of Musical Arts in bassoon performance in December. He is a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player and educator. Jin earned his Master of Music at ASU and his Bachelor of Music at Central Washington University.

Percussionist Ponce graduated with a Master of Music in performance from ASU in May. She is an active performer, has played with a wide variety of percussion ensembles and taught percussion in several high school programs in the Phoenix area.

The jury for the concerto competition includes faculty from each music performance area in the school — strings, keyboard, voice, winds, brass and percussion/guitar/harp — with the requirement that they do not have a student in the competition. This year’s members include Julie Desbordes, Philharmonia; Jamal Duncan, Wind Bands; Jonathan Swartz, strings; Christopher Creviston, winds; Josef Burgstaller, brass; Caio Pagano, keyboards; Jiji Kim, guitar/harp/percussion; and Gordon Hawkins, voice. 

In 2020, the large ensemble directors, in collaboration with the composition faculty, created a composition competition to provide the school’s composition students an opportunity to write for orchestra or wind band. The winner has the opportunity to have their compositions workshopped and presented with one of the large ensembles in subsequent concert seasons.

“We aim to provide ASU student composers meaningful opportunities to write new works through this competition as well as foster and encourage the development of innovative new works for large ensembles,” said Meyer.

The 2022 composition winners are Deanna Rusnock, Master of Music in performance, and Carlos Zárate, Master of Music in composition. Rusnock’s piece will be performed on April 24, 2023, and Zárate’s piece will be performed during the 2023–24 season after it is workshopped with the ASU Symphony Orchestra several times throughout the 2022–23 season.

Rusnick graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Music in theory and composition. She is an accomplished pianist and plays the flute, guitar, violin, viola, bass, drums, accordion, ukulele, trumpet, slide trombone and mallet percussion.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Zárate is currently pursuing a Master of Music in composition at ASU. He writes acoustic and electroacoustic music and is interested in timbre and exploring different ways in which other artistic expressions can foster musical structures.

The 2022 composition competition jury included faculty members Jeffery Meyer, director of Orchestras; Julie Desbordes, music director of Philharmonia; Jason Caslor, director of Wind Bands; Jamal Duncan, assistant director of Wind Bands; and composition faculty Gabriel Bolaños, Fernanda Navarro, Garth Paine, Jody Rockmaker and Alex Temple.

Meyer said the competition fosters creativity and composition skills as well as “an incentive to embark on the daunting adventure of writing for large ensembles.” The students work closely with their composition professors who, along with the large ensemble directors, mentor them throughout the creative process.

2022–23 Concerto and Composition Competition winners’ concerts:

Dec. 1, ASU Gammage — Tickets
Leon Jin, bassoon (concerto winner)
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, “Concerto for Bassoon”
ASU Chamber Orchestra
Tzu-I Yang, double bass (concerto winner)
Frank Proto, “A Carmen Fantasy for Double Bass & Orchestra”
ASU Chamber Orchestra

Feb. 14, ASU Gammage — Tickets
Angelita Ponce, percussion (concerto winner)
Sergei Golovko, “The Russian Marimba Concerto” 
ASU Philharmonia     

April 24, ASU Gammage — Tickets
Deanna Rusnock, piano (composition winner)
“Concerto for the Growing Pianist” performed by ASU faculty Andrew Campbell
ASU Philharmonia

Carlos Zárate, acoustic and electroacoustic (composition winner)
Composition will be workshopped in 2022–23 and premiered in 2023–24 with the ASU Symphony Orchestra.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


Thunderbird grad honors his roots, dreams of giving back to his community

November 29, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Esly Diaz and his family immigrated from Mexico to the United States when he was a child. The move brought to light the challenges immigrants face, including being an undocumented child, learning a new language and understanding a new culture. Now as a husband and father to two teenage boys, Diaz’s dedication and strength are what has kept him pursuing higher education.  Esly Diaz in Thunderbird's Haas Digital Global Forum Esly Diaz Download Full Image

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in design studies from Arizona State University, he later chose to pursue a Master of Arts in global affairs and management with a specialization in creative industries offered by Thunderbird School of Global Management at the ASU California Center. 

“In 2019, I began working at Thunderbird as a graphic designer. Honing in on my experience with graphics, branding, advertising, and adobe creative suite, and through my professional experiences at Thunderbird, I began to feel confident in my ability to lead the brand,” Diaz said. 

Currently, in his full-time role as art director at Thunderbird, he works to ensure the school’s brand is upheld and visual elements are always professional and consistent across Thunderbird units around the world. He also has been able to hone his skills in digital media and technology by working in Thunderbird’s new state-of-the-art global headquarters that just opened last fall.

“I work with the world’s leading technology daily, including 1,600 square feet of digital displays with over 20 million pixels of direct-view LED screens, helping showcase presentations and events from around the world,” Diaz said. “I also work with cutting-edge technology like our green-screen studio, a full XR production, and development studio, and a volumetric-capture studio that creates full three-dimensional renderings for faculty and student initiatives.” 

With a keen interest in leadership and management fundamentals and a digital global mindset, the Thunderbird program suited Diaz well. As a member of the inaugural cohort, he completed the program in 10 short months and finished earlier this year in June, and will participate in fall 2022 convocation ceremonies.

Diaz was working as Thunderbird's art director while simultaneously earning his master’s degree. As his knowledge and learning grew through his graduate education, he immediately implemented new tools and cutting-edge resources directly into his work at Thunderbird to continue to propel the School’s ambitious goals forward. 

“Regardless of how you started or what opportunities you have or don’t have, if you continue to pursue your dreams, work with excellence and do hard things, your dreams can come true,” Diaz said.

Diaz (far left) with Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram (middle) and MLM-GCI cohort.

Diaz (far left) with Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram (middle) and the MAGAM-CI cohort.

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: I hope to be a positive force that continues to grow in responsibility and creativity to meet every new milestone and continue advancing toward the next one. I also hope to encourage others in the Hispanic community to pursue higher education and let them know that their dreams can become reality. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I believe that there are a lot of nonprofit organizations that have amazing programs that can change the world in a positive way. Sadly many of these organizations don’t have the knowledge or resources to build a strong brand or effective marketing infrastructure to grow. Therefore, they have a really challenging time growing or reaching their full potential. With $40 million, I would create a nonprofit and for-profit organization that would provide these resources to other organizations at no cost or really low cost. This organization would catapult other organizations’ success by empowering many other organizations to reach their full potential. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at Thunderbird — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: During the MAGAM-CI program we had the opportunity to visit a lot of amazing places such as Fox Studios, Grammys, Lionsgate headquarters, and Anta Design Studio just to name a few. One of the things I learned was that you should always treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of how successful you are. This reinforces the idea to stay strong to your values and not to take shortcuts. Keep dreaming big, but never forget your roots and honor who has helped you along the journey.


Diaz (left) with Thunderbird’s Office of Branding and Communications Executive Director Tomas Bilbao (right), and Thunderbird’s Business Development Director Mohamed Elsuhimi (middle).

Dasi Danzig

Senior Media Relations Officer, Thunderbird School of Global Management