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December 2017 Alumni Updates

Fri, Dec 15, 2017

December 2017 Alumni Updates


Janet Blair (B.M. '09, M.M. '11) released her debut album as a singer-songwriter, Songs for the Waiting on April 7, 2017. Produced in Nashville by Matthew Odmark of the Jars of Clay, it charted at #6 on the Billboard regional charts and builds a bridge between her classical roots and pop-influenced songwriting.  Check out the lead single, Eternity Grows


Ross Wixon (D.M.A. '17) joined the Washington Revels, a local performance community dedicated to the celebration of cultural traditions—music, dance, storytelling, drama and ritual—that have bound communities together over the ages as their Marketing & Programs Coordinator. Ross also remains active as a composer. Last June, he helped produce Transit Brass's recording of Rapid Transit, which the Illinois-based octet commissioned from him in March 2017. He was also in Fort Wayne, IN, for GRIT Collaborative’s July performance of his bassoon solo, A Sudden Squall. This past fall, he received a commission from the University of Maryland Repertoire Orchestra, and additionally teaches at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Follow Ross at


Sharon Shafer (M.M. '70, D.M.A. '73) has premiered several of her compositions in the Washington, DC area in the past year. These include Four Markowski Poems (voice and piano), Poems of Love and Life (soprano and piano), and Four Serious Songs and Four Silly Songs. In the 2017–2018 concert season, another song cycle will be performed, The Soul of Things, a setting of poetry by UMD alumna Joan Donati (M.M. Musicology) as well as the premier of a new piano solo, Variations on Brother James’ Air. Shafer is currently Professor Emerita of Music at Trinity Washington University.


Brittany Baratz (B.A. '08) has been working on the pre-Broadway production of The Secret Garden, playing Rose as well as the understudy part of Lily. The Secret Garden has had successful runs at The Shakespeare Theatre in DC, The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, and Theatre Under the Stars in Houston. Broadway dates are to be announced. Baratz is returning to DC to work with the Alliance for New Music-Theatre on Women of Troy/ Voices from Afghanistan as part of the Women's Voices in Theatre Festival in January 2018. The show will run at the new Dupont Underground arts space. She has also joined the Alliance for New Music-Theatre as a company member.  


Danny Villanueva (M.M. '05, D.M.A. '14) has been playing drum set and percussion for a number of the top musicals in the DC area, including The Sound of Music’s national tour at The Kennedy Center last summer, the highly acclaimed In the Heights at Olney Theatre Center in September and October, 2017 and Pajama Game at Arena Stage from October through December, 2017. He will perform in the pit orchestra for The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre next March through May.  Villaneuva also played drum set for Bernstein on Broadway—A Centennial Celebration at the Kennedy Center in September.


Anne McNamara (D.M.A. '14) is Assistant Professor of Trumpet at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, KY. In addition to teaching several academic classes including the graduate research methods course and brass methods, McNamara conducts the CU Brass Ensemble, CU Trumpet Ensemble and teaches the trumpet studio. She is an active freelancer performing with such groups as the Louisville Master Chorale Society and the Orchestra Kentucky of Bowling Green. In May 2018, she will present a warm-up class at the International Trumpet Guild Conference in San Antonio, TX. For more information, please visit


Sam Fraser (M.M. ‘17) was recently awarded the position of Principal Bassoon of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. He is also a substitute bassoonist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Sam was a member of the DarajaEnsemble while at UMD, a graduate fellowship woodwind quintet that traveled to Tanzania to teach instrumental skills while fostering an interest in sustainability. 


Justin Bland (D.M.A. ‘05) is establishing himself as one of Denmark's top baroque trumpeters. He is in demand as both a solo and principal player in Denmark and other parts of Europe, performing with groups such as Camerata Øresund, Arte dei Suonatori, Barokksolistene, Enghave Baroque, and Ensemble Ven, among others. He is also principal trumpet in a number of ensembles in Sweden and Poland. Recent engagements in the US include concerts with Lyra Baroque (Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2) as well as with the American Bach Soloists. Additionally, he will be featured in the newly formed Las Vegas Baroque Festival in February 2018.  More information can be found at


Yoshie Fruchter (B.A.'05) lives in New York City and recently released a new record, What We Found Along the Way, with his band Sandcatchers (oud, lap steel, cello, bass, drums)  featuring Middle Eastern Americana on Chant Records. You can find out more about Yoshie's other work at


Dawn Avery (Ph.D. '14) has composed music for an environmental puppet play co-created by Heather Henson, daughter of puppeteer Jim Henson, premiering in February called "Ajijijaack on Turtle Island". Avery is a Grammy-nominated world music artist who creates a contemporary soundscape from electronica, pop and classical elements.  Her sultry vocals and soaring cello lines reflect a deep spirituality rooted in her Native American heritage and love of Sufi tradition. Her new CD, Crane on Earth, in Sky: A Journey, just won two silver medals for best World Music Theatre and Best Album at the Global Music Awards.






Friday, December 15, 2017