Standing Ovation

Research and creative achievements from the Shepherd School of Music

Spring 2024

The Shepherd School of Music cultivates the mastery of musical performance, combining a conservatory experience with the educational opportunities of a leading research university. Through the Shepherd School, students gain access to world-class teachers dedicated to fostering talent and professional success.

Photo by Lynn Lane, Illustration by Brian Taylor
Photo by Lynn Lane

“Mind”-ful research

It’s been said that great minds think alike, but how similarly do they function? Composer Anthony Brandt is finding out through a collaboration with choreographers Andy and Dionne Noble from NobleMotion Dance and with the University of Houston BRAIN Center, where Brandt works with brain scientist Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal. Together, they choreographed a 36-minute dance in which dancers performed states of isolation, conflict and harmony and studied them to understand interbrain synchrony and neural signatures that indicate when two brains are cooperating with each other. Brandt and musicians from the Shepherd School will travel to Geneva in May to demonstrate their research at the United Nations’ AI for Good Global Summit. — Sam Byrd


Caroline Shaw
Caroline Shaw

Roomful of trophies

Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw ’04 has struck Grammy gold once again — for the fourth time. Shaw and fellow members of vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth received the award this year for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for the album “Rough Magic.” — Amy McCaig


A reprise for opera

Musicologist Danielle Ward-Griffin received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her research on televised opera and her forthcoming book, “Televising Opera: Broadcasting and Performance in Anglo-American Culture (1945–75).” She says, “The idea is to look at how television tried to remake opera performance, particularly in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. … I’m interested in this idea of how new media is informing what viewers ended up seeing not just on the TV screen but also on stage. I see a lot of parallels to what is happening today with opera.” — SB


Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira in The Metropolitan Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni”
Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira in The Metropolitan Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni”

A soprano soars

Grammy Award-winning soprano and professor of voice Ana María Martínez has been acclaimed by The New York Times as an artist who creates “theatrical magic.” Last year her performances included the roles of Countess in “The Marriage of Figaro” at LA Opera and Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni” at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City. In December, she sang the role of Catrina in “El último sueño de Frida y Diego” by composer and Shepherd School alumna Gabriela Lena Frank ’94, ’96 and librettist Nilo Cruz at LA Opera. “I hope my artistry inspires our students to embark on their own extraordinary musical journeys with unwavering dedication and boundless passion,” she says.  — Katie Sejba


Piano perfection

A veteran of the international concert stage, pianist Jon Kimura Parker has performed regularly in famed venues from the Philharmonie Berlin and Carnegie Hall to the Beijing Concert Hall. He is artistic director of the Honens International Piano Competition, artistic adviser for the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, and a creative partner, concerto soloist and solo performer with the Minnesota Orchestra. He recently returned from performing as a concerto soloist with the Youth Orchestra of the Taiwan Philharmonic. “Many of these brilliant teenaged players were asking about our programs at the Shepherd School,” he says. “Our music programs have developed a reputation of excellence seemingly everywhere.”

In addition to Parker’s robust performance and classroom schedule, he was recently featured in a video produced by tonebase for piano, an online learning platform for serious young pianists. Parker appears both as teacher and performer in an entertaining lesson on Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” recorded in a performance with the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the late Larry Rachleff. For prospective students and others, it doesn’t hurt that the video’s host is Shepherd School alumnus Ben Laude ’08, who leads the piano division of tonebase. — KS


Bridging East and West

The compositions of Taiwanese-American composer Shih-Hui Chen cross boundaries between music and society, between the music of distinct cultures, and between music and other art forms — venturing into mixed media, shadow puppets and cross-genre theatrical works. Her works have been performed at the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. In 2023, Chen was honored with the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The judges commented, “Her strong personal voice bridges the East and West with passion, energy and dramatic expression.”  — KS