Pyromania: Nov. 12-15, Stillwell Theater, 8 p.m.


An evening of classical and contemporary dance featuring the KSU Dance Company. Choreographic repertory presented and staged by Ivan Pulinkala, Daniel Gwirtzman, Mara Mandradjieff, Christine Walker, and Ido Tadmore. Tickets range from $14-$20; November 12-15, 2014, 8 p.m. at Stillwell Theater, Kennesaw State University. Click here to buy tickets.


Musicians of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Offer Free Concerts

Two performances on Sept. 26th at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to celebrate music


Kennesaw, Ga. (Sept. 23, 2014)–– 

Musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) will perform two free concerts on Friday, September 26th, at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the Dr. Bobbie Bailey and Family Performance Center at Kennesaw State University. The musicians will also hold an open rehearsal with School of Music students on Friday afternoon.

The concerts are free and open to the public; seating is first come, first serve and no tickets are required. However, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association will be accepting donations onsite.

On Monday, Sept. 22, the School of Music received notice from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management that the ASO concert scheduled for Sept. 26th had been cancelled due to labor negotiations. Ticket holders were contacted by Kennesaw State on Monday regarding exchanges and/or refunds.

Michael Alexander, Interim Director of the School of Music, said, “We are proud of the partnership we have formed with the ASO, and we are disappointed that the concert that we originally planned has been cancelled due to the ongoing negotiations. We continue to hope for a positive resolution. As a School of Music, our job is to support great music and provide an educational opportunity for our students. These free concerts will help us provide a positive outlet for all involved during this difficult time.”

The concerts will be held at the Dr. Bobbie Bailey and Family Performance Center, located at 488 Prillaman Way, Kennesaw, GA 30144. Download a detailed campus map.

Please use the following guidelines for parking:

Primary parking for this performance at the Bailey Performance Center is in the Central Parking Deck. Parking in this deck is not-restricted (with the exception of disabled parking) and is free after 6 p.m. Parking in any of the surface lots on the arts district campus will be extremely limited. There are limited disabled parking spaces in Lot E and in Lot J. A drop-off lane is available in Lot E and is directly in front of the Bailey Performance Center lobby doors.

For more information, please contact the Box Office at 470-578-6650 or email

For media inquiries, please contact Kathie Beckett via email:

Community Art Sale Thurs-Sat., Nov 6-8, KSU Center


Stop by and see unique art creations by Kennesaw State students and professionals. The sale will include gift items such as pottery, jewelry, hand-pulled prints, small sculptures, small drawings, and paintings. For more information, visit

Violet Juno at the Stillwell Theater Sept. 25-27, 8 p.m.


Join us for (I am still here) Language has Left the Building at the Stillwell Theatre Sept. 25-27 at 8 p.m. Guest artist Violet Juno combines storytelling and performance to count the languages learned and lost in her family over the generations. Tickets are $5 to $20.

Coming Out Monologues Oct. 9-10, 8 p.m., Onyx Theater


Humorous, poignant, and celebratory, this evening features performances of coming-out stories from across the campus community. Co-directed by Jessica Duvall and Karen Robinson. Co-produced with GLBTIQ Student Retention services. Tickets $5.

Private Eyes: Oynx Theatre, September 16-21, 2014 | 8 p.m. | $5-$12 Sunday | 2 p.m.


PRIVATE EYES | Onyx Theater
September 16-21, 2014 | 8 p.m. | $5-$12
Sunday | 2 p.m.
By Steven Dietz. | Directed by Ariel Fristoe
Buy Tickets

Nothing is ever quite what it seems in this dark comedy of suspicion, theatrical illusion, and romantic truth. Steven Dietz’s darkly comic play Private Eyes offers a startling and incisive glimpse into a world in which appearances deceive at every turn. The private becomes public, the real fades into the imagined, and glimmers of truth may be glimpsed only fleetingly against a dark tide of lies.

The characters in Private Eyes long for truth, love, and genuine human connection, but, terrified of rendering themselves vulnerable through open self-revelation, they instead pursue avenues of deceit, disguise, and self-delusion. Falsehoods pile up at a fevered pace until the final moments of the play, when the characters lay down their lies and face each other in a moment of bare honesty, a blissful release that allows them to see and to be seen without guile or guise.

As his characters gasp for breath against the seductive current of their own lies, Dietz challenges our own expectations for narrative truth as well. The story exists on several different planes of reality simultaneously. It invites audiences to join in with the characters who watch from the wings as the most private moments of their lives unfold onstage, but the play offers no promises that the worlds observed are really what they seem—until we, like Matthew and Lisa, are granted respite in a final instant of stillness and truth.
                    —Miriam Hahn, Resident Dramaturg

Faculty Exhibition I, Fine Arts Gallery

imageThe Faculty Exhibition I will open August 18th and run through September 13th. Meet the artists and enjoy a reception on August 18th from 5-8 p.m. Fine Arts Gallery, Wilson Building.

Sunset Boulevard, Stillwell Theatre, Aug. 22nd!


Adapted from the 1950 film by Billy Wilder; Directed by Jim Davis.
The TPS Faculty performs a staged reading of one of America’s classic films, a tale of love and loss in Hollywood. An annual benefit performance for education abroad scholarships.

Stillwell Theater, August 22, 2014 | 8 p.m. | $10

24 Hour Play Festival, Sept. 6th, Stillwell Theatre


Coordinated by Jamie Bullins, it’s the perfect blend of planning and spontaneity. In only 24 hours, student writers, directors, actors, and designers transform their ideas into inventive theatre.
Stillwell Theater | September 6, 2014 | 8 p.m. | $5

KSU School of Music Announces the 2014-15 Signature Series


In 2014-15, the Kennesaw State University School of Music will debut a brand new concert series that unites some of the regions top professional ensembles with exciting performances by KSU’s very own students and faculty. The 2014-15 Signature Series will include a trio of concerts by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the debut performance of the Atlanta Opera Chorus at KSU, and two very special scholarship concerts featuring KSU’s very own students and faculty. Signature Series subscriptions are available now by clicking here

Opening the 2014-15 Signature Series on September 16, the School of Music welcomes the powerfully moving voice of the acclaimed Atlanta Opera Chorus. Their debut performance at KSU will commemorate the Chorus’ 25th season under the direction of chorus master Walter Huff and will include repertoire spanning 300 years of operatic choral works, including performances of well-known masterpieces by Verdi, Mozart, Puccini, and Wagner.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra returns to Morgan Concert Hall three times this season, each time with special guest soloists and a different internationally acclaimed conductor. The orchestra’s first performance of the season (September 26) marks not only the return of the orchestra to KSU, but also the return of pianist Jeremy Denk for a performance of Mozart’s Concerto No. 20 conducted by ASO Music Director Robert Spano. On January 16, the orchestra will perform an exciting program conducted by Marin Alsop, the first female conductor of a major American orchestra, which will include a performance by the ever-vibrant violinist Julian Rachlin. Finally, on March 20, the ASO will perform a program devoted to art and Spanish music, including a concerto by classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, which will be conducted by Jacomo Bairos.

The KSU Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble team up early in the new year on January 8 for a special performance with indie-alt-folk band, von Grey. The members of von Grey are four classically-trained sisters who have spent the last year accumulating glowing press reviews and featured appearances on national TV including “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan,” and NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams.” The band will perform special arrangements of songs from their catalog that feature the powerful and moving sound of full orchestra accompaniment provided by the KSU Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. Proceeds from this concert go towards supporting student scholarships.

A favorite of many longtime School of Music friends and supporters, the annual Collage Concert will take place on February 7, 2015. This extra special event will feature a series of fast-paced, vignette performances by many of the School of Music’s student ensembles and faculty members. Proceeds from this concert go towards supporting student scholarships.

For more information about the 2014-15 Kennesaw State University School of Music Signature Series and to purchase tickets, please contact the KSU College of the Arts Box Office at 470-578-6650 or by visiting

Viewing on mobile? Click here to download the KSU School of Music App!

Star-Spangled Spectacular at KSU!


Kennesaw State University will present two special concerts this summer: The 7th Annual Star-Spangled Spectacular on Saturday, June 28, featuring the Georgia Symphony Orchestra and “Back to School with von Grey,” an end-of-summer concert featuring Atlanta based indie-alt-folk band von Grey on Sunday, Aug. 10.

Presented annually on the Saturday that precedes the Independence Day holiday, The Star-Spangled Spectacular has long been a summertime tradition at Kennesaw State to kick off the celebration of our nation’s independence. Since 2008, the free event has been held in the heart of campus on the Campus Green and is accompanied by an exciting fireworks finale.

The Georgia Symphony Orchestra will perform many favorite patriotic tunes as well as a selection of exciting American works for orchestra. New for this year’s events the addition of preconcert activities including games, face painting and balloon animals for children, vendors and exhibits from the KSU community, and a patriotic singing contest.

The contest winner will have the opportunity to perform the National Anthem at the 2014 Major League Lacrosse Championship game at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Aug. 23.

Preconcert activities begin at 5 p.m. and the concert begins at 8 p.m. Concertgoers are encouraged to arrive early to get a good spot on the green and enjoy the preshow activities. Blankets and lawn chairs are welcome, and parking is free in designated areas.

Atlanta-based indie-alt-folk band von Grey will headline “Back to School with von Grey” on Sunday, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Morgan Hall at the Bailey Performance Center. The members of von Grey are four classically-trained sisters who have accomplished more tasks on the proverbial band wish list in the past year than many bands do in a decade — all without the help of a record label and before their 20th birthdays.

With glowing press reviews and appearances on “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan,” NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” and CNN’s “Road Warriors,” the Atlanta Journal/ Constitution described the quartet as “nothing short of stunning.”

The band’s debut at Kennesaw State will also feature a performance with the KSU Symphony Orchestra. In a special collaboration with the Bernard A. Zuckerman Museum of Art and Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program, concertgoers are encouraged to arrive early to attend an outdoor party starting at 5 p.m., featuring food trucks, live music and tours of the Zuckerman and the Bailey Center. Seating for the concert is general admission, and tickets go on sale July 1 at 

Information to Know for the Star-Spangled Spectacular

 Where is the Star-Spangled Spectacular located?

The Star-Spangled Spectacular is located on campus at Kennesaw State University on the Campus Green. Click here for driving directions and parking information.

Where can I park and how much is parking?

Parking for this event is FREE! Recommended parking lots are the Central Parking Deck and Lots A, B, C, and D, but feel free to park in any open parking lots. Please note: the East Deck and East Parking lot will be closed to the public during this event. Click here for driving directions and parking information.

Do I need to purchase tickets or pay an admission fee to attend?

Seating on the lawn is FREE of charge and open to the public. We are sorry, but the tables are SOLD OUT.

What time does the event begin?

The concert begins at 8 p.m., but be sure to arrive early for pre-concert games, facepainting, and balloon artists for kids, vendors and exhibits from the KSU community and beyond, and a patriotic singing contest starting at 5 pm.

Are handicap-accessible seating areas available?

Yes, wheelchair-accessible seating is available on the Campus Green. If you have specific questions about accessibility, please contact 770-423-6650 for more information.

May I bring food and beverages?

Yes! Please feel free to pack a picnic basket and bring coolers, blankets, chairs, and other picnic items. Please, do not bring grills or large tables. A limited number of concession vendors will also be available on site for purchasing snacks and beverages.

May I smoke on the Campus Green?

Kennesaw State University is a smoking-restricted campus. Smoking is not allowed on the Campus Green at any time, but is allowed in designated smoking adjacent to the KSU Bookstore, Convocation Center, and Burruss Building. 

What time will the event conclude?

The concert and fireworks display will likely conclude between 9:45 – 10:00pm.

What happens if it rains?

If the event cannot be held on Saturday, June 28 due to inclement weather, the event will be postponed to the following day: Sunday, June 29. In the event of a postponement, updates will be posted on this website, the main KSU website, and all social media platforms for KSU and the School of Music. Unfortunately, if the event cannot be held on Sunday due to continued inclement weather, the event will be cancelled and we will hope to see you next year!

Still have questions?

Call 770-423-6650.

Note: By attending the 2014 Star-Spangled Spectacular, you acknowledge and agree to grant Kennesaw State University the right to record, film, photograph, or capture your likeness in any media now available or hereafter developed and to distribute, broadcast, use, or otherwise disseminate such media without any further approval from you or any payment to you. This grant includes, but is not limited to, the right to edit such media, and the right to use the media alone or together with other information.

Atlanta Ballet’s prima ballerina to teach at Kennesaw State University


Christine Winkler retiring from Atlanta Ballet after 19 seasons

For media inquiries: Kathie Beckett, Director of Marketing and Communications, 770-499-3417 or email

Kennesaw, GA (May 22, 2014)–– Kennesaw State University’s Department of Dance is pleased to announce that Atlanta Ballet’s prima ballerina Christine Winkler has joined the faculty as a part-time instructor for ballet technique. In the fall, Winkler will teach setting classical repetory and a pointe class, following her retirement from Atlanta Ballet after nineteen seasons.

Sharon Story, Atlanta Ballet’s Dean of Centre for Dance Education and Ballet Mistress, said, “Christine has shared so many of her talents with the Atlanta Ballet audiences that her evolution has been nothing less than stellar. Whatever role Christine performs it is always of the highest artistic and physical integrity. She is a rare gift in the world of dance and an amazing teacher.”

Ivan Pulinkala, Chairman of the Department of Dance, said, “Christine’s pedagogical and performance skills will be a valuable addition to dance majors at KSU. We are thrilled that our association with Atlanta Ballet has continued to leverage reciprocal advantages, and we are honored to welcome Christine Welker to the faculty in the Department of Dance at KSU.”

Winkler has had many professional highlights since joining Atlanta Ballet in 1995, including Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Juliet in Michael Pink’s Romeo & Juliet, Odette in John McFall’s Swan Lake, and Mina in Michael Pink’s Dracula. She’s also had the pleasure of working with world-renowned choreographers.

She will utilize her diverse experience to inspire the students. She said, “I am excited about strengthening classical ballet technique at Kennesaw State and expanding students’ musicality within classical technique and artistry.”

“Kennesaw State University Department of Dance is so very lucky to have Christine join the staff.  Her generosity of spirit, supreme knowledge of the art form and magnetic personality will shine throughout the department. She is a rare gift in the world of dance and an amazing teacher. I may even come take class!” added Story.


About Christine Winkler: A California native, Christine trained with Barbara Crockett and furthered her studies with the San Francisco Ballet School. She then joined Ballet West, where she met husband John Welker. Memorable highlights since joining Atlanta Ballet in 1995 include Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Juliet in Michael Pink’s Romeo & Juliet, Odette in John McFall’s Swan Lake, and Mina in Michael Pink’s Dracula. Christine has worked with choreographers Christopher Hampson, Lila York, James Kudelka, Val Caniparoli, Wayne McGregor, Twyla Tharp, Darrell Moultrie, Gina Patterson, Jorden Morris, Helen Pickett and Juel Lane. Guest appearances include American Repertory Ensemble, Chamber Dance Project and New Orleans Ballet Theatre. To learn more, visit

About Kennesaw State Department of Dance: The largest dance program in the state of Georgia, the Department of Dance is a leader in undergraduate dance education in the Southeastern United States. Students choose from ballet, modern/contemporary or jazz concentrations, and are taught by regionally and nationally accomplished faculty and guest artists in state-of the-art dance facilities.  Students also benefit from partnerships with Atlanta Ballet, gloATL, Dance Canvas, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, and the Rialto Center for the Arts. To learn more, visit or call 770-423-6614.

About Kennesaw State University: Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 90 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of 24,100 students from more than 130 countries.

Dance Festival at Kennesaw State University

Festival celebrates concert dance for high schools and dance studios


Kennesaw, Ga. (March 18, 2014)––Kennesaw State University’s Department of Dance will host the 2014 KSU Dance Festival March 28-30. The Festival is the first of its kind in the state of Georgia, and features over 30 classes, two nights of adjudicated performances, and teacher seminars.  Approximately 150 students have registered to participate in the three-day Festival.

Ivan Pulinkala, Chair of the Department of Dance, said, “The KSU Dance Festival is intended to promote concern dance at the high school and studio levels, supporting our mission of dance education on campus and within the community. Master classes, adjudicated performances, guest companies, and faculty seminars will provide a unique artistic and pedagogical experience for participants.”

Twelve participating companies will present work for adjudication, and a panel of three national adjudicators will select a work for festival recognition.

Mara Mandradjieff, Instructor of Dance, said, “KSU’s Dance faculty and staff are thrilled to be part of this initiative. The KSU Dance Festival will create a supportive environment that fosters valuable dialogue between various dance institutions. It is opening new doors to meaningful connections and learning experiences for the Atlanta dance community.”

Dance Instructor Natalie Berry echoed Mandradjieff and said, “It has been a wonderful experience creating the inaugural festival both from a creative perspective and a personal one.  As faculty, we have been given a wonderful opportunity to work closely with our colleagues, which is such a treat, to design an exciting and fulfilling experience for festival attendees.”

Attendees will benefit from the experience and so will KSU dance majors, who will gain valuable arts management experience as they work closely with dance faculty and staff to organize the festival.  Prior to the Festival, students will assist in organizing and serving on committees, and during the Festival, they will help with production, student registration, and classroom monitoring.

Dance Board Member Andrea Edmonstone has been watching the growth of the Department of Dance for a while. A teacher at North Springs High School, she said, “I’ve been passionate about a Georgia-based high school dance festival for years, for myself and my students, and I’m so excited to see Ivan Pulinkala and KSU help bring this to life!”

Patty Poulter, Dean of the College of the Arts, said, “The KSU Dance Festival not only celebrates dance, but also brings the dance community together in a fun way. The Festival’s unique approach to performances, techniques, and creative choreography will be extremely valuable. The Department of Dance continues to set the bar for dance education in Georgia.”

Meet Avery Sharpe: Theatre for a Change

By Kelsey Medlin


With a smile that goes on for days, Avery Sharpe is a unique theatre and performance studies major with a concentration in acting. His positivity radiates off of him and out to others throughout Kennesaw State’s Department of Theatre & Performance Studies, but Avery was not always this vibrant thespian and lover of the arts.

In high school, he says he was a “super jock” before a girl told him that boys were needed for the school musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Curiosity got the best of him, and he auditioned and received a part. He discovered that theatre was “collaborative, fun and freeing” and exactly what he wanted to do.

Since then, Avery has grown so much at KSU, not only as an actor but also as a human being. “I’ve learned that if you work hard, trust yourself and your work in all aspects of life, you can make yourself a better person and enlighten others,” he says. Professor, Interim Chair and Coordinator of Internships Karen Robinson says, “It is so exciting to see him grow into this incredible and wonderful combination of talented and gifted actor. His presence is charismatic, really smart and insightful, plus he is such a genuinely and authentically warm person.”

When Robinson first met Avery at the auditions for “Fences” in the spring of 2010, she remembers noticing Avery’s “inherent charm that comes out in his manner and way of engaging with people.” Despite only being in his second semester of freshman year, she saw that there “was a sense of self possession that was more mature than his years.” Avery has been a part of every production she has directed on campus ever since.

Beginning the rehearsal process of “Ruined” by Lynn Nottage this semester, Avery is eager to see where this production will lead. He connects deeply with his character, Christian, in the very last scene of the show. “He has the fortitude, the discipline and the humility to be able to love the woman in the scene,” Avery says, “despite her faults and the things that happened.” Avery believes that “love like that is what we are all looking for and there should be more of that.”

Through the course of these past years at KSU, Avery has grown and discovered a passion and ideology for what he believes theatre is. He says, “It has changed my life and can be used to change others’ lives.” After graduation, Avery wants to stay in Atlanta for a while before traveling to Chicago or New York to work. His biggest goal, though, is to one day bring theatre and its techniques to Latin communities, perhaps in South America. He says their warmth and attention to family are something he desires, and he would like to see theatre make a difference in those communities as it has for him.



Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Nelson Mandela tributes and conference lead Pan-Africa Week focus on civil and human rights struggles

Kennesaw State University will examine civil and human rights struggles in Africa and the African Diaspora during Pan-Africa Week, March 17-21. The week will feature forums and artistic presentations, including a debut of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Ruined,” tributes to Nelson Mandela and a student research and engagement conference.

The violence against women resulting from war and the pursuit of conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo are highlighted in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies’ presentation of the play “Ruined” by Lynn Nottage March 18–23 in the Stillwell Theater. Directed by Karen Robinson, professor and interim chair of TPS, the play tells the story of the courage and survival of women who have been visited so violently by atrocities that they are no longer able to bear children.

 “As we learn about the role that conflict minerals play in fomenting unspeakable atrocities in the DRC, we must ask ourselves: What is our responsibility in perpetuating the violence from afar with our global consumption of not only gold and diamonds, but our voracious appetite for mobile phones and electronics?” Robinson said.

Each performance will be followed by discussions with the director, actors, and guest faculty in disciplines from across the University. A panel focusing on trauma and healing, co-sponsored by TPS and the Gender and Women’s Studies program, will follow Sunday’s matinee performance. For tickets, visit or call 770-423-6650.

Two Pan-Africa Week exhibits focus on the fight against apartheid in South Africa and pay tribute to the recently deceased South African President Nelson Mandela. “Graphic Resistance: Anti-Apartheid Political Posters” features facsimiles of vintage posters created between 1960 and 1990 protesting against apartheid. “Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013): Before Prisoner, Beyond President” displays vintage press and art photographs and memorabilia celebrating Mandela’s life. The exhibits, curated by Jessica Stephenson, assistant professor of art history, and Monica Russ, a student in art history and African and African Diaspora Studies, are located in the Social Sciences Building Atrium through March 31.

On March 20, the all-day 6th Annual African and African Diaspora Studies Student Research and Engagement Conference will present 16 student and community panels focused on struggles for civil and human rights, culture and contemporary issues in the African diaspora. It also will feature two keynote speakers: Robert “Bobby” Hill, professor emeritus of history at the University of California Los Angeles, disicussing “The Concept of Africa for Africans”; and Chapurukha Kusimba, chair of anthropology at American University, discussing “Maritime Networks and Urban-Centered States in East Africa.”   

Other Pan-Africa Week highlights include:

·       Forum: The National Center for Human Rights CEO Doug Shipman will discuss the “Global Struggle for Freedom: Atlanta’s Legacy and its Relation to Current Human Rights Movements” Monday, March 17, 12:30 p.m., Social Sciences Building, Room 2034.

·       A musical tribute to Nelson Mandela by the Kennesaw State University Choir, led by Professor Emeritus of Music Oral Moses, and a screening of the documentary “Nelson Mandela: The Life and Times,” Wednesday, March 19. The musical tribute begins at 2 p.m. The screening will follow. Both are in the Social Sciences Building, Room 1019, and are free and open to the public.

·       Forum: Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College, will discuss “Violence and Silence in the Black Woman’s Experience,” Friday, March 21, 9:30 a.m., Social Sciences Building, Room 3019.

Pan-Africa Week is a collaboration between the Kennesaw State College of the Arts’ School of Art and Design and Department of Theatre & Performance Studies; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; African and African Diaspora Studies Program; Center for African and African Diaspora Studies; and Institute for Global Initiatives.

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—Kathie Beckett ansd Sabbaye McGriff

Kennesaw State University’s School of Music Announces Jazz Venue Partnerships


Premier jazz clubs include Churchill Grounds and The Velvet Note

Contact: Kathie Beckett, 770-499-3417,

KENNESAW, Ga. (March 17, 2013)  — Kennesaw State University’s School of Music is pleased to announce that it has partnered with two of the top jazz venues in the region: Churchill Grounds in Atlanta and The Velvet Note in Alpharetta.

Students in the jazz program at Kennesaw State University will now have the opportunity to play to audiences in Atlanta and Alpharetta and experience what it’s like to perform in a real world situation. Each venue will promote and host concerts by KSU students and faculty.

Mike Alexander, Interim Director of the School of Music, said, “The School of Music at Kennesaw State University is proud of our jazz program that continues to create the future cultural leaders in our region. We encourage an entrepreneurial spirit amongst our students and having them perform at the top jazz venues in our region is an important part of their education.  Bringing our faculty and students out of the university and into the community is a core element to how we believe our school can contribute to the quality of life in our area.”

Sam Skelton, Director of Jazz Studies and Senior Lecturer in Saxophone said, “I think this will be a fantastic opportunity for our students to hone some entrepreneurship chops in creating electronic press kits and demo reels.” Trey Wright, Lecturer in Jazz Guitar and Jazz Studies, echoed that and said, “Our students will gain real world experience at world class jazz venues and have the opportunity to play outside of our Kennesaw c­ommunity and reach out to the metro Atlanta community at large.”

The owners of the venues are excited as well. Sam Yi, owner of Churchill Grounds, said, “We need to give these up-and-comers an opportunity to expand, an opportunity to let younger generations perform. Allowing students to play here also gives us club exposure and a chance to reach new audiences; it’s a win-win all the way around.”

Yi added, “To the young cats, I say ‘Continue to shed because there’s no magic bullet. The only way to get better is to keep shedding and shedding and put an enormous amount of time into your craft. What most jazz musicians lack is how to advertise and promote. They spend so much time shedding that they don’t expose or promote themselves. Learn how to shed, but learn how to promote yourself.’”

Tamara Fuller, owner of The Velvet Note, said, “Through the partnership with KSU, our audiences get to enjoy jazz from two different approaches: one that comes from the traditional, standard formal training approach that KSU provides, and the other that comes from getting out there and exercising your chops and getting your experience in playing the stage. It’s a unique combination—usually you have to choose one over the other. With the KSU students, you get both.”

This unique combination is paying off: recently KSU grad Zac Evans did a show around the music of chart-topping Daft Punk at The Velvet Note. Fuller said, “It was extremely original, and audiences loved it. We got the craftsmanship and the talents that he had developed in his time at KSU, but also got the originality, and the street credentials, that come with a young person who is looking at different influences. I’m hoping that through our partnership with KSU, audiences get the accomplishments, achievements, and trained musicianship perspective, but also get originality and creativity from listening to artists in this generation.”

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering 80 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a new Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of 24,600 students from more than 130 countries.

James Smith: Serious about his acting career


The first thing you notice about James Smith is a smile big enough to light up a major city, but he’s really serious about his acting career. In addition to his classes, Smith keeps busy by honing his craft and auditioning for upcoming roles.  He is constantly auditioning for his next part.

He says, “I don’t think you should just sit around waiting for the phone to ring. I believe you should always be auditioning for other roles rather than wondering, ‘did I get the part or not?’” He says it’s important not to focus on when the role is coming, but rather to be prepared when it does arrive.

James is certainly landing the roles.  He’s playing a lead character in the play “Ruined” this spring. Karen Robinson, Professor and Interim Chair of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS), says, “James is a generous and compassionate actor who brings vulnerability and deep commitment to his work. He has a gift for eliciting empathy for his characters. It has been an absolute joy to work with him in class and in our production of ‘Ruined’ in which he plays a young man who is seeking fervently to reunite with his wife.”

Smith says he really appreciates the support he’s gotten from Professor Robinson.  “She basically opened my eyes to how the real world works in this field. She doesn’t hold back,” he says.

In addition to Professor Robinson, Smith also speaks highly of Harrison Long, Head of Acting for TPS, and his instructor for Acting I and Acting II.  “Professor Long’s primary objective when he comes to work each day is to see his students succeed. Everything he does is for the students.” Smith praises Professor Long for challenging students to work as hard as possible and to continue researching and looking for ways to improve.

In addition to receiving excellent instruction, Smith loves the diversity of the KSU student body. Smith, who is African-American, says the presence of various cultures on campus and in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies really makes him feel welcome. “At the previous schools I attended, the student body was mostly Caucasian.  It’s really nice to see African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other cultures being featured in theatre productions and involved in so many activities on campus.”

Last year, Smith played “Reuben” in a play written, directed and performed by KSU students. “Reuben is a character who didn’t have a parental figure in his childhood.  Later, as an adult, the lack of guidance affected his relationships romantically and socially. I can relate to this character. It was really fun portraying this guy.”

KSU is the third stop on Smith’s road to a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre.  He started out at Valdosta State and later transferred to Georgia Perimeter before enrolling at KSU. Among other things, Smith likes KSU’s proximity to Atlanta and the numerous networking opportunities. “I love it here! I think KSU has one of the best theatre programs in the Southeast. I really enjoy it.”

KSU Faculty Member Receives Fulbright Specialists Award


Professor Lin Hightower (above, left) of the School of Art & Design at Kennesaw State University has been selected as a Fulbright Specialist to Thailand, according to the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

The first Fulbright Specialists recipient in the College of the Arts at Kennesaw State, Professor Hightower will travel to Mahasarakha University in Thailand to help design a fiber museum space, teach textile software to document historical weaving and dye patterns and work as an artist/art product designer to create textile products with the Queen of Thailand’s weavers.

Hightower said, “My Fulbright objectives are to conduct research for presentations and publications, and to work as an artist and designer of products for low-income art collective artisans, which meets the Thai universities’ strategic to preserve the Thai cultural heritage in the visual arts. Further, I will teach special software to document historical Thai patterns and design a museum space for their textile collection and study materials. In addition, I will teach their faculty and students how to continue this work and, finally, I will share the Fulbright and social entrepreneurial opportunities in the arts abroad with my KSU students.”


Hightower is one of over 400 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad this year through the Fulbright Specialists Program. Created in 2000 to complement the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program, the Specialists Program provides short-term academic opportunities to prominent U.S. faculty and professionals to support curricular and faculty development and institutional planning at post secondary, academic institutions around the world.

Known as America’s flagship international educational exchange activity, The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Over its 60 years of existence, thousands of U.S. faculty and professionals have taught, studied or conducted research abroad, and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the United States. Over 285,000 emerging leaders in their professional fields have received Fulbright awards, including individuals who later became heads of government, Nobel Prize winners, and leaders in education, business, journalism, the arts and other fields. 

Recipients of Fulbright Scholar awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement. Among thousands of prominent Fulbright Scholar alumni are Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist; Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet; and Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation. Distinguished Fulbright Specialist participants include Mahmoud Ayoub, Professor of Religion at Temple University, Heidi Hartmann, President and CEO, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Percy R. Luney, Jr. Dean and Professor, College of Law, Florida A&M University and Emily Vargas-Barone, Founder and Executive Director of the RISE Institute.

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Learn more about the Fulbright Specialists Program at For more information about the School of Art & Design at Kennesaw State University, visit

Meet Shannan O’Dowd: A choral conductor in the making

By Zola Matingu


Shannan O’Dowd started to sing before she could even speak. Now, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native has taken that passion and is making it into a career.

Her interest in music came from her mother, who exposed her to all genres of music from the 1950’s through today. Her mother plays the trumpet, and Shannan plays piano and guitar and also sings. She led an acappella group while in high school, and she vows to find one while she is here at KSU.

At first, Shannan was on the fence about what she wanted to study at KSU; Adam Kirkpatrick, Associate Professor of Voice, gave her a tour of the music department while she was still a high school student. She decided to come to KSU’s School of Music because she felt the environment was a perfect match for her personality. She initially wanted to focus on music therapy, but decided instead to pursue music education and vocal performance.

Shannan’s love of music has deepened since she became a student at KSU, and several KSU professors have noticed it. Among them is Leslie Blackwell, Associate Professor of Music and Music Education, who has witnessed Shannan grow to become a student with tremendous talent and potential: “Shannan is very gifted in music. I have seen her hone her skills as a performer, an artist and a musician,” says Blackwell.

Shannan attributes her growth to Blackwell’s mentorship and encouragement. Blackwell says, “It is always a huge compliment when students regard your work together as influential in their lives and their education. Shannan hopes to be a choral conductor in the future, and my aim is to aid her in that journey. She is a student with extremely high aspirations, and this is evident in her work ethic in all her classes. She is a natural leader, vocally gifted, and is passionate about teaching and music. This dedication to the art of music is essential for a future music educator.”

Shannan‘s journey of studying music will likely continue beyond KSU; after getting her Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in choral music education, she hopes to pursue music therapy or vocal performance in graduate school. Ultimately, she wants to use music astherapy for children with illnesses or special needs. With her musical background and the music knowledge she has acquired thus far at KSU, Shannan is prepared to make her mark in music.

Her advice to future students choosing her major? “Be prepared for an intense schedule, and make sure you know what you want to do, especially in music education. Many people choose this major casually, not really knowing what it entails and the commitment they have to make to be successful in it. You have to realize that you are affecting many lives with your skills; this is an all or nothing major, and you have to love it.”

Dance Student Rebekah O’Toole: The Freedom to Express Yourself

By Kelsey Medlin


For dance major Rebekah O’Toole, dance is in her blood and deeply embedded within her soul. Inspired by her aunt, a professional ballerina, Rebekah started dancing fifteen years ago and has not stopped. Her passion for movement and the stage goes back to the time when her grandmother took her to see her aunt perform in the comedic ballet “Coppélia.”  After the show, her aunt brought little Rebekah backstage. Right then and there, Rebekah fell in love with dance.  

As Rebekah prepared to graduate from Peachtree City’s McIntosh High School, she knew she wanted to attend Kennesaw State University. The talented freshman says that she chose KSU because of the “incredible” dance program. She made becoming a KSU dance major her goal and “put everything into it.”

She experienced the dance department in summer of 2013, when she attended the College of the Arts’ Summer Arts Intensive, a weeklong program. There, she met Christen Weimer, Interim Assistant Professor of Dance. Weimer says she immediately saw “the honesty in Rebekah’s movements. It’s apparent how much she loves to dance.” She says her performance quality and commitment to improvement make her stand out.

Rebekah says she is grateful for the opportunities at KSU. As a member of the KSU Dance Company, Rebekah was chosen by Weimer to be a part of the professor’s piece, “Sablon,” in the fall dance concert, “Touchdown.” Weimer says she chose students who “had strong ballet backgrounds and were open to exploring their own individuality.” Weimer asked each girl to bring in a picture of a girl or woman to whom she related.

She remembers distinctly the drawing Rebekah chose: it was an image of “an eye with a girl crawling out of it.” This drawing and Rebekah’s words inspired Weimer. “Rebekah said that the eye was like the constraints in her life. The girl crawling out of the eye was how art and dance gave her the freedom to express herself,” says Weimer.

Rebekah’s ability to express herself freely is evident not only in her dance but also in her voice. The most influential lesson she has learned at KSU is that “you may have thoughts about what you want to do, but you should still keep an open mind.” She has heard so many stories about dancers helping out in other areas of the arts and, consequently, falling in love with a new passion. That inspires her, and she’s very determined. As the first in her family to attend college, she’s eager to prove her abilities to others, and to herself.

After Rebekah has soaked up all she can at Kennesaw State, she plans to “perform as long possible,” perhaps in New York or Chicago. However, she’s excited to see where the Atlanta arts scene is by the time she graduates. “Atlanta is growing so much, and I would love to be a part of it,” she says.