Monthly Archives: March 2015

News from Penny Thompson Kruse, Professor of Violin

Penny Thompson Kruse

Penny Thompson Kruse, Professor of Violin, will be joining the faculty at the Bay View Chamber Music Festival in Petosky, Michigan from June 19-July 20.

Dr. Kruse will also be an adjudicator for Thailand’s 4th International String Competition in Bangkok which will take place at Siam Ratchada Music Auditorium in cooperation with Yamaha Music School Ratchadapisek and the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture. The event will be held September 27-29, 2015.

Teaching with passion – BGSU Alum honored Music Educator of the Year



By Marie Dunn-Harris

Dedication. Enthusiasm. Passion. When asked to describe what Kathleen McGrady ’81 is like as a mentor and teacher, these are the three words most used by her students and colleagues. Her passion for teaching music is one of the many reasons McGrady was named Ohio Music Education Association’s (OMEA) Music Educator of the Year.

“I really have a deep passion for teaching music,” she said. “I just love the gleam in their eyes. You can’t put a price on something like that.”

For 33 years, McGrady has been teaching music. During her time at BGSU she participated in several groups including the Falcon Marching Band, Concert Band, Jazz Lab band and Tau Beta Sigma sorority.

“Being a music major was really special and there were wonderful music professors when I went there,” she said. “All of my mentors, and teachers were so inspirational to me.”

After graduating from BGSU, McGrady went on to receive her master’s degree in music education from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago.

From there, she went on to teach band in the Northwood school district, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 1996. At the time, there were only 12 students in the band but she was able to build the program up to 80 students within eight years.

After 17 years in Northwood, McGrady was hired to teach music with Springfield Local Schools in Holland, Ohio. As director of bands, she instructs the 6th, 7th and 8th grade bands, the Blue Devil Marching Band and the High School Symphonic Band. That’s 450 band students she teaches every day. For the past few years, she has called on BGSU’s College of Music for help.

“BG has been really special about giving me a student teacher every year. They’re helping me just as I’m helping them. They’ve been great,” she said.

One of them is senior Ryan Williams.

“She put me on the podium the second day I was here,” he said. “She has a lot of energy and has given me advice on how to talk to the kids.”

When asked what advice she would give to Williams and other current students, McGrady said, “Put yourself around a lot of positive people and people who make you laugh.”

This year, her student teachers were able to help McGrady prepare the 8th grade band for its performance at the Ohio Music Education Association’s conference in Cleveland—the only middle school band in Ohio selected to perform.

“I can’t tell you how much of an honor this was for our band students, band program and the community,” McGrady said. “To be selected to appear at this state conference was huge!”

One of the songs that the band performed had a BGSU connection. “Evocation” was written by Ryan Nowlin ’00, ’04. He is the assistant director of The President’s own United States Marine Band. Nowlin wrote the song for the Ohio Chapter of the International Bandmasters Fraternity, Phi Beta Mu, of which McGrady is a member. Phi Beta Mu asked McGrady to premiere “Evocation” at the OMEA conference.

“It was such a beautiful piece of music. This was such a treat and an honor for our 8th graders,” she said.

At that same conference, McGrady was honored as Music Educator of the Year. This is the third year in a row that a Bowling Green State University alum received the award. The last two winners were George Edge ’79 and Barry Hartz ‘82.

McGrady’s collegue, Travis Pennell, nominated her for the award. In his nomination letter he said, “She teaches her students to strive for excellence, to love music and to respect each other. She teaches all of us, her peers, to give our best for our students, to wear a smile, to have faith and to remember that the storms in life can often produce beautiful rainbows.”

Several of McGrady’s collegues wrote letters of recommendation to OMEA, including Bernice Schwartz, who worked with her for 14 years. Schwartz described McGrady as an inspiration for her students.

“She provides her students with an abundance of opportunities and strives to help every one of them succeed both in and out of the classroom,” she said.

Schwartz remembers a time when a student was at risk of not graduating due to too many absences. McGrady developed an incentive program so that he could pass.

“She genuinely cares about every student and will do whatever it takes to make sure they succeed,” Schwartz said.

McGrady recalls another time when a band student’s parents lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to make the payments on their child’s instrument. So she stepped in to help.

“If a child doesn’t have an instrument, I’ll find it in a flea market if I have to. It’s just how I grew up—in an Italian Irish home. You give, you are kind to people. That’s what I was taught,” she said.

Because of Springfield’s 8th grade band’s performance and McGrady’s award, the village of Holland proclaimed Feb. 17 Springfield Middle School Band Day. The Buckeye Cable Sports Network (BCSN) also named her Teacher of the Month in January.

McGrady has won many other awards including: Springfield Middle School’s Teacher of the Month, Springfield High School’s “You Made a Difference Award,” and “Outstanding State Chair Award” at the 2014 American School Band Director Association’s 60th National Convention. She currently serves on the BGSU Alumni Band Board and is involved in the Ohio Ambassadors of Music, which takes 100 students to Europe every two years to perform. The trip is organized by Dr. Bruce Moss, director of bands and professor at BGSU.

McGrady maintains an active schedule throughout the year as a guest conductor and serves OMEA in several capacities including All-State Ensemble Chair for the 2016 Conference in Cincinnati. She will retire in May but doesn’t plan on relaxing for too long.

“I have 10 more years in me. My resume is ready to go. I’m looking for something at the next level,” she said.

Jon Cowherd brings his Mercy Project to Festival Series stage


BOWLING GREEN, O.—Bowling Green State University’s Festival Series concludes its 2014-15 season on a high note with renowned jazz artist Jon Cowherd and his Mercy Project. The concert takes place at 8 p.m. April 11 in Kobacker Hall at the Moore Musical Arts Center, home to the College of Musical Arts.

The performance will feature Brian Blade on drums, Steve Cardenas on guitar, and Tony Scherr on bass in music from Cowherd’s recent album, “Mercy,” which features 11 original compositions.

Cowherd’s impressive resume dates back many years to when Cowherd, a Kentucky native, formed a performing and composing partnership with Loyola classmate Brian Blade, featuring Cowherd on piano and Blade on drums. They formed the Brian Blade Fellowship, which went on to release several albums. Cowherd has gained fame through his exceptional keyboard and compositional skills, which have catapulted him to success and established him as one of jazz’s most accomplished and in-demand musicians.

Though his recent decision to release a solo album was difficult, he said, he attributes his confidence to Jeff Goldstein, with whom he studied classical piano with from 2001-09.

In addition to creating his own music, Cowherd has been featured as a producer on a wide variety of projects with artists including Lizz Wright, Alyssa Graham and The Local NYC. Artists such as Rosanne Cash, Iggy Pop, Marc Cohn, Mark Olson and Victoria Williams have featured Cowherd’s instrumental work on their albums. Cowherd recently served as a co-musical director and keyboardist for the all-star Joni Jazz Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, in honor of Joni Mitchell.

Tickets for the Festival Series performance are $20 for the public and $5 for BGSU students and can be purchased online at or by calling the Arts Box Office at 419-372-8171.

New Music from Bowling Green performs in Detroit at Trinsophes


BOWLING GREEN, O. – Faculty and graduate students from Bowling Green State University’s renowned contemporary music program will be performing at Trinosophes in Detroit (1464 Gratiot) with a program of new music by Georges Aperghis, John Drumheller, Jonathan Harvey, BGSU faculty composer Mikel Kuehn, Bright Sheng, Toru Takemitsu and Ashley Fu-Tsun Wang. The concert will take place on Saturday, April 18th at 8 p.m.

Home to the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music, the renowned Bowling Green New Music Festival (now entering its 36th year), a robust composition program and a vibrant new music-focused Doctor of Musical Arts curriculum, the BGSU College of Musical Arts has been an active contributor to the national and international new music scene for almost four decades.

Participating faculty from the College of Musical Arts include flutist Conor Nelson, pianists Solungga Fang-Tzu Liu and Jeannette Fang, trumpeter Charles Saenz, cellist Alan Smith, and saxophonist John Sampen, along with clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, pianist Zachary Nyce, violist Kalindi Bellach and saxophonist Matthew Younglove, all of whom are students in the DMA program.

Tickets for the concert are $5, and can be reserved through Trinosophes at 313-737-6606. More information about the venue can be found at

For more information contact the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music at 419-372-2685, email, or visit us on the web at

Sentinel Tribune highlights Dialogues of the Carmelites


By DAVID DUPONT, Sentinel News Editor

Though the mob is at the gate even as “Dialogues of the Carmelites” begins, the true enemy is closer still.

Our heroine Blanche, played by recent Conrad Art Song Competition winner Desiree Nicole Johnson, is almost crippled by nagging, inchoate fear. A servant’s shadow sends her into hysterics. For her each night is akin to Christ’s last night on earth, each morning a new Easter.

Blanche seeks safety and spiritual direction in the convent of the Carmelites. But in a time of revolutionary turmoil, no place is safe, especially given the anti-religious tenor of the mob.

This story of faith and trial in the time of the French Revolution is on stage at the Donnell Theatre in Bowling Green State University’s Wolfe Center for the Arts Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets, visit or call the box office at 419-372-8171.

The dialogues of the title are not between the nuns and the revolutionaries  but among the sisters themselves. The rabble stays offstage until the end of the second act. While the nuns in rousing song ponder the true nature of faith.

Francis Poulenc wrote “Dialogues of the Carmelites” in the throes of his own rediscovered Catholicism and personal tragedy. He sets these inner reflections to soaring melody set over an orchestra that gives full voice to the uncertainties and terror.

The cast dramatizes this in full voice. Johnson’s Blanche is physically cramped by fear. The contrast between her and the lighthearted Constance (Elizabeth Hood) is notable. Hood is almost flighty, providing the few minutes of anything approaching humor in script. Her very good humor grates on Johnson, who masks her anxiety with piety. Johnson seems to be struggling to hold this within, even as her voice rings out.

Jane Schoonmaker Rodgers brings the dismay of the old prioress, whose faith wavers as she faces death. Her death scene is wrenching as she questions all she’s devoted her life to, flinging aside her rosary.

The new prioress (Esther Darmahkasih) brings the light of faith informed by steadfast leadership in the face of crisis. She would have her sisters avoid martyrdom, but never wavers as they journey toward it. Her rallying aria in the prison is stunning, tender yet firm.

The true guide of the nuns is Mother Marie (Lauren Cornwell). She is the one who brings the sisters together in a vow of martyrdom.

Blanche joins them in that vow only to recoil.

In the end, she realizes the only way to overcome what she fears is to confront it, and finds in the end the resolution she has been seeking.

The orchestra, directed by Emily Freeman Brown, is heavy on the winds. The score uses brass chorales to undergird professions of faith, laced through with dissonance. A particularly lovely clarinet melody floats through a couple scenes, speaking with unspoken eloquence. Percussion startles at points, punctuating the action.

The conflict plays out on a set of large, dark geometric shapes that has the nuns almost glowing as they move about stage.

The production, directed by guest Nicholas Wuehrmann, expands the scope of the drama by evoking 20th and 21st century terror to express the timelessness of collective violence. In each scene the time setting shifts forward, bringing on Nazis, ending with terrorists and an evocation of the killing of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. “Je Suis Charlie” is emblazoned behind the steps leading to the guillotine.

This makes for an ideological mess. The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo are nothing if not children of the French Revolution, especially its anti-clerical beliefs.

But listeners do not go to opera for philosophical clarity. They go for spectacle, melody and music fueled by passion. BGSU’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” delivers on all fronts.