Jazz musician GT Allen came to campus for a residency in April 2022.
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From its first class of six in 2019, the Master of Music program at Carthage has grown to more than 30 students per year. Candidates have come from many U.S. states, China, and Ukraine to study music theatre vocal pedagogy.

“Starting a new, highly specialized graduate program is always a challenge,” says program director Corinne Ness, a professor of music and dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities. “The COVID pandemic was not ideal in the first year of our program, but there were some benefits that we couldn’t have expected.”

One of those pleasant surprises? As stages went silent during the lockdown, experienced performers were ready to transition to teaching, and many chose to pursue their master’s degrees at Carthage.

“I use everything I learned at Carthage in my current position,” says Prof. Warren, whose acting bonafides include roughly 150 performances of “Aladdin” on Broadway.

While the first four M.M. graduating classes have branched out in many directions, seven of the alumni notably teach full time at large universities or conservatory-style programs — enhancing the quality of music theatre faculty all over, but also diversifying it.

That’s challenging enough in a field in which more than two-thirds of professional contracts go to white performers, according to the Actor’s Equity Association. An advanced degree — a necessity to teach at the college or university level — adds a financial barrier.

To shrink that obstacle, Carthage began offering two diversity fellowships funded by longtime Carthage supporters Kim and Patrick ’85 Anderson. One pays tribute to the late Rev. Kara Baylor, who served as campus pastor for nine years. The other honors Eduardo Garcia- Novelli, who directed the Carthage Choir from 2008 to 2021.

Deonte Warren Deonte Warren One of the first recipients of the Kara Baylor Diversity Fellowship for Graduate Music Theatre, Deonte Warren, M.M. ’21, is now an assistant professor and coordinator of musical theatre at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.

“I use everything I learned at Carthage in my current position,” says Prof. Warren, whose acting bonafides include roughly 150 performances of “Aladdin” on Broadway.

Originally visiting the campus to offer a master class, G. Thomas “GT” Allen, M.M. ’23, had recently won the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Jazz Competition. Awarded the Eduardo Garcia-Novelli Diversity Fellowship, he decided to enroll in the Carthage graduate program as a student.

G. Thomas Allen G. Thomas Allen Now, Prof. Allen teaches jazz voice and directs the HU Jazz Singers at Howard University in Washington. He’s scheduled to return to Carthage on Feb. 21 as a featured performer.

Master’s candidates who hold assistantships receive additional financial support for teaching and mentoring students in the College’s Bachelor of Music program.

“Part of our goal was to have a graduate program that would enrich the undergraduate experience, rather than take away opportunities,” says Prof. Ness.

Brianna Borger Brianna Borger Connections and knowledge as an established Chicago performer with national touring credits made Brianna Borger, M.M. ’22, an excellent resource for Carthage seniors as they prepared for the audition circuit. Through that assistantship, she built the confidence to “help students make meaningful progress” as a professor at Northwestern University.

Tommy Novak Tommy Novak Making progress is what it’s all about for the graduate students, too — and not just as educators. Before securing a faculty position at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Thomas Novak ’11, M.M. ’20, won a key role in “Fiddler On The Roof” at Lyric Opera Chicago thanks to the intense master’s focus on vocal training.

A second Master of Music track, offering a broader focus in music pedagogy, began last year. If it matches the early success of the music theatre track, Carthage could have talent gushing out of multiple pipelines.

“It’s been exciting to see the students thrive,” says Prof. Ness. “They were thriving before they got here, but what a joy it has been to be part of their journey and growth. They have created this fabulous community of teachers who support one another and open a pathway for the next class of graduates.”

Learn more about graduate programs in music at Carthage


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