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School of Music


Choral

2017-2018 Choral Grad Students

 

Robert Arcovio

Robert L. Arcovio

Robert L. Arcovio is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree in choral conducting at USC. He received a Bachelor of Music with emphasis in music education from USC in 2012. He is the choral director at Hand Middle School in Columbia where, in addition to teaching three levels of chorus, he directs the Hand Chamber Choir, an auditioned ensemble that meets once a week after school. Under his direction, the Chamber Choir has earned a superior rating at the Carowinds Festival of Music, and his students have participated in the South Carolina ACDA Middle School/Jr. High Honor Choir. He sponsors a club to get young men interested in singing, as well as the Hand Middle School Chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, which participates in service activities in the community throughout the year. Robert is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association for Music Educators, and he regularly attends state, regional and national conferences. In addition to teaching, he works as a section leader at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Irmo, SC, and sings in the USC Men’s Chorus under the direction of Dr. Alicia Walker.

Melanie Buckner

Melanie Buckner

Melanie Buckner is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting at the University of South Carolina. She holds a Master of Music in vocal performance and a Bachelor of Arts in music from Mercer University. She is both an active singer and collaborative pianist. Beyond performing, she has a passion for teaching and maintains a private studio for voice and piano students. Most recently Melanie was the interim minister of music at First Baptist Church of Augusta. Prior to moving to Augusta in 2013 she was on the music faculty at Middle Georgia State College and Mercer University, serving as voice teacher, collaborative pianist and classroom instructor. She has been a member of Coro Vocati, an Atlanta-based professional chamber choir under the direction of John Dickson, as well as music director at other churches in the middle Georgia area. 

Emily Williams Burch

Emily Williams Burch

Emily Williams Burch is pursing the Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from USC. She holds a Masters of Music Education from Florida State University, where she assisted with the Capital Children’s Choir, and a Bachelor of Music Education from Louisiana State University, where she graduated magna cum laude. Emily is the founder and artistic director of RISE Chorales, a community choir organization with a mission of experiencing musical artistry, education, and personal growth through the choral arts and community experiences. Prior to that, she served on the podium as Director of Education and Music for the Savannah Children’s Choir for nine years and worked as Department Chair/General Music/Piano Teacher at Garrison School of Visual and Performing Arts. She continues to have the privilege of traveling the country as a Teacher Trainer and Choral Curriculum Developer for Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music, an interactive K-8 music curriculum. Additionally, she serves as an Artistic Adviser for Perform International, where she helps organizations create and realize their dreams on tours in the US and abroad. Choirs under Mrs. Burch’s direction choirs have performed regionally, nationally, and internationally. Mrs. Burch has volunteered in various roles within the American Choral Directors Association, including Repertoire & Resources Chair for Children’s and Youth Community Choirs for the Southern Region.  She enjoys visiting different states and working as a clinician for both treble and middle school honor choirs.

Lindsey Cope

Lindsey Cope

Lindsey Cope graduated from Mars Hill College, NC, in 2002 with a Bachelor of Music in education/choral emphasis, graduating magna cum laude. She graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA and earned her Master in Music Theory and a Master in Choral Conducting, while serving as a graduate teaching assistant in theory. Lindsey taught K-6 in public school for 10 years, earning her National Boards teaching certification in 2010, and was nominated Teacher of the Year in 2011. Lindsey is excited to begin her D.M.A. at University of South Carolina and looks forward to teaching theory and ear training courses.

Dwight Dockery

Dwight Dockery

Dwight Dockery is currently pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting at USC. Previously, he worked as conductor of the Concert Choir at Greenville Choral Society (NC), director of choral activities at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, NC, and director of music at First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Smithfield, NC. Additionally, he served as academic advisor and instructor of music for the School of Music at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, from 2011-2016. A native of Tennessee, Dwight earned the Bachelor of Music degree in music theory and composition from Maryville College in Maryville, TN, before moving to Greenville, NC, to earn the Master of Music degree in choral conducting at East Carolina. He has continued studies through various summer workshops and festivals at the Eastman School of Music, Georgia State University and East Carolina University. His primary conducting teachers include Larry Wyatt, Daniel Bara, Stacey Murphy Wilner and Larry Smithee. Also an active composer, he has had works performed by soloists and groups around the country. 

Augusto (Augie) Gil

Augusto (Augie) Gil

Augusto (Augie) Gil is pursuing a Master of Music degree in choral conducting at USC. Augie is a graduate of Carson-Newman University where he graduated cum laude with a B.M. and certification in K-12 music education with double emphases in voice and piano. At Carson-Newman, Augie was the recipient of the W.D. Hudgins Leadership Award and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for leadership and service to humanity. He served as president of the Alpha Gamma chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity for which he organized many successful fundraisers and musical events, and now serves as National Chair of Fraternity Education. Augie was also instrumental in facilitating the STEP-Up Student Leadership program initiative and the development and leadership for the LGBT sensitivity and awareness program, Safespace. He was the vocal coach for many ensembles in Knoxville, TN, including Kids In America Show Choir, which was selected to perform at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta (2014) and at Disneyworld in Orlando (2014-16). Augie is an avid performer, collaborative pianist and arranger and is a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honors Society and the American Choral Directors Association. He currently serves as the director of music and worship at Carolinas Cornerstone Church of Fort Mill. 

Gerald Gurss

Gerald Gurss

Gerald Gurss currently serves as the artistic director for One Voice Chorus (Charlotte, NC). Gerald earned a Bachelor of Music from Emporia State University and a Master of Music from Miami University where he served as the assistant director of the MU Men’s Glee Club. Additionally, Gerald prepared the chorus for the Cincinnati Ballet’s production of Mendelssohn’s "Midsummer Night’s Dream." In addition to his academic achievements, he is a performer, teacher and composer. He performed leading operatic roles at the university level, including Fenton in "Falstaff," Camille in "The Merry Widow," and Frederick in "Pirates of Penzance." After academia, Gerald led a successful teaching career where he taught grades 4-12 choral music for the Leavenworth Catholic Schools. Studies abroad have taken him to Germany, Austria, India and Italy. Recently, Gurss has focused his energy in choral conducting and composition. Choruses throughout the United States have performed his works, and two original compositions were featured at the international GALA choral festival in Denver, CO, in 2012. His works have been commissioned by Sine Nomine (Denver, CO), The New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus, Providence United Methodist Church (Charlotte, NC), 1st Baptist Church of Wadesboro (NC), and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte. In 2014 Gerald worked with homeless LGBT youth from the Carolinas to produce a documentary called, "HOME." With "HOME," came the original work, “Jonathan’s Song,” based on the struggles of a specific youth. Most recently, Gerald has been accepted to the D.M.A. program in choral conducting at the University of South Carolina where he will study with Dr. Larry Wyatt.

Jonathan Hall

Jonathan Hall

Jonathan Hall is pursuing a D.M.A. in choral conducting at USC. He holds the Master of Music degree in choral conducting, and the Bachelor of Music Education degree in choral music from Winthrop University. Jonathan is the choral director at Rock Hill High School (RHHS), and serves as the director of music ministries at Woodland United Methodist Church in Rock Hill. RHHS chorus students under Jonathan's tutelage ranked first in the state for the AAAA SC Choral Festival in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, students participated in the SC All State Chorus, SC Solo and Ensemble Festival, SC ACDA Honor Choirs, Southern Division and National ACDA Honor Choirs. In 2012 he earned his National Board Certification in Music for Early Adolescence/Young Adulthood. He is on the leadership team for South Carolina ACDA serving as the treasurer and is an active member of SCMEA where he held the office of All State Weekend Coordinator for the SC All State Chorus. Jonathan co-presented a collegiate session ''Incorporating Composition in the Secondary Classroom'' at the Southern Division MENC Conference, has led reading sessions for SCMEA Choral Division, and presented interest sessions at the SC ACDA Fall Conference. He lives in Rock Hill, SC, with his wife Jessica and dog Heidi.

Jamie Hawkins

Jamie Hawkins

Jamie Hawkins is in his 10th year as choral director at Southwood Academy of the Arts in Anderson, SC. During his teaching career, he has been selected as teacher of the year and held memberships in SCMEA, ACDA and NATS. Jamie's students have been involved in All-State Chorus, ACDA Honors Choir, and have been consistent in earnings of superior ratings at State Festival, Disney World and Carowinds. Jamie's Chamber Choir students were selected to perform onstage at the Peace Center in 2015 with the rock band, Foreigner. Jamie's students were invited and performed at the SC School Boards Association Annual Convention in Hilton Head, SC, performed John Rutter's Requiem at Carnegie Hall, and will perform Beethoven's Choral Fantasy in 2017, in which Jamie will perform the piano. Jamie is also the music director at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Anderson, SC. He is a graduate of Anderson University with a bachelor's degree in music education, majoring in piano and voice, where he was a winner of Anderson University's Concerto-Aria competition. After graduation from Anderson University, Jamie attended Clemson University, where he received a master's in educational administration. 

Chien-Yi “Jack” Li

Chien-Yi “Jack” Li 

Chien-Yi “Jack” Li is a graduate student in the D.M.A. program of choral conducting. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in church music with double majors in piano and flute performance at Tainan Theology College and Seminary, Taiwan. He studied piano performance from 2009 to 2011 and choral conducting from 2011 to 2014, and obtained two Master of Music degrees in Mississippi College. Being a classically trained pianist and capable of improvising a variety of music styles, Jack also occasionally composed sacred choral pieces for Chinese church. A Norwegian choral conductor who repeatedly invited him to participate at the Taiwan International Choral Festival first influenced him. Before entering the Doctor of Musical Arts program at USC Dr. James Meaders taught him conducting skills and many new conducting concepts. His goal is to be a professional choral conductor and choral educator with effective rehearsal techniques and leadership.

Thomas Matrone

Thomas Matrone

Thomas Matrone presently holds the position of chairman of  the music department and director of choral studies at Evangel University where he conducts the Evangel University Chorale and teaches choral conducting, choral materials, church music history, hymnology and leadership in worship (church music) studies. Thomas is also the artistic director for the Springfield Mid America Singers since September 2011. In his appointment he has elevated the singers with his organizational skills and wealth of conducting and educational experience. He has endeavored to infuse the choral art within the community-at-large for the purpose of choral music awareness and education. Thomas has also been a worship arts director for the past 36 years with the Assemblies of God Fellowship where he has envisioned bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary worship formats in church music. In collaboration with this post, he is a consultant to the national leadership resource department of the Assemblies of God as a liaison to music pastors and district music directors throughout the U.S. He has been guest conductor and seminar speaker at the local level as well as national and international platforms in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Asia and Europe. A graduate of Northwest College (B.A., Biblical studies) and Drake University (Master of Music, choral conducting), Thomas is presently a doctoral candidate in choral conducting at the University of South Carolina.

Mark Daniel Merritt

Mark Daniel Merritt

Mark Daniel Merritt is a choral director and an ASCAP composer and arranger. The recipient of numerous commissions, Mark received a major commission in 2007 funded by the Kentucky Arts Council and the Catlettsburg, Kentucky Leadership Club, to compose the score to the musical play "River Dreams," which had its world premiere that year in Ashland, Kentucky. From 2002 to 2012, Merritt was associate director and then director of VOCE Choral Ensemble, an auditioned choral group in Mount Airy, NC, that he helped to found. From 2012 to 2015, he was the minister of music at Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in San Antonio, Texas, where he greatly expanded the quality and size of the music ministry as the church moved from “mission” to “parish” status. Groups under Mark's direction have performed his music at the North Carolina Music Educators Conference, the Biltmore Estate, historic Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, VA, and the Texas Collegiate Women’s Choir Festival. He completed a Master of Music degree in choral music under Dr. John Silantien at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting at USC.

Kirstina Rasmussen Collins

Kirstina Rasmussen Collins

Choral conductor, composer and educator, Kirstina Rasmussen Collins grew up in the Midwest singing in school choirs and writing pop songs. She moved to Los Angeles to study music composition at University of Southern California’s School of Music. Studying with Morten Lauridsen, Kirstina further discovered her love for writing for the voice, while having transformative experiences singing with the USC Chamber Singers. Following her Bachelors of Music, Kirstina followed her passion for choral music to Boston University, where she studied Choral Conducting with Ann Howard Jones, receiving her Masters in Music degree. Kirstina had the privilege to teach for a year as a visiting instructor at Luther College, working with Tim Peter and the late Weston Noble, from whom she learned much about the communal impact of choral music.  She carried this understanding to later teaching environments:  Proctor Academy (a college prep boarding school) and Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, Newport Center United Methodist Church back in California, and two West Los Angeles elementary schools, before returning to graduate work at the University of Southern California. After returning to school, she also directed a Los Angeles based women’s choir, the Ebell Chorale, and taught choir and music appreciation courses at Ezra University, a small bible school in LA. Through the years, Kirstina has had commissions, premieres and performances of her choral works: by the Harvard Glee Club, San Francisco Choral Society, and Peninsula Women’s Chorus, among other ensembles.  As a vocalist, she enjoyed singing in the Tanglewood Symphony Chorus under Jon Oliver, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale under Grant Gershon. Kirstina is now pursuing a DMA in Choral Conducting at the University of South Carolina, after transferring from the DMA program at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles.  She is eager to learn more about her craft, teach theory and ear training, and eventually teach music and choir at the collegiate level full-time.

Donna Schaffer

Donna Schaffer 

Donna Schaffer is an active singer and accomplished pianist. She has served as music director for the Shreveport Opera and the Natchez Music Festival and stage director for Manhattan Lyric Opera. She was thrilled to join Opera Fresca in Mendocino, CA, as music director for their production of "Pagliacci." In 2012-2013, Donna served as a regional conductor for the 105 Voices of History National Choir based in Washington D.C. She is currently serving as director of choral activities and vocal instructor at Alcorn State University in Lorman, MS. Donna is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting at USC under the tutelage of Dr. Larry Wyatt. Her stage roles include: Susan in "Big, the Musical" with Artful Living Productions, Musetta in Puccini's "La Bohéme" with the Opera Theatre of Connecticut, Pamina in Mozart's "Die Zauberfløte," Madame Silverpeal in Mozart's "Impressario" with Crystal Opera, Rosina in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" with Opera New England, Adina in Donizetti's "Elixir of Love," Susannah in Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro," Gretel in Humperdinck's "Hånsel and Gretel" with New York Opera Forum, La Ciesca in Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi," the Shepherd Boy in Puccini's "Tosca," Ida in "Die Fledermaus"  with the Natchez Music Festival in Mississippi, and Gianetta in "Elixir of Love" with Manhattan Lyric Opera of New York for their tour in Boca Raton, FL. Donna has appeared as soprano soloist with the New York City Choral Society in Händel's "Messiah," the Manchester Symphony and Chorale and the Northeast Concert Choir in Beethoven's Mass in C, and the Middletown, CT, Chorale in Mozart's Mass in C minor. She has made numerous recital appearances throughout the country including an appearance for the International Dickens Society, RI, and the American Women Composer's Society in NY. She enjoys playing throughout the southeast with her band, The Court Jesters. Donna holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Michigan and a Master of Music from the University of Connecticut. She has served on the faculty at the University of Connecticut, the Ethel Walker School and the Young People's Institute. Donna is the founder of Summit Studios, a performing arts studio serving over 700 clients per week in Manchester, Connecticut. 

Jantsen Touchstone

Jantsen Touchstone

Jantsen Touchstone is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting at the University of South Carolina. He received the Bachelor of Music in church music, Bachelor of Music Education, and Master of Music in choral conducting from Mississippi College where he worked as a graduate assistant under Dr. Jamie Meaders. He has most recently served as an elementary music teacher at Madison Ridgeland Academy and Worship Pastor at Hinds Independent Methodist Church. As a choral conductor, he worked with the Hinds Independent Methodist Church choir since 2010, the MRA Honor Choir and Chapel Singers since 2014, and was co-conductor of the MC Men’s Glee ensemble for the 2012–2013 academic year. Jantsen is an active vocalist and was a tenor soloist in the Mississippi College Honor’s Recital in ‘09. He has also performed in two musicals at Mississippi College including “Little Women” (John Brooke) and “The Secret Garden” (Dickon). He was also an active chorister of the Mississippi College Singers, Mixed Company (a vocal jazz ensemble), and Men’s Glee. He is the recipient of the Juliette Burnette Memorial Scholarship for church music, 2010. Jantsen is a member of the American Choral Director’s Association, National Association for Music Educators, and the Mississippi Music Educators’ Association. He and his wife Amy live in Columbia, South Carolina with their two Boston terriers, Ollie and Thea.