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Spark: Music Leadership at Carolina – A Year in Review

Providing Unique Educational Opportunities

Throughout the academic year, Spark created events to help School of Music students learn life and professional skills, take a mental break and engage with fellow students, faculty and staff.

Prof. Hassan Anderson leads students through an interactive ProSkills workshop about teaching artistry in February 2023.ProSkills Workshops

Spark’s ProSkills interactive professional development workshops build community and develop tools for students to thrive. Spark provided over 200 free meals to students at this lunchtime series. This year’s topics included:

  • Time & Stress Management Strategies with Dr. Alexandria Carrico
  • Productive Practice Techniques with Dr. Omar Roy
  • Register Like a Pro: Tips & Tricks with Your Academic Advisor with Jillian Bigony
  • Social Media in the Music Industry with Samantha Bergold
  • Expanding the Performing Artist Toolbox: An Introduction to Teaching Artistry Parts I, II & III with Professor Hassan Anderson
  • How to Fail: Building Resiliency with Danica Leapheart
  • Your Brain is NOT a Notes App! with Jeff Francis
  • Your Wish is Granted!: Fundraising and Park Grants Demystified with Dr. Audra Vaz & Spark GAs
  • Get the Job!: LinkedIn, Resumes and Interview Tips with Sam Bergold, Jennifer Mitchell & Caroline Earp
  • Grad Edition: How to Form an Ensemble with Prof. Claire Bryant

PIctured above: Professor Hassan Anderson leads students through an interactive ProSkills workshop about teaching artistry in February 2023.

Wellness Wednesdays

During Wellness Wednesdays, students are encouraged to care for their mental, social, and physical well-being. Students benefited from four valuable presentations this year: 

  • Mindful Journaling/Sketching with Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell
  • Mental Health & Music: Mindfulness for Musicians with Dr. Jennifer Parker-Harley
  • Performance Anxiety with Dr. Armen Shaomian
  • Injuries in Music Panel Discussion with Dr. Tina Stallard, Dr. Clifford Leaman, Dr. Omar Roy and graduate students Miguel Calleja and Eunice Koh led by Alejandra Vega Roque
Up Close & Personal Interviews

Zuill Bailey chats with USC String Students Ellis McLarty and Julia Jacobsen in an Up Close & Personal Interview in October 2022. In this year’s intimate Up Close & Personal interviews, students explored ideas and asked questions with:

  • Zuill Bailey (with interview led by Ellis McLarty and Julia Jacobsen)
  • Dietlinde Maazel (with interview led by Prof. Rachel Calloway)

Pictured: Zuill Bailey chats with USC String Students Ellis McLarty and Julia Jacobsen in an Up Close & Personal Interview in October 2022.

Guest Artist Residencies

 School of Music students connected with many master artists during Spark’s Guest Artist Residencies this year which included:

  • Jocelyn Hagen and Timothy Takach with USC Choirs
  • Dietlinde Maazel with USC Voice Department
  • Dr. Annie Jeng with USC Piano Pedagogy
  • HUB New Music with Southern Exposure New Music Series
  • Andy Akiho with Southern Exposure New Music Series
  • Mike Brofman from Brooklyn Art Song Society with USC Voice Department
  • Curtis Stewart with USC Guitar Studio
  • Brad Balliett with The Collective and USC Community Engagement
  • Jared James Nichols with Music Industry Studies
  • Mimi Worrell with USC Voice Department
  • Jessica Tong with USC Violin Studio

Supporting Ideas and Exploration

Spark awarded over $17,000 to students during the 2022-23 academic year. This vital funding helped support 40 innovative projects and invaluable opportunities for students. Check out each of our Spark grant recipients:

Spark Mini Grants

Saxophone students "hang" during North American Saxophone Alliance 2023 conference.Spark Mini-Grants helped students like the USC Saxophone Studio (pictured here) — who attended the North American Saxophone Alliance Conference in March/April 2023 — explore and pursue their interests. See a full list of mini-grant award recipients here.

Community Impact Projects
Summer Study Grants
  • James Allen – Chautauqua Opera Conservatory
  • Jordan Bartow – Cortona Sessions for New Music
  • Emily Beddingfield – Cortona Session for New Music
  • LaDejia Bittle – Chautauqua Opera Conservatory
  • Ellis Carroll – Classic Lyric Arts
  • Nico Caruso – Varna International Music Academy
  • Meghan Cluskey – Varna International Music Academy
  • Bennett Donovan – Modern Band Summit
  • Alex Doolittle – Carolina Crown
  • Zhenyu Gao – Saarburg International Music Festival and School
  • Tiaryca Green – Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival
  • Jie He – Saarburg International Music Festival and School
  • Anna Klausi – Chautauqua Opera Conservatory
  • Claire Martin – USC Global Classroom
  • Keri McCourt – Phantom Regiment
  • Nicole Moore – Cortona Sessions for New Music
  • Daniel Myers – Cortona Sessions for New Music
  • Cody Ray – Michigan State University Conducting Symposium
  • Veronica Rice - Harrower Summer Opera Workshop
  • Briona Robinson – Harrower Summer Opera
  • Miguel Calleja Rodriguez – Cortona Sessions for New Music
  • Justin Schwartz – Mostly Modern Festival
  • Emma Schwertfuehrer – Varna International Music Academy
  • DeShawn Stevens – International Performing Arts Institute
  • Ben Stone – Phantom Regiment  
  • Julie Welch – BWS German Lingua
  • Holly Workman – Cortona Sessions for New Music 
Community Impact Grants for Faculty and Staff
  • Dr. Gail Barnes – USC String Project Golden Anniversary
  • Prof. Dominic Armstrong – Master Class Series
  • Prof. Rachel Calloway – The USC-Castleton Experience
  • Dr. Alicia Walker – Choral Conducting Residency with Dr. John Dickson
  • Dr. Michael Harley – Ten Thousand Birds in Shenandoah National Park
  • Prof. Jeremy Polley – Hands on Harmonies
  • Dr. Wendy Valerio – Music, You, Creativity & Community + The Art of Improvisation – Opening Meal 

Jazz Girls Day Upstate, 2022PIctured: One of the 2022 Community Impact Grant for Faculty and Staff winners Dr. Colleen Clark leads Jazz Girls Day at the Clemon’s Fine Arts Center in November 2022 with fellow USC faculty and students.

 In addition to project funding, Spark was hard at work this year connecting students with resources and opportunities. The Lending Library fulfilled over 80 requests that provided students with self-tape, event, and class project support. The Gig Office was revamped this year, connecting even more School of Music students to local, paid musical opportunities. In September, Spark offered Subsidized Professional Headshots by photographer Katherine Escobar to all School of Music students. Each participating student received two beautiful, edited headshots for only $20. 

Spark strongly invested in the professional development of a handful of exceptional student interns which held paid positions with Spark: Meredith Howell (Development), Julia Jacobsen (Marketing), Ellis Carroll (Spark & Development), Lisa Ortuno (Spark), and Olivia Ward (Spark). These interns showed exceptional growth throughout the year, and each of our graduates secured a job in arts adjacent fields following their internships. Congratulations to all!

Building Community

 Spark eventsSpark programmed numerous events throughout the year to foster community and uplift the school’s ecosystem like the annual Chill Out - Pelican’s Sno Cones Back to School Bash and 2022’s inaugural Halloween Door Decorating Contest and Trick-or-Treat Grab & Go. 

This year, Stress Less Finals Week events included Coffee & Donuts in the Music Library, Grab & Go Snack Stations, De-Stress Zen Zones, Movie & Sitcom Marathons in the Music Library, and Holidays Around the World Educational Instagram Series. On Fur Day during the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters, we hosted 19 pups and cats! This de-stress event is always a big hit among students and faculty/staff alike, and this year was no different.

In November, Spark hosted the Graduate Student Mid-Day Happy Hour for over 40 graduate students. With lunch catered by Tio’s, these graduate students enjoyed a relaxing, low-pressure opportunity to connect with colleagues and advisors. Throughout the year, Spark co-hosted four Community Music Circles led by Dr. Wendy Valerio. 

 The Spark Spotify Board, developed by student Lucy Ku, launched this year! This community engagement board featured original playlists by 34 USC Music students, faculty and staff, and allowed the SOM community to get to know one another in new and fun ways. Check out the playlists on our Spotify Channel.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.