Notable Alumni

The alumni listed here are featured in the book, 100 Years of Music-Making at Mizzou: Facts and Memories of the Department/ School of Music at the University of Missouri from 1917-2017, written by Dr. Michael J. Budds.

Jason Forbach, B.M. 2000
Broadway Actor / Singer

Career actor and singer since 2006; Broadway debut in 2014 as Enjolras in the Tony-nominated revival of Les Miserables; appearances as a guest educator at New York University, Sam Houston University, University of Texas, Westover School, Avila College, Johnson County Community College, DePaul University, University of Washington, Cornish School of the Arts, University of Missouri, and University of Connecticut; performances with the Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Boston, and Central City Opera in Colorado; placement in New Works of Merit Playwriting Competition with his play Heathen Hill.

Alicia Miles Olatuja, B.A. 2005
Professional Jazz / Opera Singer

Featured soloist with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration; collaboration with Grammy Award winning musician Billy Childs on Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro tour (2014); appearances as a performing artist at the Charlie Parker Festival and the BRIC JazzFest.

Howard Helvey, B.M. 1990

Current choirmaster, Calvary Episcopal Church; Co-founder and conductor of the Cincinnati Fusion Ensemble (2013-); Editor for music publishing imprint H.W. Grey (2016); internationally recognized composer and arranger with pieces performed and recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Kings College (Cambridge) Choir, The BBC Singers, and others; collaborator, performer in Steinbach/Helvey Duo with Richard Steinbach (1997-2012).

Linda Porter Thornton, M.Ed. 1993, Ph.D. 1998

Music professor, SUNY-Fredonia (1998-2003); Professor of Music Education, Penn State University (2003-); “Partners In Music” collaboration recognized in 2015 with Penn State’s Community Engagement and Scholarship Award and the College Music Society’s Robby D. Gunstream Education Music Award; chair-elect for the Society for Music Teacher Education; research coordinator for the eastern division conference of the National Association for Music Education; North American review editor for Research in Music Education; reviewer for the Journal of Teacher Education and Educators; former adviser for the Music Educators Journal; chair for the Music Teacher Education Special Research Interest Group within NAfME; research chair and strategic planning committee member for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA); author of articles in journals including The Bulletin for the Council for Research in Music Education, Journal of Music Teacher Education, and Musicianship: Composing in Band and Orchestra.

Caroline Worra, M.M. 1993
Professional Opera Singer

Performed with over eighty opera companies including The Metropolitan Opera, The Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Boston Lyric Opera; international opera performances in Hong Kong, Sicily, Brazil, and Ireland; recitals in Carnegie Hall (2006, 2011, 2012, 2016); recipient of the Shoshana Foundation/Richard F. Gold Career Grant; Humanitarian Grant Award Recipient (2019);  current voice instructor at the Janiec Opera Company and at the Brevard Music Center's Summer Music Festival; recorded the part of Jenny in The Mines of Sulfur, the 2009 Grammy Nominated Album from The Glimmerglass Opera; University of Missouri College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumna Award (2014).

John Toenjes, M.M. 1995

Current Professor and Undergraduate Director of dance, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign (2001-); past President of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance; past member of the University of Missouri’s Advanced Technology Center as Composer and Sound Designer of multimedia programs, such as the national award-winning pediatric asthma program IMPACT Asthma–Kids (1994); international appearances as conference presenter and lecturer; published articles in The Journal of Dance Education and International Guild of Musicians in Dance Journal; established the Laboratory for Audience Interactive Technologies (LAIT); performance appearances with the San Francisco Symphony, the Baroque Arts Ensemble, and his improvisation group, Crossing Vistas.

ChengGang Yang, M.M. 1996
Educator, International Performer

Current Vice Chair and Professor of Piano, Sichuan Conservatory of Music; active clinician and adjudicator, including master classes in China, Hong Kong, Germany, and the United States; awarded the prestigious YAMAHA Teaching Award (2013); Excellent Teacher Award of Kayserburg National Piano Competition (2013); Sichuan Conservatory Excellent Teacher (2012-2014).

Christopher Jewell, B.M. 1999
Professional Bassoonist and Educator

Current Assistant Principal Bassoonist for the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra (2000-); adjunct faculty at George Mason University; lecturer in bassoon at The Catholic University of America; regular performer with the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, Post Classical Ensemble, Wolf Trap Opera Company, and the Chesapeake Chamber Orchestra; has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Symphony, New World Symphony, and Aspen Festival and Chamber Orchestras; performances as a soloist in the American Youth Symphonic Orchestra; served as a judge for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Woodwinds Competition; masterclass educator at James Madison University, the University of Missouri, and at the Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony in Caracas, Venezuela; woodwind coach for the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras and at Bishop Ireton High School; chamber music performer at Corcoran Gallery of Art, Georgetown University’s Friday Music Series, and the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.

Joseph Rackers, B.S. Ed. 1999
Professional pianist, Educator

Current professor of piano, Eastman School of Music and adjunct professor of piano, University of South Carolina; international performer in Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and extensively throughout the United States; recording artist for MSR Classics, Navona, Centaur, Equilibrium, and Beauport Classics labels; serves as artist faculty for the Perugia International Music Festival in Italy, Burgos International Music Festival in Spain, Texas State International Piano Festival, and Southeastern Piano Festival in the United States; performer in Lomazov/Rackers Piano Duo; honored by the South Carolina House of Representatives and South Carolina State Senate for his personal contribution to the arts in South Carolina and leadership of the Southeastern Piano Festival; has given masterclasses at Indiana University, University of Michigan, Boston University, Gina Bachauer International Piano Festival, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt, and at conservatories and music festivals across Europe, China, and South Korea;

Áureo DeFreitas, B.M. 1989
Educator, Conductor

Founder and conductor for the Orquestra de Violoncelistas da Amazônia [Amazon Cello Choir] (1998); Founder and Director of the Center for Graduate Research at the Federal University of Pará, Brazil (centered on research about developmental disorders and learning disabilities in music).

Sheryl Crow, B.S.Ed. 1984
Professional Popular Singer / Songwriter

Elementary music educator, Fenton, Missouri (1986-1987); backing vocalist for Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Buffet, and others; nine-time Grammy Award winner, singer, songwriter, and popular performing artist.

Gregory Fuller, M.M. 1986, Ph.D. 2000
Director, Choir Conductor

Director of choral activities, University of Southern Mississippi (2000-)

C. Earl Coleman Jr., B.S.Ed. 1970, M.M. (Voice) 1976, M.M. (Violin) 1980
Educator, Administrator, Performing Violinist

William and Isabelle Curry Eminent Faculty Scholar Chair in Voice at Columbus State University; former dean of the School of Music, University of Michigan; ”Master Teacher" recognition by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (2010); first violinist with the Rollins String Quartet; Principal Second Violin of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, the North Arkansas Symphony, and the Tupelo Symphony; former National Board Member for NATS and Regional Governor for the Great Lakes Region of NATS; performed as soloist under noted maestros Leonard Bernstein, George Solti, Robert Shaw, Gustav Meier, Boris Goldovsky, Margaret Hillis, Edward Murphy, Gregg Smith, Carl Topilow, Franz Krager, and John Ruetter; University of Missouri College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumnus Award (2004).

Mike Metheny, B.S.Ed. 1971
Professional Jazz Musician, Educator, Philanthropist

Co-founder and chairman, Metheny Music Foundation (2007-); published Old Friends Are the Best Friends: The Letters of John McKee and Mike Metheny (2016); U.S. Army Field Band (1971-1974); Adjunct Lecturer and Assistant to the Head of the Trumpet Department at the Berklee College of Music (1976-1983); named "Outstanding Brass Player" by the Boston Music Awards (1988).

James Lester “Jim” Widner, B.S.Ed. 1971
Professional Jazz Musician, Educator

Bandleader for the Jim Widner Big Band (1977-); performer, Lionel Hampton and Montreaux Jazz Festivals; concert appearances with Clark Terry, Marilyn Maye, Lou Marini, Mulgrew Miller, Louie Bellson, Randy Brecker, Bill Watrous, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and appearance before former President Bill Clinton; director of Jazz Studies, The University of Missouri-St. Louis (2003-2019); Downbeat Magazine Achievement Award for work in jazz education (2009); inducted into the Lebanon, Missouri Wall of Honor (2011); recognized as a St. Louis Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association (2018).

Charles T. Menghini, B.S.Ed. 1976
Director of University Bands, Administrator, Professional Trumpet Performer

Current President Emeritus, Vandercook College of Music; President and Director of Bands at Vandercook College of Music (2004-2017); co-author, Essential Elements 2000 Band Method (2000); member of the board of advisors, The Instrumentalist;  editor, InTune Monthly and School Band and Orchestra; performer, lead trumpet, the Kansas City Chiefs Professional Football Band; director for bands that performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade, Orange Bowl Parade, and XV Olympic Winter Games; current trumpeter, City Club of Chicago.

Margaret Merrion, M.Ed. 1976, Ph.D. 1979
Educator, Administrator

Coordinator of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, School of Music, University of Northern Iowa (1981-1986); appointed Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Dean of the College of Music, Ball State University (1986-1999); Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Western Michigan University (1999-2013); author or co-author of six books, two monographs, four book chapters, and thirty-seven articles; served two terms on the Board of Directors and one term as President of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans; member of the Board of Directors of Imagining America; served as national chair for research strategy group of the Music Educators Research Council; participated as consultant and evaluator for Higher Learning Commission.

Charles K. Smith, M.Ed. 1963
Director, Educator

Director of Choral Activities, Michigan State University (Professor Emeritus); Former Associate Conductor, University of Texas at Austin.

Josephine Wright, B.M. 1963, M.A. (Musicology) 1967
Musicologist, Educator, Internationally Recognized Scholar

Current advisor for the revised Grove Dictionary of American Music published by Oxford University Press; Member of inaugural Editorial Board for Lever Press (2016); Society for American Music Lifetime Achievement Award (2015); Former Editor - American Music, (first female appointed editor for this society, first Black American appointed to such a position by a national musicological organization in the United States, 1994-1997); Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Missouri (1999); Board of Directors of the American Musicological Society; Current member in The Society for American Music, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and Pi Kappa Lambda Upsilon Chapter; named to the national artistic directorate of The American Classical Music Hall of Fame and Museum of Cincinnati (1997); The Clark Fund Award; The Henry Luce Award (Distinguished Scholarship); co-authored African-American Traditions in Song, Sermon, Tale, and Dance, 1600s-1920 (1990) and Images: Iconography of Music in African-American Culture, 1770s-1920s (2000).

Judith A. Jellison, M.A. 1967
Educator, Scholar

Founding director of Music Therapy, University of Minnesota (1972-1983); Head of the Division of Music and Human Learning and Mary D. Bold Regents Professor of Music in the School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin (1983-); Senior Researcher Award from MENC: The National Association for Music Education (2004); Publications Award from the American Music Therapy Association; Outstanding Music Education Award from the Texas Music Educators Conference student organization.

John Patterson, B.S. Ed. 1959, M.Ed. 1964
Educator, Band Director, Administrator

Director of High School Bands; Chair of the Columbia Public School District Music Education Program; Director of Columbia Community Bands, Columbia, MO (2005-); University of Missouri Honorary Alumni Award (2003).

Eugene Watts, B.M. (Trombone) 1959
Trombone Virtuoso, International Touring Artist

Canadian Brass Quintet (founder); North Carolina, Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Toronto symphony orchestra positions; honorary doctorates from The University of Missouri, New England Conservatory of Music, Hartwick College, McMaster University; University of Missouri College of Arts and Science Distinguished Alumnus Award (2003).