ASU’s School of Music opera and musical theater program recognized for excellence

October 12, 2017

The AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence, Arizona's awards for outstanding theater, recognized Arizona State University's excellence in theatrical productions and individual performances during its 27th annual awards ceremony Sept. 25 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

ASU’s School of Music Lyric Opera Theatre took home seven awards for its 2016–2017 production of “The Magic Flute,” which received nominations in all 13 musical categories and won the award for best overall musical production. Cast members of Lyric Opera Theatre's "The Magic Flute" Cast members of "The Magic Flute." Download Full Image

Brian DeMaris, artistic director of Lyric Opera Theatre and associate professor in the School of Music, won the award for best music direction for “The Magic Flute.” This is DeMaris’ third year as artistic director for Lyric Opera Theatre and second year winning the award for best musical direction.

“The greatest strength of our opera and musical theatre program at ASU is the students,” DeMaris said. ​“It is so easy and wonderful to work with such impressive young talent. Not only the cast members on stage, but also the orchestra students are among the best I've worked with at any institution.”

He said many of the students, singers and instrumentalists already have lots of professional experience in Phoenix and beyond, which provides the unique opportunity for everyone to work at a professional level while still helping to train and elevate students in their skills.

“The Magic Flute” received the most nominations of any Lyric Opera Theatre production for the 2016–2017 season.

“I think the opera plays to our strengths, which are that we have a lot of superbly trained vocalists who are also terrific actors and have experience in both opera and musical theater, as ‘The Magic Flute’ is a piece that even in 1791 was a true ‘theater’ piece, not a full grand opera,” DeMaris said.

He said involving cross-disciplinary elements in the design, overseen by Alfredo Escarcega, technical director senior for Lyric Opera Theatre, is something that helped the production resonate in the 21st century.

“We were fortunate to have Zoe Crow, a student from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre who brought her expertise in media design, matched by the sound design of Derek Stevenson, a student from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering,” DeMaris said.

DeMaris said Dale Dreyfoos' stage direction balanced the worlds of fantasy-comedy and serious drama regarding the ideals of the Enlightenment and a particularly strong cast were heroic in putting the time in to this unusually long and difficult opera.

Faculty, students and alumni of ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre program received 20 nominations in all award categories and seven of those nominees received awards.

“I think this speaks to the strength of our program as a whole as well as the growth we've been working toward in our technical production process,” DeMaris said. “Our faculty and staff team in the department has been excellent in trying new things, and the students have been terrific in sharing ideas as well as working hard to help ensure that all we do is at the highest level. We have an abundance of talented students, faculty and staff, and people with ideas, energy, drive and a passion to really make our program better each day.”

DeMaris said the audience has returned in full after several years of poor ticket sales and he is excited about the future of the theater’s program.

“We had multiple sold out performances of every single production last year, which is very exciting,” he said. “People know that what's going on here is excellent and they want to be a part of it.”

Individual award winners for Lyric Opera Theatre’s “The Magic Flute” include:

• CodyRay Caho, actor in a major role in a musical
• Melanie Holm, actress in a supporting role in a musical
• Dale Dreyfoos, director of a musical
• Zoey Crow, artistic specialization in media design
• Derek Stevenson, best sound design

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


ASU West students to spend ‘An Evening with Leslie Odom Jr.’

Award-winning artist to speak about "Hamilton," perform

October 12, 2017

The almost 600 freshman students who started at ASU’s West campus this fall will share in an unconventional experience this month: one of their first college-level discussions will include Broadway superstar of "Hamilton" fame, Leslie Odom Jr.

Each year, as part of the Summer Community Read program, incoming West campus freshman are required to read a selected book in preparation for analytical discussions in an academic setting. Then, someone with a connection to the reading material is brought in to speak with students. Broadway superstar of "Hamilton" fame, Leslie Odom Jr., will speak and perform at ASU's West campus. Download Full Image

“To me, it’s such an important event because it gives instructors, staff, students a way to talk to people initially, when they first get here and throughout the semester,” said Anne Suzuki, assistant dean of enrollment services for the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “And plus, we really like to bring in the community … and to bring different groups of people together to appreciate this particular (musical).”

This year’s required reading was "Hamilton: The Revolution," by Lin Manuel Miranda, and the special guest is Odom Jr.

The Grammy and Tony-award winning artist who played Aaron Burr in the musical’s original cast, will come to Glendale Oct. 16 to discuss the book and answer students’ questions. Odom Jr. will also perform a concert at the West campus. 

Suzuki said the program is designed to give students a common experience before they get to campus, and build community.

“We always hope that students can connect more with the person and bring what they read alive, and make it more real,” Suzuki mused. “And they can ask deeper level questions.”

"Hamilton: The Revolution," was co-written by Jeremy McCarter and Miranda, who also wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Hamilton" and starred in its original cast. It explores the background, music and making of the musical.

The musical's ability to attract students of different majors and perspectives is another reason Suzuki’s team felt it would be a good fit.

“I think it gives (students) a platform to be able to talk about difficult topics that might be in the news right now or historically, and it’s an okay, hopefully safe environment for people to have exciting conversations,” she added. “I think because it’s so modern, first year students may feel like it’s more exciting to read about it than if we just did something more traditional.”

Following the discussion, Odom Jr. will perform a concert showcasing the music from "Hamilton" and his own jazz album. “An Evening with Leslie Odom Jr.,” starts at 7:30 p.m. in the West campus’s La Sala Ballroom. Tickets are available here.

Several other educational opportunities are available to students and the community, including "Burr, Hamilton and the Drama of America’s Founding," a special night to explore the explosive relationship between Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the wider drama of America’s founding.

This discussion will feature acclaimed historian Nancy Isenberg, author of "Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr," and Hamilton scholar Peter McNamara of ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

The free panel is at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 and registration is available at

"Hamilton" will run at ASU Gammage Jan. 30–Feb. 25. Tickets will go on sale in December. For more information visit

Marketing and Communications Assistant, ASU Gammage