Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Press Releases
Graduates of Millikin University's Department of Theatre & Dance were honored at the 42nd Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony recognizing excellence in non-union Chicago theatre. The ceremony was held on June 8 at Park West in Chicago, Ill.

Kevin Cox '03 was presented with the Best Actor in a Principal Role Award for his work in the Trap Door Theatre production of "La Bête." Kevin has also appeared in productions at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, BoHo Theatre and Oracle Theatre.

Earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from Millikin, Cox was also the recipient of the J. Ben Wand Award for Excellence in Acting.

Ben Fuchsen '03 and his colleagues at Oracle Productions were presented with Jeff Awards for Best New Adaptation of a Play and Best Original Music in a Play for their production of "The Jungle."

As executive producer, Fuchsen oversees all of Oracle Production's programming and development, including main stage productions, co-productions, outreach and grant writing. Oracle Productions was the recipient of five Jeff Awards in 2014, and the 2014 Broadway In Chicago Emerging Theatre Award.

While at Millikin, Fuchsen studied directing, teaching and philosophy.

The Jeff Awards has been honoring outstanding theatre artists annually since it was established in 1968. The awards are given by a volunteer non-profit committee.

Click here to view all the winners from the 2015 Jeff Awards in an article from the Chicago Tribune.
Dr. William Gorton, Millikin University assistant professor of voice and opera, made his first appearance in the Muddy River Opera's production of Puccini's "La Boheme" on June 5 and 7.

Based in Quincy, Ill., the Muddy River Opera Company was started in June 1989 to give area residents a chance to hear live opera.

The company presented two performances of Puccini's "La Boheme" as part of its silver anniversary season celebration. "La Boheme" is one of the most performed operas in the world.

The production tells the story of the life and loves of four young men who live together in a Paris apartment and the love affair between main characters Mimi and Rodolfo. Gorton performed the role of Rodolfo.

"Puccini's goal was to move his audience, not to shock them, not to educate them, just to get straight to the heart of basic human tragedy," said Dr. Gorton.

Dr. Gorton has had a diverse career as a singer, voice teacher, conductor, and composer. At Millikin, Dr. Gorton teaches studio voice, serves as coach and conductor for the opera program, and directs Tudor Voices, a select chamber choir specializing in early music. As a professional tenor, he has performed numerous opera roles and oratorios with organizations such as the Sacramento Opera, Opera Pacific, Pacific Repertory Opera, the National Messiah Festival at Bethany College, Orchestra X of Houston, and the San Francisco Opera Guild.

Click here to read more about the production in an article from the Quincy Herald-Whig.
Early in his theatre career, Millikin University alumnus Joshua Streeter '06 discovered he wanted to become an artist who teaches. Currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in Drama & Theatre for Youth and Communities at the University of Texas at Austin, Streeter is conducting research on how drama pedagogy can improve a learning process, and how education pedagogy can enhance a theatre-making process.

Streeter's research efforts in theatre education were recently recognized on a national scale as he was named the 2015 Winifred Ward Scholar. The scholarship is awarded annually by the Winifred Ward Memorial Fund, Inc., to one scholar in the country. The scholarship rewards a graduate-level scholar of demonstrated intellectual and artistic ability in drama and theatre education.

"I am a drama practitioner, and to receive an award named after the woman who established the field of drama education in America means a lot to me," said Streeter. "I discovered early in my theatre career that I was interested in how students make meaning in the classroom, and how educators can scaffold a learning process for students."

Streeter began his journey at Millikin in 2002, where he was a teaching assistant to Lori Bales, associate professor of theatre and dance, for several acting classes. An honors student while at Millikin, Streeter developed his James Millikin Scholar (JMS) project around the topic of arts integration. Lori Bales was his advisor throughout the course of the project.

Streeter's work resulted in a resource for secondary language arts educators with lesson plans using drama to explore language arts standards in their classrooms.

"Josh is incredibly self-motivated and driven," said Bales. "He makes connections and builds bridges between theory and practice. He demonstrates excellence in artistry because he understands that artistic practice requires continual growth, as well as exploration of new paths of inquiry."

In reference to his JMS project, Streeter says, "The project allowed me the opportunity to dig into curriculum design in secondary education. The project served as a bridge into the field of theatre education."

As a result of his work, Streeter earned a nomination for the James Millikin Scholar Outstanding Project of the Year Award.

After Millikin, Streeter continued to act and focused on directing, as well as building community outreach programs. He earned an MA in theatre education from Emerson College in 2007 and his post-baccalaureate certification in elementary education from Mansfield University in 2009. He became an active member of American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) and is currently a theatre writer for the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS).

"I love musical theatre. It has always been a style of theatre I am drawn most to," said Streeter. "Some of my current research is in the study of musical theatre."

When asked about what he hopes to accomplish with his research, Streeter said, "My work focuses on pedagogy – how and why we teach what we teach. For this reason, I hope to create resources and materials for classroom teachers and theatre practitioners that consider new ways of making meaning through an art-making process."

Streeter says he will use the Winifred Ward Scholarship for funding research trips and attending conferences related to his career field and research interests.

"By working in the separate fields of education and theatre I am able to make connections between the two in order to strengthen my pedagogy," said Streeter. "My thesis will explore the Broadway musical as a social and cultural construct for youth identity, and investigate the Broadway Junior Series as a performance model for young adults."

The Winifred Ward Scholarship was created in memory of Winifred Ward, a pioneer of children's theatre and creative drama in the United States. The award will be presented to Streeter at the American Alliance for Theatre and Education 2015 Conference, held Aug. 5-9 in Milwaukee, Wis.
Alex Miller, Millikin University associate professor of theatre and dance, was recognized by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for outstanding leadership and dedicated efforts in providing positive change in the lives of offenders. Miller was named the IDOC 2015 Volunteer of the Year on April 27 for his volunteer work with the Decatur Correctional Center.

Inspired by Dr. Laura Bates, English professor at Indiana State University, who teaches Shakespeare at the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana, Miller began a Shakespearean program in 2011 at the Decatur Correctional Center entitled "Shakespeare Corrected." Miller brought "Shakespeare Corrected" to the correctional center to help enhance the lives of inmates and prepare them for successful reintegration.

Offenders are involved in all aspects of the productions including acting, making costumes, creating the set and props, and designing programs. Miller uses Shakespearean stories to teach valuable life skills to offenders. The process enables them to learn how Shakespeare's characters deal with life situations.

"I've been volunteering for four years and it's been extremely rewarding for me, but to be recognized on that level is very humbling," said Miller. "There are many individuals, just like me, who have volunteered hundreds of hours simply for the good of the women in the facility. To be singled out with that group of individuals was a huge honor."

The program has staged productions of "Othello" in 2012, "The Tempest" in 2013, and "The Taming of the Shrew" in 2014. The program recently held performances of "Macbeth" in late April. Soundcheck Music Center provided lighting equipment for the productions of "Macbeth," and dry cleaning was provided by Peerless Cleaners.

Millikin students also assisted with the program, including Joseph Bezenek, a senior theatre major from Sioux Falls, S.D. "During my very first visit to the correctional center, I knew Professor Miller was inspiring the souls of every brave woman in the room," said Bezenek. "It's no surprise to me that he won the award. My soul has been tremendously moved by the amount of love this man can give, and I know he is eternally thankful for this honor."

Offenders who have participated in the program described it as a truly life-changing experience.

"I think the program works on several fronts," said Miller. "For the offenders, it's transformational and it helps them learn the intangibles that are required to have a life of meaning and value. It also works because their families are invited. If you really want to have an impact on criminality and poverty, you have to address the individuals who are currently in the situation, but you have to go for the next generation."

IDOC Acting Director Donald Stolworthy said, "Because of Professor Miller, many of the offenders begin to believe in themselves and see that they don't have to live a life of crime that has a major impact on their families, their friends, and the communities where they live."

When asked how the Shakespeare productions play a role in the lives of the offenders, Miller said, "By letting them see that the impossible is possible. The program exists through the efforts of the administration, the students, and the offenders. It's the human spirit triumphing over impossible odds."

Because of the program's positive effect, Miller says he will be reaching out more to the community next year for support of the program.

Millikin University's vocal jazz ensemble, OneVoice, took top honors in the 38th Annual DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards. OneVoice was awarded for Outstanding Performance in the category of Undergraduate College/University Large Vocal Jazz Ensembles. This is the third time OneVoice has been recognized by the DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards.

DownBeat Magazine is one of the world's leading jazz and contemporary music publications. The magazine recognizes outstanding university ensembles and soloists in several categories. The prestigious awards are considered one of the top student music competitions in the world, and more than 1,000 entries were submitted across all categories. The list of winners will be published in the June edition of the magazine.

OneVoice is the flagship ensemble of the vocal jazz program at Millikin University. The group has been invited to perform at various educational conferences and collegiate jazz festivals in the United States including the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) International Convention (2008), Jazz Education Network (2012), ACDA Central Division Conference (2002 and 2012), International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Convention in New York City (2001) and San Diego (1989), and five times at the Illinois State Music Education Association State Conference in Peoria, Ill.

OneVoice has traveled and performed in the Dominican Republic four times and most recently in Santiago, Chile. Over the years, OneVoice has consistently been recognized as one of the premier collegiate vocal jazz groups in the United States.

The group is led by Dr. Stephen Widenhofer, director of Millikin University's School of Music.

"We are humbled to be honored for this award alongside so many other fantastic programs, especially schools with rich traditions in jazz and vocal jazz," said Dr. Widenhofer.

OneVoice consists of the following students: Brenna Pfeifer, a senior from Saint Joseph, Ill.; Amy Mazzeo, a junior from Rolla, Mo.; Molly McCullough, a senior from Saint Charles, Ill.; Hannah Lieb, a sophomore from Saint Louis, Mo.; Kayleigh Bella, a junior from Naperville, Ill.; Ashley Wright, a first-year student from Mokena, Ill.; Eric McCarter, a sophomore from Chicago, Ill.; Hunter Allen, a sophomore from Robinson, Ill.; Cory Arnold, a sophomore from Raleigh, N.C.; Tyler Henderson, a sophomore from Naperville, Ill.; Grey Taxon, a junior from Plainfield, Ill.; Tyler Hollis, a senior from Crystal Lake, Ill.; Connor O'Leary (sound), a senior from Naperville, Ill.; Adam Wissman (guitar), a junior from Pekin, Ill.; Austin Myers (bass), a senior from Jerseyville, Ill.; Danny Quisenberry (drums), a senior from Decatur, Ill.; and Graig Stasicky (percussion), a senior from Bradley, Ill.

Millikin's School of Music is committed to developing complete musicians artistically, technically and intellectually by emphasizing the integration of theory and practice with other disciplines across the University. For more information on Millikin's School of Music, visit
Members of the Millikin University Choir joined the Heart and Soul choir for adults with special needs for a performance on April 26 at Central Christian Church in Decatur, Ill.

The combined performance developed from a longstanding connection between Heart and Soul and Millikin student Emily Knezz, a senior from Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Heart and Soul was started by Don Martin, minister of music at Central Christian Church, in the fall of 2012.

The flagship of the Millikin choral fleet, the University Choir features 45 upper-class students from a variety of majors. In recent years, the choir has also toured internationally to Ireland, Scotland, England, China, Taiwan, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The Millikin University Choir has gained national recognition, due in part to six invitations to perform at national and regional conferences of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). The Millikin University Choir is under the direction of Dr. Brad Holmes, Millikin professor of music and director of choral activities.

Click here to read an article from the Herald & Review that features the collaboration between Heart and Soul and the Millikin University Choir.

Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Millikin University, was named the 2015 Illinois PTA Child Advocate of the Year at the Illinois PTA State Convention, held April 17-18 in East Peoria, Ill.

Presented annually at the state convention, the Illinois PTA Child Advocate of the Year Award is given to an individual whose dedication, leadership, and collaboration have positively affected the lives of children. The individual's work exemplifies the ability to further the mission and purposes of PTA to make every child's potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities.

Past recipients of the award include State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch, Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, and Journalist Jim Broadway.

"It's quite an honor to have received this recognition," said Ledford. "I accepted the award on behalf of all the faculty, students and staff who have worked so hard to take the arts out into the community. Many of these activities have been going on for years, so it's an award for the people at Millikin that put these programs together and have made them grow."

For the past two years, Millikin University and Illinois PTA partnered to host "Spotlight: A Children's Celebration of Art and Community" on Millikin's campus, most recently on March 28. The event celebrates children, from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, from across the state of Illinois including Reflections artists, scholarship winners, and students who serve their communities.

The spotlight event includes an art exhibit and workshops for children and adults in several categories including: Literature, Performing Arts, Music, Dance, and Visual Arts. Many of the workshops were developed and instructed by Millikin University students from the College of Fine Arts. Other workshops were conducted by Millikin faculty and Illinois PTA directors.

"Essentially, it's an event where we have workshops provided by faculty and students in different areas of the arts, including creative writing," said Ledford. "It's a great showcase for young students and their schools. We were pleased to have so many students and parents visit the Millikin campus."

Carolyn McCarty, director of the Illinois PTA Southern Region, said, "We felt that Laura was making a significant and relevant difference in the lives of children across the board, especially within the areas of art and education. We recognized Laura for what she has done in terms of embracing the Illinois PTA Spotlight event, and exposing fine arts to students across the state."

Ledford came to Millikin in 1991 upon completion of her Master of Fine Arts in Acting from Indiana University. She has taught courses in theatre performance, voice production and stage dialects. She served the Millikin Department of Theatre and Dance as chair and artistic director from 2005 to 2011. Ledford's teaching and research interests are voice and speech, stage dialects, Shakespeare, acting theory, and directing. While at Millikin, she has directed numerous productions including "Richard III," "Sweeney Todd," and "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot."

When asked about giving back to the community from Millikin's perspective, Ledford says, "I think it's essential, especially in the arts. Students who are planning to have a career in the arts have to be very community-orientated. Giving students the opportunity to work with businesses and individuals in the community prepares them to go out and enter the world, and build a future audience."

The Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra (MDSO) will present its season finale concert on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in Kirkland Fine Arts Center. The performance will feature Millikin School of Music faculty soloists William Gorton (tenor) and Randy Reyman (trumpet).

The MDSO season ends with a truly spectacular Pops concert featuring two of Millikin's stellar artist faculty.

First up, William Gorton, whose ringing tenor voice will bring to life "O sole mio," "Nessun dorma," and a host of other popular light arias and Neapolitan favorites, interspersed with Italian-flavored orchestral interludes played by the MDSO. Following a brief intermission, Randy Reyman plays his own new arrangements of some of the greatest hits from the American songbook: "When I Fall in Love," "All or Nothing At All," "Waltz for Debby," "My Romance," "My One and Only Love," and "I Hear a Rhapsody."

Randy Reyman will host the concert preview on April 18 at 6:45 p.m. in Kirkland Lecture Room 128. The event is free to concert attendees.

William Gorton

Dr. William Gorton, Millikin assistant professor of voice and opera, has had a diverse career as a singer, voice teacher, conductor, and composer. Dr. Gorton teaches studio voice, serves as coach and conductor for the opera program, and directs Tudor Voices, a select chamber choir specializing in early music. As a professional tenor, he has performed numerous opera roles and oratorios with organizations such as the Sacramento Opera, Opera Pacific, Pacific Repertory Opera, the National Messiah Festival at Bethany College, Orchestra X of Houston, and the San Francisco Opera Guild.

The founding artistic director of the Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale, Dr. Gorton acquired his Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at Arizona State University, and served as assistant chorus master for the Phoenix Symphony. He is currently the music director at First Christian Church in Bloomington, Ill. Dr. Gorton is also a published composer. His hymn, "O God in Whom We Live," can be found in "Worship and Song," a United Methodist hymnal, and a choral anthem, "The Lord is My Shepherd," was published by World Library Publications.

Randy Reyman

Randall Reyman is director of jazz activities at Millikin University and coordinator of brass, and serves as principal trumpet with the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra. His teaching duties include directing Millikin University's Jazz Band I, studio trumpet instruction, brass ensembles, and other courses in the commercial music area. Professor Reyman holds degrees from the University of Northern Iowa, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Illinois State University. His teachers have included Keith Johnson, Vincent Cichowicz, John Haynie, and Bill Adam.

An active composer, arranger, and trumpeter, Reyman performs frequently in jazz venues throughout central Illinois with his West End Trio, and other groups such as the Millikin Faculty Jazz Sextet and the Decatur Big Band. Professor Reyman has published educational materials with Mel Bay Publications and Kendor Music, and his CD , "Hard at It," is available through First Step Records.

Tickets are $13-$16.50 and are available through the Kirkland Fine Arts Center Ticket Office, by phone at 217.424.6318 or online at Ticket Office hours are Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. A $2.50 fee will be charged for credit card purchases. This is a per transaction fee, not per ticket, and applies to online and Ticket Office orders.

Concerts of the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Symphony Guild of Decatur.
Millikin University undergrad Michelle Sendy, a senior art therapy major from Libertyville, Ill., was selected as one of two artists to receive the Naomi Winston Scholarship in Art for her creative efforts. The scholarship is offered by the St. Louis Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL).

The National Society of Arts and Letters is an organization that sponsors competitions and scholarships for young people in the creative arts. The scholarships are for private study, special training or personal advancement of the artist's future career.

As one of two young artists selected, Sendy received a $250 award, and is eligible to compete in the National Society of Arts and Letters National Competition.

"I was honored that they chose me and my work," said Sendy. "It's a good feeling when others appreciate and recognize your hard work."

In terms of her artwork, Sendy uses ovals as the source of content. She chose ovals because they hold history and form structure in a composition that would otherwise be considered chaos.

"Cluttered with vibrant colors and rooted in gesture, I hope to enrich and energize my viewers," said Sendy. "I use both oil paint and mixed media that is often scraped or drawn on."

Sendy added, "As of now, my work is an exploration of shapes and colors and the fine-tuning of my understanding of how to paint. In the future, I hope to keep learning and exploring. I have a passion for knowledge that can only be nurtured through more education which is why I'm continuing on to get my graduate degree at Illinois State University. I have been offered a full scholarship as well as a teaching assistantship."

In honor of Naomi Rabb Winston, NSAL established an annual scholarship fund for young visual artists between the ages of 16 and 22. Applicants must demonstrate exceptional talent and promise of future success.

"Students like Michelle Sendy, epitomize the very best in terms of not only the amount of time and effort it takes to experiment and refine their own creative efforts towards a given artistic output, but also in terms of the engagement of an external audience," said Lyle Salmi, chair of Millikin University's Art Department. "Entering into a competition such as the Naomi Winston Art Scholarship suffices as one of the necessary aspects of Performance Learning. Michelle has clearly made the important connection of what she has learned in the classroom, and has applied that knowledge to develop professionally as an artist."

Millikin's Perkinson Art Gallery in Kirkland Fine Arts Center will showcase Sendy's artwork on Sunday, April 19, 2015, from 1 – 3 p.m. The exhibit will also feature the work of Millikin students Courtney Woodruff, a senior studio art major from Momence, Ill., and Stuart Ball, a senior studio art major from Carmel, Ind.

Salmi added, "To not only compete, but to win an award is evidence of the degree to which we, at Millikin, fully embrace Performance Learning throughout our curriculum."

Millikin University's School of Music is pleased to announce Chris Raymond (bassoon), senior instrumental music performance major from Bourbonnais, Ill., the winner of the 2015 Hollis Prize Competition Recital.

Held on March 21 in Kaeuper Hall, Perkinson Music Center, the Hollis Prize Recital featured performances from Millikin University's top three music performing students, including: Abigail Karnes (soprano), junior vocal performance major with a theatre minor from Kearney, Mo., and Chloe Raffe (soprano), junior vocal performance major from Des Plaines, Ill.

The Hollis Prize is the highest award that may be received by a student instrumentalist or vocalist within the Millikin School of Music. First awarded in spring 2003, Millikin is one of only a few schools in the country to offer this type of prestigious prize through a music competition.

"I am beyond words for how humbled and honored I am for receiving the Hollis Prize," said Raymond. "From the day I was selected as a finalist I already felt like a winner, and because Abagail Karnes and Chloe Raffe are spectacular musicians, it has made the past few weeks quite exciting."

The winner of the Hollis Prize was chosen by outside faculty judges and received a $2000 award; runners-up each received $500.

In recognition of this achievement, Raymond will perform a recital on Sunday, April 26, at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Ill., beginning at 2 p.m.

"The Hollis recital was a marvelous event with all three students giving excellent performances," said Dr. Stephen Widenhofer, director of Millikin University's School of Music. "Chris Raymond will represent the School of Music well as the Hollis Prize winner and at the Chicagoland concert in Elgin."

Raymond added, "Winning the Hollis Prize was a long-term goal of mine that I had set my eyes on since my freshman year at Millikin. From the moment I walked offstage at the Hollis finals until now, I have been reflecting on my past performance, appreciating the good things that happened and deciding what parts of my playing could have gone better. I am excited to perform again because I want to continue working and give an even better performance."

The Hollis Prize Recital is generously funded by Dr. C. Kimm Hollis, a 1972 Millikin graduate, and professor of music and artist in residence at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind.

Hollis Prize Performers

Abigail Karnes – Soprano

Abigail Karnes has recently appeared as Galatea in Millikin Opera Theatre's production of "Acis and Galatea" and Millikin's main stage production of Puccini One Acts as Nella in "Gianni Schicchi." She also played French horn in the pit orchestra for Millikin's production of "Cinderella" in 2012 and was the assistant stage manager for Millikin's production of "Sacred/Secular: Cantatas" by J.S. Bach. Karnes is also a member of the Millikin University Choir.

Chloe Raffe – Soprano

Chloe Raffe has performed with the Millikin Opera Theatre as the Nursing Sister in Puccini's "Suor Angelica" and as Serpina in Pergolesi's "La Serva Padrona." Her diverse experiences include performing in Rome, Italy with the Willows Academy Chamber Choir. She is a member of the award-winning Millikin University Choir under the direction of Dr. Brad Holmes, Millikin director of choral activities. After receiving her degree from Millikin, Raffe plans to continue studying opera performance in graduate school.

Chris Raymond – Bassoon

Christopher Raymond regularly performs with the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra (MDSO), the Eidolan Woodwind Quintet, and Millikin's Symphonic Wind Ensemble, where he has held the Principal Bassoon chair for the past four years. A two-time winner of the Concerto/Aria competition, Raymond performed Weber's "Concerto in F Major" with the MDSO in 2013. Other featured appearances include performances with the Millikin Wind Ensemble and the Kankakee Valley Symphony.

Millikin's School of Music is committed to developing complete musicians artistically, technically and intellectually by emphasizing the integration of theory and practice with other disciplines across the University. For more information on Millikin's School of Music, visit
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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL