WOU Creative Arts in the News

WOU Theatre Major Kenzie Elizabeth featured on American Idol

March 20, 2022 | ABC

The competition for bagging the golden ticket to Hollywood on ‘American Idol’ Season 20 is pretty cut-throat,  but that didn’t stop Kenzie Elizabeth from trying her luck. The Musical Theater enthusiast/ nanny decided to audition for the hit ABC show with Avril Lavigne’s ‘I’m With You’.  She impressed the judges with her singing prowess and we are so proud!

K&K Sound Artist of the Month: DIRK FREYMUTH

December, 2021 | K&K Sound

“After spending many years trying different acoustic guitar pickups, I now have all of my acoustic guitars outfitted with a Trinity Pro System, combined with the superb K&K Quantum Blender. I love the continuity of sound from one guitar to the next. The unique characteristics of each guitar is retained while being amplified with the pristine K&K tone.”

Art and Design Faculty Biennial

November 11, 2021 | Today at WOU| Western Oregon University

Every two years, the Cannon Gallery of Art showcases WOU’s own art faculty. This year, work can be seen in both the Cannon Gallery of Art and the second floor gallery of Hamersly Library! The exhibit runs through December 10th and includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, installation, photography and mixed-media work.

WOU to join ACDA honor choir

October 21, 2021 | James Reddan | Western Oregon University

WOU Chamber Singers have been invited to represent Oregon in the Northwest American Choral Directors Association Collegiate Honor Choir at their Biennial Conference in March 2022 performing Morton Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna and working with the composer.

Milagro: a new musical featuring Choreography by Cynthia Garner

October 19, 2021 | Cynthia Garner | Western Oregon University

Our own Cynthia Garner is having an exciting time choreographing for a new work, Milagro. The workshop will premiere at the Shedd institue in Eugene Oct 23 at 7:30 and Oct 24 at 3:00.

Milagro is a new musical, currently in development, with music, lyrics and lyric translations by Portland singer-songwriter Anna Gilbert and celebrated Guatemalan singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno with book by Broadway and YouTube artist Evynne Hollens and Seattle playwright Rebecca Tourino Collinsworth. Inspired by a miraculous true story, Milagro is a deeply personal story about motherhood, survival, love, loss and the complexity of family. 

Grab some popcorn and catch these latest local plays

March 3, 2021 | Natalie Dean | The Western Howl

There are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the performing arts from home, and local theater events are still happening throughout the year to provide some much needed entertainment. Beginning Mar. 6 Western’s theater students will be live streaming their upcoming event, “Little Prisons: A Series of Short Plays by Portland Playwrights,” which is directed by Jessica Wallenfels. This performance highlights four plays written by local playwrights, all of which will be free to watch. There will also be various streaming methods to accommodate different schedules — some will be pre-recorded, while others will be streamed live. 


Fall 2020 | Many Hats Collaboration

a co-production with Portland Playhouse. Inspired by recent (and not so recent) events, Matter follows the quest of one young Black man looking to find answers to police brutality and gun violence. Determined to save Black lives, he seeks to sort out the noise of opposing viewpoints and social division with a methodical examination of facts. As his theatrical investigation uncovers patterns of senseless violence and clues lead him to the likelihood of his own death, the reality and tragedy of lives lost begins to truly hit home.

Peter and the Starcatcher

June 8, 2020 | Ted deChatelet | WOU Theatre Department

When the cast and crew found out that the spring production would not make it stage they kept working with the text to grow and learn as actors. Get a sneak peek at what the process was like with these interviews from the students.


June 17, 2020 | Cheyan Swan | Today at WOU

Kayli Smith is an art major with a concentration in ceramics, as well as a minor in art history. Her hometown is Dallas, Ore. As a 2020 graduate, we interviewed Smith about her experience at WOU and her future plans.

Ethnomusicology and Alchemy

April 2020 | Diane Baxter | American Music Teacher

“Music is alchemy. It has the ability o profoundly change our perceptions of and interactions of the world.”


April 8, 2020 | Kristine Thomas | Today at WOU

The late Alfred “Fred” Maurice’s curiosity and desire to see students succeed inspired him to establish a challenge for Western Oregon University students.

Cannon Gallery — a platform for stunning faculty work

Nov 22, 2019 | Never Retallack| Western Howl

Cannon Gallery — Western’s very own art exhibit within Campbell Hall, opened its biennial production of faculty art on Nov. 13. The exhibition will be open until Dec. 13 and holds works from the following: Jen Bracy, Clay Dunklin, Jodie Garrison, Mary Harden, Rebecca McCannell, Peter Hoffecker Mejia, Sung Eun Park, Gregory Poulin, Daniel Tankersley, Diane Tarter, Garima Thakur and Jen Vaughn. 


Jan 18, 2022 | Carrie Kikel | Oregon Arts Commission

Jennifer Vaughn, Eugene
Oregon Arts Commission $2,000
To support the creation and installation of visual artwork for a Vaughn’s solo exhibition at Ditch
Projects in Springfield, Oregon in September.

The Oregon Arts Commission provides leadership, funding and arts programs through its
grants, services, and special initiatives. The Arts Commission is supported with general funds
appropriated by the Oregon legislature and with federal funds from the National Endowment
for the Arts as well as funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Cast buzzes with excitement in WOU’s indoor production of “The Secret in the Wings”

November 3, 2021 | David Hayes | Polk County Itemizer-Observer

Tessa Rosenau may be an actor. But there was no faking her enthusiasm to be involved in bringing theater back to the indoor stage at Western Oregon University’s Rice Auditorium.

“I’m soooo excited to have a live audience,” enthused Rosenau, a senior at WOU. “This is my first production with a live audience in over a year. It’s super exciting. It feels a little unreal.”

The entire cast and crew were buzzing with high energy during a run-through rehearsal Oct. 28 of Mary Zimmerman’s “The Secret in the Wings.”

Western’s bands are back indoors

October 14, 2021 | Camille Lenning | The Western Howl

Those who frequented campus the first two weeks of fall term may have heard the sound of music flowing from outside Smith Hall. This is where Western’s instrumental ensembles practiced to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines. However, bands like the jazz orchestra have recently found themselves back inside for practice sessions, since they received specialized equipment that greatly limits the spread of respiratory droplets while playing. 

“This includes custom masks designed to be worn while playing a wind instrument, as well as bell covers that reduce the spread of aerosols while playing an instrument,” said jazz orchestra director Dr. Keith Karns. “This PPE is part of the COVID mitigation plan adopted by virtually all music programs in public schools, colleges, and universities in the Pacific Northwest.”

These COVID safety protocols have also allowed the ensembles to schedule performances again, something they were unable to do last year. 

“One of them is going to be a side-by-side concert with … McKay High School. So we’ll just be over there, showing the high schoolers what we can do … and they can play with us and they get on the stage with us,” said sophomore general music major Jacob McDonald, who plays trumpet for the jazz orchestra.


May 24, 2021 | Cheyan Swan | Today at WOU

“Julz Mudge is a 2021 graduate from Des Moines, Wash. She is a Performing Arts major with a double minor in Psychology and Communications. 

Why did you choose WOU? WOU was the first college I ever toured, and despite numerous other college visits, I always came back to WOU. There was something about it that just made it impossible to forget. I committed to WOU the second time I visited; I was standing in the bookstore with my parents and my best friend, Candace, who was also touring WOU. Candace told me this school was perfect for me, and she was right. Stepping onto campus feels like home, and it has ever since that first step…” 

New Etsy Shop with Eclectic Mix of Art

Summer 2020 | Jen Bracy | WOU Art & Design Department

During the isolated days of Spring and Summer Professor Jen Bracy has been creating all sorts of arts and crafts. Jen has made this art available on Etsy and is excited to see what opportunities this platform reveals! The shop features digital and fine arts of all kinds.

Dance Where You Are

June 1, 2020 | Corrie Cowart| WOU Dance Department

Choreography and performance by students of the D 352 Dance Composition II class at Western Oregon University. Due to the global pandemic in 2020, this course was taught remotely. Students worked on composition assignments from their homes.


Read an interview to learn how the choir department has adapted

April 21, 2020 | Never Retallack | Western Howl

During this time where students’ daily lives are being greatly affected, read this interview with Tonya Bradley —  a junior at Western majoring in Education — to find out how her experience with choir in the music department has changed.

Artist Spotlight on Abi Lowther, aspiring tattoo artist

Feb 10, 2020 | Never Retallack| Western Howl

Abi Lowther’s love for art was ignited as a first-year in high school when she took an introduction to drawing class and realized that she had a natural talent. From there, she started to pursue art more seriously; as a sophomore at Western, she is currently majoring in Art and Design.

Western dancer and first-time choreographer gets involved in the arts community through an award-winning rock musical

Nov 17, 2019 | Caity Healy | Western Howl

With WOU’s Creative Arts Division as robust and successful as it is, with several programs and departments, students involved often choose to get involved in the arts in their community beyond the ways they are offered on campus. One such student is Noah Nieves Driver. 

BFA graduates put their hard work on display

June 7, 2019 | Chrys Weedon | Western Howl

As the school year winds to a close, end of the year events are keeping graduating seniors busy. The next event of the year is a new exhibit in the Cannon Gallery of Art featuring the artwork of three Bachelor of Fine Arts students who will be graduating on June 15, 2019.

Les Watanabe on Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Donald McKayle and his life in dance

Jan 20, 2017 | Jamuna Chiarini | Oregon Artswatch

At 2 and 7:30 pm on Saturday, January 21, Laura Stilwell, Felice Moskowitz, Terry Brock and Emma Mochnick will dance Les Watanabe’s Love Songs, part of Fertile Ground’s Groovin’ Greenhouse, hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre.

WOU’s musical ‘The Theory of Relativity’ connects issues facing today’s youth

February 16, 2022 | David Hayes | Polk County Itemizer-Observer

When seniors Kristina Barnes and Tessa Rosenau tell friends about the latest production Western Oregon University’s Department of Theater and Dance is performing, they usually end up saying, “No, not that one.”

“I feel, people hear about ‘The Theory of Relativity’ and say, ‘You mean the one about Stephen Hawking?’ No, that’s ‘The Theory of Everything,’” Rosenau explained.

“It is about science, though,” Barnes added.

Rosenau said the musical “The Theory of Relativity” explores “connecting with one another and even how small interactions with people affect the paths of our lives.”

Les Watanabe's film "2020-2021" selected as an Official Selection for Logcinema Music Film Festival

Winter 2022 | Les Watanabe | Western Oregon University

Logcinema will hold its first film festival with an important focus on music. Musical films, films with a soundtrack very integrated to the plot, documentaries on music or biographies of musicians, music clips and especially will award a special award of the jury to the best in jazz and classical music and a prize for the best original song.


view the short film here 

"2020-2021" selected for "Best Editor for Short Film"

Fall 2021 | Les Watanabe | Western Oregon University

Les Watanabe’s film entitled “2020-2021” was selected for “Best Editor for Short Film” in the Mysuru International Film Festival 2021. This was a film Les created last year for our Spring Dance Concert featuring our talented dance majors and minors. He has submitted his screendance film to dance film festivals around the world. 


view the short film here 

View the Spring Dance Concert online

Spring 2021 | Natalie Dean | The Western Howl

“There’s no better way to mark the beginning of spring than with quality entertainment that gets those creative vibes flowing. One of the best ways to get into the lively springtime season is through the performing arts. Western’s very own dance program is here to provide some of their latest captivating projects, and they have made it even easier to enjoy it from home…” 

view the 2021 Spring Dance Concert here 

Seven Strategies for Interpreting Articulation in Your Big Band

Spring 2020 | Dr. Keith Karns | Oregon Music Educators

“…Articulation is one of the most expressive elements in music. It is one of the main ways we communicate style and energy to our audience…”


May 26, 2021 | Cheyan Swan | Today at WOU

“Kaeli Hancock is a 2021 graduate from Prineville, Oregon. Their major is Bachelor of Fine Arts in Production Training with a concentration in Stage Management. 

What has been your most memorable class? My most memorable class has definitely been History of Architecture and Decor with Scott Grim. We created our own handwritten textbooks with hand-drawn images featuring the furniture, architecture, decor, and art from the Hellenistic Period to modern architecture and toured historic buildings in Salem as a class…” 

WOU Dancers Step Out Of The Theatre

October 29, 2020 | Audrey Caro | Polk County Itemizer Observer

A site-specific dance performance event, sponsored by the WOU dance department, featuring advanced chorography students. Recorded 10/29/2020


May 26, 2020 | Erin Worley | Today at WOU

Eva Batenhorst will be graduating this spring, with a double major in Biology and Dance, and a minor in Physical Science. Eva is from Eugene, Oregon, and has participated in many extra-curriculars during her time at WOU, including the Honors program, RHA, and PLUS team.

Theater department welcomes Western to “Urinetown” with winter production

Mar 8, 2020 | Never Retallack | Western Howl

“Urinetown,” — a satirical musical, opened at Western on Feb. 28 with Michael Phillips as the director. The play was entertaining and interactive, and the opening act had about two minutes of uninterrupted silence while the actors laid on the ground, “asleep.” This made many audience members giggle nervously as the silence drew out. Laughter was a key element of the show. 

CWU students learn the art of West African Dance

Feb 3, 2020 | Rodney Harwood| Daily Record News

ELLENSBURG, WA – “The rhythm of the drum drove the spirit of the motion, turning loose far more than expression through performance… Western Oregon University director of dance Darryl Thomas has toured the world as a dancer and artistic collaborator in the world-renowned Pilbolus Dance Theatre, winning an Emmy for his 1996 Kennedy Center performance of the Pilbolus work “Untitled.””

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ takes stage at Rice

Nov 13, 2019 | Audrey Caro | Polk County Itemizer Observer

MONMOUTH — The latest effort at Western Oregon University’s theater pulls back the curtain on what it was like to put on a radio play.

Music department students shine in recital

June 7, 2019 | Chrys Weedon | Western Howl

In the most recent performance in the music department’s busy spring schedule, the brass and guitar ensembles showed off their skills developed during the past school year. In a hybrid performance on May 28, the two groups played three songs each.

Spotlighting Western artist Tonya Bradley: Vocalist and violinist

Dec 3, 2019 | Never Retallack  |  Western Howl 

Interested in hearing about a fellow classmate and a choir member here at Western? Look no further than this Q&A to get to know Tonya Bradley, a junior and vocalist at Western.


Jan 23, 2013 | Tim Cowart| Dancefilms.org

In the most recent performance in the music department’s busy spring schedule, the brass and guitar ensembles showed off their skills developed during the past school year. In a hybrid performance on May 28, the two groups played three songs each.

Interview with a Ceramic Sculptor

February 2, 2022 | Mikayla Coleman | The Western Howl

Mary Harden has been sculpting primarily uding clay for upwards of 32 years. Harden graduated from both Kansas City Art Institute and University of Washington. With an incredible commitment to bettering herself and her craft, Harden exudes an excellent work ethic and artistic presence that has been improving the Western art community since she began teaching her in 2004.


November 5, 2021 | Chris D’Arcy | City of Salem Public Art Commission

WOU Art faculty member, Paula Portinga Booth, was recognized by the Mayor of Salem yesterday for her role on the team that planned and completed the installation of over 80 works of art in the newly remodeled Salem Public Library.


October 21, 2021 | James Reddan | Western Oregon University

The choral festival will occur on Monday, November 8, 2021 For more information, please contact Dr. James Reddan (reddanj@wou.edu or (503) 838-8802)

The event will also host clinician, Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur Fellow and Musical America’s 2018 Educator of the Year, is a composer, conductor, visionary, leading figure in music education, and the artistic director/founder of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, renowned worldwide for its diversity and artistic excellence.

The November Project

Fall 2020 | Many Hats Collaboration

A private emergency

A community devised, site-specific dance film

Debuting January 2021 with the Fertile Ground Festival 2021

In the three weeks following the election, WOU Theatre Faculty Member Jessica Wallenfels and Alumni Janelle Rae (’17) along with 20+ female and nonbinary artists will create short dance expressions of their experiences of isolation, personal agency and confronting the unknown at a time of peak 2020 tumult. Initially inspired by Many Hats’ 2007 piece REST ROOM, this piece continues our inquiry into the issues of identity and intimacy that occur in the privacy of bathrooms, relocated from a public space to the intimacy of our own homes.

WOU Professor's art work featured in two national Exhibitions

Summer, 2020 | Becca McCannell | WOU Art & Design Department

Political Discord 2020, at Las Laguna Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA

Politically Charged, Blue Line Arts, Oct. 2 – Nov. 14, Roseville, CA

52nd Annual Juried Online Student Art & Design Exhibition

June 1, 2020 | WOU Art Department

The Annual Student Art Show has gone virtual this year but our student work is just as incredible. If you have any questions contact Gallery Coordinator Paula Booth (boothp@wou.edu)

A 'Strong And Resounding' New Symphony, Recorded By Kansas Musicians, Transcends Dire Situations

May 23, 2020 | C.J. Janovy | KCUR 89.3 NPR in Kansas City

The composer is Kevin Walczyk, a professor of music at Western Oregon University, who uses a sort of musical coding system to tell complex stories through music.

After extensive historical research, Walczyk spells out names and phrases and then uses his cyphering system — he calls it “transformation of alphanumeric information into musical pitch information” — to create melody.

Cumulative Skies, Deep Soils at Phosphor Project Space uses art to delve into a very large mushroom

Mar 4, 2020 | Amanda Waltz| Pittsburgh City Paper

In trying to guess the largest organism on Earth, the answers would probably range anywhere from the nearly 100-foot long blue whale to the California coastal redwood tree, which can grow to over 360 feet tall. But the correct response is neither animal not plant — it’s a mushroom, the honey fungus, to be exact.”

Get to know Associate Professor Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner

Oct 13, 2019 | Never Retallack| Western Howl

Get to know Associate Professor Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner and learn about her beliefs on social justice in relation to dance.


Stuck in “Middletown” with you

June 7, 2019 | Chrys Weedon| Western Howl

Small towns in America are often romanticized for their character, their whimsy or their nostalgia. But, often behind this rose-tinted picture is the harsh reality that Small Town, USA is often not as idyllic as it may seem.

Daniel Sampson’s capstone presentation on “Kaleidoscope ‘85”

May 18, 2019 | Cora McClain | Western Howl

May 10, in Smith Music Hall, senior music major Daniel Sampson gave a presentation on the journey of his album “Kaleidoscope ‘85.” 

Review: World Dance Cultures: From Ritual to Spectacle

July 1, 2019 | Tim Cowart | Journal of Dance Education

“I have been teaching a course entitled Dance in World Cultures for nearly 15 years, and until now, I have had great difficulty finding any one textbook that would provide a thorough analysis of non-Western dance traditions appropriate for an undergraduate survey course…”


November 14, 2021 | Dr. Claire Hudkins | NATS Cascade Chapter

WOU Music major Zack Vinyard received 2nd place at the Cascade NATS Chapter Musical Theater auditions. In his category he had to submit 4 videos of 4 contrasting musical theater songs. He now qualifies to move onto the NW regionals competition which will also be via video audition and will take place in late February/Early March.  The recital can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/NATSCascade

Zack’s performance is featured at 1:37:30

Art at Western

October 14, 2021 | Camille Lenning | The Western Howl

Western’s galleries are open again after an 18 month hiatus, and pieces in galleries such as the Student Gallery in the ITC, the Cannon Gallery of Art and the second floor gallery in Hamersly Library are open for public viewing during normal building hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. until Oct. 29. 

The Annual Juried Student Art and Design Exhibition returns in its 53rd iteration to the newly remodeled ITC, featuring the talented students who entered in last year’s online exhibit. 

Theater-goers return for performance of Twelfth Night at Western Oregon University

July 28, 2021 | Connor Radnovich | Satesman Journal

Production photo: Hannah Fawcett as Olivia and Hannah Woodruff as Viola
Director: David Janowiak
Scenic design: Scott Grim
Costume design: Laurel Peterson
Stage manager: Moss Tierney
Photo by Connor Rendovich from the STATESMAN JOURNAL article published on 7/28/21, written by Bill Poehler and Natalie Pate

Valley Shakespeare Company at Western Oregon University will perform Twelfth Night for a live audience on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, July 22, 23, 24 & Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 29, 30 & 31, on the Leinwand outdoor stage outside of Rice Auditorium on the campus of Western Oregon University. The show will feature lawn seating. First-come-first-served seating. Just show up and bring low lawn chairs and blankets, food and drink. All performances will begin at 7:30PM and are free to the public (SUGGESTED DONATION $10 per person). The running time of the show is approximately 2 hours and twenty minutes with one intermission.

Friday night performances will be interpreted.

Two WOU Ensembles Named Finalists for Prestigious Awards


August 5, 2020 | Erin Worley| Today at WOU

Western Oregon University is home to many talented musicians. With 14 different ensembles, WOU is bursting with musical performers from many different backgrounds, all showcasing their unique talents. Recently, two of these ensembles were awarded as finalists in prestigious categories: Western Oregon University Chamber Singers was chosen as a finalist for the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music, and Western Oregon Voices was chosen as a finalist for the American Prize in Choral Performance. This is the first time either ensemble has been named a finalist in their respective categories. 


Fall 2020 | Oresman Gallery

Erin Mallea and [WOU faculty member] Jen Vaughn’s work Cumulative Skies, Deep Soils is a rhizomatic installation of sounds, crystallizing spills, meteorites and mycelium. First displayed in early March 2020, immediately preceding the pandemic, the work addresses themes that have taken on new relevance in the intervening months — alienation, separation, and connection to the natural world and one another.

Spring Dance On Pause

May 25, 2020 | Tim Cowart| WOU Dance Department

For over 40 years the Dance Program at Western Oregon University has produced a performance of faculty, guest artist, and student choreography. This culminating event is called the Spring Dance Concert. In 2020, the dance concert was canceled due to the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic. This film is dedicated to the talented students and faculty members who worked for several months pouring their time, effort, and artistry into this concert. This film is a window into their creative process. Their effort is not forgotten.

Song of the Wild: Q&A and Guided Meditation with Clay Dunklin

May 18, 2020 | IA &A at Hillyer

“Your exhibition at Hillyer, Song of the Wild, was a video installation about notions of the body, consciousness, and performance. Tell us a little bit about that work….”

The West Of Us show camaraderie in Smith Hall

Feb 26, 2020 | Sean Martinez | Western Howl

On Feb. 26, The West Of Us held their Winter Term Acapella Concert in Smith Hall, proving once again that instruments are not needed to make music. When the lights dimmed and the pitch pipe sounded off, The West Of Us kept the audience engaged as everyone listened to some well-known songs with unique twists. .

Student actors performed with passion in the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Nov 24, 2019 | Never Retallack | Western Howl

Directed by one of Western’s theater faculty members, Professor Kent Neely, comes “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” This classic Christmas tale is based on a short story called, “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern published in 1943. Later on, it became a film, and then adapted into a play — Western’s performance is based off Joe Landry’s adaptation of the screenplay.

Questions, questions - Talking about Art Friday

August 23, 2019 | Joel Zak, Becca McCannell, John VanDreal, Jon Naylor, Jason Barrier | KMUZ community Radio

Join a panel of local artists  and educators as we discuss these topics and many more.. Is art necessary? Art as a business? Where is visual art going? Changing as an artist? What motivates an artist?