Alumni Awards 2017: Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, Music

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, music, associate professor of piano pedagogy and chair of keyboard studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, and this year’s Outstanding Alumnus in Visual and Performing Arts.


As a musician, an academic, and a native of Argentina, Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, music, has dedicated much of his life and career to the research and performance of the music of Latin America. In addition to his post as an associate professor of piano pedagogy and chair of keyboard studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, Cremaschi has recorded five albums, both solo and with the string ensemble Trio Cordilleras, that showcase the works of such composers as Alberto Ginastera, Luis Jorge Gonzalez, and Luis Gianneo. Cremaschi enrolled at UMBC as an international student in 1991, and says that his time here had an immense impact on both his musicianship and scholarship. In addition to his study of piano with Dr. Nancy Roldan — “a revelation for me,” he writes — Cremaschi also sang in UMBC’s Camerata, and performed with the group at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. After graduating, Cremaschi earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Minnesota, and taught at Ohio State University for several years before joining the faculty at CU Boulder in 2004. Cremaschi is a past president of the Colorado Music Teachers Association, and has earned accolades for his diversity and community outreach work both on- and off-campus. He says that his greatest success is being able to do what he loves: play, teach, and introduce the music of his homeland to wider audiences. In his personal life, he is proudest of his wife, Marcela, and their two daughters, Carla and Erica.

Alejandro Cremaschi performs live at UMBC on Thursday, September 21. Click here for more information!
Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Alums in the News: Paper Flowers and Thoughtographs

Our alumni aren’t just Retrievers: they’re curators, makers, and doers. Let’s see who’s made the news…


Erin Terwilliger ’09, music, now an instruction and research specialist at the Glenwood branch of the Howard County Library, talked with the Baltimore Sun about a class she recently hosted for teens and adults on how to upcycle books into paper poinsettias. “It’s fun to make something beautiful out of common, everyday objects,” says Terwilliger, who hosted the second in the “Art Escape” craft class series on December 12.


Emily Hauver ’06, visual arts, curator of exhibitions here at UMBC, recently spoke with Hyperallergic about Dr. Jule Eisenbud, a psychiatrist who attempted to capture psychic projections on film in the 1960s. Eisenbud’s photographs were displayed at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery in 2011, and have now been digitized by Special Collections.

Made anything cool lately? Share it with us in a class note!

Music for a Cause: Rebecca Metheny Mason ’01 on advocacy through art

5295991In 2008, when Rebecca Metheny Mason ’01, music, heard a moving speech on human trafficking, she knew she had to act. So, she helped form a task force at her church. She and her husband Steve Mason ’01, biological sciences, became involved with Love 146, a Connecticut-based organization that seeks to educate the public about child trafficking. But she was most inspired to take unique action when a choreographer friend put on a benefit performance for the victims of trafficking, with dances inspired by their stories.

“She’s able to use her passion for dance and combine it [with work for a cause]…what can I do?” Metheny Mason asked herself. Then it clicked: the classically trained flutist and one-time Linehan Artist Scholar would start using her music to make a difference. She’s hosted benefit concerts for various anti-trafficking groups since 2011, and now, while parenting two young children, is continuing to establish her brand of activism in the D.C. area.

Before dedicating her life and art to this cause, Metheny Mason had been a private flute teacher for many years, coaching students in a variety of age groups. One job had her going into middle and high school band rooms to coach students for competitions and concerts. When she first became aware of how pervasive human trafficking was (and is) throughout the world, she was living in New York City and finishing her D.M.A. at Stony Brook University, playing with a small orchestra in Staten Island and teaching private lessons for undergraduates.

For her first benefit performance, held in 2011 over Freedom Week, she paused in between songs to discuss trafficking statistics in the composers’ countries of origin, and proceeds went to the Girls’ Educational and Mentoring Services (G.E.M.S.). For her second benefit for Love 146, she decided to take a more emotional approach, selecting pieces that would evoke the idea of love, the idea of children.

She held her most recent benefit this past March for the D.C.-based organization Polaris, and she says she’s pleased with both the turnout and the response to her brand of awareness-raising: “It’s been very, very positive.”

Metheny Mason says people are often surprised to learn of the real scope of human trafficking…and that it often happens in their own back yards. But she hopes that her performances will help spur people to action, and now that she, her husband, and their children have relocated from New York to Northern Virginia, she still tries to perform whenever she can, though she says her family keeps her “very busy.” She envisions her next benefit as a wine and cheese tasting with a slate of French music.

Her hope, when her children are a little older, is to go back to teaching college students. For now, though, her focus is on her family and her advocacy. It’s not always easy — she mentions rehearsing for her benefit concerts while her youngest daughter naps in the afternoons — but it’s worth it.

“Do whatever works,” she says.

Have an exciting project you’re working on? Let us know in a class note!


Roundup: UMBC in the News

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

Read more at UMBC Insights!

Congratulations to Our 2015 Alumni Award Winners!

12662632914_2f93612cac_zEach year, the UMBC Alumni Association celebrates those people who have made outstanding contributions to the University, their fields, and their communities. This year, we extend that honor to the following distinguished alumni and faculty:

Engineering and Information Technology:
Andre Gudger ’99, Information Systems
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Manufacturing, and Industrial Base Policy, U.S. Department of Defense

Natural and Mathematical Sciences:
Dr. Yoon-Ho Kim ’01 Ph.D., Applied Physics
Professor, Pohang University of Science and Technology

Social and Behavioral Sciences:
Bryan Kelly ’92, Economics
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, The Kelly Group

Visual and Performing Arts:
Dr. Lisa Urkevich ’86, Music
Professor and Chair of Music and Drama, American University of Kuwait

Distinguished Service:
The Honorable Allan Kittleman ’81, Political Science
County Executive, Howard County Government

Rising Star:
Nicole DeBlase, ’06, Financial Economics
Executive Director, Equity Research, Morgan Stanley

Outstanding Faculty:
Dr. Tara Carpenter, Senior Lecturer, Chemistry and Biochemistry
College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

Join us as we celebrate at the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 8!

Learn more about our past award winners.

2014 Award Winners

2013 Award Winners

2012 Award Winners

2011 Award Winners

2010 Award Winners

2009 Award Winners

2008 Award Winners

2007 Award Winners

2006 Award Winners

2005 Award Winners

Past UMBC Alumni Award Winners

UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame

Vox Popular: Christie Finn ’07, Music

Christie FinnWe, the Hearts, have something to say. So we might as well sing it.

We have voices. Are you surprised?

– From “The Hearts’ Manifesto” by Christie Finn

On stage in the concert hall of UMBC’s Fine Arts Building last March, Christie Finn ’07, music was rehearsing Triptych of Gossips – a composition by UMBC professor of music Linda Dusman based on a poem by Serena Sue Hilsinger – with violinist and associate professor of music, Airi Yoshioka.

The two musicians ran through the witty and ebullient piece with Dusman, who sat in the audience with the score and helped the duo navigate more challenging passages.

Triptych of Gossips is a challenging and comic piece – a summoning and séance of sorts. It’s a perfect composition to showcase the talents of Finn – a soprano who’s made a name for herself not only as a singer of new work by rising composers, but also as a performer with the wit and flair to pull off challenging and theatrical performance work in highly inventive and colorful stagings.

Since graduating from UMBC, Finn has forged a career singing in the Unites States, in Germany and in the Netherlands. She is a two-time winner of an interpretation prize at the International Stockhausen Concerts and Courses, and has played at festivals and concert halls with numerous ensembles as well as giving solo recitals.

The field of new music and (especially) active collaboration with composers in which Finn works is particularly energetic and fertile at present, and the soprano is maintains several active collaborations – including her experimental music duo NOISE-BRIDGE with clarinetist Felix Behringer as well as work with Ensemble Hörwerk, a vocal ensemble for microtonal music, and the Vokal und Instrumental Labor Stuttgart, an experimental ensemble for music and theater. One also finds Finn singing in world premieres of operas – and self-described “comic book/sitcom” operas.

Watch Finn perform and you can see why she’s in such demand. The other piece Finn performed at UMBC in March – Georges Aperghis’ Récitations pour voix seule – is a physically demanding piece lasting over 40 minutes in 14 sections that stretches Finn’s voice from moments more spoken (or chattered) to dizzying ascents to high notes, with breaths, squeaks, and squeals woven in.

You can see videos of the Récitations and a delightful performance of another Aperghis’ piece “Sept Crimes de l’amour, by Finn and Behringer as NOISE-BRIDGE with a percussionist Phillip Lamprecht at Finn’s website ( The latter composition (and performance) is especially visual, featuring moments in which the clarinet is played into a drum perched precariously on Finn’s head, and where Finn chomps down on an apple (and sings) while holding sheet music for Behringer to play.

Making a career as an American singer in Europe is a challenging path, and during her visit to UMBC, Finn delineated her trajectory for an eager class of music students hoping to follow in her path of making music both their life and their livelihood.

“You have to seize all of your opportunities,” Finn told the students. “Don’t be afraid of anything. You can always make it work somehow.”

Finn is also a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music’s Contemporary Performance Program and she took a Master of Music in Voice from Southern Methodist University. Part of making her advanced studies and career work, she added, was to find a job that matched up well with a career in the arts.

In addition to her busy performing career, for instance, Finn also works as managing director of The Hampsong Foundation – a nonprofit organization that to promotes intercultural dialogue and understanding through song in many of its forms.

“You can have other jobs that feed your artistry,” Finn told the UMBC students. With music, she continued, “you’re choosing a lifestyle, not a career.”

As Finn continues to make waves, including a recent September appearance at the Resonant Bodies contemporary vocal musical festival in New York City (which received a glowing review in The New York Times), she credited her growth as an artist to a philosophy that accentuates the opportunities and successes over naysaying and setbacks.

“In music, you definitely get a lot of negative voices,” she told the class. “You have to find a way past that. My goal is to cover them with positive things.”

– Richard Byrne ’86

 Read more from UMBC Magazine.

Expanding the Map

Joan Kang Shin’s approach to teaching English as a foreign language embraces children and community on a global scale.

Imagine that you’re an experienced high school teacher in a country like Pakistan, Serbia, or Colombia. Your specialty is English as a foreign language. Your school doesn’t have many resources, but you have a good rapport with your students, and you’re proud of what you do.

Then one day your government announces that English as a foreign language (EFL) classes will now be required for all students beginning in elementary school. You are yanked from your familiar high school setting into a room full of squirming 7- and 8-year-olds still learning the basics of their native tongues. You are willing to give it a try, but you have no idea how to start.s14-feat-expanding

This scenario has played out in EFL classrooms around the world in the last decade, as national ministries of education introduce mandatory English classes at younger and younger ages. And a remarkable number of those displaced teachers – hundreds of teachers from more than a dozen countries – have turned to Joan Kang Shin ’99, M.A., instructional development, and ’08, Ph.D., languages, literacy and culture, for advice and support to make the transition.

Continue reading Expanding the Map