JMU School of Music January 2019 alumni newsletter



Happy New Year, Alumni! We hope that your holiday season was restful and full of family and friends! This is our second edition of the Alumni Newsletter for the 2018-2019 school year. To those of you receiving this for the first time, our goal is to keep all James Madison University School of Music alumni up to date with events at JMU, feature former faculty members, and cover information regarding streaming concerts and other events that may be of interest to you, your colleagues, or your students.

We want this newsletter to reflect some aspects in which you as alumni are interested. If you have an idea of different features or information you’d like to receive, let us know! We have a dedicated Music Alumni email that you can use to contact us: musicalum@jmu.edu.

Help us reach other alumni by encouraging those not connected to us via social media to visit the "Update Your Info" and “Send Us Your Story” links below!

Collegiate MTNA Pedagogy Conference Held at JMU

In early January, JMU hosted the Collegiate Music Teachers National Association Pedagogy Conference. Topics ranged from pedagogy to technology to entrepreneurship and more. “The sessions all showcase the presenters’ research and/or innovative ideas,” said Arielle Sukhram, president of the JMU MTNA chapter and one of the students that helped plan and coordinate the event.

The conference had the second highest attendance level at 158 attendees, with the average running at 122 attendees. Several JMU students have presented at prior conferences held at the University of North Florida and at the University of Texas at Austin, two of which were plenary presentations that competed with no other presentations. After their attendance, they expressed interest in hosting the event at JMU, which was accepted. Natalie Doughty, an instructor for JMU’s Music Academy and presenter at multiple MTNA conferences, said, “This conference has been instrumental in shaping the direction of my career and I am thankful to have played a small part in this.” We are very proud of our students and faculty involved and congrats on a successful conference!


Tromblow’in Festival in January

The 11th Annual Tromblow’in Festival took place on Saturday, January 12th at the Forbes Performing Arts Center. The featured artist was Brett Baker, a UK-based trombonist, music educator and renowned soloist with the award-winning world famous Black Dyke Band. Another feature of this year’s festival was the Trombonistas por Puerto Rico, who performed and shared their stories, photos, and music from their November 2018 trip to Puerto Rico.

Tromblow’in is a joint educational and musical outreach project of the JMU Trombone Association and Mr. Jefferson’s Bones Trombone Ensemble. Tromblow’in 2019 was primarily supported by performing artist grants from Mr. Jefferson’s Bones and generous artistic support from Conn-Selmer musical instruments, makers of Bach, Conn, and King trombones. Other sponsors include ChopSaver, Shen-Valley Band Instruments, and Robert Mott & Associates Graphic Design.

For more info on Tromblow’in, please visit: http://mrjeffersonsbones.com/tromblowin/

For more info on the Trombonistas por Puerto Rico, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/USAtrombonistsforpuertorico/

International Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration Event held at JMU by The Madison Singers

The Madison Singers, selected readers, and speakers presented the International Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration Event, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” on January 27th. James Madison University was honored to welcome Steven Hess and Marion Ein Lewin, Holocaust Survivor twins. Steven and Marion are among the very few twins to have survived the camps and are now among the last. Steven is a historian, Holocaust scholar and teacher and has actively sought to educate students and others about truth, consciousness, human rights, and civic action through Holocaust Awareness. Marion has devoted her professional life to Health Care Policy and Health Care Economics.

In addition to the concert, Steven and Marion held a lecture that consisted of a historical overview of the Holocaust, including personal accounts of their unimaginable childhood incarceration in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, their eventual immigration to the United States, and, their successful lives here in the U.S.

Thanks to Dr. Jo-Anne van der Vat-Chromy and the Madison Singers for welcoming Steven and Marion, and commemorating this event.

George West Jazz Festival

The George West Jazz Festival, formerly named the Tri-State Jazz Festival, is named after former Professor of Trombone and Director of Jazz Studies, George “Doc” West, who passed away in 2013. It is a non-competitive, annual education event open to public school jazz ensembles, who perform in the Forbes Center Concert Hall for clinicians who provide taped comments and work privately with the ensemble. The Festival features a Friday night jam session with JMU faculty and guest artists, and a Saturday afternoon closing concert by the JMU Jazz Ensemble and Guest Artists.

The 44th Annual George West Jazz Festival will kick off with the JMU Jazz Alumni 1998 - 2018 Reunion, which will take place on Friday, March 29 and Saturday, March 30, commemorating 20 years of students who have worked with Professors Chuck Dotas and David Pope. The reunion will include concerts by alumni jazz combos (Friday, March 29) and an alumni big band (Saturday, March 30) that will perform on the Jazz Festival final concert with the current JMU Jazz Ensemble. This past April’s Westfest was completely full, and we’re anticipating an early sell out of this year’s slots. Contact Chuck Dotas (dotascj@jmu.edu) to reserve a place, or for more information about the festival and/or alumni reunion.

For more information on the George West Jazz Festival, registration, and schedule, please visit:



Pat Rooney

Pat Rooney

What was your position at JMU?

I was Director of Bands for 25 years from a 1982-2007.

When did you retire?


Where are you living?

We live here in Harrisonburg at Sunnyside Retirement Community.

What are you doing now?

Happily retired! We travel as much as we can. We also have served as Capital Campaign managers for the Explore More Discovery Museum.

What are your best memories of JMU?

Oh, so many! Many fond memories of the students and of the course the events.

What advice or words of wisdom do you have for alums?

You graduated from a wonderful university!


Sarah Macomber - Director of Concert & Support Services

Sarah Macomber

I first came to JMU in 2006 as a freshman in high school for my first All-Virginia Band and Orchestra Audition. This was my first time visiting a university, and, being from a very rural part of Virginia, I was blown away! I loved the campus and the people (let’s not forget the food!), and I just felt like I belonged here. My love for JMU continued to grow every year that I came back for VBODA auditions. My senior year of high school, I saw the Marching Royal Dukes for the first time at Parade of Champions. Soon after, I made sure I was awake to see the entire 2008 Macy’s Day Parade to see “the band from where I want to go to college!”

I started my Bachelor of Music degree in the fall of 2009, studying Music Education. I studied clarinet with Dr. Janice Minor, I joined the Marching Royal Dukes, and really enjoyed my schooling with great professors. I had the opportunity to play in so many talented ensembles, and I grew so much as a musician and educator. During my senior year, I was a Drum Major for the 2012 season of the Marching Royal Dukes. That was an unforgettable experience that I still cherish fondly.

My time at JMU is full of memories that I love thinking about: starting a clarinet quartet with my best friends, playing back-up to the rock band Kansas with the Symphony Orchestra in the Convocation Center, conducting Fire of Eternal Glory as a Drum Major, performing at VMEA with the Wind Symphony. All of my experiences at JMU have set me up to be successful in my career, thanks to many people who care a lot about their students.

After graduating with my Bachelor of Music in 2013, I was a high school Band Director for two years, where I really learned why they say “the first year is the hardest!” I loved my students and they taught me so much (because an undergraduate degree does not teach you what to do when a student loses his pants in a dressing room for District Concert Assessment, or when your lawn mower runs out of gas bringing your pit equipment on the field for competition).

I came back to do my master’s in 2015, and graduated with my MM in 2017. After that, I taught elementary school for a year before deciding to take a look into a job relating more to arts administration. To be back at JMU as the Director of Concert and Support Services has been incredible. I still get to work with the same great faculty that helped me as a student, and I get to help the School of Music further its mission and vision. To think that I can give back in any small capacity what was given to me here at JMU is truly a dream come true.


Brian Junttila

Major: Music Composition

Brian Junttila

I am from Chantilly, VA and went to Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA. The reason I was drawn to JMU was the Parade of Champions competition that the Marching Royal Dukes hosts every year. My high school marching band performed towards the end of the day so we were able to hear the MRDs perform. As a drum major, I was able to stand right in front of the trombone section for "Get It On," which was so surreal of an experience that I knew I had to apply to JMU just so I could be a part of that sound.

When I finally came to JMU, my freshman year MRD experience was so much more exciting than I could have imagined. After 4 years, I became a drum major and I was able to serve the band and have fun performing with them, not to mention perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! This, in addition to performing David Maslanka's Child's Garden of Dreams with the Wind Symphony in 2017, has been the greatest musical experiences of my entire life so far.

None of it, though, could have been possible without the support with my brothers in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Going through the process of becoming a brother was one of my greatest moments of musical growth in my collegiate career. I learned about the importance of sharing my music with others and letting others share their music with me, something that turned music from a competitive activity into a more enjoyment-driven venture. I have had many other moments of musical growth academically, and for those I have to thank my trombone and composition lessons professors, Dr. Andrew Lankford, Dr. Eric Guinivan, and Dr. Jason Haney. Also to thank are Dr. Stephen Bolstad and Mr. Scott Rikkers for giving me venues to share my musical experiences.

Created By
Eric Guinivan

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