College of Fine Arts Music

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Student Experiences

Rachel Poss

I was selected as a member of the front ensemble for the Blue Stars drum and bugle corps, after a very challenging and selective audition process. We rehearsed music from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day during the summer and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done; but the reward of playing in a stadium with 60,000 screaming fans made the work worthwhile. There are staff members from USD that are past drum corps members that supported me every step of the way. My percussion instructor also shared his knowledge with me in order to make my audition and the summer season successful.

This experience would not have been possible without supportive music faculty at USD.


Scott Arens
Scott Arens During one of my summers while attending USD I was able to attend three festivals focusing on collaborative piano. In the first festival I served as a staff pianist for the second annual South Dakota Vocal Arts Festival at USD. As for the second, I returned to the International Performing Arts Institute in Kiefersfelden, Germany to continue work as a staff pianist for the Musical Theater students. Following these festivals, I traveled to Salzburg, Austria where I had the opportunity to be a student at the University of Miami Frost School of Music at Salzburg.

This five-week, intensive program included daily German classes and private instruction in collaborative piano, specializing in German vocal repertoire. This allowed me the chance to study privately with Dr. Mutsumi Moteki, a vocal coach/diction professor from the University of Colorado at Boulder. I also had the opportunity to attend numerous master's classes and lectures concerning opera, music history, and vocal piano collaboration. A special treat of the festival included the opportunity to attend performances at the world renowned Salzburg Music Festival. I also won second place in the Young Artist Division of the J. Earl Lee Biennial Piano Competition.

It is through the wonderful education I have received at the University of South Dakota and specifically the encouragement of my piano instructor, Dr. Susan Keith Gray, that I was ready for these amazing experiences.

Ryan Landis

During one of my summers at USD I was chosen to be a Young Artist with the Natchez Festival of Music. I was selected to play the parts of Parpingol in Puccini's La Boheme, and Anselmo in Man of La Mancha. Over 500 auditions were heard for the eighteen spots that were selected, and I had the opportunity to work with renowned conductor Maestro Christopher Larkin. Following this I participated in the South Dakota Vocal Arts Festival in Vermillion, South Dakota. Here, I performed scenes from various operas and Broadway Musicals, and was able to work with renown vocal coach Dr. Kristine Bengtson. It was through the urging of my private teacher that I auditioned for the Natchez Festival.

Ryan Landis

The training and personal attention that I have received from the USD faculty has helped to make the transition from student to a young professional artist easier.
Wyatt Smith
Wyatt Smith

During a summer at USD, with my organ studies and encouragement from faculty, I was able to schedule a rigorous concert schedule with 17 performances. Highlighted solo organ performances from the tour were at the US Air Force Academy Protestant Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado and at Overture Concert Hall in Madison, WI. I was also invited to join the faculty for an organ camp near Milwaukee. There, I had two private students for the week and performed a recital for the students, other faculty and the public.

My education here at the University of South Dakota has prepared me for the professional music world of performing and teaching.

Cody Perk

I was able to attend the fourth annual Bach Tage in Minneapolis and then the Madison Early Music Festival on recommendation from Dr. Gesteland. There I worked with many professionals, including Ellen Hargis and musicians from The King's Noyse and other ensembles, and received specialized training in many aspects of early music performance. 

I also learned about the Vancouver Early Music Festival and was invited to attend next summer. Another wonderful part of the trip was being able to stay with Dr. Kristine Bengtson, whom I would not have met without attending the South Dakota Vocal Arts Festival at the University that summer.